Serotonin is our basic feel-good hormone. If serotonin is low, we feel sad or depressed. And hormonal imbalance or weak digestion can lead to low serotonin. Unfortunately, sugars and simple carbohydrates release a short burst of serotonin — we feel good for a moment, but soon return to our low-serotonin state — then crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates. It’s a downward spiral.
Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are exhausted, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin (our ‘feel-good’ hormone). At these times, the body signals the brain that it needs energy. This signal causes a sugar or carbohydrate craving, which only temporarily releases endorphins to raise serotonin levels. Thirty minutes after we indulge the craving, levels plummet again and the vicious cycle starts over.
Work defines our lives, yet we cannot let it take over the way we eat. Try these simple tips to develop healthy workplace eating habits.
To avoid unhealthy foods on a stressful day, keep electric tea kettle and these super foods on hand: almonds and 80% dark chocolate; refrigerated fruit and vegetable smoothies – I like Odwalla; apples and oranges. Enjoy one of these as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.
Go for a 5 minute walk around the building or outside after you eat a snack. Breathe deeply. Listen to yourself breathe.
When you return to your desk, heat water for tea and enjoy it as you work. Choose green tea or herbal varieties. Add honey instead of sugar to sweeten it. As you sip, try to keep your tongue resting softly behind your front teeth. This practice loosens tension in the jaw, hence relaxing the whole body.
WAYS TO REDUCE SUGAR CRAVINGS
Drink water. Often, when we crave sugar, our body is de-hydrated. Stop, notice your craving, and try to drink a glass of water before reaching for sweets.
Reach for fruit. Keep fruit handy for when sugar cravings hit. You'll get fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness. And stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
Move your body. When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Take a walk around the block or go somewhere to change the scenery. It may take your mind off your craving.
Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals may set you up to choose sugary, fatty foods that cut your hunger. Instead, eating every three to five hours can help keep blood sugar stable and help you avoid irrational eating behavior. Choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and vegetables.
Eat a bit of what you’re craving. Enjoying a little of what you love can help you steer clear of feeling denied.
Combine sweets and protein. If the idea of stopping at a cookie or a baby candy bar seems impossible, you can still fill yourself up and satisfy a sugar craving, too. "I like combining the craving food with a healthful one," Neville says. "I love chocolate, for example, so sometimes I’ll dip a banana in chocolate sauce and that gives me what I’m craving, or I mix some almonds with chocolate chips." As a beneficial bonus, you'll satisfy a craving and get healthy nutrients from those good-for-you foods.
Pack a daily lunch. Make a weekly dinner plan with your family that everyone will enjoy and prepare enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
Burrito night: corn tortillas, beans, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, salsa
Pasta night: grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, olives, spinach, and garlic
Soup night: leftover grilled chicken and roasted sweet potatoes, chicken broth, side salad
Stir fry night: onions, ginger, carrots, bok choy, adzuki beans over brown rice
Breakfast for dinner night: scrambled eggs with mushrooms and peppers, sourdough bread
Casserole night: leftover stir fry baked with cornmeal, eggs, and yogurt
Be sure you make large batches so that you can take leftovers to work. Pack them as you are cleaning up from dinner and have a little cooler and ice packs ready in the morning. This way, you can assemble lunch, snacks, and go!