What do you do with your food cravings?
One of my clients was almost always tired and rarely had time to feed herself. As an entrepreneur and mom of two young children, when she thought about food, it was always for her children first. And when she got a signal from her body that she needed to eat, she often craved sweet or salty simple carbohydrates like cookies or potato chips.
One day she asked me, “Why do I have these junk food cravings? Why didn’t nature make it so I crave food that’s good for me—not sweets, or fatty, salty junk food?”
You may wonder about this yourself sometimes. It’s not an unusual question.
When you crave sweets or simple, salty carbohydrates, nature isn’t betraying you. It’s working just as it should!
One theory is that a desire for sweets is in our genes. When we were hunter-gatherers, it was important for us to be able to distinguish toxic foods from those that were not. Generally, toxic foods are sour or bitter. Most likely, humans attracted to a sweet taste had a better chance of surviving and not getting poisoned, so the sweet-tooth gene was passed on.
Nowadays, we don’t just crave sweets; sometimes we crave salty, simple carbs. Either way, the craving is valuable, and it’s doing what it’s meant to: notifying us that our blood sugar levels are low!
Simple carbohydrates digest quickly and give our blood sugar a fast boost. We crave them when we need energy. But we don’t have to answer the craving for junk food. If we stop and think for a minute, most likely it’s time for a meal.
The best thing to do when those cravings hit is to have a balanced meal with a heavy serving of plants (fruits and/or vegetables), some protein, carbohydrates, and a little healthy fat. But sometimes, even after we’ve had a meal, those cravings persist. That’s when healthy food swaps come in handy.
I’m no stranger to cravings for junk food.
I’ve experimented and come up with a number of swaps that satisfy my own cravings and don’t blow the top off daily limits of calories, salt, fat, and sugar. They also do double duty by adding great nutrients to the day!
Your healthy swaps may differ because everyone has different likes and dislikes. I worked with my client to help her come up with her own go-to foods when cravings took over. But everyone can use a few ideas to get started!
Here are some of my favorite swaps for cravings:
| Ice cream –>||A glass of ice-cold milk (or milk substitute)|
Cookies –>||A thin layer of chocolate spread on a rice cake|
| Potato chips –>||Kale chips on the stovetop|
Sweet-and-sour candy –>||Mandarin oranges or clementines|
| Sweet or crunchy taste and texture –>||Fresh carrots|
French fries –>||Fingerling potatoes baked with a little olive oil and salt|
What’s your healthy junk food swap?
Luci Gabel- MA, MBA, ACE, ACSM – Exercise Physiologist, nutritionist, content manager and owner of LuciFit, LLC.
Luci helps clients and students drop the fads, sort out the myths from reality, and understand food and fitness in a way that works for their body, and for life. She has over 20 years of experience working with a wide range of clients, from professional athletes to the business savvy woman. You can count on Luci to be your truth-teller, and your myth dispeller when it comes to mass media information about food and exercise. And she’ll always be a cheerleader on your side!