Cravings for animal products? Get rid of them in 5 steps.
If you are new to a plant-based diet, you probably noticed (we all have!) that you experience cravings for animal products from time to time. Especially cheese is usually a big one, but also meat or eggs.
If you are new to eating plant-based, it is a common side effect that comes with changing your long-term eating habits. It usually disappears after a while if you stick to a nutritious and calorically adequate diet.
Reasons for cravings
High-fat foods such as animal products were essential for survival in prehistoric times. Humans needed the calorie-dense foods to make up for periods of starvation, that’s why the release of endorphins after eating leads you to want more of that sensation.
This may explain why fruits and vegetables are less likely to trigger cravings than processed, high-fat food, like animal products.
I know that it can be difficult not to give in to these cravings, so here are the 5 tips that helped me to get rid of cravings for junk and animal products:
Step 1: Drink plenty of water
When you do not drink enough water, your body receives mixed signals on hunger. Thirst causes you to believe you need to eat when you just need to rehydrate.
Step 2: Eat regularly
When your body is starving, it craves more calorie-dense foods than usual, including animal products and processed foods. You can prevent this by creating a regular pattern of nutritious and satisfying meals throughout the day or always having snacks at hand if you are short on time.
Step 3: Distract yourself
Cravings usually last only for about 3-5 minutes. So you just have to make it through! Try to distract yourself. Physical activity usually helps, like taking a walk, going for a run, etc.
Step 4: Replace it
Cravings can be a sign that your body requires a specific nutrient. It does not mean that your body has to have the exact food that you are craving though.
Here are some plant-based alternatives for animal products:
Cheese: Replace it with nutritional yeast, which is low in calories but has plenty of b-vitamins. It has a savoury and cheesy taste, which is often exactly what we need. You can also easily make your own “cheese” from cashews.
Meat: Replace it with something equally hearty and rich in protein. Tempeh is a good substitute as it is firmer and chewier than tofu and has a more intense flavour.
Eggs: Replace it with scrambled tofu, which is super easy, satisfying and delicious. If you miss the egg taste, you can use Kala Namak, a black Himalayan salt that tastes like egg.
Dairy: Dairy products are especially hard to ditch because the casomorphin in the milk triggers your dopamine receptors, which is what makes them so addictive. There are a lot of dairy-free alternatives on the market already but it might take some time and experiments to find the one that does the trick for you.
Soy products are a nutritiously adequate alternative as they are equally high in protein.
Sweets: Try whole fruits (especially sweet ones) like mango, banana or melon. Dried fruits are also a good replacement. Just make sure to get the sugar and sulphate free ones. You can’t overeat on them as easily as they are quite filling. Dates, figs and mulberries are a good choice.
Soda, even sugar-free, may also promote cravings. You should subsitute those for fruit-infused water.
Chips: We often just need something savoury and crunchy to snack. A healthier alternative is to roast chickpeas with salt and your favourite spices. You can also make your own kale chips or nibble on salted nuts and seeds.
Step 5: New habits
Your cravings could occur out of habit. If you always used to eat a ham and cheese sandwich after work, you might experience cravings every time you walk past that store or at the time you used to eat it.
The best way to combat this is to change up your routine. Try taking another route from work or establishing different eating times until you have established new, healthier habits.