Understand Your Food Cravings + Tips For Choosing Healthier Alternatives

Understand Your Food Cravings + Tips For Choosing Healthier Alternatives

Personally, I am really excited about today’s blog post. A few years back I had really bad eating habits, with sugar and bread cravings literally controlling my life. Even though I was vegetarian and would drink a green smoothie everyday all I craved to eat was cereal, crackers, breads, wine, coffee, chocolate and vegan junk food. It certainly took its toll on me.

I never felt great. However, I wasn’t sick either. I just felt ok. I was always a little tired, foggy and my moods where up and down. My skin didn’t glow and I suffered from dark under eye circles. In fact – almost every person I met would say “Claire you look really tired”

Just listen to your body, eat in silence and see what feels good and you will spontaneously choose the foods that are beneficial to you. ~Deepak Chopra

Every day I would remind myself, ’gosh I got to eat better’, but then my cravings would take control of me and I would end up eating refined and processed crap in the afternoon.

Initially, I gave myself a 30 day juice challenge, and thought to myself if I can do that, then I will continue a plant-based lifestyle. I actually found the 4 weeks of just consuming fresh organic juices very easy and therapeutic. I could feel and see it detoxing my body – the healing and rebooting that took place over those 30 days was truly life-changing.

It took an entire year to switch comfortably from a modern western diet to a high raw diet. I did three juice fasts in that year, and with every fast I completed I found myself leaning more into the raw lifestyle.

I went from someone who loved their wine and cheese, and who regularly experienced the so-called “normal” ailments + physical problems that our western society puts up with, to somebody who experienced thriving health for the very first time.
Over the years I gradually learned that what we eat is important and I’d experienced the benefits first hand. But what I’m realizing now is that nutrition can affect us well beyond our physical health, it is arguably one of the most powerful self-transformational tools available to us.

Throughout my high raw vegan journey I have grown a deep connection to both myself and mother nature. The mind, body + spirit transformation I have experienced is truly mind-blowing – I am a completely different person.

Todays I want to gently reinforce that cravings are your body’s way of talking to you. Cravings can be your friend, because they are your body’s way of telling you what is going on within. You need to re-frame cravings as guideposts, and spend some time with yourself discovering what it is that your body is trying to tell you.

Food cravings are caused from either an emotional need or from a food addiction.  You have to do the work to break the habit of emotional eating and this takes time and re-programming. Here are some tips to help you control your cravings and make peace with your food.

