Cravings are a part of life, we won’t deny that. But, the good news is, you can control them! Even though right now they might seem overwhelming, like a tiny devil on your shoulder whispering to just give in 😈, you can get them under control and find a healthy balance.
Do you eat a lot more than usual just before your period? Maybe your sweet tooth kicks in and you find yourself baking a tray of brownies, or maybe you can’t control ordering those extra salty fries at lunch. Either way, it’s totally normal!
Intense food cravings, which are a sign of PMS, are common the first week, or two, leading up to getting your period.
But why? Well, our hormones can take the blame here...
Changes in the levels of your hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, might cause a drop in blood sugar levels. When this happens, your cravings for high-carb and sweet foods increase.
But, your hormones may not be the only driving force behind your desire to eat all the goodies in your pantry when aunt Flo comes to visit. Sometimes, we tend to feel better after indulging in our favorite foods because we get a momentary relief from all those annoying premenstrual symptoms 😥
Serotonin levels — the “feel good” chemical in your brain — also tend to be lower during this time. When this happens, we crave sugar and also carbohydrates because the body uses carbs to make serotonin.
And let's be real, a pick-me-up is always great, but even more so when your whacked-out hormones have you feeling all sorts of weird things
However, all is not lost! Read on for our favorite tips to make sure your PMS cravings don't sabotage your goals.
Choose complex carbohydrates: we mentioned earlier that the body uses carbohydrates to make serotonin. However, this doesn’t mean that we should eat any type of carbohydrate (sorry, but it’s a no to that XXL pizza 😉).
Try to eat high-fiber foods like bread, barley, brown rice, beans, lentils, pasta, and whole grains to keep blood sugar levels stable, ease mood swings, and control food cravings.
Products made up of whole grains, in addition to containing fiber, are also enriched with B vitamins, thiamin, and riboflavin, which help fight PMS symptoms. These vitamins synthesize the brain neurotransmitters that support the production of serotonin and GABA.
Eat small and more frequent meals: as you will keep your blood sugar levels stable and help curb cravings throughout the day. You can start by eating five or six small meals a day, instead of three larger ones.
Increase your magnesium intake: have you heard this famous phrase before, ¨Tell me what you're craving and I'll tell you what nutrients you need¨? Well, it's true. If you have a craving for chocolate, your magnesium levels may be low.
And of course, a little chocolate is allowed, but despite being rich in magnesium, chocolate is also high in fat. So if you can't resist a bit of chocolate, opt for a square of dark chocolate instead 🍫
Incorporating other healthy sources of magnesium is important for your body as, unfortunately, we can’t get it all from chocolate! Adding green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, in addition to legumes, cashews, almonds, peanut butter, seeds, and whole grains to your meals leading up to your period is a good place to start.
Exercise: any type of physical activity will help raise serotonin levels while reducing cravings and other symptoms of PMS, especially fatigue and depression. Whether it's walking, running, dancing, or cycling, they all help! Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.
Sunlight: did you know that sunlight helps your body produce serotonin? Due to many of us having sedentary lifestyles, spending the majority of daylight sitting at a desk, we are getting less and less natural sunlight than before. This lowers serotonin levels and our overall mood, which inturn increases appetite and cravings.
To get extra sunlight during the day, make time to go for a quick walk, eat your lunch on the terrace, or spend some time near the window. Just remember to always apply your sunscreen before!
Outsmart your cravings: another way to avoid cravings is to find a smart solution! Instead of giving in, opt for a health version instead. Here are some of our favorites, just to give you some ideas 😊:
- If you're craving French fries, try veggie fries instead. Squash, carrots, parsnips, turnips, zucchini, or asparagus fries are all great options.
- If you're craving cookies, try energy bites. They are a great alternative as dried fruit and seeds contain fiber, and nut butter is a good source of protein.
- If you're craving potato chips, pick up a bag of crispy chickpeas or lentils. Pulses, AKA legumes, are a more substantial, healthy alternative to chips because they contain protein and fiber.
- If you're craving candy or chocolate, try chocolate-covered nuts! These are far more filling because nuts contain healthy fats and fiber, and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants.
- If you're craving chicken wings, try cauliflower wings. Cauliflower wings are free of cholesterol and low in fat and saturated fat. Just be sure to ask for the sauce on the side!
- If you're craving nachos, order veggies and hummus, or buy a nut-based dip from the supermarket. You can get a similarly crunchy texture and rich flavor with crudites and plant-based dips. Nowadays, there’s a lot of different flavored plant-based dips, try some out and you might be pleasantly surprised!
- If you're craving ice cream, make some frozen yogurt at home. You can just blend frozen bananas (or any other fruit) and Greek yogurt together.
Rest assured, you're not the only one dying to eat every available snack in your pantry right before your period! We’ve been there and we get it, but there are alternatives so you don’t get off track completely.
If once a month you need your slice (or slices!) of pizza and a big bowl of ice cream, go ahead and indulge. But remember, it's best to take care of yourself with nutritious food, relaxation, and gentle exercise to keep those cravings at bay.
Who’s in control now? 😏