Most of us fall victim to that mid-afternoon slump. It’s 4pm, you’re fading fast and in desperate need of a sugar boost – it’s so very tempting to reach for the biscuits. We're all aware that succumbing to those cravings isn’t good for us, but until recently it hasn’t been clear as to why we get them.
Scientists have confirmed that each craving begins with a cue. Whether it’s the smell that wafts from a bakery as you walk past, or a TV ad featuring your favourite biscuit, your brain triggers a craving. This activates your brain’s pleasure centre and causes it to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that urges you to seek the very thing you’re lusting after. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors also have a lot to answer for when it comes to cravings. Their bodies were programmed to seek out energy-dense foods, vital for their survival. Whilst we don’t face such challenges in the modern world, we have to battle with the temptations of high-calorie, readily-available foodstuffs. And not only are they convenient, they’re also engineered to make you crave them. The cocktail of tastes, ingredients and textures found in processed food is considerably more stimulating for the brain than a natural foodstuff that has been grown, hunted or fished. Therefore more dopamine is produced, causing you to further seek out and indulge in the ‘naughty’ food. So how do you resist indulging in sugar-heavy snacks?
Try these tips to take control of your cravings: • Trace what triggers your cravings – Tiredness? Boredom? Stress? Keeping a food diary can help you figure out what makes you reach for the treats. Once you’ve pinpointed the root cause of the craving, you can address this and adjust your diet accordingly. • Embrace breakfast – Age-old, golden advice: breakfast is essential. Without it, your body isn't sufficiently prepared for the day and you'll be on a sugar mission from the word go. • Take a break – Chances are that your unhealthy hankering creeps up on you during the afternoon. Go for a brisk stroll or have five minutes away from your desk to keep the temptation at bay. • Be realistic – With a busy schedule, hunger pangs are inevitable. Rather than denying yourself snacks entirely, find a healthier alternative to calorific nibbles. Snack smart with some of our suggestions: • Carrot batons dipped in low-fat red pepper hummus• A crisp apple with a spoon of peanut butter is a firm favourite at HELLO! Online• The de-shelling process means you’ll take your time over a bowl of pistachio nuts• Chocolate covered Brazil nuts are a superfood on the inside with a little sugar boost on the outside• Low-fat yoghurt with a handful of berries boosts your vitamin intake as well as keeping hunger at bay