A blog by runners. For runners.

Kicking the Craving Habit

The Kitchen Vixen is our weekly 'healthy recipes for runners,' blogger. This week she discusses food cravings, and how to kick the habit for bad ones. She shares three healthy snack recipes that you can cook to replace bad cravings. You may also be interested in our podcast interview with the Kitchen Vixen. In it she gives a lot of great advice on weight managemen and healthy eating.


We have all been plagued by food cravings at some point in our lives. We can't help it, we're born to crave. It's part of survival. At birth we crave sweet because mother's milk is sweet, and high in fat, so when we taste sweet, we associate sweetness with energy, both immediate and stored fuel. But even when we are old enough to make more cognizant choices, often times those inherent tendencies kick in, especially during times of stress. If we are stressed, either because of a deadline, because we skipped a meal or because we exercised and didn't eat enough, our survival mechanisms will kick in and we reach for quick-fix sugar sources to feed our brain, and high fat foods to provide long-term storage. We also grab for fatty foods because their texture offers a soothing mouth-feel that is learned. High fat foods are high on the hedonic, “pleasure seeking” food scale.

Statistics show that 97% of women and 68% of men experience food cravings. 40% of women and 15% of men crave chocolate. Low levels of serotonin, a “feel good” hormone, has been associated with food cravings. Some experts also believe that cravings are your body's way of trying to take in lacking nutrients, aside from sugar and fat, your body also uses a lot of vitamins and minerals during times of stress or during strenuous activity (1). Some of the nutrients our body seeks during times of stress include the B vitamins, prevalent in carbohydrate rich foods, but not found in highly processed carb sources. Magnesium is another “nutrient” we crave during stress. Many experts speculate that we crave chocolate because it is a good source of magnesium. But spinach, is even higher when you compare ounce for ounce. And one cup of cooked spinach (about 8 cups raw) is only 53 calories whereas one cup of chocolate is 863 calories. If magnesium is what you are truly craving, then you'd better learn to head the signs and load up on spinach or you'll be buying new clothes every season and not necessarily because you are so fashion conscious.

Other high magnesium foods include all leafy greens, beans, nuts (especially brazil nuts, cashews, almonds and pumpkin seeds) as well as brown rice, barley, quinoa and dates.

To help you overcome your cravings, keep nutrient dense snack options on hands at all times. Fresh fruit, especially crunchy apples and sweet berries can easily offset your desire for less nutritious options, plus they add disease fighting antioxidants and fiber. Cut up veggies such as cucumbers, carrots and celery and creamy dip made with Greek yogurt will please your palate for creamy, fatty foods, while adding calcium, protein and fiber rich, water rich, low calorie crunch that beats the butt of any potato chip; baked, whole grain or whatever marketing tactic comes along. If nature made it, it's made to eat, if man made it, RETREAT!

If you really have a chocolate craving, some experts recommend small pieces of dark chocolate, but when you're truly hungry, your body wants volume and one little 1/2 inch square will not suffice. Instead try my black bean brownies made with satisfying chocolate and filling black beans, plus more nutrients than you could ever get from a traditional brownie.

These three snacks will surely help you kick your craving habits while kicking up your energy for long runs.

video courtesy of The Kitchen Vixen

Crispy Kale Chips

Makes 1 serving  Ready in 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • One bunch kale, dinosaur or curly
  • 2 tsp canola or other high heat oil
  • Dash of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the kale with paper towels. Use kitchen shears or a knife to remove ribs and cut kale into 2 inch pieces. Toss in a bowl with oil and sea salt. Place on 2 large baking trays lined with parchment paper. Bake 10-15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.
  2. Remove the kale chips from the oven.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1 bunch
Amount Per Serving
Calories
194
Calories from Fat
90

Total Fat
10g

Total Carbohydrates
20g

Fiber
4g
Protein
6g
% Daily Value*
Vitamin C 400% Vitamin A 180%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Savory Greek yogurt dip

Makes 1 serving  Ready in 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain, fat-free
  • Juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1/8 tsp (dash) garlic powder

Directions

  1. Mix everything together in a small bowl. Serve with your favorite sliced vegetables such as carrots, celery, peppers and cucumbers.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1
Amount Per Serving
Calories
68
Calories from Fat
0

Total Fat
0g

Total Carbohydrates
7g

Protein
10g
% Daily Value*
Vitamin C 25% Calcium 13%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Black Bean Brownies

Makes 20 servings  Ready in 1 hour

Cost per serving: $0.51

video courtesy of The Kitchen Vixen

Ingredients

  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9×12 inch baking pan
  • Oil baking pan
  • Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    2. Puree all ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in a food processor until you reach a smooth consistency.
    3. Pour batter into baking pan. Disperse the chips evenly over top of the batter.
    4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
    5. Best if refrigerated overnight.
    6. Cut into 20 squares
    7. Nutrition Facts
      Serving Size
      1 piece, 53g
      Amount Per Serving
      Calories
      141
      Calories from Fat
      45

      Total Fat
      5g

      Total Carbohydrates
      19g

      Protein
      5g
      Dietary Fiber
      4g
      % Daily Value*
      Maganese 17% Copper 14%
      Phosphorus 10% Magnesium 12%
      Iron 9% Selenium 8%
      Folate 8% Riboflavin 6%
      Niacin 6% Potassium6%
      Zinc 5%
      * Based on a 2000 calorie diet

      1. Somer, Elizabeth. Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best. New York: Henry Holt, 1999. Print.

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      The Kitchen Vixen

      Elizabeth Brown, RD

      Elizabeth Brown, RD aka “The Kitchen Vixen” has always loved to cook, to fuel her body with the best energy sources that she can create. Elizabeth's goal is, and has always been, to motivate and educate the public about the health benefits of optimal nutrition and daily physical activity. She has over 20 years of professional experience from private counseling to personal training and even working as a private chef for the rich and famous of Malibu, CA. Elizabeth is thrilled to help other new, and seasoned runners, incorporate energy enhancing recipes into their diets. Just follow her lead and you'll feel energized as you head out for a jog, off to your job, or off to the races. Learn more about Elizabeth here!