Lisa Lansing

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Everyone experiences cravings from time to time. If you know what causes your cravings, you’ll be better equipped to handle them.

New vegans often worry that cravings signify a nutritional deficiency of some sort. As I pointed out in my previous post which focused on cravings for cow’s milk, cravings for animal products are most likely mental. As long as you eat a varied diet and plenty of calories you won’t be at risk of a deficiency. I suggest you track everything you eat and drink on if you are concerned with meeting nutritional requirements, or if you happen to be curious about the nutritional quality of your eating habits. (I tracked my food intake for a week using Cronometer and learned quite a bit!)

Cravings come and go

Every now and again, I get cravings for the foods I used to eat. Animal products are never on my mind since I’ve been vegan for quite some time now, but I do crave rice, veggie sushi, bread, and pasta. I faced cravings every step of the way as my diet progressed from the standard American diet to vegetarian, then vegan (raw and junk food type!), and now finally to the cleanest version of the vegan lifestyle: high carb low fat.

Today my craving for rice was so strong, I caved and made some rice noodles at home. I improvised with rice noodles since we don’t have a pot suitable for cooking rice—minimalist problems!

Only after I devoured the entire pack of rice noodles did I realise why I had a craving in the first place. It turns out I didn’t eat much at all today. Before my rice noodle bender, I had eaten a paltry 800 calories: a pack of grapes for breakfast and a banana, kiwi, raspberry, mango smoothie for lunch. Usually, I eat more than 800 calories in one meal!

I simply needed to eat

Today I was fixated on rice because my body needed more calories. I craved rice not only because it’s familiar to me as I used to eat it often but because it’s high in calories and carbs. My body just wanted me to eat more calories quickly to make up for the deficit.

The rice noodles were tasty and filled me up but the flavour wasn’t as satisfying as steamed sweet potato or broccoli. I just felt like I had to eat rice (or their noodle equivalent) ASAP. I couldn’t think about anything else until I was sitting on the floor practically inhaling them!

Just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with eating rice, but at this point, I am trying to eat only whole fruits and veggies. Rice is cheap, widely available, tasty, and nutritious. So eat it if you like it!

The easiest way to avoid cravings

Today I learned that the best way for me to avoid cravings is to simply eat. If I have a craving for something, I will check my calorie intake for the day and see if I’m unknowingly under-eating. If so, I will eat some fruit and see how I feel.

And I need to remember that I might just be bored if I have cravings while eating sufficient calories. Yesterday I offered these tips for those of us who crave processed foods:

  • Cravings for processed foods can be handled in a few ways. If you crave sugary pastries or sweet stuff, try eating more fruit instead. Also, try to avoid buying processed foods. If you don’t have them at home, you won’t be tempted to eat them. Make sure you always have plenty of healthy snacks around (like fruit) so you reach for something healthy instead of processed food when you feel hungry.
  • If you crave something processed, ask yourself if you are hungry enough to eat an apple or a piece of fruit. If you’d rather eat the processed junk, you aren’t truly hungry at that time. You might be bored or looking for comfort instead.

So if you have cravings, ask yourself:

  • Have I eaten enough calories today?
  • Am I truly hungry?
  • Could I be bored?
  • Am I looking for comfort?

Look for a pattern

If you notice a pattern to your cravings, i.e. you crave junk food only when eating out with your friends, make note of this and learn from it. You don’t need to completely avoid situations that cause your cravings, but you can be better prepared to stave them off. For example, fill up on fruit before meeting with your friends and bring snacks with you.

If you do give in to your cravings and eat something you’d rather avoid, don’t beat yourself up over it. No one is perfect 100% of the time. Everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay. Don’t let one small mistake derail your long-term healthy eating goals. Learn from this mistake and move on.

What do you crave?

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