Food cravings are common and I get them too. But, over time, I found ways to manage my cravings and find healthier substitutes.

Salty, crunchy things like chips and crackers are my favourite. I also love chocolate especially the strong, bold flavour of dark chocolate mixed with sea salt. And perhaps my favourite “petit déjeuner” of all time is a latté or macchiato and a buttery croissant. Oh and I love a good coffee cake and cheese and wine!

Ayurveda & Food Cravings

In Ayurveda, food cravings are associated to a mental or emotional imbalance. The most common food craving is sugar or sweet taste. This is associated with Kapha. Kapha is our emotional stabilizer. So when we are a bit out of sorts because of stress or during a particularly emotional time, we crave things that comfort us. Sweets are often that thing.

On one hand, eating heavy or sweet foods can be helpful to ground our energy as this balances Pitta (our driving force) and Vata (our creative, sometimes all-over-the-place energy). However, too many sweet and heavy foods are obviously no good for us, because it blocks the flow of our energy.

When this happens we feel simultaneously anxious and lazy. Our mind is racing but our body feels lethargic and heavy. Can you relate?

{Click here for more information about Ayurveda.}

Yoga & meditation helps you become aware of your emotional and physical needs and desires. This can help you avoid emotional eating and curb food cravings.

Emotional eating

First, understanding our mental and emotional state is very important. Are your food cravings a substitute for stress management or feelings of loneliness or malaise? If yes, yoga, meditation and the letting go write & burn exercise are going to be way more helpful longterm than a bag of cookies. You probably know this already and it takes strength to resist the instant gratification of cookies.

Another solution for emotional eating is routine. This means consistent meal times, sleep and exercise to help channel our focus and our energy. As such, we are less likely to eat out of boredom or stress.

Exercise balances the activity of the body and mind, and reduces the effects of stress. In turn, this has a positive impact on food cravings. I recommend moderate exercise daily: walking, light jogging, yoga, pilates, spinning, skiing, swimming, weight training. You can do it. Mini steps. For more exercise tips, click here.

Hormonal changes

Sometimes food cravings are related to hormonal changes as with women’s mensural cycles. I often observe myself raiding the kitchens cupboards for chocolate around ovulation and just before menstruating. What’s more, hormonal changes also occur during puberty, pregnancy, after pregnancy, during menopause and if there are changes to medications like mood stabilizers or birth control pills. Stress also affects our hormones.

For women’s health, I highly recommend you research the herb shatavari. It’s incredible for women as it is balancing and cooling. Also great for relieving PMS symptoms, regulating your cycle and fertility.

For male reproductive health and hormonal balance, I recommend ashwagandha. It’s like a super hero of sorts and relating to ginseng. (For erectile issues or atherosclerosis, look into arjuna. It’s a fantastic circulatory herb.)

All of the herbs mentioned above are gentle and do not have adverse or contraindicative effects, but it’s always a good idea to speak to your pharmacist to be sure. For specific questions and dosage, I recommend booking an ayurvedic consultation with me.

Apply the 80/20 rule to food cravings

Food cravings are normal and sometimes you just have to give in. After all, it’s boring to constantly restrict yourself and always on a diet. Besides, unless you have a medical reason, I don’t think being 100% paleo, ketogenic, gluten-free, sugar-free and/or raw is necessarily good for you or really, any fun. You have to live a little too.

Balance is key.

Food cravings are totally normal and it’s ok to indulge once in a while. Apply the 80/20 rule.

I like 80/20 rule: 80% of the time stick to your healthy food program or diet, whatever that means to you. Then 20% of the time allow yourself to indulge your food cravings.

Furthermore, within the context of your food cravings, the 80/20 rule is applied. This means, 80% of your food cravings should be delicious and nutritious, and 20% can just be pure indulgence. (For me, this is liquorice, pretzels, cookies or an extra piece of panettone.)

Quality over Quantity

There is a big difference between good quality coffee and bad coffee. When you drink good quality coffee, you don’t need milk or sugar and I don’t think you need to drink as much. Do your research. Look for fair trade varieties in a medium roast and always grind the beans fresh. Taste also varies by region. Try, for example, Ethiopian coffee or coffee from Panama. Delicious!

The same can be said about wine, chocolate, cheese, bread, etc. The better the quality, the more you will be inclined to savour and the less you will eat. Trust me. Homemade or freshly baked bread, cookies and desserts are usually much better than store bought items, not only when it comes to taste but also because you control the quality of ingredients.

The best book I’ve read on the subject of savouring and learning to enjoy food is called “French women don’t get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure,” by Mireille Guiliano. The book mostly talks about healthy weight management, but even if this is not your interest, it’s definitely worth a read. I liked how the author reminds to the reader that eating is as much for survival as it is for pleasure. Sometimes even I forget this.

Sugar is the most common food craving.

Alternatives for sugar

When it comes to sweets, these ingredients are on the avoid/ red light list:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Refined sugar
  • Fructose – glucose
  • Corn syrup
  • High Fructose Corn syrup
  • Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste Blue), Sucralose (Splenda), Acesulfame K (ACE K, Sunette, Equal Spoonful, Sweet One, Sweet ‘n Safe), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin), Xylitol, SorbitolClick here to read Dr Axe’s article about artificial sweeteners.

Here are some better options for sweeteners:

  • Maple syrup
  • Agave
  • Raw Honey
  • Stevia
  • Coconut sugar
  • Birch sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Fruit or dried fruit sugar
Eat eight cups of veggies a day and not only will you be healthier, but you won’t have room for food cravings!

Tips to manage food cravings:

  1. Sit to eat and avoid multi-tasking while eating. Like this, your body and mind will register the food you are eating and feel satisfied;
  2. Work on the emotional aspect of cravings – what else do you need for comfort and stress management? What will help you feel better longterm?
  3. Eat at the same time everyday – routine is good for your metabolism and helps avoid eating out of boredom. Plus, when you eat well during meal time, you are less likely to succumb to food cravings by snack mindlessly;
  4. Work on hormonal balancing as this can help with food cravings too- ayurvedic herbs are great for this. You may want any ayurvedic consultation to address this specifically;
  5. Apply the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time follow your healthy living routine and food plan but allow yourself to indulge 20% of the time;
  6. Prepare for food cravings by having healthy, but tasty treats and alternatives on hand;
  7. Consider the quality of your indulgences – choose the freshest and best options and savour them;
  8. Sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, clove and liquorice can be very helpful in curbing cravings for sweets, especially when taken in a tea after a meal – see Chai Recipes. This is good for digestion and can replace the need for dessert;
  9. Plan your meals ahead – see Thursday Theme: Nutrition;
  10. Choose fresh whole grains (brown rice, kamut, quinoa, spelt, etc.) over white floured products or white rice;
  11. Eat your veggies! Aim to eat at least eight cups of vegetables a day: 4 cups leafy greens, 2 cups colourful veggies, 1 cup onions and/or mushrooms, 1 cup starchy veggie like potatoes. Like this, you won’t have room for food cravings!
  12. Drink water and herbal teas instead of juice or soda. Reason for this is because water gives you the hydration you need minus the sugar and extra calories. If you want to add a taste to your water, try lemon juice or Arbonne’s Energy Fizz or Mind Health Blend, which are both excellent.

Need some support curbing your food cravings and resetting your health routine? Consider joining my 30 Day Healthy Program or my Breakfast Club Morning Program.

(This article was updated since its original publication on Dec 28, 2018)

This Post Has One Comment

  1. supergirl

    I love the 80/20 rule. Will apply this to my food cravings. Nice one there.

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