I am all about cheat day! In fact, I've been really bad at sticking to healthy eating the past week or so (I blame Valentine's Day). I've been eating way too much sugar which has caused a cascading effect by increasing my cravings for fried, sugary, and every unhealthy food. Give me all the fried chicken, ice cream, fries, and cake (yes...cake).
Cravings aren't bad, but they can be your body's way of telling you it is deficient in something. No, cravings are not "all in your head." Your brain is amazing at remembering when you feel pleasure from eating a certain type of food. When you are under a lot of stress, are feeling depressed, are on a very strict diet (Keto, gluten-free, vegan/vegetarian, etc.), or experiencing hormone fluctuations (during your period).
Carbohydrates boost serotonin levels, which has a calming effect for when you're anxious. The combination of sugar and fats also have a calming effect on your brain. This is why we tend to crave sugary, fat-filled snacks (potato chips, chocolate, fries, ice cream, cookies, etc.) when we are having emotional problems.
Restrictive diets can make cravings even worse. This is why people who are going through some of the diets I mentioned above, tend to eat a lot more fruit and sugary things. Because you're hungry, your brain wants a quick fix which almost always ends up being a fatty, sugary food. This is also why low-fat foods are high in sugar - to make them taste good.
When cravings hit, it's okay to satisfy them, but you must have self-control. It's so easy to sit down and eat a whole pint of ice cream or an entire bag of potato chips. This is also why you shouldn't go grocery shopping when you're hungry or craving something sweet. When you get too hungry, your body wants something quick and easy to satisfy the hunger (hence fast-food stops and snacking). Eat before your stomach starts to grumble.
How to avoid cravings:
Stay hydrated - water helps keep you fuller longer and keeps your body in homeostasis
Make sure you're eating enough protein
Avoid stress when possible
Meal planning - you can even pre-package your meals for the week to make things easier
Eat at regular times during the day
Get enough sleep
Build in cheat days once a week - this gives your body and brain a reward for its hard work
Remember I said that sometimes cravings can mean that you're deficient in something? Here is a simple chart that might clear that up for you:
Now that you understand where cravings come from and why we all struggle with them, here are some great cheat day recipes that you might enjoy. They are low in sugar, high in fiber, and are a great source of protein - all of which help curb cravings.
Overnight Raspberry Cream Cheese French Toast Bake
1 loaf of challah bread cut into 1-2" squares
1, 6-ounce container of raspberries (preferably organic)
1, 8-ounce block of cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon raw honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup raw sugar or coconut sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting, optional
Spray a 9"x 9" baking dish with coconut oil and set aside.
Add half of the challah bread to the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the raspberries (reserving a few for the topping) and cream cheese.
Top with the remaining bread and press down.
In a bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the bread until covered.
Cover the dish with foil, pressing down again, and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the French toast for 30 minutes covered, 30 minutes uncovered. Until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, dust with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup.
Recipe via Tornadough Alli
Best Tomato Soup Ever & Turkey Bacon-Avocado Grilled Cheese
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
6 Tablespoons butter
2, 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1, 23-ounce can tomato juice
2 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 cup sherry, optional
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Dice the onion, smash and chop the garlic. Melt the butter in a large pot and throw in the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
Dump in the diced tomatoes and tomato juice and stir to combine.
Add the chicken stock, pepper, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat.
Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add the sherry if desired and the heavy cream.
Top with the fresh basil and parsley and enjoy!
4 slices of hearty artisan bread
4-6 slices turkey bacon, cooked
4 slices of mozzarella (approx. 4-6-ounces)
1 avocado, sliced
1 ripe tomato, sliced
Fresh basil leaves
1-2 Tablespoons butter
Butter one side of each slice of bread.
Place the bread, butter-side down, in a skillet or griddle. Layer the mozzarella, bacon, avocado, tomato, and basil. Top with the remaining slices of bread, butter-side up.
Heat over medium heat until golden and the cheese begins to melt - about 4 minutes. Carefully flip the sandwich and cook for a few more minutes.
Soup recipe via Food Network
Grilled Cheese recipe via Tidy Mom