There are many reasons why we crave certain foods but the recent stress brought on by the events of 2020 could have you visiting the chocolate cupboard a little more frequently than usual.
While there’s nothing wrong with snacking on foods traditionally considered ‘indulgent’, it could be helpful to understand what is bringing these cravings on. Is it boredom, stress or simply just hunger?
As many of our are still working from home (and have more access to the pantry than ever before) we turned to Luba, the genius behind the Instagram page @cook.vegetarian, a veritable haven for vegan and vegetarian recipes, to find out why we experience cravings and how to manage them.
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“Experiencing cravings is very common, especially for foods that are high in sugar and fat,” Luba told TheLatch—. “Cravings are typically caused by physiological triggers in your brain and body.”
- Changes in hormone levels
- Mental and emotional stress (satisfying these cravings can often have a calming effect on us when we’re stressed)
- Hunger (in this case, cravings are your body’s survival mechanism kicking in)
- Vitamin deficiency
- Mental associations such as childhood memories — “For me, whenever, I think of travelling on a plane, I always begin to crave salty peanuts because of this food association,” said Luba.
For many of us, our cravings tend to revolve around sweet or salty foods, which according to Luba is because our brain knows these foods will make us feel good for a short time.
“Sugary and salty foods trigger our brains to release a chemical called dopamine, which acts as a reward system and makes us feel good,” she said. “This leaves us wanting to feel this euphoric feeling over and over again, especially when we are stressed and tired. This is one of the reasons why these foods can also become addictive.”
Cravings can also be brought on when you’re not fueling your body correctly and it starts to crave high-calorie foods to fill this void.
“If you are significantly hungry or dehydrated, your body might trigger cravings for sweet and salty foods in order to restore your body’s nutrient levels in the fastest possible way,” Luba said.
To ensure that you’re not at the mercy of cravings, there are ways you can keep them at bay, starting with eating regular meals as prolonged hunger can cause them to strike.
“Personally, I always aim to eat a few healthy snacks throughout the day to keep my energy levels up and cravings down,” Luba said. ”
Some say eliminating all sweet and salty foods can make you crave them less, which may work for some people — however, I always recommend a balanced diet, because restrictive diets can lead to binge eating. In my opinion, eating a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to keep your cravings under control.”
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Keeping your hydration levels high can also prevent cravings from popping up during the day.
“For those who struggle to motivate themselves to drink water, or find still water bland, trying sparkling or soda water might do the trick!” she said.
“To avoid giving in to sweet cravings, I use my SodaStream machine and matching sugar-free flavours for a little pick-me-up now and then. You can use the carbonating machine to create a range of unique and healthy drinks that make staying hydrated feel like less of a chore.
Lastly, make sure you’re partaking in regular exercise and getting quality sleep each night, as these help to “keep your energy and hormones levels in check, therefore reducing cravings.”
Keeping a few healthy snacks on hand to eat when cravings strike means you’ll be nourishing your body and keeping it fuelled without reaching for the container of biscuits come 3pm.
Luba recommends the follow plant-based snack ideas:
- Fruit and nuts — “I really enjoy eating berries, like blueberries, strawberries and blackberries,” she said. “They’re packed with antioxidants! I also really enjoy dried fruits, like prunes, dates and apricots. My choice of nuts are almonds, walnuts and cashews.”
- Dark chocolate — “It’s not as sugary as your usual milk chocolate and it’s packed with powerful antioxidants as well.”
- Sugar-free drinks — “My favourites are lemon tea and kombucha. If you enjoy making your own drinks at home, SodaStream has a range of organic, low-sugar kombucha you can try.”
- Protein balls — “These are my absolute favourites! They’re naturally sweet, high in protein and keep you fuller for longer. I really enjoy making my own and getting creative with the ingredients.”
SodaStream has teamed up with @cook.vegetarian to offer some invaluable health hacks for the amateur WFH chef!