All Your Food Cravings, Explained
Weight gain from out-of-control cravings aside, it can be frustrating to have a constant hankering for something unhealthy and not know why. The good news is that there’s usually a reason underlying that burning desire to house a bag of potato chips, or the feeling that you’ll die if you don’t get a pickle rightthisinstant (even though you’re not pregnant).
We talked to Los Angeles based dietitian Shira Lenchewski, M.S., R.D., and got the skinny on some common food cravings, including what you can do to satiate the hunger without going overboard. Keep scrolling for some seriously good information!
If you're craving: Chocolate
It means: You could be lacking magnesium in your diet, says Lenchewski. “Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in energy production, glucose metabolism, and muscle function. This is especially true for those hitting the gym hard,” she explains. Additionally, magnesium levels lower during the pre-menstrual weeks of your period, which explains why PMS so often comes with chocolate cravings.
Instead, reach for: High-quality, low-sugar dark chocolate, which is naturally high in magnesium. “I recommend sticking to 75 percent cocoa or higher, and pairing it with another magnesium-rich source like sunflower seeds,” says Lenchewski. She suggests the chocolate brand Hu, a small-batch food company that focuses on high-quality ingredients produced locally. “It’s a little pricey, but all the more reason to keep portions in check,” she says. “It’s my personal favorite.”
If you're craving: Candy
It means: “Craving pure sugar is a good indication that you’re running low on energy,” says Lenchewski. “Think about it. What is the one thing you’re itching fo, after a terrible night’s sleep or at around 4 p.m. during a stressful workday? The answer is usually sugar, because it’s used as instant fuel for our body’s cells.”
Instead, reach for: Apples with nut butter. “If you’re raiding your co-workers’ leftover Easter stash, I recommend a more slow-burn carbohydrate with a source of fat or protein,” says Lenchewski. “Unlike simple sugar, this will fuel your cells while avoiding the post-sugar crash. Two options that make for great pick-me-ups the next time you’re craving candy: a sliced apple with your choice of nut butter, or berries with 2 percent unsweetened Greek yogurt.”
Instead, reach for: Water. “Stay hydrated, especially as we approach the summer months,” she says. The next time a craving hits, try quenching it (literally) with a few refreshing glasses and you might find the urgency to sodium binge disappears. “If plain water bores you, try adding in mint, lemon, or frozen fruit to mix it up,” says Lenchewski. And if that still doesn’t do the trick, there’s a healthier alternative to bagged chips or french fries. “If you’re really just craving salt after all, toasted seaweed is a great low-calorie option,” she says.
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Instead, reach for: A bath! “Bust out the Epsom salts, because it’s time for some serious R+R,” says Lenchewski. “Trust me. Indulging in a starch free-for-all feels really good in the moment, but it will likely bum you out more the next day.” (As anyone who has ever indulged a pizza or pasta craving knows.) So the next time you want to dive head first into a bowl of carbs, draw a bath, light a candle, and treat yourself without any regret or dense calories.
Instead, reach for: Coconut ice cream. “I’m a realist, so if you’re craving ice cream, I’m not going to recommend a handful of walnuts, which are, of course, full of healthy fat,” says Lenchewski. “For ice-cream emergencies, I recommend lower-in-sugar coconut ice-creams like Coconut Bliss or Kippy’s three-ingredient ice cream in Los Angeles.” We can vouch for the fact that coconut ice cream tastes incredible, and just like the real thing.
Instead, reach for: A healthier burger. “I’m a proponent of grass fed, antibiotic and hormone-free red meat once a week,” says Lenchewski. “Try experimenting with an open-faced bison burger—which, cut for cut, is leaner and has more iron than beef.”
What are the worst cravings that you get? Have you tried any of these switches with success? Tell us in the comments!