Sweet Cravings – What Do They Mean?

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Sweet Cravings – What Do They Mean?

Cravings – the experiencing of wanting something so badly that it is literally all you can think about, and generally ends with a block of chocolate or tub of ice-cream being eaten in one sitting. Since there is no such thing as perfect eating, succumbing to an occasional food craving is not a big deal, but when we are feeling that our cravings are controlling us then it may be time to take control. So, if you are feeling like your cravings are a little out of control, here are some easy steps to take control.

While specific food cravings like the ones experienced during pregnancy may be due to hormonal shifts, more commonly cravings result from the food habits we develop over time which ultimately program our brains to seek out different tastes and flavour sensations. A classic example of this is when we regularly enjoy a sweet treat with a cup of tea, or after our evening meal. Once this pattern becomes entrenched over weeks, months and years, the brain will be looking for this sweet sensation whenever you revert to that same eating scenario and environment. This means that when you find yourself having a cup of tea at a similar time of day; the brain will continue to seek out the sweet stimulation, which will in turn drive the craving. 

Such cravings are largely behavioural and can easily be broken when we work to alter the neural pathways that we have previously established. An example of this would be doing something entirely different after dinner such as going for a walk or having a shower. In fact, a study published in the journal ‘Appetite’ found that a significant number of participants lost their craving for chocolate when they had to go for a walk before they could indulge. Another simple option is to create a new habit by enjoying a sweet but healthy food after your meal to try to avoid the craving altogether. Some good options include fresh fruit such as chopped banana, a little frozen Greek yoghurt, or some low sugar jelly or custard. 

A key thing to remember to help you manage your cravings, is to never feed a craving with more of the same type of food as you are likely to excite the brain and continue to eat far more than you need. The foods we most commonly crave – ice cream, chocolates, cakes and potato chips, all have a rich taste and mouth feel along with a particularly strong flavour, whether it be sweet of savoury. Behavioural research has repeatedly shown that the more intense the flavours we are exposed to, the more we can eat and hence our explanation for polishing off an entire bag of potato chips or tub of ice-cream. Instead, try and limit yourself to a small quantity of the food you are craving before you change the taste in your mouth whether it is via a cup of green tea, iced cold water with a lemon slice, or sugar free mints and gum. And of course, brushing your teeth is a time proven technique! 

Most importantly is the psychological approach we take to our cravings. If we deal with our cravings as if they are in charge of us, and we keep rewarding ourselves with the exact types of foods we are trying to cut back on, cravings will continue. If though, we work towards accepting that cravings will come and go and manage them via proven strategies including distraction, a change of environment, or simply waiting a brief period of time before you indulge them, you will be surprised how quickly they disappear. 

Finally, if you need a sweet hit, there are plenty of healthy sweet options to satisfy your urges – a frozen banana dipped in a little chocolate; a few squares of dark chocolate paired with nuts or banana and nut spread on high protein bread will go a long way in satisfying the cravings, minus the fat and calories of many other indulgent treats. The trick is to have your healthier snacks prepared and ready to go when the cravings strike like these delicious banana bites - 

Recipe: Banana Bites

Serves: 6-8 


2 large bananas, mashed

1 cup rolled oats, raw

1 cup pitted dates, chopped

1 cup coconut, shredded (for rolling)


1. Combine the mashed banana with the oats and dates in a blender for 1 minute.

2. Place the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until firm.

3. Roll the mixture into small-sized balls in your hands.

4. Coat the balls in shredded coconut and store in the fridge.

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here.