We might have a lot of willpower most of the time, but when we’re stressed or exhausted - or both - we’re way more likely to crave sugar and carbs. Research shows that people who only slept four hours a night had increased activity in the brain’s pleasure centers when they were near pizza, doughnuts, and candy.
And it’s true for stress, too. The parts of the brain that are affected by stress affect our self-control, especially about food. So how can we just say no to all those yummy, unhealthy, processed foods when we’re stressed out and tired? Functional medicine nutritionist Brooke Sheller advises following this three-step plan to beat those junk food cravings.
Make protein your "pick-me-up" - Switch up your morning bagel for something packed with protein, like a smoothie or eggs with veggies, Sheller suggests. And plan the night before so you’re not too rushed to make a healthy breakfast in the morning.
Keep the protein coming all day long - Protein “helps stabilize your blood sugar and minimize cravings for unhealthy foods,” Sheller says. So beat the afternoon slump with a lunch and snacks that have a balance of healthy carbs, like starchy veggies and fruit, and protein or healthy fats - like lean meat, nuts, and seeds.
Stop the vicious cycle - Dealing with many nights of bad sleep and constant stress can lead to less healthy eating habits and weight gain. So make sure you’re taking care of yourself so that doesn’t happen. Give yourself downtime after work, before bedtime to relax and try to get to bed earlier during the week.
And below, you'll find healthy alternatives to your favorite junk foods...