Healthy Foods for Unhealthy Cravings

0910-chocolate-potato-chip[1]I have always heard that a food craving is your body telling you that it’s lacking a certain nutrient. I came across an article in Medical Daily that not only explains what cravings mean, but also offers healthy alternatives.

Food cravings can seem strong enough to pick us up and send us straight to the refrigerator, drive through, or local grocery, going against our better judgment. Our hunger pangs can often lead us astray, forcing us to make unhealthy choices when it comes to satisfying our food cravings. While we may blame our sweet tooth or stress for these compulsive cravings like chocolate, or a bag of chips, our body may be longing for something we cannot buy at the grocery store. These intense cravings may be a signal that something is amiss in our bodies such as vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients we lack.

Since most of us in eat a fair amount of processed foods, and not enough whole, nutrient-rich foods, we actually can suffer from very mild malnutrition. This explains why we end up craving what our body is currently lacking.

For healthier food choices, it’s important to recognize what types of key nutrients we’re missing, and how to put ourselves back on a healthier path where we remain just as satisfied.

1. Swap Chocolate With Raw Nuts

Craving chocolate can mean our body is in need of magnesium. Chocolate provides up to 10 percent daily value of magnesium for 2 ounces (and a whopping 290 calories), actually making it a pretty good source of magnesium.  But our craving for chocolate may be a learned response instead of the body actually thinking it’s getting the best source of magnesium. Dieticians recommend eating raw nuts, as a better source, on a regular basis to make the craving go away.

2. Swap Coffee Or Tea With Hydrating Juice

The desire for coffee or tea is quite common, especially during the early hours of the morning. In the AM, after the body has been on an eight-hour fast of anything liquid or solid, we tend to be more dehydrated. This is due to our metabolic processes still running, and water being lost in the processes.

Starting the day with a hydrating juice such as watermelon juice, or diluted orange juice (half water and half OJ) can be a healthier alternative. Once you hydrate your cells you may find you don’t need a caffeine boost which can actually cause dehydration. A sliced orange or sliced grapefruit in the morning is also great for hydration, vitamin C, and fiber.

3. Premenstrual Cravings

A week before a woman’s menstrual cycle, she tends to crave random foods like chocolate, and those laden with saturated fats. These cravings hint that the body needs more zinc. The level of zinc in your system fluctuates depending on your estrogen levels. Therefore, zinc increases as estrogen rises, leading up to ovulation, and then drops right before ovulation and stays lower until the beginning of your next cycle.

Zinc deficiency has been linked to lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for regulating the body’s energy expenditure, fat storage, and appetite. Leptin communicates to the brain when it should feel full and stop eating. Insufficient leptin levels are believed to be the primary cause of food cravings and overeating. Good sources of zinc include red meats, seafood, leafy vegetables, and root vegetables.

Rather than cave to your food cravings, understand what your body really needs, and replace the junk with healthy substitutes! Now you know.

Eat This, Not That: 5 Healthier Substitutes For Unhealthy Food Cravings

The Fab Five Must Haves for Losing Weight

 

The Fab Five Must Haves for Losing Weight:

 

Diet: Eating a healthy and nutritious diet is the most important factor to lose weight. We all have a daily nutritional requirement and anything extra gets stored as fat. Diets are highly individual, but all diets should provide sufficient food throughout the day, plenty of options to choose from and should be balanced in providing nutrients. Your diet shouldn’t be some random plan that you saw online or heard your neighbor talking about, but it should be a plan made according to your current diet, routine, and habits. If you dislike raw veggies and work at a job that doesn’t allow you to snack throughout the day, a diet that requires eating veggies every two hours is just not going to be successful.

 

Exercise: It is difficult to get maximum weight loss results without a workout. Yes, you could probably control your diet and calories, but it takes longer to lose weight, and what do you think is under those layers of fat? When you exercise you build muscle, which creates a tone fit body underneath. When the fat goes, the muscle shows. Without it, you will probably get SSS – Saggy Skin Syndrome. Diet helps you lose the weight, but exercise gets you into shape. Exercise burns calories, burns fat, increases your metabolic rate and flexibility, and helps to increase your endurance.

