April 25, 2021
Two nutritionists explore why we have junk food cravings; why we give in to them, even when we know they are not good for us; and how we can stop these junk food cravings.
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KARA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today's show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. So I have a couple of questions for you listeners. Every now and then, do you ever get an overwhelming craving for just some type of junk food? I always used to have clients tell me, you know, “I was doing so well with my eating plan and just out of the blue, I had this overwhelming urge to go through the fast food lane, almost like the car drove itself through the fast food lane.” And they would get a burger, fries and a soda. Or another one I used to hear is, “My brother left a bag of chips on the kitchen counter and the bag wasn't even opened, but I had this irresistible craving for chips. And I opened the bag and I thought I would just take a handful. And then next thing you know, the entire bag is gone.” So I mean, these things happen to people and I think they don't even realize why. So today that is what our topic is. We're going to explore why we have junk food cravings, why we give into them, even when we know in our head that they're not good for us. And we are going to give you some great tips on how to stop these junk food cravings. And I really believe that it helps to understand why we crave these poor quality foods that are laden with chemicals, bad fats, and usually high sugar. It's usually that trifecta.
KARA: So I'd like to, I'll introduce myself and my cohost. My name is Kara Carper. I'm a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist. And I'm very excited to be co-hosting today's show with Nikki Doering, who is a Registered Dietitian. And it's just nice to be in person with a fellow dietitian with this longest standing pandemic going on.
NIKKI: Oh my goodness. Isn't that the truth? Good morning! Good morning, Kara. It's great to be here with you.
KARA: You as well.
NIKKI: Yes. So what a great topic we have today: cravings. You know, I am no stranger to cravings myself. I kind of laugh because it makes me think of Darlene Kvist, our founder of our company, Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And she'll, you know, we'll be discussing something on conference calls and she'll just go, “You really get it, Nikki.” And it just makes me laugh because I do get it. I've lived it. So cravings for junk food is just a common reason people fall off the wagon of their really healthy food plan. And sometimes I ask myself, and you might ask yourself too, like, if you fall off your real food eating plan, what makes certain foods so irresistible? You know, why can't I say no to that? You know, walking down the lane in the grocery store or, oh, there it is in the cupboard. It's just, why can't I say no? What is it that makes me binge on certain foods? Why can't I stop? Why can't I stop at just one or two cookies or chips? And why do I need the entire bag or sleeve of cookies or whatever it is that ails you with your cravings?
KARA: Right. You would think that as nutritionists and dietitians, we would have the willpower to just say no, but as you will find out, there is more to the story than willpower. And it might actually help you to realize that food companies engineer their foods. So those junk foods that you would logically never eat because you know they're not good for you. You crave them and you can't stop with one bite. And the junk food and processed food manufacturers, they actually design their foods to taste the best so that they can kind of override our internal stop signal. And that keeps us craving more and more. And we want to buy more. We want to eat more. And that guarantees that the unhealthy cycle continues. So I think what, one of the main points of our show today to get across is that it isn't just a matter of willpower. It's, it's not your fault. I mean, unfortunately they are in it to make money and do not have our best in health interest in mind.
NIKKI: And well, and I think it's funny too, because I think there's a misconception of nutritionists, dietitians having this, it's our super power, the willpower to say no, and we're the food police. But in all reality, we can fall into those cycles as well.
KARA: Certainly. Just like anyone can.
NIKKI: So it all starts with marketing. Marketing from big food companies entice us to buy those products. And then we try them. You know, I think we all have fallen into that trap. Like, oh, this looks good. And then we eat them and we become hooked on their products and we continue to buy them over and over and over again. I really like to talk about the billboard, you know, the food label. What's, what's that food label? A lot of times nutrition professionals: dietitians, nutritionists; we talk about the food label. We're talking about those facts, those nutrition facts on the back; the ingredients list. But what we really see, what the public really sees is a billboard on the front of the front of the box.
KARA: That's such a great point. The billboard; yeah.
