When someone wishes me, “Sweet dreams!” visions of marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge dance through my head before my crown even hits the pillow! Wow, what a mouthful!
Yes, healthy snacking has always been a serious challenge for me! When I’m craving a treat, I want to run out and buy cookies, chips, or take a visit to Kilwin’s ice cream shop in the village (and it’s not to find out about buying a franchise).
I notice that when I get these cravings, I’m usually stressed, overtired, didn’t eat properly, or just didn’t eat enough that day. Can you relate?
But could there be other reasons why we get food cravings?
Yes, someone can be addicted to sugar, actually crave what they are allergic to, or just might be conditioned to grab chips when stressed, like Pavlov’s dog salivated. Crazy right?
Yet, another interesting reason for getting food cravings could be that we might have a nutrient deficiency and somehow the foods we choose are guiding us in the right direction while also dragging us down.
In other words, food cravings might be a sign we have a specific nutrient deficiency.
This is why it’s always important for us to eat a well-balanced diet and to regularly get physicals and blood work done to assess vitamin levels.
Examples of nutrient deficiencies that look like food cravings?
*If you regularly crave chocolate, it could mean your body is deficient in Magnesium.
*If you’re craving ice cream, you could be deficient in essential fatty acids like Omega-3’s and calcium.
*If you’re craving red meat, you could have an iron deficiency.
In my Integrative Nutrition and Health Coach Program, the founder, Joshua Rosenthal, discusses how we can explore our food cravings to understand our vitamin and mineral deficits. We can use this information to help us satisfy our food cravings with healthy snacks that are rich in the nutrients we are lacking.
I can’t emphasize enough, how important it is to develop a healthy relationship with your body based on trust and intuition!
I am learning from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Health Coach Program how important it is to understand and respect our food cravings and to listen to the cues our body is sending us.
It’s so beneficial to develop a healthy, spiritual, and physical transformation that will empower us to make more informed, healthier choices, and to manifest balance in all aspects of our life.
Joshua Rosenthal tells a funny and enlightening story in one of the learning modules. He describes how he would teach his students about health all day and then go home and eat ice cream. One day, he had a sort of epiphany and realized that maybe his body was telling him he needed to add healthy dairy options to his diet. When he added foods that supplied him with the nutrients he discovered he was lacking, his nightly or weekly ice cream cravings and indulgences ceased.
I’m not saying you won’t EVER crave foods like ice cream or cookies!
However, listening to your cravings might get you on the right road to help you to fuel your body with what it needs while incorporating a more balanced approach to food indulgences.
So, how can you discover if your cravings are trying to tell you something?
1-Listen, trust, and respect your body.
2- Keep a food diary and note how you feel.
3-Get your vitamin levels tested.
4-Talk to a specialist about what foods you can eat to get the nutrients you’re lacking.
5-Don’t keep unhealthy foods that are your “weakness” in the house. We all have them!
6-Stock up on healthy snacks that you can easily grab when having a food craving.
7-Stock up on healthy food staples that are the base to creative and satisfyingly delicious meals.
Those last 3 tips are really important because when there’s no healthy and fun food choices in our home, we’re more likely to take a run through the fast food drive thru, or eat that leftover chocolate cake from the weekend party.
When shopping for healthy snacks and food, I love going to Trader Joe’s!
*They offer major savings on pantry essentials. Who wants to pay $13 for raw almond butter at the local food store when I can get it at Trader Joe’s for $6.99!
*You’ll be greeted and packed by the cheeriest and most peaceful people.
*Their joyful team can offer suggestions and will brighten your day while shopping for snacks that are healthy and tasty.
*You’ll either leave feeling like you knew the checkout employee from somewhere, maybe a past life? Or feel like you might ask them to lead sunrise yoga on the beach this weekend!
*For some reason, you’ll still feel like you did your duty to help Mother Earth, even if you forget your reusable shopping bags.
*Oh yeah, and did I mention that they have soooo many healthy snack and food options?!
Tragically (Yes, I can be a bit dramatic!), there isn’t a Trader Joe’s around the corner near me, so I always take a monthly run to T.J.’s to stock up on healthy “grab to go” snacks and food staples I use to create healthy and palate satisfying dishes.
Eating should be a beautiful experience so while food shopping, I always make sure to swoop up a flower bouquet to decorate my kitchen table. This week I found one that mimicked a pink-ombre, summer sunset and it instantly lifted my mood and helped me to manifest positivity and healthy practices. It’s all about the little things that make our heart happy and bring peace to our soul! (:
Some Trader Joe dialogue as I walk through the aisles?
“Hello, macadamia nuts, and coconut flakes! Yes, hop in my cart, Kalamata Olives and Sun dried Tomatoes! Did someone say Tahini? Quadruple the jar please! Beef Jerky? Yes, it isn’t just a dried treat for long journeys anymore!”
My Trader Joe’s Healthy Snack Haul List
Olives: Did you know these salty bites are actually a fruit? Besides being a tasty snack, this stone fruit is jam-packed with healthy fat and can help to get rid of extra cholesterol in your body. Olives also provide a great amount of Vitamin E, fiber, and contain healthy fat to help get rid of extra cholesterol in the body.