 

Motivation: Diet and exercise are the most important but being motivated is an absolute requirement. If you are used to eating whatever you want, once you start restricting your choices, cravings and feelings of deprivation set it. Motivation is what gets you through. Motivation is also highly individual. What motivates me may not make sense to you, so it’s gut check time to figure out what’s going to be your motivation. Only you can decide.

 

Stress: Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and the body. And for many people, eating and stress go hand in hand. There are those who eat when they are stressed, and on the flip side, those who can’t eat because they are so stressed. Both are bad. The first step to reducing stress is to recognize it and accept it. Then take steps to minimize it… this can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or getting up from your desk and walking outside for a few minutes. Or it might require something more involved like a day at the spa or a yoga class.

 

Sleep: Sleep is essential for weight loss. The body needs to recover and reboot. Crazy sleep patterns will decrease the efficiency and recovery time for the body. Sleep also regulates the hormones that stimulate appetite and control hunger, so even the best diet and exercise plan can get derailed if you don’t get enough sleep.

Healthy Snacks for Picky Eaters

The last few months I have noticed a downhill spiral of eating habits in our house. Breakfasts and snacks became a free for all of low nutrient, high fat, high calorie foods. (Lunches are packed healthy, and dinners have become the only really healthy meal that the kids eat at home) I am guilty of buying too many snacky foods, which quickly has become the kid’s first choice. Now that our summer routine has set in, the snacks have become even more out of control.

Last week, I decided to throw out every snack food that was unhealthy and replace with healthy choices. No more otter pops, no more chocolate chip bars, no more Doritos, no more Skittles… But, I did tell the kids that they can have one day or two days a week where they can choose a treat.

So far, so good. The kids have not been complaining (okay, as much as I thought they would) about their snacks and food options. I am kind of surprised, as I thought for sure I would hear a lot of whining about nothing “good to eat”. The best part is that the kids are chowing on all the healthy stuff, and while they would never admit it, they like it.

Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what’s available at home. That’s why it’s important to control the supply lines — the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks. Kids can’t eat what’s not there. Double bonus — you will not be tempted by your kid’s snacks.

I have super picky eaters, so here are some basic tips for healthy snacking that work for me. They are great for kids but also for parents:

1. Fruits and vegetables can be the first go-to snack choice. Make them a part of the daily routine, and aim to serve a fruit or vegetables at every meal. Make it easy for kids by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. A fruit kabob is always way more fun than just eating fruit out of a bowl.

2. Other good snacks that my kids love include low-fat yogurt blended with fruit and some low fat milk to make a shake/smoothie,

3. Peanut butter and apples are a big hit at our house, along with whole-grain crackers and cheese, and even mini whole grain bagels and cream cheese.

3. Choose whole-grain cereals so kids get more fiber. Don’t be fooled by kids’ cereal marketing. Read the ingredients. We usually have Kashi or Kind cereal in the house. My kids don’t drink milk, so a bowl of dry cereal is a quick snack for us.

4. Chips and salsa. Yes, I got rid of the Doritos, but there are better choices of chips on the market like baked chips. My kids love salsa, so this is actually my attempt to help them expand their taste buds with something a little more ‘exotic’ like salsa. Also using carrots, celery, cucumber slices or other veggie faves for salsa dipping is strongly recommended.

5. Applesauce is always a winner. My kids love the squeezy applesauce, and even though it’s a bit more expensive, I always stock up when it’s on sale, since I know that is something they always seem to eat.

Eating Habits – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Are you the type of person who shovels snacks into your mouth while at the computer or TV, barely noticing the taste or amount of the food you’re eating? Do you still believe it’s a crime not to finish everything on your plate? I call this the starving kids in China syndrome. My dad used to say this quite often. Then as we got older, he changed it to “waste not, want not”. I heard this all my life… actually as recently as last week.

Some eating habits make it impossible to take off those extra pounds, because they are so ingrained you aren’t even conscious of them.

The good news: You can absolutely learn to break these old patterns and substitute better ones, which is a key ingredient to a successful diet. Even better news: In time, these healthy routines will become such a part of your life, they will be second nature. So not only can you lose the weight but you can keep it off, too.

1) Declare a No-Food Zone. Decide on the eating places in your house—just your dining room table, for example—and declare other places No Food Zones. If you have a habit of eating in your car, in front of the television, or while you’re at the computer, make those No Food Zones—even for healthy snacks. If you train yourself to eat only in very specific situations, you will learn to control food consumption outside of normal meal times.