NIKKI: It says natural. It says healthy. It says all these words that get us to buy it, but might not necessarily be the healthiest product. And then it also, that contrasting of look at food companies and how they're always enticing us to try and buy Oreos; how it changes. You know, every few months they come out with a special new flavor because they want to keep us going. M&Ms does the same thing. There are probably all sorts of things. Coffee shops do those different flavors to keep us enticed too. And reformulate, they reformulate their foods to keep us coming back for more and more and more.
Interestingly, junk food is created, designed and formulated to have that best taste and that best mouth feel. So we crave it even when we know it is going to make us maybe gain weight, lead to stomach aches and pain, acid reflux, you know, a lot of different things. If you have diabetes that might, you know, increase your blood sugars, cholesterol. I think of a lot of different things. And we still find ourselves saying, “I will just eat this one time, or this is the last time I'm eating it.” But most of us know how that will turn out in the end. And my favorite is, “I just don't care. I'm going to eat it.” Right?
KARA: Right. Or, you know, “I'll just have this and I'll start fresh tomorrow.” We think we're justifying it. But it is so important to know that there's more kind of behind the scenes with these chemically-ladened processed foods. So you might be wondering "Who helped this big food marketing system come up with a taste system that can override our rational reasoning?" Well, the system involves a combination. It's a very precise combination of these things: salt, fat, and sugar. So I'll say that again. It's salt, fat, and sugar. And those three things combined tell our brain to keep eating another chip. Finish the French fries. Have the entire box of cookies. The person that figured out this exact science, the combination of salt, fat, and sugar, was Dr. Howard Moskowitz. He's not the one that makes the salt, fat and sugar, but he came up with this, this research. He was a market researcher. He has a PhD in experimental psychology. Dr. Howard Moskowitz was lured by food companies to make their products more desirable. As a psychologist and a market researcher, he came up with the term that he coined the “bliss point”. And so the bliss point is created by combining foods that contain salt, fat, and sugar, so that our brains just say more, more, more. Eat the whole sleeve of Oreos or whatever it may be.
NIKKI: Yeah. Bliss point. I mean, it's almost scary to hear like, wow, there's a term for it.
I've been there myself where that more, more, more strikes. And it's just plain awful to feel that out of control. Foods that combine that exact amount of salt, fat, and sugar result in products that can hit that bliss point and can override our brain's natural stop signals. This makes us eat more and more and more. It is a well-designed science that keeps junk food on the shelves, which I can, I mean, walk on the, down the aisles of the grocery store. There are lots and lots of aisles where the other stuff is on the edges and it's not as prevalent. So it keeps it on the shelves. It's popular in the fast food restaurants, a favorite in vending machines and a quick pick at the convenience stores. Every processed junk food is designed to have a bliss point. So we will crave more junk food and we will buy more junk food and we will eat more junk food. And the big food companies will make more money on their junk food. It's just, it makes me think of the word addiction.
KARA: Yes, definitely. So this is a great time, we're just going to quickly take our first break and we'll come back with more on this topic. But you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. It's brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. You might be thinking, “Why do I crave junk food? I know it's full of sugar, bad fats and chemicals. And plus after I eat junk food, I'm completely bloated. The number on the scale goes up.” Well today we're lifting the curtain to reveal the secrets of big food. If you want to learn why food cravings are more than a lack of willpower, stay tuned and we will be right back after break.
NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I want to give you a head’s up about next week’s show. We have invited Dr. Steven Masley, author of The 30 Day Heart Tune-Up to give you the real scoop about cholesterol, saturated, fat, and heart disease; very good show. If you have a question for Dr. Masley, please, please, please send it in so we can ask him to… send your questions into email@example.com so Dar and Carolyn can make sure your heart health questions get answered. Again, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm excited for that show. What a great show.
KARA: I think everyone should tune into to that to dispel those myths about just heart and cholesterol and saturated fats; fats in general.
NIKKI: I think clients are still bringing some myths into appointments that they hear.
KARA: Yes. There's still that low fat eating misconception out there. You can learn more about that on the show though. Today we're talking about, we're talking about something called the bliss point, which was coined by Dr. Howard Moskowitz, a PhD researcher in experimental psychology. And so, again, just to recap, if you are just tuning in, processed food is designed to have something called a bliss point, and it comes from the combination of sugar, salt, and fat. And that is just to keep us craving more of this junk food. And again, it's just to make its money for these big food manufacturers. But in contrast, think about a farmer maybe like who grows vegetables. Has the farmer invested money to find the bliss point so that we can't stop eating broccoli, for example?
