Trading brownies for broccoli? It may sound like a tall order, but according to One Drop health coach, Hanna, RD, CDCES, eating vegetables—and other healthy foods—can help keep cravings at bay.
It’s not about seasoning or spices alone; it’s about a taste bud “makeover” and finding patience along the way.
“Every three to four weeks, you get a brand new set of taste buds because your taste buds are just skin. They’re always turning over and creating new cells,” Hanna explains. “Our taste buds are used to a certain level of salt, sweetness, and spiciness. What that means is that it’s important to be patient if you’re making changes to your diet. You’re probably not going to love the changes right away. But, your taste buds will ‘grow’ into them.”
Learn more in this episode of the Life Without Limits podcast.
Host: This is Life Without Limits, the One Drop Podcast that gives you the tools, inspiration and support to challenge your limits. We talk with experts across all areas of health to open up more possibilities for you. Lean on us, as you step outside your comfort zone, to work your way toward better overall health and a Life Without Limits.
Kim Constantinesco: Welcome back to the Life Without Limits podcast, the place for expert advice in the areas of health that are under your control. I’m your host Kim Constantinesco, and we’re back with One Drop coach Hanna. Hanna is a certified diabetes care and education specialist and a registered dietician who has coaching experience in weight management. She was previously on our episode titled Leveling Up Your Vegetable Skills, and she’s back today to talk about vegetables, other food groups and cravings. Hanna, welcome back.
Hanna: Hi Kim. Thanks so much for having me again.
Kim Constantinesco: So vegetables and cravings, it sounds like we’re here to talk about broccoli and brownies doesn’t it? Is that the point of this talk?
Hanna: Actually yeah, it is the point of this talk. So a warning up front, I am going to be mentioning a lot of different foods today. So I hope that you have your food shield ready, and if you are someone who is deciding that you want to have less of certain kind of foods, like brownies and fried stuff, I want to talk about some strategies on how to actually pull that off in a way that you’ll enjoy and be okay with.
Kim Constantinesco: Wait, food shield, that’s a new term to me. What do you mean by that?
Hanna: Oh, right, food shield yes. This is something that just started getting said when I was working in the weight management clinic with patients. And it seemed to really resonate with a lot of them. So your food shield is a way that you sort of make it so that you can protect yourself against those cravings that call to you for the fried stuff, the sugary stuff. So a food shield would be increasing your intake of more whole foods that have a more balance nutrition profile like beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils and lean proteins.
Actually really truly this talk is not just about vegetables and cravings. It’s about all of those other food groups. But thought that would be too long of a title. So yeah, hope you have your food shield ready. Hope you’re not super starving listening to this talk today.
Kim Constantinesco: Okay, a food shield, I get it now. So it’s about having foods around you, like maybe avocado, cut up tomatoes or lentil soup. I can get on board with that.
Hanna: Right, exactly.
Kim Constantinesco: Now I know you want to talk about physical food cravings. Can you tell us what a physical craving is?
Hanna: Sure. So a physical craving is when your stomach is rumbling, and it’s telling you, hey, I want to get some food in my belly. And then the part of the physical food craving I’m talking more about today is the cravings that we get after we eat certain types of foods that maybe might not have as much balance. So let’s say you have just chicken and potatoes for dinner. Not all of the food groups, just a couple of the food groups. If you’re somebody who has a sweet tooth, you might find that as soon as you’re done eating that chicken and those potatoes, that you want to go for a brownie. So that’s really what I’m talking about.
Kim Constantinesco: Okay, got it. So do you think there’s a biological or nutritional explanation for why that craving or drive for different and maybe healthier foods can happen over time?
Hanna: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it comes back to equilibrium and balance. I mean, everything in any type of science comes down to balance and equilibrium, including nutrition science. So if you’re eating foods that don’t really have that much glucose or any glucose, let’s say you just eat steak. Let’s take a dramatic example here. You’re not getting in any glucose. Your body is going to be probably on the hunt for it.
So it might be that when you’re done with that steak you want to go for the polar opposite of that, which would be cake. So when I talk to people about their everyday diet, I always encourage them to ask themselves, before you went for that cake, what did you have beforehand? And then on the contrary, also encourage them to ask after, if they’re trying to evaluate if a certain food is a good choice for them, I encourage them to ask themselves, what did you want after you ate that food?
