Evening cravings are not the same for everyone, but when they arise, one thing is certain: it is very difficult to resist. They usually occur a few hours after dinner. Hunger arises and we feel the intense need to eat everything we can get our hands on. Most often, to calm this craving, we opt for cakes, sweets, the classic Bridget Jones ice cream, or an aperitif with very industrial salty biscuits. In short, we eat comfort foods that are too high in calories because they are too fatty, too sweet and too salty for us. Ultimately, these evening “gluttons” are harmful to our health.
Don't feel guilty right away! It happens to all of us. Stop the useless and demeaning thoughts “I am not able to resist”, “I am weak”, “I am going to be huge”. If your body reacts this way, it's for a reason. It gives you crucial information! Make no mistake about your enemy, your body only wants your good. Your nighttime cravings are your body's message that something needs to be rebalanced.
Why do we have cravings in the evening?
End of day cravings, both sweet and salty, are often linked to a vitamin and mineral deficiency. These are necessary for the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Serotonin calms us, soothes us and relaxes us at the end of the day. It makes it easier to fall asleep which won't take long. It is essential after a difficult day or significant stress.
Unfortunately, our modern, fast-paced lifestyle depletes our nutrient reserves to produce:
- Cortisol, the stress hormone,
- And dopamine, the action hormone that gives us all the energy we need to face the day.
So when the time comes for us to relax and stop, our supply of vitamins and minerals is low. Without any raw material, the production of serotonin is then impossible.
To replenish its supply of vitamins and help us relax, the body calls on food. In short, the craving appears. This often manifests itself in the form of a sweet urge, but sometimes salty (although salty foods often hide refined sugars), alcoholic (also a sugar) or the desire for a cigarette. By responding to this urge, you trigger a sugar spike in your body limiting the effects of serotonin. The nighttime craving intervenes to relax us and do us good.
So don't feel guilty! Your cravings are there for your own good. If you feel guilty, the craving becomes ineffective. You stress and you enter a vicious cycle where hunger begets hunger. This is where you gain weight!
What deficiencies cause nighttime cravings?
The most common craving at the end of the day is chocolate . It may indicate a magnesium deficiency. When we know that 73% of the population is magnesium deficient, we better understand why we are all chocoholics.
A craving for salty food may be a sign of dehydration. Saltiness encourages water retention and therefore storage of water in the body.
Why are we lacking?
In naturopathy, we are always trying to find the cause of the cause. In order to put an end to our nighttime cravings for good, we need to understand where they come from.
According to a study carried out by ANSE (National Health Security Agency), the majority of diets and meals do not cover the needs for iron, magnesium and vitamin D and ¼ of them do not meet the needs for vitamin C and of calcium. Under these conditions, it is normal for our body to manifest itself through our nighttime cravings to avoid deficiencies. Its objective is none other than to keep us alive.
Repeated diets therefore accentuate our deficiencies. And, our deficiencies accentuate our hunger in order to fill the imbalance.
Low-fat foods also encourage snacking. Low-fat products are certainly low in calories. However, to regain the sweet taste, synthetic sweeteners are often added. These molecules have a strong sweetening power but are molecules empty of nutrients. There are a multitude of them, the best known are: aspartame, sucralose, cyclamate, saccharin, acesulfame-potassium, neotame, alitame, etc.
Although they do not provide calories, they are not harmless to our health! Once in the mouth, our brain analyzes the sweet taste and thinks it will have to ingest glucose. It therefore launches insulin production to bring glucose into our cells. But not seeing the glucose arriving, he reported hypoglycemia. You will then feel tired but above all you will want to eat something sweet, quickly.
How to avoid cravings at the end of the day? 5 appetite suppressant tips!
To avoid our cravings, it will therefore be important to fill our deficiencies through a living, unprocessed diet. The primary objective is to replace all foods with a high glycemic index (fast sugars and false slow sugars such as bread, pasta, chips) with healthy foods. And healthy doesn't mean boring!
1/ Treat yourself to smart snacks!
Replace your refined sugars with healthy pleasure foods. To do this, start by having a snack around 4:30 p.m. Between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. your body naturally produces insulin, so the sugar you eat will be well used and will not make you gain weight.
