After a good start, with a healthy breakfast followed by a nutritious lunch, your body betrays you at about 3pm hence a fierce sugar craving. Isaac Kabazzi, a nutritionist, says we are naturally addicted to sugary foods because sugar induces a drug-like effect, altering the chemistry in our blood, thus imposing neurological changes. “When we eat sugar, our body secretes the hormone of happiness (serotonin) and feel-good hormones (endorphins), which gives us that temporary feeling of happiness.”
Giving in to your cravings is totally understandable but these cravings can be controlled.
Plan your meals
“Even as you work towards a healthier diet, you ought to plan your meals so they are ready and available when you need them. You are only likely to reach out for a piece of Pizza, get a few sweets if you have not had your lunch by 2pm. However, when you have had your meal on time, a burger will not look as enticing,” Kabazzi says.
To achieve this, plan all your week’s meals, say on Sunday. “It starts with buying what you need then preparing it in bulk and storing serving portions to allow for easy packing, even on busy mornings,” he adds.
When shopping, be selective about the aisles you visit. “Read the overhead aisle labels for food categories and shop from the fresh foods section. Even when buying spices, read the ingredients label so that you are aware of what you are consuming,” Kabazzi says.
Distinguish hunger from thirst
When you feel hungry, ask yourself if your body actually needs food or water. “That is because many mistake thirst for hunger yet all the body is communicating is the need for hydration. Therefore, it is advisable that you keep a water bottle close by and sip some water from time to time to keep your body hydrated,” Sylvia Chelagat, a nutritionist, shares.
Go for healthy fats
There is a misconception that fat is bad. On the contrary, Kabazzi says, the body needs fat to keep warm, as an energy reserve, and to cushion our organs. “That said, there are various fat types and the ones to avoid are trans fats while limiting your consumption of saturated fats. The ones that your body will love are unsaturated fats such as olive oil, fish oil, avocado oil which help reduce cravings as they help you feel full,” Chelagat says.
Ample supply of proteins
When your diet is filled with foods such as fish, beans, and peas, Chelagat says you are certain that you will feel full hence no need to crave for junk. “As such, increase your protein intake,” she says.
Fruits in your diet
While some want to steer clear of fruits because they have sugar, it is important to remember that these sugars are natural. “Fruits also have antioxidants, fibre, water and vitamins, which will slow and balance any effects of sugar on your health. Pack some berries, apples, watermelon to eat when cravings for sweet things kick in,” Kabazzi shares.
Focus on adding healthy food
While we are striving to eat healthier, the focus should not be on the need to get rid of junk foods but the benefits of healthy eating. “This is because the healthier we eat, the easier it will get to weed out junk. The guilt of failure will not gnaw at you as it would were you to focus on getting rid of junk food,” Chelagat says.
While you may love a cookie for its flavour, many people are more likely to eat it because they are upset or stressed. Kabazzi says it will do you a lot of good to think through what you feel when you pick that chocolate bar so that you learn to curb the craving.
“Rather than turn to junk foods, you could jog, talk to a trusted person, take a walk, do something creative such as painting, journaling, or take some deep breaths when you feel stressed. Find out what works for you,” he says. However, if it is not helping in some instances, he advises you talk to a counsellor.
When one does not sleep enough, there are ripple effects on the body and one of these is craving for unhealthy food. “This is because they give you the desired ‘high’ when your moods slump but the downside is that it is temporary and you will soon crash with a bad headache,” Sylvia Chelagat, a nutritionist, shares.
To avoid all this, she advises getting enough sleep (at least eight hours). “Also, stop eating a few hours before bedtime because a full stomach leads to indigestion and sleep interference. Remember to keep healthy snacks in the house or office such as nuts, fruits or sliced vegetables to replace the bad snacks,” she concludes.