Do you have a sweet tooth? Or are you a fan of savoury snacks? Whatever your cravings may be, it can be hard to shake the intense desire for foods that hit the spot and provide us with comfort and a feeling of satisfaction.
Food cravings can arise for many reasons. Like when we’re stressed or anxious, we can eat more and crave junk food, and emotional eating or eating due to boredom can also lead to unhealthy food choices and overeating.
But sometimes food cravings are the body’s way of letting us know that there’s an aspect of our nutrition that is lacking. If we can identify what the underlying need is and correct it, then we can have a much easier time controlling or riding ourselves of cravings.
Here are a few common cravings, what they may be trying to tell you, and changes you can make to help get them under control.
High Fat Cravings
High fat foods are calorie dense. While carbohydrates and proteins contain 4 calories per gramme, fat contains more than twice that at 9 calories per gramme. Cravings for high calorie, fatty junk foods like pizza, hamburgers and fried chicken can creep up when your body isn’t receiving enough calories and is in search of more.
Pay attention to when you crave high fat foods in the evening after a long, busy day. You might assume that your brain is just looking for comfort through emotional eating, but if you were so busy working that you skipped meals or didn’t eat much during the day, then your body may be craving high calorie food in the evening in an attempt to get in the calories it missed that day.
To combat this, make sure you’re eating well throughout your day. If you’re going to be on the go and pressed for time to stop to eat, take plenty of filling, healthy snacks you can use on the go.
Food is fuel and the carbohydrates found in food are the body’s primary source of energy. There are two types of carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables, that are higher in fibre and nutrients. These digest more slowly than simple carbohydrates, like juice, sodas and candy, which are mainly comprised of sugar, release energy quickly and are low in nutrients.
Complex carbohydrates are digested and broken down in our bodies over time to produce simple sugars that give us energy. If you’re not eating enough complex carbohydrates throughout your day to keep your brain and body fuelled, then you might find yourself craving simple carbohydrates as your body’s way of finding a quick burst of energy.
So if you’ve been craving sweet foods, especially if you’re experiencing a lack of energy, assess your diet to see if you’ve been taking in enough complex carbohydrates to keep your energy levels steady and try incorporating more healthy complex carbohydrates into your meals.
If you’re frequently craving salty foods, pay attention to your water intake. It seems counter intuitive that craving salt can actually be a sign that you need to drink more water, but think about how you feel after you eat a pack of salty crisps or a handful of salted peanuts. You usually feel thirsty and look for something to drink to wash that salt down.
If you’re not taking in sufficient liquids, salt carvings may be your body’s way of triggering the reflex to drink fluids. This scenario is especially likely if you’ve been noticing signs of mild dehydration like dry skin and lips and concentrated urine. So instead of grabbing a snack, drink a couple of glasses of water and observe how your cravings respond.