If those reasons weren’t enough to start an olive snacking habit, know that olives have an antioxidant which can help to ward off cancer and the oleic acid found in them can even help to diminish the appearance of wrinkles.
Lesson: Skip the botox and eat olives! (:
Sun dried Tomatoes: These sun-kissed beauties pack intense mediterranean flavor that adds life to any dish while also packing major nutrients. Sun dried tomatoes are packed with lycopene, Vitamin C and K, Iron and their anti-oxidants might also lower your cancer risk.
Although the sun dried tomatoes packed in jars with oil are so tasty, I buy the ones that are just dried in a package. The reason? I can control the amount and quality of olive oil I use to enhance their flavor.
Chomps Beef Jerky: Now I know what you’re thinking, beef jerky for a healthy snack?! One of my Cali roomies had me fall in love with beef jerky so I was so happy to find Chomp’s gluten free, 100% grass fed beef, protein packed, no synthetic nitrates, nitrites, sugar, fillers, binders, MSG, or added preservatives jerky snack. They actually use celery juice to keep the jerky fresh and come in a variety of paleo flavor options.
Nuts: I buy a 1 pound bag of any of the nut choices because it’s more economical. If you have a hard time just eating a handful of nuts, Trader Joe’s offers a big bag of individually portioned snack bags for some nut and trail mix choices.
Almonds: Almonds are a great protein snack packed with Vitamin E, Magnesium, fiber, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, and B vitamins. They contain antioxidants, are cholesterol-free, and have heart-healthy monUNsaturated fats.
Studies have shown that eating almonds regularly can help with brain function, help control blood sugar and insulin levels after meals, lower bad cholesterol, and help with weight loss,
Roast and grind them to make your own almond butter or make your own almond milk!
Walnuts: Walnuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids that can help your mood, help fight depression, improve your brain and heart health, can help your immune system and help to prevent cancer through their anti-inflammatory and polyphenol antioxidants.
Walnuts have also been shown to help regulate your weight and contain good amounts of protein, fiber, Manganese, Phosphorus, Vitamin B6, Folate, and Thiamine.
Eat them by the handful, toast them and throw them in salads, or add them to your favorite healthy muffin recipe.
Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts contain Vitamin E to help with healthy skin, hair and nails and are a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. They also contain B vitamins and can help with regulating blood pressure.
Hazelnuts are one of my dog’s, Giselle, favorite healthy snacks!Occasionally, treat yourself and dip a couple of them in melted dark chocolate (at least 70% dark chocolate), cool in the fridge, and enjoy!
Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts contain Vitamin A, iron, protein, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron and Vitamin B6. They are rich in soluble and insoluble dietary fiber so they really help you to feel full and help with good digestion while removing toxins from your body. Macadamia nuts also help to reduce inflammation, help to strengthen your bones and keep your heart and mind healthy.
I love to eat macadamia nuts by the handful, in my favorite (upcoming) gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe, or to make non-dairy “Parmigiano-Reggiano” for my gluten-free eggplant parmigiana dish.
Flaked Coconut: Coconut contains small amounts of phosphorus and iron so if you eat coconut flakes with a Vitamin C source like strawberries, you’ll more likely absorb the iron benefits.
Coconut flakes and oil are like the new craze with anyone who is gluten or paleo driven.
Coconut flakes are a better option to any boxed cake, but measure them out by the 1/4 cup since they do contain a lot of calories and fat. Being as that I don’t consume sugar on a daily basis anymore, unsweetened coconut flakes act as a “sweet” and rich treat for me.
I love to eat coconut flakes plain, in chia pudding, or add it to a healthy dessert or dinner recipe.
Sprouted Chips: When I’m craving a chip snack, I occasionally reach for Trader Joe’s Organic Stone Ground Blue Corn Tortilla Chips which combine sprouted amaranth, quinoa, and chia seeds with blue corn, sea salt, and a trace of lime. I pair a handful of these tasty and healthier chips with my homemade guacamole dip or a spicy salsa.
Salsa: When I’m not making my own salsa, I reach for Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa. It’s a much healthier version to the regular supermarket varieties and contains no salt.
It’s ingredients are diced tomatoes, tomato puree, fire roasted tomatoes, roasted onions, roasted green peppers, lime juice, sugar (2g. per serving-2 tablespoons), jalepeno peppers, chopped onions, roasted garlic, white vinegar, cilantro, cumin, chipotle peppers, black pepper.
Cold brew coffee: I drink a small cup of cold brew coffee occasionally. It offers a less acidic drink to it’s hot version which is easier on your teeth and stomach.
Since I don’t drink it often, it acts as a treat for me. If you choose to grab the cold or hot version, especially make sure that the highest quality coffee beans have been used, and learn about how they have been processed too.
I’m so lucky to have a cold brew coffee tap at work.
When I need a little pick me up and a coffee flavored treat, I just add about a 1/4 cup of cold brew to a cup of almond milk.
Olive Oil: Trader Joe’s has so many olive oil choices so you should try a few and see which ones you prefer. Last time I went, I picked up the Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil and really enjoyed the peppery bite it left in the back of my throat.