NIKKI: I don’t think nature has a bliss point, does it?
KARA: What about steak? So remember, I mean, those are real foods that we're talking about, you know, vegetables, real animal protein. The bliss point is found, that's created by foods that have the salt, fat, and sugar. And of course those are going to be processed foods. So, even though something like, I think steak with maybe some broccoli with butter tastes delicious.
KARA: There just comes a point where you're satisfied by those real foods, right? I mean, how much steak and broccoli and butter could you eat? At some point you're going to be like, I'm done, you know, I can't eat any more steak and broccoli and butter.
NIKKI: I went out for a steak dinner this last week. It kind of made me this topic makes me think of it. I had to stop, you know, I got full.
KARA: You get full and satisfied. So that's the difference between real food that grows in the ground or as, you know, an animal that's eating foods that grow in the ground, like a cow. You will get full and satisfied because it's giving your body the adequate nutrients that it needs.
NIKKI: Exactly. I think of what is the biochemistry behind why those bliss points of the food is so addicting? What is going on when we eat junk food that has, that, that has been engineered? I mean, it's kind of scary to think of an engineered food a little bit. I mean, in a lab rather than in the ground.
NIKKI: I mean, the earth can engineer it, I guess.
But, why can't we stop eating it? I just, I want to know. So we kind of laugh about it. We can, you know, I don't know if you've ever been there, but you're just like, oh, I'm going to have another cookie. You kind of laugh at yourself or I'm going to have another French fry or I, you kind of, I can't stop eating. I'm going to have one more piece of pizza. But deep down, there's this frustration with that lack of again, willpower. We always come back to that.
KARA: We think it's willpower.
NIKKI: We think it’s willpower. And it's, this is beyond willpower. These, this is, this is survival mechanisms biochemistry. I can really relate to this craving this, you know, not being able to stop. I think, you know, if I have those instances, which luckily now that I found like the real food in balance, I don't have those often, but when I do, I have, I may be giving into my craving and I may be eating and I may be laughing about it on the outside. But in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, oh, why am I doing this? And there's something, you know, going stop, stop in the back of my head. And it's kind of saying, stop, stop. Remember, this is your health goal, this, you know, and it'll remind me, like, I want to eat healthy because of X, Y, Z. And I know people can relate to that.
KARA: It’s a battle in your head, right?
NIKKI: It's beyond the willpower though. Yeah. It's beyond the willpower. I mean, at that point, it's, willpower is not getting you anywhere. It's frustrating. I mean, because we know that number on the scale may shoot up. We know we're going to feel tired or fatigued, but we just don't care. Irritability perhaps might happen; even depression. We've been talking a lot about depression and anxiety on our shows in the previous, you know, few weeks. And they're really, I mean, it's a big deal right now.
KARA: It certainly is, especially with the pandemic. And, and so we want to do everything we can to avoid that. And so, and just having listeners realize that there is a connection between what you eat and moods. And I believe it helps to understand the reason or the biochemistry behind this so-called inability to resist buying junk food or our inability to resist eating it or finishing off the bag or the box. So I'll try to, we'll try to be simple with our explanation, but in the brain, the foods that have the bliss point, the perfect combination of salt, fat, and sugar, set off or basically trigger a reward pathway in our brain and encourages dopamine to be released. So when we have these processed foods with sugar, salt, and fat, there is more of a chemical called dopamine that is released. And we've talked about this on other Dishing Up Nutrition shows, that it's a neurotransmitter or chemical called dopamine. And that plays a role in our motivation, our mood. Dopamine can help us to feel more positive and upbeat. It can give us energy, and it also is connected to how we feel pleasure. So we all of course want those positive feelings. Well, unfortunately sugar temporarily gives us those feelings. Drugs also create that. Other things that would create more of a dopamine release are exercise. But junk food is one of them. So that is why we want more. We buy more. We eat more of these foods, even though we know that doing so can lead to more weight gain, aches and pains in the body; those cravings. I mean, once we kind of start on that path, we could have cravings for days. And of course over time, if we're eating processed junk foods on a consistent basis, that really can lead to more serious health issues as well. Nikki, you had mentioned, you know, there's insulin resistance. Pre-diabetes; you had mentioned diabetes could occur.