Eat 1 or 2 seasonal fruits that you like and add a vegetable fat, such as oilseeds, and dark chocolate with as little sugar as possible. By tasting you replenish your nutrients and avoid evening cravings.
3 ideal snack ideas:
- A banana with melted dark chocolate and some hazelnuts. Bananas, dark chocolate and hazelnuts are rich in tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin.
- A fresh sugar-free smoothie, mixing fruits and vegetables to replenish your vitamin stock. You can add a little vegetable milk to make it even better.
- A natural yogurt and you add protein powders of your choice for a super filling snack rich in protein and low in calories.
2/ Don’t skip the evening meal
In the evening, we tend to dine too lightly and silence our true appetite. For years, we have been telling ourselves that we must keep the evening meal as light as possible to avoid gaining weight and maintain our figure. FAKE ! Nighttime is the time when your body regenerates. To repair each of our cells it needs energy. The evening meal must therefore be sufficiently complete and nutritious to cover the body's effort during the night.
- Starchy foods are good in the evening because they are very comforting and rich in tryptophan.
- Avoid proteins that prevent the assimilation of tryptophan.
- Also stock up on fiber and vegetables. Vegetables should make up more than half of your plate.
3/ Take the time to chew
Take the time to chew well. Chewing helps trigger our feeling of satiety and therefore avoids post- dinner snacking. It is not uncommon for us to reach for crunchy foods that force us to chew, such as biscuits, bread or nuts. Furthermore, by chewing we improve our digestion. Never forget that your stomach still has no teeth! By chewing, we promote the secretion of serotonin which mainly occurs in our intestines.
4/ Do not eat dinner in front of the television or computer
Facing a screen, you eat without any attention to your hunger. You will then eat more than necessary. And, you will also tend to snack in front of the television after a meal. Try to eat mindfully in front of your plate without any distractions.
5/ Don’t forget to hydrate!
To avoid cravings, remember to drink at least 1.5 liters of water during the day . Water helps deliver nutrients to your cells and thus ensures the proper functioning of the body.
If you feel hungry in the evening, what to eat so as not to gain weight?
If the craving hits in the evening, don't fight it. Try to satisfy your desires but intelligently.
One of the best tips to initially resist the urge is to drink. When the body is dehydrated, it tends to send a message to the brain that can be misinterpreted. We often tend to confuse hunger and thirst. By drinking a large glass of water or herbal tea, hunger generally subsides 20 minutes later.
If hunger persists, it is possible to snack healthily and without gaining weight. So what snacks to eat in the evening?
Craving sweet foods ? Choose from the following snacks:
- Wholemeal sourdough bread (gluten-free) + Almond puree or fruit jam (no added sugar)
- Dark chocolate
- Sugar-free fruit salad with crushed seeds of your choice
- Dried fruits rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins such as raisins, dried apricots, dates or dried figs
Craving salty foods? Choose from the following snacks:
- Sourdough wholemeal bread + guacamole or hummus
- Cut seasonal vegetables to dip in guacamole or hummus
- A portion of fresh goat's cheese with a slice of wholemeal sourdough bread (gluten-free)
Be careful not to make snacking systematic!
Even though these little snacks are healthy and easy to prepare, it is important to avoid making them too recurring.
But, what to do if the cravings persist?
Without improvement, your cravings are surely a sign of a need for relaxation, comfort or love. Your body will once again try to help you with foods that make you feel good, at least for a moment.
- French fries give us crunchy and soft foods to relieve our stress
- Ice cream comforts us when we are sad with its smooth, creamy texture.
- The piece of chocolate in front of the TV eliminates the problems that we cannot solve.
Managing our emotions while eating is like thinking that a cigarette distresses us... It works for a few minutes but does not solve the underlying problem that persists. Our body continues to become unbalanced. What if you started by already taking care of your emotions?
To soothe emotions, 4x8x8x8 breathing is a valuable tool. Mouth closed, inhale for 4 counts. Block breathing for 8 counts. Exhale for 8 counts. Hold for 8 counts. Repeat at least 3 times. Cravings to snack disappear immediately.
PLEASE NOTE: The advice given in this article is general. Every individual is different. Evening cravings become pathological when they transform into hyperphagia or bulimia. Night eating syndrome affects 1 to 2% of the population and approximately 10% of obese people. Consulting a naturopath can help you manage your food impulses and find a peaceful relationship with food.