Travel Health : Summer Food Choices for Those on the Go

By Janet Angel, PhD

With Summer fast approaching...and that is laughable in the Midwest right now; summer barbecues, parties, kids home from school and travel can cause us to choose fast foods more often. In fact, fast food has become a regular way of life for many people. Recent controversy over how unhealthy fast food is has led many individuals to start looking for effective ways to break their fast food habits. Regardless of why you indulge in your fast food addiction, it is important to understand that you can break the habit if you are willing to make new choices.

Ever wonder why sometimes you just crave certain foods? Why is it that sometimes NOTHING will satiate your hunger except nachos, pizza, curly fries or a cupcake? What is it that allows those foods to wiggle into our minds, monopolize our thoughts and hijack our taste buds? Cravings can be broken down into three main categories and one sub-category: physical cravings, mental cravings and addictions plus Malnourishment!

Physical Cravings

Even when people are overweight they may actually be malnourished. When you are hungry soon after eating things like fast foods or processed foods you may not be getting the nutrients your body needs to complete its metabolic chores so a hunger response may ensue. To combat this type of craving due to lack of nutrient supply try taking a complex plant-based Digestive Enzyme Formula such as Absorbaid®. Enzymes are necessary to help you derive more nutrient value from the foods you consume so that you may not be hungry as often for junk food! Cravings for food generally occur when your body is letting your brain know that you’re running low on energy and nutrients. Often, craving chocolate indicates a need for magnesium one of the most important minerals we must ingest. Cravings for pizza or cheese could mean a fatty acid deficiency. Lucky for us, all of these ingredients can be found in much healthier alternatives. Try munching on nuts and seeds or a banana to satisfy the magnesium craving; or soybeans, cauliflower and walnuts, raw almonds, sunflower seeds, or add a little flax oil to your yogurt to get those healthy fatty acids!

Mental Cravings

Our minds are closely tied to food and survival. This type of craving is one that is induced by an experience and they can be tricky ones. Frequently, we develop a tendency to “crave” certain foods once we’ve conditioned ourselves to associate eating with a certain activity. For example, when I was growing up my family would often watch a baseball, football or basketball game one evening per week as a family. Still today, if I am going to watch a sports event like football, basketball or baseball I seem to crave pizza! It took me years to recognize that I had an unusual craving for pizza whenever I would sit down to watch a sporting event. Other common mental cravings result from things like purchasing popcorn at the theater, bringing a caramel macchiato into your morning meeting, or always having pretzels and wine while you watch Grey’s Anatomy. Happy and sad times can trigger a memory response of a food that soothed you.

When you find yourself in the midst of a craving, stop and think about where you are and what you’re doing. Is your craving a mental craving? Having perspective on your habits allows you to better prepare to combat them! Bring a thermos of coffee from home to your meeting instead of your sugary regular drink, pack baby carrots, celery sticks, nuts/seeds or cheese for your movie day, or count out one serving of pretzels before your favorite TV show starts so you can indulge without going through half of the bag in one episode! In other words…be prepared.

Addiction

Last but not least, cravings can be the result of an addiction. This is the most difficult sort of craving to combat. Frequently, the additives and extra chemicals in our foods – particularly processed foods, frozen foods, fast foods and anything loaded with preservatives or artificial sweeteners – create a chemical imbalance in our brains that makes us just want MORE. These chemicals are designed to excite our taste buds, and amaze our brain with flavors and sensations that cannot be experienced by consuming naturally occurring flavors and substances, only by continued consumption of the chemical additive, thus creating a desire for another taste. It all boils down to the way the chemicals interact with the brain.

Once you’ve identified a food addiction, resolve to immediately and completely cut that food out of your diet for at least 90 days. Tell the people around you about your desire to stay away from this food, and allow them to support, encourage and help you. Drink plenty of water, and try to distract your brain as much as possible when you feel the craving set in, choose different foods and have them available. Thankfully, after about two weeks, your chemical addiction to whichever food should be significantly less of an issue, if not gone completely stay away from it a longer time. Be sure to replace this food in your day-to-day life with a healthy alternative! Aim for something natural, organic, and containing five or fewer ingredients. If you can’t read the name of an ingredient on the label, you shouldn’t be eating it!
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