Day 21 – What ELSE to put in your mouth instead

Convayer

In the second of her two food and nutrition posts, Club Soda expert member, nutritionist Sam Waterhouse delves deeper into what to put in your mouth instead of booze. You can read her first post about the science behind why many people develop a sweet tooth when cutting down or quitting drinking here. And below are Sam’s top tips and techniques to regulate your blood sugar, especially when fighting back on those pesky cravings.  

So, what should you do to avoid the cravings?

(1). Keep Hydrated

Dehydration can raise blood sugar. Drink plenty of filtered water, around 1.5l will be enough, unless you are sweating from exercise, a sauna or in hot weather. This includes herbal teas, which are great in keeping you hydrated and have other benefits too. Green tea is particularly good for lowering blood sugar and enhancing your mood, whilst a milky drink may be beneficial to raise blood sugar. There is still some indecision about how beneficial good quality organic coffee is, so err on the side of caution and stick to no more than two cups per day, before lunch if you have sleep issues.

(2). Think About Nutrient Density

This is defined as quantity of nutrients per calorie, kale and wild salmon being the highest scoring, and soft fizzy drinks being one of the lowest. Kale and salmon have many vitamins and minerals per calorie, and fizzy pop has lots of calories and virtually no nutrient value at all. That being said, variety is also the spice of life. If you only ate salmon and kale then your diet wouldn’t be nutrient dense overall! You should attempt to have different meals as much as you can, including a variety of textures, cuisines (Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian etc.), colours, herbs and spices. Include raw and cooked veggies, quick stir frys and slow cooked stews. Some foods nutrient availability changes upon cooking, e.g cooked tomatoes develop Lycopene which has been shown to help in the prevention of cancer.

But, what exactly should I shove in my face instead?

Breakfast

Eat three, well timed meals per day, breakfast being the most important. Making sure you have adequate protein in your breakfast will start you off on the right foot and reduce cravings. Many people traditionally have a high carb breakfast, like cereal and milk, toast and jam. Swapping to a higher protein, lower carb breakfast can curb the mid-morning slump.

Lunch & Dinner

It is important to have the right amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins at every meal. Try to have half of your plate with non starchy vegetables (such as salads, broccoli, asparagus, green beans etc), a quarter of your plate with protein (such as chicken, fish, pulses etc) and quarter of your plate with starchy vegetables (such as swede, sweet potatoes, potatoes or whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa etc). If you are having a sandwich lunch this might translate into a wrap (carb – less than two slices of bread), ham, fish or cheese (fat and protein) and lots of salad.

For your evening meal, a good idea is to include slow burning carbohydrates such as sweet potato, brown rice, couscous etc. if you have trouble sleeping. This should be no more than a quarter of your plate. Try not to have sugary snacks before bed (my downfall) as this could lead to hypoglycaemia at around 3am, which can lead to waking with anxiety and racing thoughts. A helpful tip is to brush your teeth after your evening meal, which can curb the craving for chocolate.

Snacking

If your blood sugar is imbalanced or you are particularly stressed, it is a good idea to eat small meals often, i.e. a protein/fat snack between meals. A good indication of your progress on balancing your blood sugar is your ability to go between meals without snacking – that may mean you have the right ratios for you. Try stretching the time between your breakfast and mid morning snack until you eliminate it completely (if meal spacing allows). You are more likely to need a snack mid-afternoon, as this is a natural dip for serotonin (feel-good neurotransmitter). The evening is also a prime time for snacking – and the most dangerous.

Cut out the C.R.A.P. – Foods to avoid

  • Caffeine – Try to cut this out, or at least limit to 2 cups of coffee per day, preferably in the morning.
  • Refined carbohydrates – This is all sugary foods including cakes, biscuits, chocolate bars, white pasta and bread, and anything pretending to be healthy, but stuffed full of sugar (such as granola bars).
  • Alcohol – obviously!
  • Processed foods – This includes all extensively manufactured foods such as ready meals, pasta/curry sauces, cakes, biscuits and also foods that might be labeled as healthy (i.e. diet ready meals).

Super foods to include

  • Real food – Whole, one ingredient foods with minimal commercial processing. These tend to be nutrient dense with minimal toxic residues.
  • Salmon and other oily fish – These are high in essential fat omega 3 which supports brain health, and assists in cell to cell communication (i.e. neurotransmitters). They are also a good source of vitamin D.
  • Turkey and other lean meats – High in essential amino acids which are the precursors to the brain’s neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These support feelings of wellbeing and mood.
  • Green veggies – Cruciferous (cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts etc.) and leafy have antioxidants aplenty, and also compounds that assist the liver to detoxify.
  • Orange veggies – Lots of antioxidants and other goodies.
  • Berries – And other low sugar fruits add essential antioxidants to repair the body and add natural sweetness to your diet.

On a final note, a good diet is only one aspect to reduce cravings. Stress management, relaxation and exercise all play a major part in health, wellbeing and weight loss.

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