  • Educate yourself about the nutritional benefits of food: Once you adopt the philosophy that “food is your medicine,” you will become very aware of what you eat. As a result of this philosophy you will consciously choose healthy options when your food cravings kick in.
  • Are you really hungry?: Next time you get a food craving and think you need a certain type of food take the time to ask yourself are you hungry? Or are you just wanting comfort? If you think you are hungry go to the fridge and grab an apple/mango/orange/vegetable sticks - if you don't want these then you are not experiencing "true"  hunger. If you are eating for comfort then get curious about "the why's". If you are bored get out and go for a walk. If you are sad then do something to uplift your spirit. If you are angry work up a sweat by going for a run or doing an intensive yoga flow class.
  • Focus on the do’s rather than the don’ts: Remind yourself that your body needs five servings of vegetables and fruits every day, 3 litres of water, a selection of colourful vegetables, a handful of seeds and nuts, and so forth. This will motivate you to make choices towards these options as opposed to the unhealthy alternative.
  • Get 8-9 hours of sleep: Get plenty of sleep because when you’re tired, you’re more likely to crave certain foods that don't serve your health and wellness.
  • Everything in moderation: Don’t be too obsessed over the foods you eat – take it slow. Restricting foods from your diet will often cause bingeing.
  • Be prepared: Carry healthy, portable foods with you such as baby carrots, protein balls, fruit, hummus, or seed crackers to prevent that vending-machine dependency when the 3pm craving hits.
  • Eat intuitively by practicing some mindfulness: Make eating a ritual. Truly savour your food. Next time you eat, just eat. Turn off the television or computer. Really taste your food. What does it taste like? Eat with curiosity: what is the texture like? Does the first bite taste like the second? Do I really like this? What is this doing to my body? Is this what I really want to eat right now? (Sometimes, you might decide to stop!) Exploring food will help you eat more slowly, and have more fun. And when you do eat more slowly, you are more likely to notice when you are feeling full.
  • Get curious about your cravings: Spend some time with your cravings and try and work out what triggers them. Recognize the feelings and emotions that lead-up to a food craving. Do you have food cravings when you’re bored, lonely, upset or stressed? If you can identify a trigger, you can deal with the emotion that’s making you desire a certain food.
  • Hydrate with water: Drink 2-3 litres of water a day; this will leave you feeling refreshed, healthy and full throughout the day.
  • Be gentle with yourself: If emotional pain is calling you to eat, offer yourself compassion and kindness. Read an inspiring book or quote or drop and meditate. Practice some self-love.
  • Educate yourself about foods: When you know what certain foods do to your body you will be more tempted to eat it or avoid it.
  • Remove all temptation: If the food isn’t available, you can’t eat it! Don’t keep cookies in your cupboard! Keep healthy food choices on-hand.
  • Focus on being a temple of wellness: Next time you get a craving, remind yourself that you want to be a temple of optimum health. You need to respect and love your body for it is the temple to your soul. Sometimes this is enough to stop a craving in its tracks.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes every day: It increases feel-good endorphins that cut down on your cravings.
  • Make sure your body is not deficient in any vitamins: Being deficient in vitamins and minerals will cause you to crave certain foods. Consider getting a blood test to get an accurate reading of your deficiencies.
  • Eat a diet rich in whole-foods: Your diet should consist of 90-100% natural, unprocessed, preferably organic foods, such as fresh fruits & vegetables; whole grains (i.e. brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa, etc.); legumes (i.e. lentils, kidney beans, aduki beans); and nuts and seeds. The more wholefoods that you eat, the less you will crave processed, refined and sugary junk.
  • Get your green power: Take a “green food” supplement (spiralina, wheatgrass, green smoothie) as it helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels, which will help curb the cravings. Alternatively drink at least one green smoothie or juice a day.
  • Eat your healthy fats: Make sure you’re getting enough of the “good fats” Consume 1-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, or virgin coconut oil. Load up on avocados or raw, unsalted nuts and seeds daily.
  • Keep busy and distract yourself: Boredom often leads to eating. If you do get a craving get busy and stay busy until the cravings subside.
  • Find healthy alternatives to your unhealthy cravings: Use stevia or maple syrup instead of sugar for example. There are healthy alternatives for pretty much everything these days. We have covered this further down the page.

If you eat healthy foods, have sufficient vitamins and minerals, exercise daily, have enough sleep, drink plenty of water and take care of your wellbeing, your cravings for junk food will go away naturally with a little persistence.

 We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle

Swapping to healthier alternatives

It’s amazing how just a few simple swaps can transform your lifestyle in the healthiest way! I would recommend trying any of the following, they are my absolute go-tos!

Here are some of my favourite healthy swaps:

