One of the most important things to remember is that when our bodies are having cravings, there is always a wise message in that craving (and no, it doesn’t necessarily mean to eat that chocolate!). Read below for some clues to what your body might be saying to you through these cravings.
1. Problem: Irregular or missed meals or under-eating.
Skipping meals or eating on an unpredictable schedule catapults your body into a state of starvation, depriving your brain and body of fuel. This sets you up to crave starchy or sugary foods for energy.
Solution: eat at regular intervals throughout the day.
Plan to eat a nourishing meal or mini-meal every 4 to 5 hours until 7 or 8 pm. Most people find this stabilizes their energy and prevents impulse and binge-eating. Eating before you run out of energy can prevent sugar cravings.
2. Problem: Lack of sufficient protein and fat.
If your diet is carbohydrate heavy, particularly if you rely on refined carbohydrates, you may experience cravings for sweet foods. Your body requires a balance of nutrients. Protein and fat slow the release of carbohydrates into your blood stream, stabilizing your energy. Protein-rich foods also pack important nutrients and healthy fats and oils improve nutrient absorption, boost immunity, and increase satiety at meals.
Solution: Eat mixed meals.
Meals containing a mix of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat work best to stabilize energy and avert sugar cravings. Here’s why: Carbohydrates digest quickly, providing fuel immediately after the meal. As the supply of carbohydrate drops off, protein becomes available. When that drops off, fat provides the long term energy. Including a small portion of lean protein, such as fish, skinless poultry, lean, wild or grass-fed meat, or one or two eggs, and some friendly fat (nuts, seeds, olive, coconut or flax oil, butter, or avocado) at each meal (or at least twice a day) will retard the return of hunger and can help stave off sweets cravings.
3. Problem: Excessive salt intake.
Restaurants, bars, fast food eateries, and processed food companies liberally season with salt to stimulate your palate, pique your interest in processed foods, and motivate you to eat more. Chips, crackers, cheese, cured meats, commercial dips, condiments, and canned soups can make your salt intake and desire for sweets soar. Surprisingly many commercial cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, frozen desserts, and candies also host a hefty dose of salt.
Solution: Slash your salt intake in half.
Halving your salt intake may help normalize your appetite, making it easier to tell when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough of any particular food. Read labels, even in natural food stores and make lower-sodium selections. Add half as much salt to recipes. Replace high-sodium supermarket broth with lower sodium broth from a natural food store; better yet, make salt-free chicken and vegetables stocks and broths at home. At the table, replace the salt shaker with lemon-pepper, or sea vegetable sprinkles. Try dulse, nori. Keep sprinkles, sold with and without spices in shaker bottles. Also try gomashio (sesame-salt), an Asian condiment made from toasted sesame seeds ground with unrefined sea salt in a 16:1 or 24:1 ratio. Look for these in natural food stores or consult a macrobiotic cookbook for recipes.
4. Problem: Consumption of refined carbohydrates or habitual use of sugar.
Refined foods don’t satisfy your body because they lack the nutrients and filling fiber found in whole foods. It’s easy to over consume cookies and confections, but who binges on bananas, baked sweet potatoes, or roasted onions?
Solution: Replace highly refined foods with nourishing & sweet whole foods
Incorporate at least one sweet vegetable––long-cooked, caramelized onions, carrots, parsnips, beets, long cooked sweet potatoes, winter squashes––or cooked, or dried fruit into each meal and snack. Satisfy your sweet-tooth at meal-time and you won’t have to hunt for dessert after or between meals.
5. Problem: Trying to soothe emotional pains with sweets.
No amount of dessert will satisfy your emotional needs or take away your troubles. Reaching for cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, ice cream, candies and other high-sugar foods when you feel fearful, angry, lonely, bored, depressed or stressed will usually give you more grief: bodily aches, pains, indigestion, excess body fat, and health problems that can make you feel even worse..
Solution: Find healthy ways to satisfy your needs.
Explore non-food ways to release pent up energy and create balance in your life. Unwind with a yoga audio or video, a walk, a nap, a sauna, a swim, or a relaxation tape. Treat yourself to an herbal bath, therapeutic massage, or weekly session with a life coach. Oust anger by running, riding your bicycle, taking a martial arts or other vigorous exercise class. Dance the blues away. Take up thai chi, chi gong, collage making, painting, journaling, drawing, or meditating.
6. Problem: Physical depletion.
Adrenal exhaustion can contribute to cravings for stimulants, such as salt, sugar, alcohol, coffee, or drugs. Does the food or drink your crave contain caffeine? Does it drug you, numb you, take you away from the truth, or keep you going when you’d otherwise collapse from exhaustion?
Solution: Discover what your body really needs.
Sometimes you need physical movement! Daily aerobic exercise will increase circulation and strengthen will power. Try to get 20-30 minutes of pleasurable exercise at least 5x/week. Do you need more relaxation or rest? You may benefit from extra sleep, a day or weekend off, gentle exercise, meditation, relaxation tapes, massage, psychotherapy, or acupuncture and herbs. Search for the root cause then commit to your own healing.
7. Problem: Ritual triggers
There are certain times, places and celebrations that we’re used to celebrating with cake, ice cream or cookies. Birthdays, holidays and treats at work can act as powerful “triggers” for us to start craving sweets because we know they will be served there.
Solution: Prepare ahead of time
Bring some sweet food with you and enlist your friends/family members for support! You can even offer to bring your own food to share with others. Start a new tradition of nourishing yourself and your loved ones with healthy foods.