You know the feeling. That intense craving for carbohydrates when all you are trying to do is eat clean and healthy. What do you do when this craving hits? Do you avoid it completely? Do you cave in? Or, do you try your best to find a healthier substitute that satisfies the craving without derailing your nutrition plan. If you’re not quite the latter, you might just be short of ideas for foods that can help meet your need of a carbohydrate fix. Below provides some insight on why this type of cravings is so common along with some of my go-to foods when those cravings strike.
Where Do Cravings Come From?
First things first - why do so many of us crave carbohydrates? Most people believe that these cravings are strictly psychological. They blame their lack of willpower for their lack of success. Yet, most cravings are actually derived from some sort of physiological imbalance going on inside. One example of this includes what happens inside of your body when it’s stressed out. Your levels of cortisol (stress hormone) elevate which cause your blood sugar levels to elevate as well. When your body has high levels of blood sugar, it releases insulin (a fat storing hormone) to help bring that blood sugar down (storing the sugar as fat). Insulin often overcompensates, leaving you with a lower blood sugar and confusing your body into thinking it needs more energy and causing some serious carbohydrate cravings.
Have you ever found yourself super stressed out at work and instantly craving something naughty out of the vending machine? This is the exact process of why that feeling happens. Even worse, having a poor night of sleep or simply a diet “too high” in processed carbohydrates creates the same impact on blood sugar levels and insulin. Do you know anyone that doesn’t get enough sleep and maybe has too much stress? Try majority of the adult population in America.
All of these imbalances really put you at a disadvantage when it comes to cravings and trying to eat healthy which is why it’s so important to realize why you have them to begin with but also what you can do to help dampen them.
Why are Carbohydrate Cravings so Hard to Ignore?
Truth be told, food manufacturers are really good at their job. If you made money off of people buying certain food products, wouldn’t you do anything in your power to make them want more? Processed food today is chock full of artificial ingredients, sugar and salt, which influence your taste buds to want more. And unfortunately, these foods are not typically filling, making it easy to overeat and not support a healthy waistline. Not to mention – many of us get a good feeling after consuming them.
What You Should Eat
When trying to lose weight, cravings for carbs can completely derail you of your nutrition plan. But if have them, you can set forth some strategies to have in your back pocket when cravings arrive. It’s also important to consider long term strategies in the event that your body is going through chronic periods of stress or lack of sleep. In those cases, supportive supplements or even meditation would be advantages when it comes to your weight loss plan.
The foods below should help feed your fix for carbs while providing your body good nourishment and not lead to additional blood sugar imbalances.
If You’re Craving a Salty Carb:
Chips and pretzels are your jam. Whether it be because of the crunch or your need for salt (common symptom of chronically stressed individual), to help get your fix, try something similar in texture like below:
Raw Carrots and Hummus
1-2 cups of Homemade popcorn with some butter and Sea Salt
Baked cheese slices. Line a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
If You’re Craving a Sweet Carb:
Candy, dessert or chocolate is something you fixate on. This is likely because your blood sugar has dropped and you’re craving sugar. Whether right after a meal or in between, these choices are quick and easy to make while tasting great.
Frozen or Fresh Berries
Chocolate Protein Shake
Small square of 80%+ Dark Chocolate
Small Banana with Natural Almond Butter
If You’re Craving a Starchy Carb?
Pasta, bread, cereal – you name it. For some, they crave them because they’ve been a staple at mealtime their entire lives. Others might crave them after a really tough workout (where you might need additional carbohydrate to refuel). These choices below are better staples for your menu for those days when you just don’t feel like solely eating meat and vegetables.
Spaghetti Squash Noodles or Zucchini Noodles
Cauliflower Substitutes (pizza crust, mashed and even rice)
Almond Butter Banana Muffins
Homemade Granola. Chopped cashews, coconut flakes, sunflower seeds mixed with a 1 Tbsp of dark chocolate chips or dried fruit.
When Can I Have the Real Thing?
Minimal processed and real-food carbs outside of fruits and vegetables can have a place in the diet when it comes to losing weight and being healthy. Higher carbohydrate foods, such as steel cut oats, brown rice or quinoa, can be eaten alongside any combination of quality protein and fats. I always tell my clients to keep portions to a half cup or less and to save these higher carb foods for post workout - a time where their body can have increased needs for this type of fuel.
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.