NIKKI: The heart, you know, cholesterol issues. Alzheimer's has been linked.
KARA: Yes. Yes. Because you know, that's inflammatory and sugar’s creating more inflammation in the brain and the body.
NIKKI: Exactly, exactly. I think, you know, thinking about just those cravings, it's, it's interesting to know how they're, you know, we have to be careful about those. Yes. Oh, and it looks like it's time for our second break.
KARA: Sorry, I realize it's time for a break, but, we will come back, Nikki, and I'll let you finish. Sorry about that. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And, you know, Nikki before or at our last break, she pointed out that our show coming up next week about heart health is going to be a really good one. So we encourage you to listen and we will be right back after break.
NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I want to share a case study about a client who came in to see me for chronic diarrhea. Not a fun topic, but a very, one that a lot of people suffer from. And she was having it for the past year and a half, so a long time. And so we worked on changing her food choices: the breakfast cereal and the milk had to go. The cottage cheese and the toast also had to go. And within a week of changing her diet and taking some key probiotics, such as Bifido Balance and Acidophilus, she no longer had chronic diarrhea. It only took a week for this person. Now that's not always typical, but it's just, you can get relief. And it's, and it was such a relief for her to have those symptoms. She was able to go shopping without fear. I can't imagine being afraid to go somewhere because of your, you know, bathroom issues. So she was, so she was able to go shopping without fear. If you feel that you need to heal your intestinal tract, just give us a call at (651) 699-3438 to set up a one-on-one appointment. And we are doing appointments via phone and Zoom right now.
KARA: So that is a really powerful story because chronic diarrhea. And then within a week, basically, she was feeling better. And it sounds like when you described the foods she gave up: cereal, milk, toast, cottage cheese. I'm seeing a pattern here with maybe wheat, gluten or dairy.
NIKKI: Yes. Yeah.
KARA: As issues.
NIKKI: For her it was; yes.
KARA: So Nikki, before break, I apologize again, that I kind of cut you off. But we were, I was starting to actually talk about digestive health because Cassie and Mel talked about gut health in last week's show. And so that would be another great place to get information. It was about intestinal health. And also this week, I was part of a very informative seminar about a serious, or serious intestinal problems like IBS, SIBO, C. diff, also chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation. All of us were…
NIKKI: Some of the big hitters.
KARA: Yes. All the dietitians and nutritionists, we attended this seminar and learned that nutrition is really the best solution to any gut problem. And intestinal issues, if you suffer from them, you know, they can be complex. So it is really important to work one-on-one with a nutritionist or dietitian who understands exactly what foods need to be avoided and also what probiotics to take, because there's a variety of probiotics out there.
KARA: So do you want to kind of take us back to our topic about the bliss point?
NIKKI: Yes, the bliss point. We were talking about kind of how these foods that are manufactured, engineered for the bliss point can lead to more cravings, more pain, more aches, and more aches and pains, more, you know, weight loss or weight gain issues and some even more serious health issues. And it's interesting that our brain remembers what foods or actions make us feel good. Here's just an example of one person's story that I find really, really, I just like it, it just, it, I feel like it's relatable. So, you know, chocolate: that's one that people find that really makes them feel good. If we feel, if we're feeling down, our brain says “eat chocolate and you will feel better”. So that's a good example of that brain connection to those cravings. And the more often you repeat it, “eating chocolate”, when you feel down, the more it becomes a stronger, stronger craving and habit.
KARA: And if we keep eating junk food, like you said, it becomes a habit kind of like taking your dog for a walk. Unfortunately, eating junk food is a bad habit and can result in poor health and a lot of those chronic health conditions that we had mentioned a few minutes ago.