  • SWAP COFFEE: Try turmeric latte, chai tea or >make a vegan hot chocolate with warm almond milk, cacao, cinnamon and maple syrup. I also love brewing up a pot of roasted dandelion tea with a dash of almond milk and maple syrup.
  • SWAP CHOCOLATE: Make your own chocolate bliss balls, vegan peanut butter fudge or buy 70-85% dark chocolate that has no milk solids in it. 
  • SWAP SUGAR: Use dates, maple syrup, rice malt syrup, or coconut sugar.
  • SWAP BREAD: Bake some seed crackers or use lettuce leaves to make wraps with. If you are too busy and are seeking something quick and easy – try brown rice cakes or quinoa cakes.
  • SWAP PIZZA: Cauliflower pizza crust with pesto, broccoli, avocado and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • SWAP MEAT: Start using beans, chickpeas, roast eggplant, antipasto vegetables, mushrooms or for something super quick try the beyond burger [amazing] available from most supermarkets [in Australia the beyond burger is only available in Coles and it is beside the meats]. If you can't or don't want to give up meat then choose organic meats free from hormones and avoid all deli meats and cured meats [bacon, salami and so forth]. Read my blog post Get Glowing Skin, Optimal Wellness + Tap Into Boundless Energy With A High Raw Vegan Diet
  • SWAP PASTA: Zucchini zoodles with tomato & pesto. There are so many amazing pasta options out there. I love mung bean pasta, pulse pasta, quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta or black bean pasta.
  • SWAP YOGHURT: You can either buy or make your own coconut yogurt. Alternatively try making chia puddings with coconut milk and maple syrup.
  • SWAP REFINED CEREALS: Make your own healthy breakfast treats that are loaded with nourishment. Try chia puddings or a raw muesli
  • SWAP ICE-CREAM: Frozen bananas blended until smooth and creamy. So simple and you can add whatever flavours you please. If you fancy a peanut butter version simply add a few spoons of peanut butter when blending. Or how about salted caramel? Simply blend up your bananas, then in a separate blender blend about 8 soaked dates with 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Drizzle the caramel date sauce over the frozen banana.
  • SWAP POPCORN: Make your own natural popcorn over the stove. Sprinkle it with a little nutritional yeast and salt.
  • SWAP CHEESE: If you are seeking cheese for your pizza top your pizza off with a little avocado, then once it is cooked add a drizzle of olive oil. If you are craving a cheese platter try having hummus, olives, sun-dried tomatoes or a carrot gravlax. If you are in need of a toasted sandwich try toasting avocado and veganaise. There are plenty of recipes on the internet for  easy cashew cheeses to make. Alternatively if you are really struggling then buy a block of plant based cheese from your local health food shop.
  • SWAP MILK: Drink plant-based milks. Its super easy to make your own almond milk and there are plenty of recipes on the internet. I love to add a little cinnamon and dates to my homemade almond milk and then blend it up into a sweet and comforting mylk.
  • SWAP ALCOHOL: Often drinking alcohol in the evening is a habit. Change up the habit by pouring sparkling water into either a wine glass or beer glass. Spice up the water with some lime, mint, lemon, rosemary or cucumber.  Home-brewed kombucha is also a nice alternative.
  • SWAP SOFT DRINK: Sparkling water with lime or home-brewed kombucha
  • SWAP POTATO CHIPS: Kale chips or seed crackers with mashed avocado and hummus
  • SWAP SALT: Buy himalayan pink salt or celtic salt
  • SWAP FRIED CHIPS: Their are some tasty healthy alternatives to greasy fried chips. Oven roast potato, pumpkin and sweet potato with a little coconut oil, celtic salt and onion powder. Oven baked kale chips are also a great option. Alternatively you could oven bake canned chickpeas with a little celtic salt and balsamic vinegar

Creating long term change

So you have been trying really hard to stick with your new holistic and healthy lifestyle…but all of a sudden you collapsed and went back to some of your old bad habits. I am here to affirm to you that falling off the wagon is feedback, not failure. Think of this as a process – it’s an opportunity to change your life for good, not just for a couple of weeks. If you do overindulge in foods or fail to exercise when you promised you would, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s part of learning how to get it right. After a blowout it is way to easy to say “I knew I’d never stick to this,”‘ and to then give up. But instead choose to learn something new and  know it is all apart of the process. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.

Think of how a baby learns to walk. They fall over constantly but never give up. Learning to eat, exercise and live  in a different way takes time. You need to gently change and keep working at it until you get it right. After all its a lifestyle choice your making, not some new fad your experimenting with.

When it comes to living a holistic lifestyle, you need to find out what works for you and learn how to apply the lifestyle changes within your own life, in a way you actually enjoy and can maintain. You also need to take full responsibility for making these changes, and doing all you can to make them work for you.

Relying on willpower will set you up to fail if you have gone into a lifestyle change to quick, or are following some new fad approach. By making a sudden change, your body will react and want to rebel as you torment yourself with deprivation. Whereas incremental and gentle changes to your diet and lifestyle will give new habits a chance to become second nature.

How to implement Change gently?

Know the reasons why you want to change. You have to be very clear why you’re doing this, and the benefits of doing it need to be clear in your head. If you’re just doing it for vanity, while that can be a good motivator, it’s not usually enough. You need something stronger. For me, I started to honour my body because I wanted to look after it, I realised most of us only get one chance of looking after ourselves. I want to reach ninety years old, be healthy and still be able to climb up a hill. When you don’t have strong reasons for changing a habit, it is very easy to lose determination and drive.

