Nutrition Q&A: Why Do I Get Cravings?
Are food cravings and overeating killing your workout goals? Our expert explains why your body can't resist the bad stuff.
Q: Why do I crave…?
A: Skipping meals or nixing fat entirely from your diet can have you craving french fries and a greasy burger faster than you can say, well, fat. “Every cell membrane in your body is partially made of fat, which means you can't heal or replace a cell without this key building block,” says NY-based RD, Cynthia Sass. “Good fats also help reduce inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging, and disease,” she explains. To keep your body satiated, eat every 3 to 5 hours and round out each meal with some of these “good” (i.e. plant-based” fats. Try snacking on olives, adding avocado to your omelet, spreading whole grain toast with pesto or whipping almond butter or coconut oil into a smoothie for a fast fix.
A: If you’re crushing on salt, it usually means you’re dehydrated—either from drinking too much coffee or booze, or just not getting enough water, says Sass. To head off salty snack cravings before they derail your diet, she advises coming up with a hydration plan: “Invest in a stainless water bottle, keep it with you and set an alarm on your computer or cell phone to remind yourself to drink.” You can also boost your hydration with water-rich foods like fresh fruits and veggies, smoothies, yogurt and soup, she adds.
A: Lack of sleep and stress make your hunger hormones go haywire, and your body’s knee-jerk reaction is often to crave sugar which provides a quick energy spike, says Sass. Unfortunately that spike is quickly followed by a crash that leaves you feeling even more sluggish and irritable. Sass’s prevention plan: Get some shut eye—even short naps help. And put some stress management techniques into action, whether it's playing a video game to decompress or going for a run to release tension. If the craving has already taken hold, Sass recommends pairing a nutrient-rich sweet food with some lean protein or good to slow down the absorption and even out your blood sugar and insulin response. Think sliced pear dipped in almond butter, dark chocolate with skim milk or grapes with a few cubes of cheese.
MEET THE EXPERT:
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD is a nutrition consultant for the New York Rangers (NHL) and Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and three-time New York Times best selling author.