Nutritionist on dos and don'ts to manage unhealthy cravings this festival season
Unhealthy cravings during festival season are common. Here are tips by a nutritionist to keep them at bay.
Festival season is here and as people celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam and other festivals with much fervour and enthusiasm with their friends and family, it's also the time when we eat in a haphazard and unhealthy way leading to weight gain and other issues like spike in blood sugar and increase in cholesterol. With all the get-togethers and celebratory vibe, we also tend to compromise on sleep during this time. This irregular and unhealthy eating pattern can lead to increase in cravings. While craving itself is not bad and at times they are due to certain nutritional deficiencies, many a time, irregular sleep or stress levels are also to be blamed. (Also read: Natural ways to curb food cravings and lose weight)
Following an extremely low-calorie diet could lead to increase in cravings so make sure to have all the important food groups on your plate. Also, avoid too much of sugary treats, as the more you eat them, the more you would crave for them during the day. It is also advised to rest well as lack of sleep can also trigger unhealthy cravings.
Avantii Deshpaande, Clinical Nutritionist, PCOS and gut health nutritionist in a conversation with HT Digital, gives tips to curb unhealth cravings.
1. Do not follow a restrictive diet: A very low-calorie diets (VLCD) could be the number one reason for unhealthy food cravings. Our body and especially the brain cannot function without a balanced diet. In place of VLCD try to work on changing the food groups instead. Keep the diet high in fibre and proteins, and moderate to low complex carbs. This way you will get nourishment, and better fat burning, and the food cravings will disappear.
2. Remove all simple sugars: Simple sugars are the ones which are present in table sugar, honey, and jaggery and present as hidden sugars in processed foods like breakfast cereals, nutrition bars, sauces, jams, etc. The simple sugars will keep the circulating insulin levels on the higher side in the blood, which leads to cravings for eating something sweet. In case you want to savour your sweet tooth see that these simple sugars are combined with fats or proteins for example – paushtik ladoos (made of pure ghee, wheat flour, dried fruits and nuts), breakfast bowls with nuts and honey, and moong dal payasam.
3. Improve your gut health: An unhealthy gut increases sugar cravings as indicated in many research articles. Make it a point to include probiotics in your diet like buttermilk, kanji, and also a daily dose of prebiotics with 5 serves of fruits and vegetables.
4. Avoid excess fruit consumption: Many times, fruits are consumed in surplus as mid-meals snacks and after-meal snacks especially on a weight loss journey. Fruits contain fructose which is fruit sugar and a surplus of this will cause equal harm as sucrose. Choose fibre-rich fruits in place of pulpy fruits and try to limit the consumption of fruits to one or two per day. Do not replace main meals with fruits but consume them independently as a snack.
5. Check for nutritional deficiency: A nutritional deficiency could also be an indication of food cravings, for example, chocolate cravings could be due to low magnesium levels, whereas cravings for non-veg consumption could be because of iron deficiency. Getting periodic blood work done will help to understand the underlying cause.
6. Sleep strategies: Sleep deprivation is the biggest reason why unhealthy food cravings strike. Staying awake late in the night time also leads to binge eating. Follow the body’s circadian rhythm and make sure you have a restful sleep pattern. This will drastically reduce sugar cravings.
Physical, and emotional stress is also the reason for unhealthy cravings like work stress, over-exercising, study pressure, etc. It’s practically impossible to totally avoid it but you need to find ways to manage it via mindful practices, yoga, and meditation.
7. Look for alternatives: Looking for alternatives might just make you more satisfied rather than total restriction for example if you enjoy the street food pav bhaji combine it with a good portion of salad and then have a glass of buttermilk to go with it. Replace fried foods with air-fried options and unhealthy sweets made with healthy ingredients instead. Our body and mind work better with inclusive diets rather than restrictive diets.