Here’s what your food cravings are really telling you
Turns out those pangs might be pointing to something your body really needs – and you can satisfy them with some healthy swaps.
Picture this: it’s 3pm and you’ve sat down for a breather. But into your head pops the idea of toasted banana bread, dripping with butter. You can almost smell it. You can definitely see it – and yes, you want to taste it.
It might be 3pm, 10am or even 9pm, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, because cravings are real – and different from hunger. They’re usually for something specific. Like milk chocolate, a brownie and cappuccino, a cheesy pizza and coke, chicken schnitzel and chips or peanut butter.
The thing is, sometimes rather than just something your head has told you you have a hankering for, they’re actually a way of your body signaling it needs something extra.
If your cravings are making you feel out of control around food and like you need some extra direction, check out my online program to end binge and emotional eating, Keep It Real.
But if you’re just curious about what your cravings could be pointing to, behold…
Craving something sweet like chocolate
Chocolate is the most commonly craved food, and women are more likely to crave chocolate than men. We crave chocolate because of how it impacts our brain chemicals, making us feel better – particularly if we are stressed or tired – like in the afternoon and after dinner at night.
Many think craving chocolate is a sign of magnesium deficiency but, sorry, this isn’t correct. It’s a myth. I wish it was that easy to cure our obsession with chocolate with a magnesium supplement. We’d all be doing it.
The thing is, we condition ourselves to crave foods at certain times and in certain places. If you can break the pattern, you can break the craving. For example, if you crave chocolate, the best thing to do is to switch off the TV or step away from your computer. See if you can opt for a healthy sweet food like a piece of fruit. But another option is to simply eat the chocolate mindfully, away from screens.
SOLUTION: Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. Find the patterns to you cravings (location, time) and then you can break them.
Craving sugar and soft drinks
There are two main things that cause sugar cravings.
1. Eating a lot of sugar means you’re going to be less sensitive to sweet things and be able to have – and crave – them more.
2. Not getting enough sleep is a major contributor to sweet cravings. And almost 60% of Australians have trouble sleeping and staying asleep and as a new mum, I feel you.
SOLUTION: Get more sleep. Take yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier a night as a starting point.
Craving carbs like bread and pasta
First up: a sure fire way to increase cravings for carbohydrates is to cut them out of your diet. Research shows that people who crave carbohydrates the most, are those who have dieted.
Your body naturally loves to eat carbohydrates as it’s the body’s preferred energy source. And the good news is, pasta and bread can be a healthy part of your diet. If you’re craving pasta, eat pasta but add as many vegetables into the sauce as possible.
Craving bread? Opt for wholemeal then make sure you swap for healthier toppings that include healthy fats like avocado, salmon and even peanut butter. Adding in healthy fats into your diet may help reduce cravings for unhealthy carbs.
SOLUTION: Don’t cut out carbohydrates. Eat them mindfully.
Craving oily and fried foods
Your body is programmed to crave fat, as it’s an essential nutrient to being able to live and absorb nutrients. We learned from the 90s (the hard way) that cutting out all fat isn’t a good idea. We need to include healthy fats into our diet.
Swap bacon for smoked salmon. Swap butter for avocado. If you want food to be crispy, get an air fryer or bake them, for a healthier take on fried foods.
SOLUTION: Swapping to healthy fats instead of cutting them out.
Craving salty foods
Newsflash: most Aussies eat way too much sodium. The more salt you eat, the more you crave. Now, the highest sources of sodium in our diet are processed foods, fast food like chips and surprisingly sauces and bread. Eating too much salt isn’t healthy for our hearts – and heart disease is the number one killer in Australia.
The best thing to do is to cook at home more, so you’re eating more vegetables and naturally have less sodium in your diet. Plus, going cold turkey is the fastest way to reduce salty cravings. It doesn’t take long for your body to become used to less sodium, reducing your cravings.
SOLUTION: Cook more at home and eat more vegetables (which contain potassium).