Something I get asked quite often is, “what would you recommend as a snack to satisfy a sweet craving?”
My short answer usually includes fruit or berries with some sort of fat (nuts, nut butter, coconut cream, etc) or a piece of delicious organic dark chocolate.
But before you go “satisfying” these sweet cravings, even with healthy foods, ask yourself something:
Why are you having sweet cravings?
This is a step in the process that so many of us overlook. If our bodies are craving something, it means we are lacking something. Cravings are a message from our bodies that we are in need and more often than not, that message comes in the form of a sugar craving.
But that doesn’t always mean that our bodies need sugar.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to help you clue in to your cravings and get to the bottom of what's really going on:
1. When was the last time I ate?
Going long periods of time between meals is something that the body should be able to cope with when it has become adapted to burning fat for fuel. But if your body is accustomed to running on mainly carbohydrates or you’re just transitioning into a fat-burning lifestyle (primal, paleo, or ketogenic type diets), you may need to eat more often to make sure your blood sugar levels stay on an even keel. The switch isn’t flipped overnight; it normally takes a few weeks to feel fully fat-adapted.
2. Did I have enough protein, fat, and/or fiber with my last snack/meal?
On the heels of the last question, meals and snacks should be balanced whether you eat every 2-3 hours or every 5-6 hours. The more balanced your plate is, the longer you will be able to go between meals because your body will be getting everything it needs each time you eat.
Specific macronutrient ratios will differ from person to person depending on their metabolism and health goals, but with that said, I don’t promote a whole lot of “food math” (i.e. carb or calorie counting, precise percentages, etc). Figure out what makes you feel satisfied & sustains your energy, and go from there.
3. Am I possibly dehydrated?
Many times people mistake thirst for hunger or cravings. Our brains register hunger and thirst very similarly so it can be tricky to recognize the difference. This post from Livestrong does a good job at covering this topic. Recommended in the article is drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 minutes to see if your hunger or craving goes away. I actually do this myself when I'm craving something (but know that I've had plenty to eat) and more often than not, it does the trick!
4. Could I be experiencing hormonal imbalances right now?
This one’s mostly for the ladies although guys, take note – you all have hormonal cycles as well! If you don’t need this advice for yourselves, at least pay attention so you can help your ladies out!
There are certain times of the month when a craving is a craving and nothing is going to make that go away except giving into it. HOWEVER. There are some ways to do this that are smarter than others:
- DO have a divine piece of extra dark chocolate with a slathering of almond butter or ghee.
- DON’T dive face first into a dozen donuts or a king size bag of M&Ms.
- DO pulverize some frozen banana chunks with some coconut cream to make a delicious and healthy ice cream treat.
- DON’T polish off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.
My point is, we are always free to indulge when we feel like it, but there are mindful ways to do this so as not to leave ourselves feeling sick or regretful afterwards.
5. What is my stress level like today?
We’ve all seen it before: DESSERTS is STRESSED spelled backwards.
There is a cruel ironic truth to this little bit of wordplay. When our stress levels rise, there is a cascade of events that happens in the body that leads us to believe we are low on sugar.
Enter the craving.
We can satisfy the craving with a sweet snack OR we can take a moment to think about what is stressing us out and handle it with some relaxation techniques:
- Deep breathing, focusing on the exhale – this initiates our parasympathetic nervous system (the part of our nervous system responsible for calming us down).
- Inverted positions – handstands or forward bends get blood flowing to our frontal lobes.
- Physical activity – a workout or just a long walk in nature can be a great source of stress relief.
- Talk (or write) it out – getting whatever is on your mind OFF of it can be immensely helpful. Whether it’s a heart to heart convo with a friend, a private journaling session, or a public blog post, just getting your feelings out of your head can give you a huge sense of relief.
Asking yourself these questions and getting to the root cause of the craving is a really important step in kicking sugar cravings.
Practice your awareness of WHY you might be craving something so you can deal with the real issue at hand and before you know it, that craving will be gone!
Now I wanna hear from you!
Do you struggle with sugar cravings?
Did any of these questions or strategies resonate with you?
What do you think is the most common reason we all crave sugar from time to time?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!