4 min|Dr. Taylor Green
How to Manage Your Food Cravings During IsolationWellness, Nutrition, Education
Do you crave unhealthy foods often? Here's why.
During this difficult time, with many of us confined to our homes, stress may be at an all-time high. We may feel ourselves frequenting the fridge, mindlessly overeating and craving unhealthy foods. Emotional eating is a way to suppress negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Stress often causes us to crave and reach for processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and refined sugars. These stimulate a temporary release of dopamine and serotonin – our “feel good” neurotransmitters. However, these foods wreak havoc on our bodies creating inflammation and blood sugar fluctuations, leading to even further cravings, weight gain, and worsening anxiety and depression.
Try these 7 healthy swaps
1. Hydrate - but don't drink your calories!
Aim to drink a minimum of 2L of water daily to stay properly hydrated. Our brain is comprised of 80% water, and even mild dehydration can negatively impact our mood - making us feel more anxious, tense, depressed, and fatigued. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and diuretics, which can further dehydrate you.
- DRINK THIS: filtered water, water with fresh fruit slices, coconut water, herbal teas, green tea, and small amounts of black tea
- AVOID THIS: calorie-laden drinks, sodas, diet sodas, cocktails, energy drinks, beer & cider, wine
2. Eat high-quality protein at every meal to balance blood sugar and keep cravings away
Protein helps to keep us full, balance our blood sugar, and provides the building blocks for many hormones and neurotransmitters. Small amounts of protein consumed every 4-5 hours aids in controlling your cravings. Quality is more important than quantity.
- EAT THIS: high-quality, free-range grass-fed animal protein free of hormones & antibiotics (lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, wild fish). Beans & other legumes, raw nuts, protein-rich veggies (broccoli, peas, spinach, spirulina)
- AVOID THIS: animal protein raised with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Excessive protein intake.
3. Eat and cook with high-quality fats
Healthy fats also help us feel satiated (full) and keep our blood sugar balanced. Good fats are essential for brain and hormone health. In fact, our brain is comprised of 60% fat! However, not all fat is created equal. Focus on fats high in omega-3s, and limit those high in omega-6 fatty acids.
- EAT THIS:
- Healthy Fats: avocados, cocoa butter, coconut, grass-fed meat (beef, bison and lamb), olives, seeds, nuts (especially walnuts), organic free-range poultry, seafood (wild salmon, clams, mussels, herring, king crab, mackerel, sardines, arctic char, sea bass, snapper, sole, trout, tuna, scallops)
- Healthy Oils: extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flax oil, sesame oil, walnut oil
- AVOID THIS: canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, industrial farm-raised animal products and dairy, processed meats, safflower oil, soy oil, trans-fats
4. Choose colorful, low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates
These are packed with nutrients that reduce cravings and spikes in blood sugar. Aim to get 25-35 grams of fiber daily with adequate water intake. Colorful fruit and veggies are high in antioxidants that neutralize the production of free-radicals in the body.
- EAT THIS:
- Most vegetables and legumes, apples, pears, berries, pomegranates, red cabbage
- High-fiber foods such as broccoli, leafy greens, berries, onions, nuts, seeds, beans, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes & yams (with the skin), hemp hearts, chia seeds
- AVOID THIS: High-glycemic, low-fiber foods such as breads, potatoes, rice, pasta, and sugar
5. Use herbs as medicine
Cinnamon is excellent to regulate blood sugar & manage cravings. Hot spices like ginger, cayenne, and black pepper boost metabolism. Saffron and turmeric are strong anti-inflammatories. Other excellent herbs include rosemary, garlic, oregano, thyme, cloves, and sage. Herbs and spices pack both a flavourful and nutritional punch!
6. Create routine and be mindful when you eat
Listen to your body when it tells you to eat (low energy, stomach grumbling) and stop eating when you are full (easier said than done!). Try to eat at set times throughout the day. Be mindful and present when you eat, limiting distractions and multitasking while you consume your food (yes, that means pausing Netflix). Planning meals can also help reduce overindulgence!
7. Get moving!
Daily exercise combats stress and helps to control cravings. It also helps us feel more empowered and in control of our mind and body. Try taking a brisk, 15 minute walk the next time a cravings hits.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself during these unprecedented times. Stress, sadness, and grief manifest in both conscious and subconscious ways. Try your best to show self-compassion on days where you feel overwhelmed or a loss of control. Know that the current situation is temporary, but love is constant.
Dr. Taylor Green
Dr. Taylor Green has always been fascinated by the intricacies of nature, the human body and health sciences. For her, health is not defined by the absence of disease, but the balance between mind, body, and environment.