According to Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, it's not your fault you can't keep your fingers out of the cookie jar or the bag of chips. "If you are a carb craver, you need to treat yourself with a little kindness," she explains. "You can't 'will away' those cravings. They are hardwired in your head."
Instead of beat yourself for being a carb fiend or thinking you can deny yourself high-carb foods for the long-term, give your carb intake a practical makeover that will keep you sensibly satisfied. "Make sure each meal contains at least one whole grain…[and] plan a quality-carb snack at your most craving-prone time of the day," advises Somer, who is also a member of the editorial advisory board of Shape magazine and editor in chief of Nutrition Alert. What's a quality-carb, you ask? Keep reading to find out.
Open the cupboards and toss the obvious junk such as white bread, white rice, instant mashed potatoes, any cracker or cookie made with anything but 100 percent whole grain, all potato chips, processed pasta products, jumbo muffins and other empty calorie carb fare, suggests Somer. And don't stop there, she urges. "Purge the freezer of French fries, hash browns, breakfast foods made from processed grains or other high-calorie, low-quality items." In addition, definitely toss your carb triggers – those junk foods that you are powerless to resist.
Now it's time to restock your kitchen with the 100 percent whole grains you like. Somer recommends 100 percent whole-wheat bread, old-fashioned oatmeal, Kashi Autumn Wheat Cereal or GoLean Cereal, Zoom hot cereal or instant brown rice. Continue to keep your carb cravings in check by experimenting with new grains, like barley, millet, amaranth, whole-wheat couscous or bulgur.
You don't need to give up your favorite recipes or avoid new ones that don't call for whole grains. Simply swap out low-quality carbs with smarter carb choices. For example, Somer suggests the following substitutes:
When packing your lunch and snacks for the day, use healthy whole grain products. Somer says, "Make sandwiches with 100 percent whole grain bread, use low-fat cheeses such as Cabot Vermont 50 percent Reduced Fat Cheese, and include other grains like 100 percent whole grain crackers or air-popped popcorn."
Though a week or even a day without diving into a large order of French fries is worthy of reward, don't counter your efforts with another low-quality food high in carbs. Instead, Somer says, "Praise yourself with a manicure, flowers, a game of golf on Saturday or a Netflix movie. Follow the 'if . . . then' rule: If you steer clear of the junk, then you get the back rub, hour of alone time or bubble bath."
Somer explains that all too often, we grab food before we even know whether we really want it. That knee-jerk reaction gets us into trouble. The nutrition expert recommends taking a 10-minute pause before diving into any snack, from popcorn to leftover doughnuts. You can even take a 10-minute walk to help you get your mind off the immediate need for a nosh and then reevaluate when you return.
Before just grabbing anything in reach, determine what you want. Is it something crunchy or chewy? Cold, sweet or creamy? Once you have pinpointed exactly what you want, then find a low-calorie food that satisfies that need. Somer says, "Luckily, the better you eat, the more your cravings for fatty or overly sweet carbs will dwindle." Hang in there, over time you'll know the healthiest ways to satisfy your yens.
The most important meal of the day not only jump starts your metabolism after the evening fast, it can also quell your cravings for low-quality carbs. According to Somer, if you eat a nutritious breakfast, you are much more likely to resist the junk food temptations that may occur later in the day.
Skipping meals or waiting too long in between meals will kick up your cravings for junk food and high-carb fare. Somer recommends eating small meals and snacks evenly distributed throughout the day to keep serotonin levels, blood sugar levels, and other hormones and chemicals in your body in the normal range.
Put another way, seeing is craving, says Somer. Watch out for temptations at the mall, restaurants and friends' houses. It is easy to overdo carbs when most of the ones offered to you are low-quality junk carbs. For example, studies at the University of Illinois found that people ate 45 percent more calories when there was a bread basket placed on the table in restaurants than when the waiter came by and offered them a slice from a basket. What does that mean for you? "Ask that the tortilla chips be removed when dining at a Mexican restaurant and you will save yourself 300 unnecessary calories, and avoid the coffee shop with the display of muffins, scones and croissants," adds Somer.
All carbs are not created equally. With Somer's tips you can still satisfy your carb cravings, but with healthy, high-quality carbs that will actually – over time – decrease your desires for low-quality junk carbs. You can have your carbs and eat them, too.
For more information on controlling carb cravings and healthy diet tips, visit www.EatYourWayToHappiness.com.
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