Hello all, I've been a paleo for about a year now and have noticed that about every three months, I get grain, sweet or milk cravings and consequently give in and fall off the wagon for a bit. Does this happen to anyone else? If so, are there any tricks you use to combat the cravings?
I really like Kelly's answers. Here is my version of substitutes that will probably satisfy the craving:
Milk substitute: Kefir.
Kefir is not technically paleo, but its healthfulness is pretty empirically and theoretically sound. The fermentation is great for your gut flora, and it eats away most of what is considered bad in milk, while maintaining what we love about it: fat, protein, calcium, etc.
Sweet substitute: Dark Chocolate or Sweet potato with cinnamon.
DC is full of antioxidants and has a complex flavor profile that can be savored. SPwC tastes sweet even though it is very low in sugar. Eaten cold, it tastes like a dessert, similar to pumpkin pie. Add whipped heavy cream and enjoy.
Grain substitute: Paleo Pancakes.
Not just any pancakes; rather, the pancakes described here: http://gapsdiet.com/INTRODUCTION_DIET.html They are made of nut butter, eggs, and squash. Yum.
Alternately, go crazy on a mega cheat day and eat everything excess. It will make you feel so terrible that your brain will associate those treats with pain - it's basic behaviorist negative conditioning of the BF Skinner or Pavlov variety. This is how I got over my love of pastries from high end talented bakeries. Its like forcing a ten year old to smoke a whole cigarette after catching them in the act. It makes them sick and their brains tag the activity with negative affect.
hmm, only thing I can think of is to 'fool' yourself by making some of your favorite recipes converted to paleo. Odd that it happens every 3 months, wondering if something triggers it?
milk cravings, try coconut milk milkshakes or almond milk
sweets, try to make some sort of flourless chocolate dessert
grain, use nuts chopped/sliced up to fool yourself that you are eating grains (a sliced almond 'oatmeal') or for that 'other' grain, try coconut bread with coconut flour http://www.maggiesnest.org/2011/03/19/recipe-coconut-flour-bread/ and then make 'zoodles' with this recipe: http://www.health-bent.com/proteins/pad-thai
In general I really don't get cravings, and if I do I find a paleo converted recipe to give myself what I want. I tend to crave specific veggies more often than normal. Edit: ok I remembered a craving, pizza, still creeps in. Try this crust recipe and add your own toppings: http://everydaypaleo.com/2010/08/04/everyday-paleo-pizza/ (recipe also can be used to make crackers)
oh and maybe this will help? http://www.marksdailyapple.com/low-carb-substitute/
When you say craving is it a psychological thing (you think about a particular food, are triggered by an ad on TV or a billboard, a particular event or family tradition) or is is a physical feeling of hunger for a particular food?
In rat experiments, infusing various nutrients directly into their stomachs leads to them eating less of that particular nutrient. This has lead researchers to conclude that intrinsic metabolic/physiologic states in addition to extrinsic factors (palatability, accessibility, etc.) play a role in food selection.
If you identify with the latter situation (a physical feeling of hunger) then you may be in need of some nutrient found in milk that you aren't consuming in sufficient quantities within the context of your current dietary regiment.
If your health doesn't seem to suffer, and you don't have much trouble getting back on the wagon, I say embrace it. There is a school of thought out there that you should spike your insulin levels every so often to keep your thyroid functioning properly, maybe you're body is throwing out those cravings to keep you in homeostasis.
The big question for me is why this is happening? Is there anything else you can correlate with it? Weird left field question here, but are you on seasonal birth control? Hormonal changes around the period can cause cravings. And are there any foods that you don't eat often - say once every 3 months - that might have some hidden sugar? Even a tiny bit of sugar sets off some powerful cravings for me, even when my overall carb intake is low.
The only way I've ever been able to get rid of a craving is to satisfy it. I have managed to get over a craving with dark chocolate (85% or more) and some willpower. And one time I had a Red Bull and exercised intensely and even though I had already decided to allow myself to have cheesecake, I no longer wanted any. Whether that's attributable to the sweetness of Red Bull (which I'd think is much better from a damage control standpoint) or an intense workout, I'm not sure, but the craving was absolutely dead even though I had "earned" my cheesecake in my mind.
Just remember, sugar is really bad for you. Sugar is addictive and sugar is why people are fat. If you demonize it enough, your brain won't even want it, won't even allow you to crave it. I like the way fast food tastes, but I have absolutely no desire to ever have it again because I know it's poor quality food. Cheesecake, though, is another story...