NIKKI: Exactly. The hardest part about habits is they're not easily broken. So many of you might be probably asking at this point, okay, is the bliss point just a theory, or is there research to support foods that have been engineered based on the exact salt, fat, and sugar combination to this bliss point? Are they really addicting? And if you've heard our show before, you know we love our research. So yes, of course there is actually research behind it. So researchers tested this theory on rats. They fed rats sugar and fat separately. And when the rats got full, they stopped eating. However, when the rats were fed that combination of fat, sugar, salt: that bliss point combo, the dopamine pleasure centers of the rats went into overdrive. And rats, the rats did nothing but stop eating. Even, even when they were full, they just kept eating and eating. And I think people can kind of relate to this; that overly full feeling, but wanting to continue to eat. And I think of Thanksgiving. I think a lot of people give themselves that, even healthy eaters kind of give them that day to kind of just kind of…
NIKKI: Permission to eat. And yeah, there's turkey at Thanksgiving, but there's a lot of other things at, at Thanksgiving and some of them come out of boxes and things like that. So, but it's, you just want more, even though you're uncomfortably full.
KARA: That's a great example too, because at Thanksgiving, most people aren't going back for a second or third plate of turkey and vegetables. I mean, typically it's going to be, you know, a big plate of stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy, or, and if you really kind of break that down, you're looking at combinations of salt, fat, and sugar.
So that's a great example.
KARA: Sugar encourages the same addictive behavior and our reasoning ability to be able to stop after eating one. You know, it's just, it's overridden. Like you said, Nikki, even when we're full. So even when the rats were full. Think of all the foods that contain sugar, fat and salt and, or, you know, sometimes it's, it's just a, it's a variation of those combinations. But can you stop with just one or two M&Ms? Probably not. I mean, most people are going to finish off the whole bag, right?
NIKKI: Yeah. So now people are probably wondering, "What are some of the foods that are perfectly combined to have that bliss point?" So I was really thinking, you know, what's one of those foods for me? Chocolate. We mentioned it earlier. And milk chocolate; the comparison of milk chocolate to dark chocolate. For me, I need, I love dark chocolate about 80% or higher. And I can just take one or two little chunks of that and it's good. You know, little pieces I'm good. But if I get below the 80% for myself, I start tasting that sugar on my tongue because I'm really sugar sensitive and I can't stop. So I think of that Dove bar, that Dove bag of chocolate, milk chocolate Doves. And it's like, oh, I'll take a couple. I'll take a couple more. And then you have a little pile of wrappers there.
KARA: And those are supposed to be easier to control because they're individually wrapped, right? But not the case for you when it's a milk sugar, which is a higher sugar product.
KARA: Oh, that's so interesting.
NIKKI: Do you have anything that reminds you of…?
KARA: I do actually. Now, you're talking about milk chocolate versus dark chocolate. I have a similar thing where if I eat any kind of like nut butter or peanut butter, maybe it's sunflower butter and it has sugar, even just like a couple of teaspoons of sugar in a serving, I pretty much can't stop. I just want to keep going back into the jar with the spoon.
KARA: However, if I go to the grocery store and buy a natural peanut butter or sunflower butter that is just two, two ingredients say peanuts and salt, I will have my one tablespoon, maybe one to two tablespoons and I, I'm full and satisfied. I don't feel like I need to keep going back into the jar. So it's just that little bit of sugar, so that would make the combination of salt, fat and sugar.
NIKKI: Even if it’s healthy fat.
KARA: Right, correct, because we would say that a peanut butter is, or an almond butter typically would be considered a healthy food, but add the sugar in and it becomes more addictive.
NIKKI: Well, this kind of makes me think of like restaurants. So restaurants that may be serving salmon and vegetables are closing. It's so sad to watch our restaurants closing, especially the healthy ones. But on the other side, you know, there's cars backed up for blocks waiting for, to order fast food that are cleverly combined of these bliss points that just, you know, the, just the right amount of fat, just the right amount of salt, and just right on my sugars. Doughnuts are another one that's a highly addictive food. What about pizza? Some of you may not know this, but sugar is actually added to the crust of most pizzas and to the pizza sauce. Salt is added to the toppings, and of course the fat is in the cheese and the meat. So you have that trifecta again: salt, sugar, fat; the perfect combination. And it just makes pizza highly addictive. And so, and for so many people, it's, it's, really super highly addictive. I know for me, pizza, luckily it's not one of my favorite foods, which I know people are going, “What?” I mean, I'm not going to turn away, you know, pizza, but because of this addiction thing, I, when I do have pizza, I try and avoid it because I feel like it's a revolving door for me into the kitchen. If I have a piece then I maybe want another piece, then maybe I go back for another, or that I'm looking for other things in the cabinet. It's just, I can relate to that.