A long term approach is vital. Don’t force yourself into things you don’t like in the short-term in order to achieve a short-term goal. This will leave you wanting your old habits. For example don’t make yourself eat foods that you don’t enjoy, instead think about finding foods you actually do like and find ways to incorporate them into your life. Yes this does require time and a bit of trial and error to get right, but overtime you will accumulate healthy habits that you will enjoy. Then, who needs willpower? Over time you will feel so amazing and you will also find your tastes change and eventually the foods you used to eat or even crave no longer have the same appeal.

Make little changes, the smaller the better. Trying to make changes to quick is a recipe for disaster. Want to exercise? Start with just 5-10 minutes. Want to wake up earlier? Try just 10 minutes earlier for now.

You need to enjoy the changes you make to your lifestyle. What I find works best for me, is I educate myself why I am better off for making these changes, and how will my body benefit from the changes.  For example, when I know that by drinking 4 litres of water a day will help erase lines and give me plentiful energy, I no longer crave  coffee or sugar drinks that will have the reverse effect. Educate yourself about your body and you will find complete enjoyment out of honouring it.

Write down your goal and create a plan. This will ensure you’re really prepared. The plan should include your reasons (motivations) for changing, obstacles, triggers, support systems, and other ways you are going to make it work.

Write down all your obstacles. If you’ve tried to change a certain habit before (odds are you have), and  failed. Reflect on those failures, and figure out what stopped you from succeeding. Write down every obstacle that’s happened to you, and think about what else could send you off track. Then write down how you plan to overcome them. That’s the key,  write down your solution before the obstacles arrive, so you’re prepared.

What situations trigger your current habit? For example, lets take the addiction to drinking coffee. Some of the triggers may include 3pm afternoon slump, meeting up with friends, starting a day, etc. Most habits have multiple triggers. Identify all of them and write them in your plan.

Find a replacement for your bad habit. Know that there is always a healthy alternative to everything – you may just have to put in the time to find it.

Plan a support system. Who will you turn to when you have a strong urge? Write these people into your plan. Support and health forums online are a great tool, so are holistic websites. Get involved within the health community online or in your local area. Don’t underestimate the power of support — it’s really important.

For any plan to succeed you need to feel that you are in control of the choices.   It is freedom to choose that empowers you. Learn which choices are going to support your goals and which are going to take you further away from achieving them. It is very empowering to make choices that honour and treat your body well.

Fight the urge. Urges are going to come — they’re inevitable, and they’re strong. But they’re also temporary, and beatable. Urges usually last about a minute or two, and they come in waves of varying strength. You just need to ride out the wave, and the urge will go away. Some strategies for making it through the urge: deep breathing, eat some frozen grapes, take a walk, exercise, drink a glass of water, post on a support forum.

Rather than focusing on deprivation and willpower, focus instead on how you can make yourself feel great. Focus on how great you feel, and how radiant your skin looks. Know that by refusing to put toxins in your body you are living a life of prevention. By looking after your body and mind, you are doing a wonderful service to your friends and family. Know that to be inspired to live a certain way, means you will inspire others along the way.

Use visualization. This is powerful. Vividly picture, in your head, successfully changing your life. Visualize how your new holistic life will look and feel. Trust me it works.

Reward yourself. Set up milestones, and once they are reached, treat yourself. Maybe have a haircut, massage or mini holiday.

Get plenty of sleep. Being tired leaves you vulnerable to relapse. Get a lot of rest so you can have the energy to overcome urges.

Drink loads of water. Drinking water keeps you hydrated, refreshed and focused.

Renew your commitment often. Remind yourself of your commitment hourly, and at the beginning and end of each day. Read your plan. Celebrate your success. Prepare yourself for obstacles and urges.

Set up public accountability. Blog about it, post on a forum, email your commitment and daily progress to friends and family, post a chart up at your office, write a column for your local newspaper. When you make it public — not just the commitment but the progress updates — you don’t want to fail.

If you fail, figure out what went wrong, plan for it, and try again. Don’t let failure and guilt stop you. They’re just obstacles, they can be overcome.

Many things will tempt you to go back to your old habits, it takes commitment and time to develop a holistic lifestyle. Take it at your own pace and know that any small changes you make, will make the biggest difference, and every healthy choice you make is bringing you a step closer to your long term goal.

 

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.

Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

― Patanjali