So an example of that would be – something that comes up a lot actually, protein bars. People always ask me about protein bars. Should I or shouldn’t I? Well, it’s really going to come down to the individual. So if you eat a protein bar and then two hours later you are tearing apart your fridge, then it’s probably not a great choice for you. But if you have that protein bar and then everything’s hunky dory until lunchtime, probably fine. So that’s what I encourage people to think about.
Kim Constantinesco: So it really is individual in nature.
Kim Constantinesco: So it sounds like we can actually curb our cravings for the foods that don’t necessarily help us reach our health goals with food that does. Is that the gist?
Hanna: It absolutely is.
Kim Constantinesco: So could someone in theory go from a place of let’s say craving fries with a hamburger, to craving roasted vegetables with a burger instead? And if so, how long does this take?
Hanna: Yeah, that’s the real question. In my observation they absolutely can. But the first thing is that person has to want to make that change. This change is not going to happen by accident. And in short, you could expect it to take maybe about three to four weeks. And the reason why is that every three to four weeks you get a brand new set of taste buds, because your taste buds are just skin. They’re always turning over, getting new cells.
And so your taste buds Kim, my taste buds, they are used to the certain level of salt, the certain level of sweet, the certain level of spicy that we are currently eating. And so what that means is, it’s important to be patient in this process. If you decide, okay, you know what, that afternoon croissant is not doing me any favors. What it means if you’re probably not going to love that change right away. In fact you’re probably not going to like it. But patience is key here.
So something to keep in mind, and of course there will be variations for all people on this because there is of course a big psychological draw to certain foods. But we’re not getting into the psychological aspects, just really the physical aspect. And so that is the answer to your question. And I want to add on a little bit more information about sugar and how to interpret the nutrition information.
So when you’re at the grocery store and this is just a tip to anybody who tends to want to have less sugar in their diet. When you’re at the grocery store, I recommend looking at the nutrition facts and always reading the number of grams of sugar in that particular product. So let’s say it’s a piece of cake and it says that there are 24 grams of sugar. Well, what the heck does that mean? So I recommend you memorize this small math equation, which is that four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. So you have that cake, 24 grams of sugar divided by 4 grams and that’s telling you that there are 6 teaspoons of sugar in that cake. And that way you can sort of evaluate when you’re at the grocery store and decided if you want to get that product or not. So that was my rant.
Kim Constantinesco: Well, that’s a super helpful tip as well. When I look at food labels I don’t really – I’ll see the grams of sugar and I don’t really equate it with how many teaspoons. I’ll notice the grams and whether or not that number is high. But that’s a great tip. I’ve heard of something called a food shift. So instead of just taking something away, like instead of getting a hamburger and fries, you might get a hamburger and shift from fries to another food, like roasted vegetables. Is this what you’re talking about?
Hanna: Oh, wow, it’s exactly what I’m talking about. Kim, you are very hip I must say. This is absolutely a thing, the food shift. So asking yourself, if I’m going to stop eating potato chips every day at 4:00 p.m., what am I going to have instead? And this is based on nutrition. But it’s also a little bit psychological. I kind of think of it like a child with a toy. If you take away their toy and then you just have nothing, they might not be too pleased. So maybe you’ll replace it with an activity like jump roping.
Well, as adults our toys can be food. So if you’re going to take something away, ask yourself what you plan to shift to. So that way you’ll be a little bit more satisfied with the change. And if you’re more satisfied with the change, it’s a lot more likely to continue.
Kim Constantinesco: And Hanna, can you take me through a day’s worth of food and tell me the before and the after so I can really understand what you mean?
Hanna: Oh, good idea. Kind of like a food makeover you’re saying. So let’s start with a breakfast. So let’s say you normally have eggs with some buttered toast with some strawberry jam. Well, the butter has quite a lot of calories. The jam has quite a lot of sugar. The bread has okay nutrition. So maybe you decide to have less or none of the toast, and what I would recommend shifting to that you could try would be putting in some tomatoes or spinach into your eggs. And then if you really want to make it a balanced meal, add some black beans on the side. Just a little bowl, and kind of make it a little bit more balanced.
