Just as people eat for a variety of reasons, people crave certain foods for the same reasons. We eat because we are hungry, for social reasons (we are at an event with food,) for comfort. We can crave food, or certain foods for all the same reasons. Some research even suggests that we crave certain foods because of nutritional deficits in our body. The problem is our cravings can be a poor way to satisfy those deficits.
But what can we do about these pesky cravings, or at least steer them in a healthier direction ?
1) Drink plenty of water. Proper hydration is a good step toward a healthier you in any case. Water also helps us feel full. So if you are craving food in general instead of something specific, something as simple as downing a glass of water may help.
2) Get plenty of rest. Without enough rest we may crave things like caffeine, just to keep us going. While they may get us through that project, extra shift etc. nothing you can put in your mouth can replace adequate rest/sleep. Caffeine among other ingredients in excess can actually be detrimental to your overall health.
3) Reduce Stress. I know easier said than done, especially in today's hectic world. But where we get trapped is cravings start, among other places in areas of the brain tied to pleasure and memories. When we are stressed or feeling down our brains are " hard wired" to direct us to foods that bring us happiness, or remind us of fonder times. Unfortunately such emotional eating, can lead to over eating or poor nutritional choices.
4) Get Out and About. If you are craving food in general instead of something specific, you might just be bored ! Just like with emotional eating this can lead to poor choices. Take a walk, change your environment, visit a friend you haven't seen in a while.
5) Keep a cravings journal I ran across this idea at WebMD while researching this article, and its a good one. By keep track of what you crave, when and what you were doing at the time, you can get a better idea of what is truly going on. Then you can attack the root cause, instead of the craving which in many ways may just be a symptom.
6) Its not your fault. Cravings are associated with areas of the brain which deal with pleasure, memories, comfort etc. Cravings are a normal process. Add to that the thousands of times per day we are inundated with advertising messages encouraging us to eat this or eat that. Nobody should blame anybody for their cravings. Even so we can learn to understand and control them.
I'm not trying to turn anybody into some kind of food monk. A couple of cookies now and then, or some cake at your grandchild's birthday party is probably not going to kill anybody. So splurge a little occasionally. But we could all do better at understanding our cravings, and controlling our eating choices instead of letting our cravings do it for us.
Robert A. Crutchfield is Creator/ Chief Culinarian at Crutchfield Cooks on Facebook. He is a graduate of the Pre-Commis Course at WorldChefs Academy, and The Masters of Beef Advocacy 2.0 Program of the National Cattleman's Beef Council. He is Beef Quality Assurance Cow/Calf Certified. He also has experience working as a meat clerk. His recipes and articles have been seen nationally at Recipes Now. and Yummly learn more about him at http://www.facebook.com/CrutchfieldCooks