Conquering your cravings | Munchwize Dietitians Cape Town

What a great week, you’ve followed a healthy diet with nutritious snacks and boosted your veg intake. You have just finished your delicious dinner and are about to plop down onto the couch and watch that movie you’ve been dying to see. Then disaster hits…an intense craving for chocolate! Does it matter that you’ve stuck to healthy eating all week? No. Does it matter that you are not actually hungry? No. Chocolate! Or does it matter that you haven’t eaten chocolate in weeks? No! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! This craving intensifies every second. Resistance is futile, and soon you’re digging out a bag of, let’s be honest – not that great baking chocolate from the back of your pantry. You chow down on these little pellets of slightly expired chocolate and soon those feelings of relief, guilt and remorse start to hit you. Was the crisis averted or did you just open Pandora’s Box?

The big question that is often repeated is whether cravings are physiological or psychological. Some people believe a craving is a signal that their bodies need the nutrients that certain foods provide. ‘’I am craving chocolate, I must be lacking in antioxidants.” But broccoli or red beans for example have a much higher antioxidant content than chocolate, yet it is never really these foods that people crave. A craving could be a mix of the physiological and psychological, but we are not 100% certain of what the cause is.

Following an overly strict and restrictive diets or cutting out entire food can lead to more intense cravings and can result in a vicious cycle of overindulging, overeating and ultimately guilt. Following a healthy balanced diet, that includes everything in moderation, even those higher-fat, higher sugary foods now and then, will be easier to maintain and decrease the episodes of cravings.

Craving chocolate? A good tip is to keep some dark chocolate on hand. Dark chocolate contains phytochemicals that may aid in the prevention of heart disease. It is also much lower in sugar than your milk chocolate and due to this fact it will leave you feeling more satisfied and not begging for more. But enjoy it in moderation and remember to still read the food label to make sure that cacao is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar.

 

Here are other tips for handling your food cravings.

 

  • Make use of a hunger scale. Check in with yourself and ask yourself how physically hungry you are. If you are leaning more towards the full side of the scale, is it wise to eat something more? Identify the type of hungry you are experiencing – is it head, heart, and throat or mouth hunger? (For more information on the types of hunger we experience, click here)

 

  • Buy single servings of foods you crave. Instead of buying a whole box of biscuits buy one of those speciality biscuits that come in an individual wrapper. Craving chocolate, also buy one small portion e.g. a mini dark chocolate.

 

  • Make use of a mental pause. Keep some sugar free mints on hand. When that intense craving hits you, pop one of these mints into your mouth and let it dissolve. This forces you to have that mental pause and to think about your craving. The good news is that food cravings are typically short-lived. If you still feel the need for something after that mint has dissolved, go ahead, but make it a slightly better/healthier substitutes.

 

  • Choose alternatives for your cravings. Yearning for something crunchy? Skip the chips: try a crunchy fruit or a salad packed with crisp greens and veg. Have an intense need for something sweet? How about a baked apple with cinnamon or some dried fruit.

 

  • Remember to pack in and schedule your snacks. Plan healthy nutritious snacks in your day at specific times to prevent you from dropping into that between-meal hunger. Have healthy snacks readily available at your desk, in your handbag or car.

 

  • Eating more mindfully. Making use of mindful eating principles equips you with the skills to start being more aware of what is going on in our bodies, our eating habits and coping skills.

 

  • Is your craving masking something else? Often a craving for food is actually a craving for something else for example social support. Take up a hobby, enjoy regular exercise or a chat with a friend can get you through a tough craving.

 

  • Keep a craving diary. Make a note of the time of day you experience your craving, how long it lasted, the type of food you craved, and how you handled the situation. Keeping a diary helps you to notice the patterns in your cravings so that you can better handled it in the future.

 

Do you have intense cravings and are finding yourself digging through the very old baking chocolate to satisfy your chocolate craving? Why not come and have a chat to us.

Contact Munchwize Dietitians Cape Town here.