Sleep + Health: 5 Ways to Curb Cravings

 
sleep health, moonlit skincare, chicago health, nutritionist chicago, virtual nutrition counseling, healthy sleep habits, better sleep
 

“Talk to me about your sleep” is one of the questions I ask my nutrition clients. I help women who may be finding it difficult to eat well or who’re struggling with their weight as a result of a new job or life change. This question gives me insight into a key area to target.

While some say, “Great! I get 8 – 9 hours a night,” many will say, “Ok; not great.” What we eat, and drink, can impact the quality of our sleep. And visa-versa; how well we sleep can influence our food choices the next day.

Since leptin and ghrelin, hormones that regulate our appetite, shift during sleep, not getting enough zzzs can create an imbalance. Studies show that less sleep is associated with low levels of leptin, an appetite suppressor AND high levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulant, particularly driving our craving for calorie-dense, carbohydrate-rich foods. Let’s take a look at five different ways we can support our health by curbing cravings.

1. FILL UP ON FIBER

Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties. Berries, beans, nuts, seeds and oatmeal are all great sources. Opt for fruits and vegetables that have a skin (apple, berries) vs. a peel (banana, orange) for an extra fiber boost.

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- Use fresh berries instead of jam
- Add toasted rolled oats into soups or salads 
- Ask for ‘double veggies’ when ordering a pizza. 

2. PACK IN PROTEIN

Protein takes more energy for us to breakdown than refined carbohydrates, helping us to feel full and keep our hunger at bay. Depending on activity level and body composition, we need ~0.8 grams/kg of protein/day, meaning a 150 lb person needs ~54 grams per day. Power up with plant-based proteins like edamame, hemp seeds, tofu and soy milk for a bonus boost of anti-inflammatory foods.

3. SET DOWN THE SALT

While giving food flavor, sodium stimulates our appetite and masks thirst, encouraging us to eat more and drink less water. Top sources include bread, packaged foods, fast food, cured meats and canned goods.

- Choose “low sodium” or “no salt added,” products
- Dilute salty dips by blending in white beans
-
Get dressings, cheese or sauce on the side

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4. AVOID SKIPPING SNACKS

When we go for a period of time without eating, ghrelin, our hunger-stimulating hormone, starts to kick in. Secreted mainly from the stomach lining, it signals our brain that it's time to eat. Ghrelin works on a cycle; levels build before we eat and drop after a meal. Eating consistently throughout the day will help to stabilize hunger levels.

5. HAVE HEALTHY ON HAND

Bundle of celery or a bag of chips? One of the reasons why we give into cravings is that these foods are convenient, easy to grab and tasty. Start stocking your fridge with handy, healthy snacks like whole fruit, raw nuts, hummus and veggie sticks.

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- Precut produce and store in the center of the fridge to make them easy to grab & go.

- Place produce near a dip or nut butter to make snacking simple.

- Portion out nuts and other bulk items into single servings

This blog post was written for and originally published by Moonlit Skincare 🌟


 
 

"So bassiccc:" When nutrition facts aren't enough

 
 

Last week I had a client looking for help with inflammation.

After taking his health history, I began our session focused on weight loss. Excessive visceral abdominal tissue (aka belly fat) secretes high levels of substances known as pro-inflammatory cytokines1. While some of these cytokines have a protective effect, pro-inflammatory cytokines are released by cells in response to infection, inflammation and trauma2. So, to me, it naturally made sense to start him on a weight reduction plan.

It turned out he wasn’t happy with this approach. A few days later when I followed up, he said he was going to take his nutrition concerns elsewhere because the “diet was so bassiccc.” At first I was upset because 1) criticism is tough 2) I’d lost a client 3) I felt like I had misguided someone. After thinking about it though, though, I don’t know what I would’ve done differently. Except for messaging. Perhaps if I’d focused on how this approach could lower levels of inflammation, we’d have both ended up on the same page.

In our fast-paced world, we’re all looking for a quick fix. I suspect that’s what he was looking for and while I don’t think there is a “one size fits all approach,” there are some “bassiccc” nutrition principles that we should be following.

So, call it what you want, but here are a few simple strategies that’ll help you get moving toward better health.

  1. FILL UP ON FIBER

    Fiber plays a double role; not only has dietary fiber been shown to support weight loss, top sources such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are rich in phytochemicals 3. These powerful plant-based substances are associated with lower levels of inflammation 4. Women should be aiming for 25 g of fiber per day; men, aim for 38g/day.

    + Opt for fiber-rich fruits and vegetables with a skin (berries) vs. a peel (banana)
    + Ask for double veggies on a sandwich or pizza
    + Add grated veggies to recipes including, pasta dishes and baked goods.

  2. POWER UP WITH PLANT-BASED PROTEIN

    Protein takes more energy for us to breakdown than refined carbohydrates, helping us to keep us full and our hunger at bay. Depending on activity level and body composition, we need ~0.8 grams/kg of protein/day, meaning a 150 pound person needs 54 grams per day.

    + Add plant-based proteins such as edamame, hemp seeds and tofu to boost your intake of anti-inflammatory foods.

  3. SET DOWN THE SALT

    Sodium, a core ingredient in table salt, is most commonly found in highly processed, refined, canned and packaged foods. Not only does it stimulate our appetite, studies suggest that a high sodium intake is positively associated with inflammation 5. The current recommendation for the average healthy adult is 2,300 mg/day of sodium, equivalent to 1 tsp. of salt 6.

    + Look for “low sodium” products
    + Dilute spreads by blending in plain dairy-free yogurt
    + Eat potassium-rich foods such as bananas to help offset sodium in the body

  4. AVOID SKIPPING SNACKS

    When we go for a period of time without eating, ghrelin, our hunger-stimulating hormone, starts to kick in. Secreted mainly from the stomach, it signals our brain that it's time to eat. Ghrelin works on a cycle; levels build before we eat and drop after a meal 7. This happens naturally about every four hours so regularly eating stabilizes hunger levels.

    + Stash a packet of nuts in your bag
    + Store fresh fruit on the counter and pre-cut veggies at eye level to make them easy to grab
    + Track your meal timing in a food log

  5. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK

    Underlying stress is a key our trigger for giving in to cravings. When faced with a stressor, our adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol; cortisol may increase our motivation to consume calories in the form of sugary, high-fat foods 8. Give yourself a break; restricting food choices and telling yourself “I can’t have this” is exhausting, leading us to overindulge when our stress levels are maxed.

    + Plan ahead and enjoy a treat on a regular basis