When I posted on my Facebook Page asking about your biggest trigger food, (the one food you can’t stop eating once you start) I saw from your hundreds of responses that this was a hot topic.
Most of us know exactly what our trigger food is – and it’s usually in the family of processed carbs like chips, chocolate, crackers, cookies and pretzels (mine are chips and cereal).
Why did so many people point to sugary processed carbs as their trigger foods, and not, say, fruits and vegetables that contain naturally occurring sugars? Processed carbs and refined sugar have addictive properties. That’s why it’s hard to rip open a package of chips or cookies and then just nibble on a handful of them. That nibble is in danger of becoming a “take these away from me now!” binge. After all, Paul Stitt, author of Beating the Food Giants, says that the corporate food giants put appetite stimulants in snack food to encourage consumers to eat more. The more you eat, the more you buy. He claims that “Oreo cookies have twenty-three different appetite stimulants, along with eleven artificial colors.” He also says, “The primary purpose of artificial sweeteners is not to make foods sweeter, but to get people to eat more of them.”
So what’s the solution? It’s not to cut out carbs altogether. No carb-haters, please. The trick is to approach meal planning and snacking in a way that steers you away from the dreaded trigger effect of overeating.
Related: Do You Have Portion Distortion?
Here’s how you can break it down for everyday better food choices.
Know Your Trigger
In addition to knowing your trigger food(s), recognizing why over-eating happens can help you wield more control over unhealthy choices. As I mentioned, processed carbs are addictive – that’s strike one against them.
Strike two? If you’re truly hungry, a plateful of sugary, low-grain crackers is unlikely to satisfy your hunger. You’ll be back in the kitchen in no time, asking, “What’s next?” This type of over-eating can add up to a lot of empty calories in your day.
Go After Your Hunger
To remedy the above situation, I suggest planning a meal or snack that takes care of your hunger the first time around.
What’s surprising to some people is that I eat a lot of fat grams during the day. Take the other day when I was in Starbucks. I was at the counter reading the nutrition label on a container of yogurt. A man next to me was doing the same, but he mentioned he was looking at number of fat grams. Me? I was more interested in calories and sugar content.
Fat grams are less of a concern, as long they are good-quality fats. This is where editing your eating comes into play.
E.D.I.T. Your Eating
For long-lasting clean eating, take the letters that spell d.i.e.t. and switch them around so you’re looking at the word e.d.i.t. Much better! Diets that restrict all kinds of foods don’t typically work, but it’s hard to go wrong with editing how you snack and manage meals.
One eating “edit” is to mix healthy carbs (not the processed kind) with good-quality protein/fat. I have had great luck with eating more fat and reducing my cravings. Healthy fats, such as MUFA’s (mono-unsaturated fats) are actually helpful in preventing chronic disease and reducing belly fat. Healthy fats don’t make you “fat”, they make you satisfied. For example: spread avocado on whole-grain bread; dip veggies in homemade hummus or my spicy peanut dip; or stir fresh fruit and nuts into full-fat Greek yogurt. (I love Fage!)
You’ll find that once you make it a practice to eat food combinations such as this, you’ll be able to stave off the munchies most of the time. Goodbye, trigger effect.