You are walking down the road, watching a movie or working at your desk and suddenly the craving hits: Chocolate, Chips or something spicy. You have been trying to stick to healthy eating all week but still the craving is so strong….. A couple of chips won’t harm, will they? The craving grows strong with each passing minute and you soon start searching for it everywhere.
Many dieters believe that craving is a signal their bodies need the nutrients that food provides. But it is more a psychological thought rather than a physiologic need. A craving for chocolate, for example, would signal a physiologic need for sugar or antioxidants. But there are other foods which are better and healthier sources of sugar and antioxidants. However you do not crave for those foods.
So what could be the possible cause of these cravings?
When people follow overly restrictive diets or completely cut out groups of foods, cravings can develop out of deprivation. These can lead to a vicious cycle of indulging, overeating and guilt. A diet that allows small amounts of foods you love to have be it high-fat or high-calorie, will be easier to maintain since you are not eliminating that food completely from your diet.
Here are few tips to prevent or handle food cravings:
- Put your craving off. Give yourself a little time before you completely give in to the temptation. Food cravings are typically short-lived, and while the desire for chips, chocolate, or cake feels overwhelming at that particular moment, it will decline, especially if you can distract yourself with a phone call or some pending job or a glass of water or some healthier substitute.
- Choose alternatives for your cravings. If you are in love with potato chips and miss them dearly, buy a brand that is low-fat or low in sodium. If you think that you crave chips because you feel like munching something crunchy, skip the chips: try fruit or a salad packed with crisp greens and veggies. Want something sweet? How about baking an apple pudding (minus sugar) or trying out carrot kheer? If you crave chocolate, keep some dark chocolate on hand. Dark chocolates are low in sugar and high in phytochemicals that may aid in the prevention of heart disease. But remember moderation is the key here. When looking for dark chocolate, read the label to make sure that cocoa is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar.
- Buy single servings of foods you crave. Instead of buying a whole box of your favorite food, buy minimum possible quantity.
- Schedule your snacks. Plan for nutritious snacks to prevent in-between meal hunger. Keep portable, healthy snacks in your desk or car.
- Be Selective: Whenever you go out for a party and before you begin eating, check out all of the options and choose the foods that you really want to eat. If everything looks tempting and delicious, have a small sample of different foods to satisfy your craving.
- Keep a craving journal. Note the time of day your craving appeared, how long it lasted, the food you craved, and how you handled the situation. This way you will start noticing patterns so you can be better prepared to handle cravings in the future.
Craving is more of a psychological response of a deprived empty mind and it can be efficiently counteracted by diverting the mind as well as preventing deprivation of your much-loved foods.
Eat more fibre. You have probably heard it before. But do you know why fibre is so good for your health?
Fibre — found mainly in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fibre can provide other health benefits as well, such as helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Dietary fibre includes all parts of plant foods that our body cannot digest or absorb. Instead, it passes relatively intact through the digestive system and passes out of the body.
A high-fibre diet:
• Normalizes bowel movement: Fibre increases the weight and size of stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing the chance of constipation.
• Helps maintain bowel health: A high-fibre diet may lower the risk of developing haemorrhoids (piles) and other intestinal disorders.
• Lowers cholesterol levels: Soluble fibre found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that fibre may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure.
• Helps control blood sugar levels: In people with diabetes, fibre can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes fibre may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
• Aids in achieving healthy weight: High-fibre foods generally require more chewing time, which gives the body time to register that I am not hungry anymore, so less chances of overeating. Plus you feel full for a longer duration after eating high fibre foods and meals high in fibre are usually low in calories. So you end up consuming lesser calories.
How much fibre do you need each day?
The amount of fibre a person needs depends on the age and gender. Men 50 years of age and younger should consume at least 38 g of fibre / day, while older than 50 years should aim for at least 30 g of fibre daily. Women of 50 years or younger should consume at least 25 g of fibre / day, while older than 50 years should aim for at least 21 g of fibre daily. (Institute of Medicine, 2012)
Try the following ideas to increase the fibre in your diet:
1. Eat at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre include: pears, green peas, berries, prunes, figs, dates, spinach, apples, oranges, beans like kidney beans (rajmah) to name a few.
2. Replace refined white bread with whole-grain breads and cereals. Eat brown rice instead of white rice. Add wheat bran to flour while making dough for chappati. Eat more of foods like oatmeal, bran or multiple-grain cereals, cooked or dry.
3. When purchasing foods from store, check the nutrition information labels for the amounts of dietary fibre in each product. Aim for 2-5 g fibre / serving.
4. For breakfast choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal. Opt for cereals which say ‘whole grain’, ‘bran’ or ‘fibre’ in the name.
5. Fresh fruits, raw vegetables and whole-grain crackers are all good options for high fibre snacks. An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fibre snack — although be aware that nuts and dried fruits are high in calories.
High-fibre foods are good for health but adding too much fibre too quickly can promote gas, bloating and cramping. Fibre should be increased gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the digestive system to adjust to the change. Also, drink plenty of water (min. 8 glasses / day) as fibre works best when it absorbs water.