By Lori Hanson
Do you fight food cravings? Are you constantly hungry and nibbling? What do you nibble on? Or do you even know?
Many people are caught up in unhealthy habits that are compelled by their daily diet. Yes, sometimes you eat because of emotional reasons (nervous, anxious, stressed, depressed, etc.). But what many people don’t realize is that the combination of a diet filled with fast food, pizza, pasta, breakfast pastries, and other “white” flour foods with sweets (candy, cookies, chocolate, pies, ice cream, etc.) on a regular basis can contribute to your body actually craving sugar. So before you know it, you’re reaching for second or third cookie at work, or having a candy bar for a snack without even thinking about it. By the time evening rolls around, you may be mindlessly eating a bag of potato chips or cookies in front of the TV after you finished diner because you still feeling the “need” for something.
Even though fruit is “healthy” for you, fruit that has a high concentration of sugar (fructose) will also contribute to these cravings. This includes fruit like honeydew, cantaloupe, bananas, apples, pineapple and nectarines to name a few. Concentrated fruit juices (e.g. orange juice), most pre-packaged juices you buy at the store, even “juicing” have a high amount of sugar and will can also contribute to cravings. And here you thought it was healthy!
Here are four easy steps to help you reduce your cravings and constant need to nibble.
The first step to changing your behavior is understanding it by being aware of what it is. Keep a food journal for a week. Don’t change anything about your eating habits, just keep track of what you eat, how much you eat and when you eat. It can also be helpful to note your emotions at the time. Are you feeling happy, sad, depressed, lonely, excited, anxious? The point of this is NOT to beat yourself up, only to take note of what your eating habits are.
2. Analyze Your Journal
After keeping a food journal for a week take some time and evaluate it. Do you skip meals?, are you taking in some form of sugar and coffee first thing in the morning? (Note many Starbucks-type coffees are filled with sugar!) How much coffee do you drink? Are you eating any vegetables or any brown flour foods (wheat bread vs. white, brown rice vs. white)?
3. Create a Meal Plan
After analyzing your food journal take some time to create a new meal plan for the next week. Create a plan that includes:
- A balance of carbohydrates and protein at every meal
- Make healthier choices and limit the amount of fast food in your diet
- Substitute lean meats for hamburgers and fatty beef
- Include vegetables with at least two meals everyday. Be sure to include one green leafy vegetable a day
- Substitute wheat flour choices for white flour (bread, pasta, etc.)
- Don’t go more than 3-4 hours without a meal. Eat a healthy snack between meals. (Avoid low blood sugar which can contribute to cravings
- Reduce your coffee intake, or try substituting decaf for a few cups of java. Caffeine (including decaf and chocolate) contributes to cravings.
- Increase your water intake. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. This will make it easier to avoid constant snacking.
4. Reduce Simple Sugars From Your Diet
- Exchange high sugar fruits for berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Limit wine and beer to one drink a day. Better yet, drink white liquor (vodka, gin) instead of wine.
- Reduce the number of sweets, candy and desserts. If you’re used to having three or four a day, try limiting yourself to one a day, then continue to reduce your intake to a one or two times a week.
These four steps will help to reduce the amount of concentrated sugars in your diet and curb the sugar cravings. The result? You’ll feel better, have more energy and probably lose a few pounds! Get started on your transformation now.