Cravings are all about blood sugar. If you keep your blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day, your eating patterns will be remain sensible. But if you starve yourself for hours, the cravings come-a-callin’, and you will inevitably answer.
"Your blood sugar can fall too low after just 4 hours of not eating," says Valerie Berkowitz, M.S., R.D., nutrition director at the Center for Balanced Health in New York City. This leads you to search the fridge, food court, or seat cushions for simple carbohydrates, which will provide a quick boost to your system. You know you are in the low blood sugar danger zone when that half-eaten stale donut in the office break room starts to look particularly enticing.
Once you succumb to that carb craving, rising blood sugar triggers your pancreas to release a flood of insulin, a hormone that not only lowers blood sugar but also signals your body to store fat. And in about fifty percent of us, insulin tends to "overshoot," which sends blood sugar crashing. "This reinforces the binge, because it makes you crave sugar and starch again," says Berkowitz.
The most effective way to keep your blood sugar in check is to avoid foods that are made with added sugar, like soda, some fruit juices, and baked goods. You can eliminate those entirely. As for foods that contain high amounts of starch—pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, or any other flour-based food—we'll admit they're delicious, and they can also provide vitamins and fiber. But you should limit yourself to 30 to 40 grams (g) of total carbohydrates at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and 10 to 20 g at any given snack. (Check labels.)
In addition, try following these three rules:
Try to eat regularly—approximately every 3 hours. This allows you to eat smaller meals without becoming hungry.
Have protein and fat (meat, cheese, nuts, or eggs contain both) at every meal. This slows the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps prevent spikes in blood sugar.
Go whole grain. Shop carefully at the grocery store. Make sure any bread, pasta, or rice that you eat is 100 percent whole grain. Whole grains contain fiber and their effect on your blood sugar is reduced. Don’t forget to double check products that say “multigrain.” Multigrain and whole grains are not exactly the same. A multigrain product could consist of enriched white flour, cornmeal, white rice, and/or other simple over-processed grains that spike insulin levels.
With blood sugar, as with many things in life, slow and steady wins the race—in this case, the daily “race” to keeping your cravings calm. However, check with your doctor first before drastically altering your diet. As always, be safe and stay healthy.
Guest blogger and fitness enthusiast.