And then I talk to a lot of people who eat a whole sandwich for lunch. I am not here to knock sandwiches. Sandwiches are a very important part of our culture. However, how about eating half of a sandwich? Because they tend to be mostly bread and meat. And instead you could do some white beans this time, which can be tasty. And how about some chopped up cucumber with some salt and pepper? So a little bit more balance and then you’re adding some crunchy sides to the lunch. And then let’s say, how about at dinner?
So for dinner, say you normally have hamburger and fries and you realize, you know what, fried stuff, not so great for me. Fried foods unfortunately have trans fat. That’s not great for our heart health. So you say, okay, I’m going to make a conscious effort to not have French fries as often as I used to. And if you’re somebody who really just likes savory food, just like you said Kim, I would just go for some broccoli, some other vegetable. But if you’re somebody who as soon as you’re done with a hamburger and French fries you tend to reach for a soda or a milkshake, I would add in something sweet like an apple. And that way you might feel a little bit happier about the shift.
Kim Constantinesco: Okay, that kind of makes sense. But you mentioned a vegetable and/or an apple surrounding a hamburger. So I have to ask you, how do you make foods like apples or vegetables like broccoli actually taste good?
Hanna: That is a very reasonable question Kim. I’m glad you called me on that. So you could just eat the apple on its own. Or if you want to make it a little bit nicer, you could cut it up and add some lemon juice or some lime juice and a little bit of cinnamon. I’ve fed this to a lot of kids and they seem to like it. So I feel like that’s probably a good sign.
And then for the broccoli, if you’re replacing it with the French fries, that means you like salty, crunchy. So I would definitely recommend roasting it. If you want to roast the broccoli grab the biggest pan you can find that will fit in your oven. Break up that broccoli into small pieces and at the very minimum you’re going to need olive oil, salt and pepper. And use your hands. They are great instruments. Mix in some olive oil and the salt and the pepper and then put the broccoli in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Try not to go do too many other things. When it’s done it should be crispy. And if you want to make it a little bit nicer you could take your hands, grab a couple of garlic cloves. Kind of bash them, which I find to be sort of satisfying and a stress reliever. That’s just me. Or you could add some parmesan cheese or a little bit of red chili flakes. So I would say that roasting broccoli is kind of like a blank canvas. You could sort of just make stuff up, and it’s probably going to be fine.
Kim Constantinesco: Well, I’m really glad that I ate lunch before we recorded this because I’m actually starting to crave broccoli in the way that you described it.
Hanna: Nice, Kim.
Kim Constantinesco: Okay, so we hear the word “craving” and we often think of something sweet, like ice cream or a cookie or maybe we think of something more savory or salty, like chips and dip. But we don’t often hear craving and think vegetables. So what about on the flip side when you actually get to that point of craving vegetables? Is there something going on there? Meaning does that mean your body might be lacking in a certain vitamin or nutrient, and that’s why you’re craving them?
Hanna: That is a really good question, and I’ve thought about this a lot. And it’s really hard to prove either way. But hey, if you’re craving vegetables, I’d say just rejoice because that’s just going to make your life a lot easier. Good for you.
Kim Constantinesco: So let’s talk about cravings as it relates to thirst. I mean, is it possible you could crave foods higher in water content like fruit and vegetables because you’re a little dehydrated?
Hanna: That could totally be part of the case. I talk to a lot of people who have trouble getting in enough water content. And drinking enough fluids, staying hydrated is an important part of health, and I find that people have trouble. Maybe they just don’t like water. So if you’re in that boat, unintended, maybe all the more motivation to have more fruits and vegetables because they’re about 90, 95% water. So it’s going to help you out with getting to that goal.
Kim Constantinesco: Well, and from what I hear too adding some things like fruits to spice up your water might be a tip that someone could incorporate if they’re not big on water.
Hanna: Totally, that’s a great idea.
Kim Constantinesco: So let’s run through some other ideas as it relates to cravings that someone might have. And I’d love it if you could provide maybe one or two really tasty alternatives in the form of vegetables to satisfy someone’s craving.
Hanna: Yeah, that’s a really good idea. If you want something in that moment, what are you going to do instead that has similar characteristics? I like this idea.
Kim Constantinesco: Great, okay. So let’s start with something salty and crunchy. So maybe it’s chips or crackers. What are some good alternatives there?
Hanna: Oh, yeah, that’s a common one. I’d go for maybe sauerkraut or kimchi. And if you’ve never tried these foods before, give them a try. And then of course the roasted vegetable thing, and if you really are a crunchy, salty kind of a gal or girl, maybe consider getting this kitchen instrument called an air fryer. So just something to think about.
