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What your food cravings mean, according to a nutritionist

It’s the middle of the day and you find yourself desperate for a bag of chips or a cookie.

But what does that craving mean?

According to Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian in Denver, Colorado, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it could be a sign of a lack of nutrients in your body – or you might just be remembering that delicious donut you had last week.

Either way, Crandall explained to Daily Mail Online, it is possible to satisfy these cravings by finding healthy alternatives that won’t break your diet, and will feed the real source of your desire.

Food cravings for something salty or sweet can deter someone’s diet. Experts recommend for people to cleanse their palates by brushing their teeth after a meal. Also, diets still work if you give into cravings but only in moderation or by altering the ingredients

If you’re craving something salty: 

Salty cravings for food such as pretzels and potato chips can be a sign of a mineral imbalance in the body. 

A study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, analyzed salt cravings and how that is connected to mineral levels in the body.

The study found that women who reported the highest amount of salt cravings were more likely to have a deficiency in their calcium and magnesium levels. 

But Crandall explained that Western diet typically offers an excess of salt instead of not enough.

How to cleanse unhealthy cravings from your palate

Cravings don’t always have to be curbed with a healthy alternative. 

Instead, you can cleanse your palate and see if it is no longer interested in that food group. 

Crandall recommends for clients to brush their teeth after a meal to see if that rids them of the sweet craving.

Mint tea is also an option to help soothe the taste buds and focus the body on different sensations besides what it is craving.

Avoiding certain types of foods can deter cravings in the long run.

‘Taste buds change about every three weeks,’ Crandall said. 

They go through a lifespan in our body, which helps alter our food preferences as we grow older. 

If someone is able to avoid certain sugars, carbohydrates or specific food items for that amount of time, it can help stop the cravings all together.

‘We maybe have an imbalance of electrolytes, but that is very unlikely to occur,’ Crandall said. 

Instead, our salty cravings can happen because we want a specific food item, are thirsty, tired or feeling stressed.

‘I don’t necessarily think cravings are bad,’ Crandall said. ‘It’s how you cope with them.’

A healthier alternative to curb this craving is to try cottage cheese mixed with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. 

‘I usually try to pair a protein with a produce,’ Crandall said. 

A seasonal option for the fall is to roast pumpkin seed in the oven and season them with Worcestershire sauce.  

If you’re craving something sweet:

Sweet cravings can come from a deficiency in blood sugar levels, but Crandall said it also can be due to how you have trained your body. 

‘After you eat dinner, you are use to having something sweet,’ Crandall said. 

Residue might also be left on the palate from the meal and cause the need for a sweet alternative to balance it.

‘Fruit is a great option,’ Crandall said. ‘That is a standard recommendation from dietitians.’ 

Frozen grapes are a low-calorie option for people that still want something sweet at the end of a meal. 

Them being frozen forces you to take your time when eating and recognize quicker when you are full.

Crandall also will make foods that she loves but alter the recipe so they are healthier.

If you can keep a balance in your routine and find healthy modifications then I think that’s an improvement

Jessica Crandall, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

She will bake one cookie if she’s craving it, but no more than one per day. This prevents her from bingeing and eating more than necessary.

The rest of the dough is placed in the freezer to be baked later.  

‘I try to make some moderations to that cookies so it’s not calorically costly,’ Crandall said. 

A fall sweet she recommends is vanilla Greek yogurt mixed with pumpkin puree. People can dunk apples into the mixture for an added fruit.  

If you’re craving starchy carbohydrates:

Sometimes it is hard to curb the craving for a large bowl of pasta, but the starchy carbohydrates can deter you from the diet. 

While carbs have sugars in them to raise glucose levels, the craving is typically because you want them not because you need them.

Crandall said people don’t have to completely rid their diets of some of the foods they love. 

If you are craving a pasta, she recommends keeping it to a cup or less for the serving size. 

‘Keep your plate balanced with proteins and vegetables,’ Crandall said. 

She recommends spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles as healthy alternatives if someone is looking to substitute regular pasta.

For all diets, she recommends either changing the serving size, the recipe or having the food less frequently when wanting to satisfy unhealthier cravings such as pasta.

‘If you can keep a balance in your routine and find healthy modifications, then I think that’s an improvement,’ Crandall said.



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