Stop blaming weak willpower - try these emergency eats to beat your urge for chocolate
1. YOU REALLY WANT... A CHOCOLATE BAR
YOU ACTUALLY NEED... MORE MINERALS
'We think of chocolate as a sweet treat and assume we crave it because we want a sugar fix,' says nutritional therapist Susie Perry (www.nurturingspirit.co.uk). 'But chocolate is actually a pretty good source of minerals, particularly heart and muscle-boosting magnesium.' In fact, if you're a chocoholic with restless legs and sleep problems, there's a good chance that your Green & Blacks habit could be down to a magnesium deficiency. 'Dark chocolate can help top it up - and boost levels of iron, zinc, copper, calcium and potassium, all of which are needed for strong bones,' she says. 'But, no surprises, it's not a long-term solution. Take a multivitamin like Vitabiotics Wellwoman, £6.50 for 30, to help rebalance a deficiency, and keep chocolate as a treat.'
Your best supplements guide
■ EMERGENCY EAT...
Snacking on a handful (30g) of magnesium-rich almonds instead of a 50g bar of the brown stuff will save you about 100 calories.
The health benefits of almonds
2. YOU REALLY WANT... A CURRY
YOU ACTUALLY NEED... AN IMMUNE BOOST
'Many spices used in Asian food have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties - chilli, turmeric and ginger are particularly potent,' says Susie. So if you're in the mood for spicy food, this can be a sign that your immune system needs a boost - smoking, drinking and restrictive diets can all weaken your defences. To satisfy a spice craving without loading up on a fatty madras, sprinkle ginger or chilli on some salmon, bake it in the oven and serve with rice and a heap of veg. Craving sorted, health boosted, too!
Eating out: how to pick healthy options from a Thai menu
Try Marks & Spencer Chilli Seed Mix, £1.39, with deliciously spicy sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
3. YOU REALLY WANT... A BAG OF CHIPS
YOU ACTUALLY NEED... TO EASE YOUR PMS
'It's true - eating chips can make us feel happier!' says Embarrassing Bodies' Dr Dawn Harper. 'A recent study found that they stimulate the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. But watch out for carb cravings just before your period.' Fluctuating amounts of oestrogen and progesterone can disturb levels of serotonin in your brain, making you reach for mood-boosting carbs. 'Taking the supplement Happy Days 5-HTP, £11.95 for 60, when you have PMS helps boost serotonin production and level out your mood, reducing those cravings in the process,' says Susie Perry.
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For an alternative to oven chips, try McCain Sweet Potato wedges, £1 (400g), with enough carbs to ease PMS but lighter on calories.
4. YOU REALLY WANT... A PACKET OF READY SALTED
YOU ACTUALLY NEED... A RELAXING MASSAGE
Does the rustle of crisp packets accompany every stressful episode at work? 'If you crave salty foods like crisps, especially when you're seriously up against it, then this may indicate that your adrenal glands, which produce stress hormones, are working overtime,' says Susie. 'These glands use lots of sodium to make the stress hormone cortisol, so your body craves salty snacks to replenish this.' Next time you find yourself reaching for the Kettle Chips, commit to coming up with a new way to unwind before you finish the packet - it could be a regular stress-busting massage or a new exercise class. Your salty cravings will diminish, and by cutting your sodium intake, you'll lower your risk of heart disease, too.
■ EMERGENCY EAT... Satisfy your salt lust while keeping fat intake low with a Kallo Lightly Salted Wholegrain Rice Cake, £1.19.
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5. YOU REALLY WANT... A SUGARY DOUGHNUT
YOU ACTUALLY NEED... MORE SHUT EYE
A lack of sleep wreaks havoc with your hunger hormones. 'It leads to higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers appetite, and reduces levels of leptin, the one that tells your body it's full,' says endocrinologist Dr Shahrad Taheri. As if that wasn't bad enough, studies show that when you're tired, you tend to reach for 'stimulating' snacks full of calories, sugar and fat - hello doughnuts! The answer? 'At least seven hours sleep a night,' says Dr Taheri. 'It can be hard to suddenly increase your quota,' he concedes. 'So try adding an hour to your sleep schedule each week.' You should notice your doughnut cravings dropping as your energy levels increase.
Natural ways to improve your sleep habits
Got the gapes? Grab an Alpen Light Chocolate and Fudge bar, £1.65 for five. It's only 63 calories, but the cereal content will still give you a boost of much-needed energy.
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