Kim Constantinesco: Okay, what about if someone is craving something sweet and crunchy?
Hanna: Sweet and crunchy, okay. How about maybe some nectarines which are in season right now or even some jicama, which you might laugh. But jicama can help a lot with cravings I have found when talking to people. Or maybe you just make yourself a really nice fruit salad. Kind of step it up, add some mint leaves. Really treat yourself right.
Kim Constantinesco: Okay, let’s move along to that salty and creamy craving. So maybe something similar to mac and cheese.
Hanna: Oh, yeah, this is a big one. Well, the food that I have found seems to have gotten a bad name, but I think is pretty healthy is refried beans. I’ve talked to a lot of kitchen staff and taquerias and spoken to lots of people about this, and they’re pretty healthy.
Usually just made with a little bit of oil, cook up a batch of pinto beans in a pan. Sauté some onions and whatever seasonings you like, and then you just put them in the blender or you can just get a masher. It’s pretty – I think it’s pretty tasty. That works for me, or any pureed soup.
So when you puree something it brings out its creamy texture. That toasted broccoli that I mentioned, if you were to take that whole pan of broccoli and you just put it in a food processor or a really strong blender, like a Vitamix and then add some good quality broth and blend it up until it looks like the thickness you like. Then put it back in the pot. You have yourself a pureed soup. I like to make a batch like this. And then I just serve myself a small bowl of it alongside with my meal to add some variation to the meal. I don’t make it the main meal. I can’t just eat creamy broccoli soup for lunch, no way.
And then in general, if you’re more of a savory person, you might be listening to this talk and thinking, I don’t like cake. A lot of people don’t like sweet stuff. So if you’re more of a savory person, I recommend just getting more garlic, more onions, more herbs, more spices into your diet. And maybe even exploring some other cuisines that have a lot of really interesting new flavors.
Kim Constantinesco: Those are some really great tips. Okay, last category for cravings, something sweet and creamy. So when I hear that I think ice cream. What is a good alternative for maybe a traditional ice cream that you would find in the store?
Hanna: Oh, yeah, definitely. Probably banana ice cream. So as you have bananas and they’re super ripe, put them in the freezer. And then when you get that craving for something sweet and creamy, you put a few of those pieces in the blender with any type of milk that you happen to have, and you blend it up. It’s going to be hard for your food processor to get this going and get it to a consistent texture. But it’ll work, and it can be pretty tasty. And these are of course just ideas from me. Maybe you have ideas that you’ve used, or maybe you’ve started to incorporate new foods into your diet without necessarily realizing that you’ve sort of done a shift from one to the other. So I do wish that I could hear from other people if they have anything to add to this list.
Kim Constantinesco: And Hanna, I would actually love to hear more from you in terms of your personal preference. Is there a food in your life that you crave that maybe doesn’t lend toward your health goals? And if so, how often do you consume it?
Hanna: Oh, yeah, definitely. Chocolate peanut butter ice cream, full fat. When I was in nutrition school they had us write down everything that we eat. And I remember I went into this exercise thinking, oh, I eat very healthy. Kale all day long. And then when I started to write out what I was actually eating I realized, wow, I eat a lot of this chocolate peanut butter ice cream, and I usually eat the whole pint. So after learning about all the nutrition stuff you just – you start to actually add more of the beans, the nuts, the seeds, the variation to your diet. And luckily I was surrounded by dietician folks who tend to cook a lot. That helped as well. And now I think I probably truly crave that ice cream about every two or three months, and I don’t need to have the whole pint in order to be satisfied. So hey, that’s a win, right?
Kim Constantinesco: Nicely done. So Hanna, once again it was such a pleasure to have you on the show, and I hope we get to record another food related episode real soon.
Hanna: You’re so wonderful. Thank you so much for having me on.
Kim Constantinesco: Thanks for listening to another episode of the Life Without Limits podcast. If you’re a fan of the show, don’t forget to subscribe and share the podcast with your friends and family. Stay tuned for more episodes that can help you manage your health and re-imagine possible in your life. We’re in this together.
Host: Thank you for listening to Life Without Limits. If you liked this episode, tell a friend. We’re here to help you take back your time, power in life so you can live to your fullest potential.