KARA: It sounds like it's a kind of a trigger food for you.
NIKKI: Yes, yes. A “Nikki no-no” food.
KARA: I like that. Well, and the thing is, Nikki, is something like pizza, we just want to throw out there, cause we were talking about this before the show. There are healthier ways to have pizza as well. And I know if anyone has our Weight and Wellness cookbook, there's a great healthy pizza recipe in that. If you don't have the cookbook, I mean, there's simple ways that you can create your own version of a healthy pizza and still kind of satisfy that pizza taste, that piece of craving.
KARA: And you know, you were talking about another dietitian who shared with you a recipe. I believe it was spaghetti squash was the base.
KARA: And then just mixing that with a couple of eggs, whisking that up and you're mixing all these ingredients together.
NIKKI: Like the non-sugar pizza sauce.
KARA: The non-sugar pizza sauce. And then really just your favorite choice of meat, vegetables, and if you're not dairy sensitive, you put some cheese on top, bake for 45 minutes. It's kind of almost like a casserole.
NIKKI: It's a casserole. Yes.
KARA: You get that whole pizza experience.
NIKKI: It's the pizza experience. It's not pizza, but it doesn't have that draw after you eat it. You feel satisfied rather than “I want more. I want more.”
KARA: That’s the key. That would be the key. So, and there are certainly other very addicting foods on the market as well besides pizza. Ice cream falls into that category; cookies, potato chips, a lot of crackers, certain salad dressings. And so there, the list just kind of goes on. I might mention a few more of those, but we do have to take another quick break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And perhaps the pandemic isolation has led to unhealthy eating habits. Maybe you just feel like the pounds have piled on. Get healthy and lose weight the real food way by attending our 12 week Nutrition for Weight Loss class. It's a series that starts Thursday, April 29th. The series is available live. It's going to be on Zoom. So it's virtual, but it's live. People anywhere in the country can sign up. Nutrition for Weight Loss makes it very easy to get that direction and support that you need. You can sign up online: weightandwellness.com. You can also call (651) 699-3438. And someone at our office will help get you enrolled in this life changing program.
NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. For the past several weeks, we have been getting calls and making appointments for people who have had COVID-19 and are having some long-term effects. These people are sometimes called “the long-haulers”. They just have those COVID-19, you know, some of the symptoms just continue after the illnesses over. Of course we are not saying we have all the answers, but with real food nutrition and key vitamins and supplements, people start feeling better. They have less anxiety, less fatigue, and more energy. We work with many clients with long-term health conditions. So we understand good nutrition is the best answer we know. Call us at (651) 699-3438 so we can chat and develop the best individual plan for you and your health needs. We're here to help.
KARA: And before break, if you were listening, we talked about trigger foods, pizza being one of them. We did share there are healthy ways to have pizza. And I started talking about other foods that can be addicting, like ice cream, cookies, chips, crackers. Even certain salad dressings and sauces. So what you want to do is just read the label. And a lot of times what you will find, even in like a salad dressing is salt, sugar, and fat somewhere on the label. So the truth is our bodies and brains respond to foods that hit that bliss point, and then it triggers our brain's reward pathway. So that was the pathway we discussed that turns on or releases more dopamine, kind of that feel good chemical that makes us want to keep going back for more, more, more.
