Craving Carbs? Here's Why And What To Eat Instead.
Friday, April 27, 2018
LifeTime WeightLoss in Anika Christ, Carbohydrates, carb substitutes

You know the feeling. That intense craving for carbs when all you are trying to do is eat clean and healthy. What do you do when this craving hits? Do you avoid it completely? Do you cave in? Or do you try your best to find a healthier substitute that satisfies the craving without derailing your nutrition plan.

If you haven’t found a substitute, you might just be short of ideas for foods that can help meet your need for a carbohydrate fix. Below you’ll find insights about why this type of craving is so common, along with some of my go-to foods when a craving strikes.


First things first. Why do so many of us crave carbohydrates? Most people believe that these cravings are strictly psychological. They blame their lack of willpower for their lack of success. Yet, most cravings are actually derived from some sort of physiological imbalance going on inside. One example of this includes what happens inside your body when it’s stressed out. Your cortisol (stress hormone) levels elevate which causes your blood sugar levels to elevate as well. When your body has high levels of blood sugar, it releases insulin (a fat-storing hormone) to help bring that blood sugar down (storing the sugar as fat). Insulin often overcompensates, leaving you with a lower blood sugar and confusing your body into thinking it needs more energy, and causing some serious carbohydrate cravings. 

Have you ever found yourself super stressed out at work and instantly craving something naughty out of the vending machine? This is the exact process of why that feeling happens. Even worse, having a poor night of sleep or simply a diet too high in processed carbohydrates creates the same impact on blood sugar levels and insulin. Do you know anyone that doesn’t get enough sleep and maybe has too much stress? Try a majority of the adult population in America. 

All of these imbalances really put you at a disadvantage when it comes to cravings and trying to eat healthy. Which is why it’s so important to realize why you have them to begin with, but also what you can do to help dampen them. 


Truth be told, food manufacturers are really good at their job. If you made money off of people buying certain food products, wouldn’t you do anything in your power to make them want more? Processed food today is chock-full of artificial ingredients, sugar and salt, which influence your taste buds to want more. And unfortunately, these foods are not typically filling, making it easy to overeat — not to mention, many of us get a good feeling after consuming them. 


When trying to lose weight, cravings for carbs can completely derail you from your nutrition plan. But if you have some strategies in your back pocket when cravings arrive, you’re less likely to go off the rails. It’s also important to consider long-term strategies in the event that your body is going through chronic periods of stress or lack of sleep. In those cases, supportive supplements or even meditation would be advantages when it comes to your weight loss plan.

The foods below should help feed your need for carbs while providing good nourishment and not leading to additional blood sugar imbalances.


Chips and pretzels are your jam, whether it’s for the crunch or your need for salt (common symptom of chronically stressed individuals). To help get your fix, try something similar in texture.  



Candy, dessert or chocolate are things you will fixate on. This is likely because your blood sugar has dropped and you’re craving sugar. Whether right after a meal or in between, the choices below are quick and easy to make while tasting great. 



Pasta, bread, cereal — you name it. For some individuals, they crave them because they’ve been a staple at mealtime their entire lives. Others might crave them after a really tough workout (where you might need additional carbohydrate to refuel). The choices below are better staples for your menu on those days when you just don’t feel like solely eating meat and vegetables. 


Minimally processed and whole-food carbs other than fruits and vegetables can have a place in the diet when it comes to losing weight and being healthy. Higher-carbohydrate foods, such as steel-cut oats, brown rice or quinoa, can be eaten alongside any combination of quality protein and fats. I always tell my clients to keep portions to a half cup or less and to save these higher-carb foods for postworkout — a time when their body can have increased needs for this type of fuel.

One awesome tool many of my clients use as a preworkout fuel or snack is Generation UCAN. It's a sports energy drink in powdered form that is made up of SuperStarch, a complex carbohydrate that breaks down slowly over time and doesn't spike your blood sugar like other carbohydrate foods and beverages. It comes in many yummy flavors (my favorite is cinnamon) and can be added to your protein smoothies or mixed with plain water.  


In health, Anika Christ – Director – Digital Programming & Events – Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 

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