Spending more time at home can make it challenging to stay on top of a healthy eating routine, as we can tend to fall into a constant ‘snack trap’ of mindless eating. During times of stress and uncertainty, stress eating or boredom snacking is much more likely to occur. Chronic stress over a period of weeks or months results in elevated levels of cortisol, which alters blood glucose and causes our body to quickly use up energy stores. The problem with stress snacking is that we tend to reach for unhealthy items that provide a temporary feeling of relief, but no nutritional value.
Sugar consumption increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and memory. When we consume sugar, we get a small boost of serotonin, which makes us feel temporarily happier and causes our brain to continue craving this chemical. When this hormone is elevated, our body craves instant energy in an attempt to combat this feeling. This leads to additional cravings for simple carbohydrates (glucose), which can be quickly metabolized. Therefore, snacking on processed foods that contain refined sugar not only contributes to inflammation in the body but can induce more cravings for these foods, thus creating a vicious cycle of crave-induced snacking.
Research has shown that mineral imbalances in the body can induce sugar cravings . Therefore, incorporating healthy, nutrient-dense snacks into our weekly eating routine provides our body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to minimize the cravings for pro-inflammatory foods, including those containing refined sugar and heavily processed fats. Aside from mineral deficiency, low protein intake can be another contributor to sugar cravings. Most ‘empty calorie’ snacks do not contain substantial protein, which is essential to stabilize blood sugar. Protein and healthy fats slow the release of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream; however, with inadequate protein and quality fats, blood sugars can rise and fall at an abnormal rate, resulting in cravings for quick energy (sugary snacks).
Plant-based foods are not only extremely rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, but are also an excellent source of lean protein and healthy monounsaturated fats. Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and cruciferous veggies are nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, plant-based foods. They help to curb cravings and keep us feeling fuller for longer by slowing digestion and keeping blood sugars balanced. The F45 Nutrition Team recommends keeping some homemade vegan snacks readily available around the house, including:
This simple yet wholesome snack can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes. Avocado is an excellent source of essential healthy fats, and tastes amazing when combined with onion, tomato, and fresh cilantro. Brown rice cakes make the ultimate low-carb base for this nutrient-dense snack.
Edamame is a key source of plant-based protein that is rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Combining edamame beans with hummus is a unique twist on traditional hummus for a nutritious and filling snack. Edamame hummus makes a delicious dip for veggies or a spread for wraps and sandwiches.
Fiber-rich prunes are a key ingredient for these raw energy bars. Store-bought granola and protein bars are often loaded with refined sugar. Homemade energy bars not only taste amazing, but are loaded with natural ingredients—no artificial flavors or refined sugars here! Prep these bars on a weekend for a quick and easy energizing snack that will offset cravings and keep blood sugars balanced.
Dates are one of the best forms of natural sugar. They are high in a number of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, all of which provide a number of health benefits, ranging from improved digestion to a reduced risk of disease.
Say goodbye to potato chips! These baked kale and broccoli chips are not only a healthy way to cut cravings but are a great source of fiber. No added preservatives or sugar—just natural goodness from both broccoli and kale, packed with all the nutrients you need to keep you energized all day long.