When working with my clients, one of the most common challenges we address is how to deal with cravings for processed foods and refined sugars.
Often when we have a craving for a certain food, flavour, or even texture, it is very much linked to our emotional state, stress levels, blood-sugar instability, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and the balance of our gut microbiome.
Here are two of my favourite go-to strategies for dealing with food cravings:
1. Be Prepared:
I try to always have healthy snacks stocked in my kitchen for times when I get home and am hungry, or times that I have a craving for something that falls into that "20%" category (see Tip #2).
For sweet cravings, I usually have raw vegan brownie bites in my freezer. Raw vegan desserts are made from a variety of whole food ingredients including nuts, seeds, dates, cacao, and fruit - making them high in fibre, antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein.
For salty cravings, I'll have sprouted, flavoured nut/seed mixes, or crackers with cashew cheese. Another go-to are those seasoned seaweed sheets you can get from most grocery stores.
Having balanced meals (in terms of flavours, textures, and nutrients) helps reduce cravings. Balancing our blood sugar levels throughout the day is also helpful, as well as staying hydrated and managing stress.
When we have healthier treats readily available we don't really have to worry about cravings, or view them as something negative. With my clients, we go over what some healthier options are for whatever their favourite treats happen to be - whether that be new options for pre-made snacks, or how to 'healthify' their favourite recipes.
2. Be Gentle with Your Thoughts:
When it comes to the foods I eat I do not strive for perfection or ever feel guilty about what I eat. I encourage my clients to follow the 80/20 Rule. When we focus on eating fresh, vibrant, whole-foods 80% of the time, the remaining 20% can be flexible (especially if you are starting out on a healthier diet journey).
This way it reduces feelings of restriction and deprivation, and helps us not ever feel guilty about a food choice (which could actually be more harmful than the "unhealthy" food we just ate).
The foods that make up that 20% will be different for everyone. For myself these foods are always vegan and free from artificial sugars, colours, and flavours.
Life happens. Traveling, socializing, and stress all influence what we want to eat and when. I just encourage listening to our body and take note of how you feel when you consume certain foods. The more whole-foods we eat the more our tastebuds change overtime, so after awhile many of us won't even crave the same foods we once used to, or we will have found healthier alternatives to the foods we used to crave.
If you feel like you are eating healthy, but still feel like food cravings are controlling your life, feel free to book a complimentary 15 Min Discovery call. Then we can address the root cause of your cravings and set you up with a Custom Meal Plan full of delicious, whole-food recipes!
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist specializing in vegan diets.