How to Manage Food Cravings While Getting Healthy
Congratulations! You’re on your way to healthier eating. Maybe it’s week one, two or five for you of adopting a healthier diet – no more junk food, fast food, processed food. Perhaps you’ve even made the commitment to go vegan and dump the meat and dairy. You’re adventuring into eating greens, veggies, fruits and whole grains.
Then bam! You’re brought to your knees by some seriously nasty cravings. You’d give your firstborn child for a burger, a Ding Dong, a grilled cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, or a big bowl of white pasta and cream sauce.
Like an alcoholic detoxing, transitioning to a healthy diet can bring on deep cravings. It’s your body remembering something it’s addicted to. So when they come, don’t assume there’s some kind of inner failure or weakness going on. Instead of denying cravings, deal with them without the addition of creating a self-berating story.
What to do? First, it’s important to recognize a craving for what it is – a mind/body habit you’ve had in place for a long time. Next, you need to figure out what it is you’re craving. Finally, before giving in to that craving and undoing all the healthy transitioning you’ve undertaken, you need a simple strategy of substitution.
Here are some guidelines to follow to help you figure out a) what you’re craving and b) what to eat to satisfy it without falling off the healthy eating wagon.
If you’ve given up the white stuff, you may be withdrawing from processed sugar. Studies have shown that white sugar is as addictive as cocaine! Were you a sugar junkie before beginning to eat healthier? Your body is longing for that “sugar high” or the emotional numbing that sugar provides.
The simple solution to a serious sugar craving is fruit. If fresh doesn’t cut it, reach for a handful of dried dates or other fruit – just be sure to choose sundried, without sugar added! If your craving is of the chocolate cake/cookie variety, try either dark chocolate (at least 70%) or make a raw food version of your favorite treat. Simple search online for raw food desserts. You’ll find many healthy recipes. Substituting maple syrup, agave syrup or honey (though not technically vegan) can also help you gradually decrease your sugar cravings.
Processed foods (and the American diet in general) are notorious for being loaded with salt, msg, and other chemicals. Table salt is extremely addictive in the sense that the more you consume, the more you need in order to maintain the same sense of flavor. It simply numbs your taste buds over time, requiring more and more to satisfy.
When a salt craving hits you, don’t reach for the potato chips. Try going for veggies that naturally contain a lot of sodium, such as celery, seaweed, raw cultured vegetables, swiss chard, or spinach. Switch to sea salt ASAP and only salt cooked foods after they are on your plate rather than while cooking them. If you are brave, go for 3 days (it’s just 3 days!) without consuming any salt at all. It will reset your taste buds and get you over salt withdrawal. Once done, you will be amazed at how little salt you actually want.
Are you craving something dense and rich, like cheese, peanut butter, ice cream or heavy desserts? First of all, studies have shown that consuming cheese affects us in many ways similar to consuming opiate drugs! This is because dairy, and especially cheese, contains a high level of opioid peptides. Your body is going to go through withdrawal. Healthy alternatives to cheese are fatty nuts like cashews, macademia nuts, and pine nuts. Just be sure to buy them raw and unsalted, not roasted. When you’re just dying for a cheese pizza or grilled cheese sandwich, give Daiya Vegan Cheese a try. It’s healthy, tastes amazing, and melts fabulously.
Aside from cheese, cravings for creamy things are quite often emotional cravings. We use these foods to soothe, calm and comfort. Rather than giving in to such creamy desires, first try seeing if you can soothe yourself with some deep breaths, a hot bath, soft music, a backrub, a short meditation or other means. For food substitutes to such cravings, smoothies are a great alternative. Any smoothie made with bananas as a base will be creamy. You can even make a chocolate smoothie from bananas, cocoa powder and almond milk. Want ice cream? Make your smoothie using frozen bananas or by adding ice cubes. REALLY need ice cream? Try Coconut Bliss – dairy, soy and gluten-free – divine.
Craving red meat may mean you’re not getting enough iron. If you’ve gone vegetarian or vegan but aren’t eating a high enough quantity of leafy greens and other vegetables, chances are you need to beef up (anti-pun!) your veggie intake.
If you’re hankering for a burger, taco, meatloaf or other meaty dish in general, consider that there are many vegan options out there. You can buy or make burgers and loafs from nuts, grains, beans, lentils or soy (but avoid the soy ones – not good for you). You can make a super awesome taco meat that’s not only vegan, but raw, simply by tossing walnuts, sunflower seeds, a dash of lemon juice and some taco seasoning into a food processor. Finally, eating some healthy fatty foods like avocados and nut butters will usually satiate a meat craving.
Are you craving white bread, white pasta, crackers, or other grain products? Gluten-based grains, like dairy products, also contain opioid peptides. These opioids are amazingly addictive and are largely responsible for cravings. The only real way to deal with it is to completely ditch the white stuff and allow the withdrawal process to take place.
While that’s happening, you can transition away from high-gluten grains (like processed wheat) by switching to organic whole grain breads, pastas and crackers instead (organic assures you are avoiding GMO grains). Next, try giving up wheat completely and going for gluten-free grains. There are a lot to choose from: oats, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, montina (a wild grass), quinoa, brown rice, wild rice (actually a grass) and sorghum.
No matter what the craving, there is one solution that works for everything. Eat a ton of raw greens, raw vegetables, and fresh fruits. My advice for getting started is to have a green smoothie for breakfast and a greens-based salad for lunch each day. Both are easy ways to immediately add in a lot of raw, fresh foods to your diet. Raw fruits & veggies flood your body with nutrients. When your body’s getting what it needs, cravings go away naturally.
Melody Larson is a natural weight loss and spiritual wellness coach, law of attraction teacher, and published author. Her website, Well & Awake, offers ebooks for under $3 each, a blog, free vegan and raw food recipes, and more. Whether you are interested in wellness or awakening, there’s something for you. http://wellandawake.com.