I’ve learned from listening to Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, that if you take a sip of olive oil and it leaves a bite in the back of your throat, that it likely has good anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil connoisseurs and scientists have confirmed that it’s a good sign that an olive oil is relatively fresh and rich in olive extracts if you get that peppery taste and burn at the back of your throat.
My Italian grandfather always tastes store bought olive oil varieties and is typically disappointed that they don’t have the same earthy, peppery, bitter taste of the olive oils his aunts would send to America from Pomigliano D’arco, Napoli, Italy.
Interestingly, scientists have discovered that good quality olive oil’s sharp taste and bite is caused by a phenolic chemical called olecanthal. They studied the similar pungent taste and coughing effect that olive oil and crushed ibuprofen have when swallowed and discovered that olecanthal from high quality extra virgin olive oil is a more effective anti-inflammatory than ibuprofen.
I always look on the back of olive oil bottles to see where the olives were grown, harvested and packed and I try different versions from Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, California and from all over the world.
Check out the 2016 Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition results to see the winners from International, Domestic, Delicate, Medium, and robust categories and try a new quality extra virgin olive oil today!
I’m going to surprise my grandfather with the International Robust winner Olio di Dievole, Coratina, Gaiole in Chianti, Siena, Tuscany, Italy
http://www.dievole.it/en/buy/olive-oils/ and see if it compares with his childhood memories of his Italian aunts extra virgin olive oil. I’ll let you know what he says in a future post!
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal that can be a healthy addition to your diet. With so many competing arguments for the use and restriction for using coconut oil, it’s hard for a girl to know what to do!
I’m going to lean on an expert, Dr. Mark Hyman, to describe the low down on the benefits to using coconut oil. Click over to his website to read some of the many articles he has written in support of coconut and healthy fats.
While some may argue that people with high cholesterol shouldn’t eat coconut oil, Dr. Hyman argues that they can eat coconut oil if they eat a no sugar, no refined carbohydrate diet which is more likely to contribute to a person’s waistline.
Specifically, Dr. Hyman said, “Quality fats like coconut oil and more anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats help edge out those sugars and inflammatory refined omega 6 fat vegetable oils.”
Personally, I grew up using only olive oil to saute foods, but have now incorporated coconut oil because I’ve read that it doesn’t produce free radicals when cooked at high temperatures like other oils.
Also, you can use coconut oil on your skin. My mom has used coconut oil on her face and body for many years before the coconut oil craze even broke out…and she never breaks out!
Tahini: Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds and is high in healthy fats, amino acids, copper, B vitamins, iron, Vitamin E and zinc. It can boost your immune system and has positive effects on your heart, can balance hormones and strengthen bones. Sesame oil is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal so it has been shown to also assist in healing skin wounds and repairing skin damage. When I am in a rush and don’t have time to whip up a creative dish, tahini is on of my “go to” foods to richen any dish…add it to salads, pastas, quinoa, dressings, shakes, you name it!
Raisins: Dehydrated grapes can be high in sugar, but eaten in moderation or added to dishes, can add that sweetness that you might be craving while providing you with fiber and nutrients.
I grew up eating meatballs with raisins and pignolias so I am used to the sweet flavor and texture of raisins in savory dishes, as well as breads, salads and desserts.
Raisins by the handful, can be a healthy snack alternative to a processed sugary sweet. They contain healthy fiber, B vitamins, iron and potassium and are also a good source of energy on the go.
Avocados: (local weekly stock up) I have a love affair with avocados! I use them as an accessory for so many dishes and also eat them as a main course or snack, decorated with other flavors, or just by themselves!
Avocados are a healthy fat so don’t shy away from them!
They are packed with Vitamin C, E, K, and B-6 and also are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados also provide a source of riboflavin, niacin, folate, magnesium, potassium and beta-carotene.
Incorporating avocados into a healthy diet can help your heart, vision, bone health, protect against some cancers, help to reduce your risk of depression, improve digestion, help excrete toxins, and help to protect against chronic disease. Avocado anyone?
Other monthly/local weekly healthy snack stock ups include: 70-80% Dark Chocolate, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, buckwheat noodles, groats, and fruits, such as blueberries, cherries, strawberries, bananas, pineapple, passion fruit, mango, and any in season fruit variety. I often freeze these fruits to use in healthy smoothies.
Fruits are packed with Vitamin C and are a great healthy snack alternative to bagged chips or boxed cookies. Fruits still contain sugar, so as with any food, eat them in moderation and within a well-balanced daily diet!
You can also stock up on frozen acai, or other frozen fruit from Trader Joe’s, or your favorite food store. Make a delicious acai bowl topped with shredded coconut, gluten free granola, nuts, and sliced fruit like I did for my Mother’s Day post.
Who says eating healthy has to be boring? Stock up on your favorite healthy snacks today!
What are your food cravings and favorite healthy snacks?
Share your story of how you have implemented healthy snack and eating practices into your life! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!P.S. I am not getting any incentive or compensation from Trader Joe’s for writing this post…it’s just the plain, simple, happy, and wallet-saving truth!