NIKKI: Yeah. Also our brain remembers what foods give us that temporary lift and with repeated exposure, our brain is set up to crave these foods. Again, building that habit of going back those foods, especially when we're feeling just a little down. I think of your, you know, think of yourself when you're feeling a little down. What do you crave? I have a client story. So last year this client was experiencing some health challenges and was actually hospitalized several times for health-related issues. Every time she was released from the hospital, she requested a pint of maple nut ice cream, which kind of sounds fantastic. Because she remembered that as a child, that maple nut ice cream was always the answer to boost her spirits. However, the actual reason she wanted the maple nut ice cream was because it was engineered to hit that bliss point. This is just one person's example, but you yourself listeners probably have your own example. I think everyone probably does have their own example of that, of that food, that comfort food. For me, I mean, this is, you know, totally, you know, I'm going out there on a whim, but mine is fast food and Hamburger Helper, which both sound like cringe-worthy to us a little bit. But it's because I grew up on those foods. And so you kind of like this client was saying, it's kind of what made her feel good when she was a child. I remember a really stressful time in my life was when I, after my concussion. And I ate several times Hamburger Helper. It was just like I wanted it. And I hadn't had it for years. I haven't had it since. But it was just weird that I wanted to go back there.
KARA: Well, I think, I'm sure people appreciate you being vulnerable and sharing your story. You know, I mean, we, we're dietitians and nutritionists, but we're real people too. And we have ups and downs and we have cravings and we have those comfort foods as well. I think, I'm trying to think what some of mine would be. Mine, any, my comfort foods tend to revolve around the things that we're supposed to avoid as nutritionists, like basically wheat, bread products and dairy. So like grilled cheese sandwich, maybe macaroni and cheese. Even, you know, I'm gluten free. It's not hard to find gluten-free bread and make a grilled cheese sandwich. It is not hard to find a box of gluten-free macaroni and cheese. Let me tell you.
NIKKI: Well, I think to keep myself off that track, I have my emergency food, you know, and that might sound funny, but I have food with me almost all the time in my purse. Maybe call it purse food or bag food, or a cooler that you have with you with healthy foods like nuts, maybe fruits, some tomatoes that don't need to be refrigerated. You know, little cherry tomatoes, meat sticks, RX bars, hard-boiled eggs, things like that to keep you in balance.
KARA: Oh, that is, that is so helpful I think to people because yes, it's all about the replacement. We don't want our blood sugar to get too low. That makes the cravings even worse. You know, and to break a bad habit, it can help to understand how and why it became a habit in the first place. So it's really important to just know yourself. And one of the best ways to break an unhealthy habit like eating junk food, is to become aware of what's going on in your mind, what's going on in your body when you crave those foods. So that would be something that you could try the next time that you're having a craving for an unhealthy food. If you are able to just pause, take a moment and ask yourself, “How am I feeling? Am I sad? Am I angry? Am I stressed? Am I over tired? When did I last eat? Am I thirsty?” I mean, just kind of really getting in touch with our bodies, you know, can be helpful.
NIKKI: Very often out of control cravings are related to low blood sugars. Perhaps you skipped breakfast or a snack. That emergency food can come in really handy in those cases. And your brain and your body are calling for just a little glucose to push you back into the normal blood sugar range.
KARA: Some very wise people are now taking their blood glucose level several times a day. I know some people in our office are doing that more just to get information and to make sure they're not eating too many carbohydrates. Eating too many carbs can for a lot of people result in high blood sugar levels. At the same time, they're checking their blood glucose numbers so their blood sugar doesn't go too low. So it's all about not going too high, but also not going too low, because like you had mentioned, Nikki, the, if our blood sugar goes too low, that can result in the out of control cravings and the things that we crave are sugar and processed foods. So just knowing your glucose can help you to control cravings and may actually prevent insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or type-two diabetes.
NIKKI: Yes. And I think, you know, the best way to stop the junk food eating behavior is always to plan ahead and eating in balance, balanced meals. A good practice is to eat three to four meals containing each four ounces of meat or fish with a couple of cups of vegetables and one tablespoon of really good, healthy, beneficial fat.
KARA: Yes, and that beneficial fat is key for stabilizing that blood sugar.
NIKKI: Exactly, exactly.
KARA: And eating real food cooked in your own kitchen really is the best way to outsmart these big food companies that are making this junk food. Real food does not need to be engineered to taste good. You know, mother nature did that for us. So just important to remember that the food industry has invested millions to find that perfect combination. That's what our show is about today. It's that combination of salt, sugar, and fat that tricks our brain into wanting more, buying more and eating more. Thank you so much for tuning in today. And our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. And it's a simple, but a powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Have a wonderful day.