2)  Make rules and stick to them. To keep calories in check you can simply establish a rule for yourself. For example: At work, never eat anything unless you bought it, brought it, or asked for it. You won’t have to torture yourself every time someone brings cupcakes to work, not to mention birthday parties, goodbye parties, Valentine’s Day, Girl Scout cookie season, Halloween… Or another rule might be that you can only eat carbs if you have exercises for at least 30 minutes. (And by carbs, I mean healthy carbs of course)

3) Put the whole meal in your hand. If you want to lose weight, one of the most important elements is how much you eat. People don’t realize the volume of food they’re eating and the speed at which they’re eating it. To figure out how much you should be eating, put your hand over your plate and see how many palmfuls or fistfuls of food you have on it. A serving size of meat, fish, or poultry is about the size of the palm of your hand; your closed fist is the volume of one cup of veggies, pasta, or rice — your own personal measuring device with you everywhere you go. Tip: Try to let least twenty minutes pass between the start and end of a meal—even if you have to get up and leave the table somewhere in between first and last bite.  

4) Eat mindfully. Mindful eating is when you’re aware of what you’re choosing to eat, how much you are eating, and when you are starting to feel full. It’s difficult when you’re grabbing what you can and gobbling it in front of the television before running out the door. Another source of overeating is the hectic pace of life that afflicts us all. We get geared up, and eating becomes an afterthought; so it is easy to grab things (usually unhealthy things) along the way. So set aside a half an hour of calm, focused eating for each meal.

If you are thinking that a calm, focused 1/2 hour is hard to come by several times a day, I call bull sh** (as my husband would say). You are not making a healthy diet your priority. If you really want to, you can set aside a 1/2 hour or even just 20 minutes for each meal to ensure you are eating mindfully all day long.

Consider these tips and start to incorporate them into your routine. Before you know it your good eating habits will far outweigh the bad and the ugly ones.

Having a Plan Will Help You Lose Weight

Plan, Plan, Plan.  It is one of the most important things when it comes to losing weight (kind of like location, location, location in real estate).

Having a plan can help you lose weight. When you plan your menu for the entire day (or week), it takes the guesswork out of what to eat. When lunchtime roles around, there is no temptation to go grab a slice of pizza or Big Mac.

What’s for dinner? Rather than adding more stress to your day, with a plan you have one less thing to worry about. Tip: Plan dinners that you’ll look forward to eating. Just make sure they are healthy.

One critical part to your plan is deciding how many calories you should be eating:

To calculate your calorie goal:

Your current weight x 12 = calories/day needed to maintain your current weight

 To lose 1 pound/week: Cut 500 calories/day.

 To lose 2 pounds/week: Cut 1,000 calories/day.

Caution: Don’t go under 1,200 calories a day because  it’s hard to get the nutrients you need with that little food.

Write what you bite. I know this sounds time consuming, but I know it works. After years (and years) of poo pooing the whole food journal thing, it was the one thing that really jump started my weight loss after having kids.  Write it down or track it online —what you ate, how much, and the calories it contained. At the end of the day, do the math.

 When you’re planning your menus, make sure you are accurately sizing up portions. Studies show that almost everyone (fat, thin, young, old, smart, etc.) underestimates how much they’re eating by as much as 20%-40% .

Try these three easy tips to measure and plan your portions — no measuring cups required:

1. Compare things: 3 ounces of meat or protein is about the size of a deck of cards, and a 1/4 cup is the size of a golf ball. http://fitchicktricks.com/what-does-200-calories-look-like/

2. Use your hand: for small-framed women, 1 teaspoon is about the size of the tip of your thumb, 1 tablespoon is the size of your thumb and 1 cup is the size of your fist.

3. Measure once: when you’re at home, you’re using the same bowls and utensils over and over again. Find out how much they hold. Measure out the amount of soup that your ladle holds. If it’s ½ cup then you’ll know forever that two scoops equal an appropriate 1 cup serving. And once you know that one serving of cereal reaches only halfway up your bowl, you’ll know to stop there each time.

The small amount of time it takes to plan is nothing compared to the big benefits to your weight loss goals. Remember: Plan, plan, plan.

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