3 Reasons Why We Crave Sweets After Meals
If you find yourself thinking about dessert after lunch or dinner, then this post is for you. There are several reasons why we crave sweets after meals, and we will review the most common ones.
Why We Crave Sweets After Meals
Reason #1. Habits
The most trivial reason why you crave sweets after a meal is habit.
The topic of habits is very well disclosed in the book by Charles Dahigg “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”. In his book, author describes how repeated actions become our habits. This process is guided by our brain, which is used to save our efforts. Charles Duhigg describes the nagi of habits as a loop of three links:
1. Receiving the signal
2. Performing an action
This mechanism works as follows: the brain reads a certain physical, mental, or emotional message involving the relevant skills and gives a signal to act. When the action is performed, the reward effect is triggered, and the brain memorizes a sequence of manipulations that over time become habitual for us.
Many of our eating habits originate in childhood. Think back to when your family had a tradition of having tea and sweets after lunch or dinner. If drinking tea after a meal was a kind of routine in childhood, then most likely in adulthood this habit will take its course. Another example is when your parents motivated you with sweets if you would eat the whole meal. I wrote about childhood eating habits HERE.
The pleasure we get from eating a chocolate bar can also be considered a habit. Sugar activates the reward centers in our brain, releasing opioids and dopamine, which can be addictive. This can also include eating behaviors where a sweet treat becomes a reward after a hard day’s work. After dinner, you want to reward yourself with something tasty, getting the satisfaction of finishing a hard day.
According to C. Dahigg, no habit can be completely eliminated, but it can be replaced by another. You can replace tea after a meal with a walk. Or make it a rule to immediately get up and clear the table, wash the dishes. Distract your brain with a new habit.
Reason #2: You consume a high amount of simple carbs.
Eating a meal dominated by simple (fast) carbohydrates causes your glucose levels to spike. In response to the rise in blood sugar levels, the pancreas produces insulin. Once glucose is metabolized, which happens quickly, blood glucose levels drop dramatically. Falling blood sugar can provoke a pronounced craving for sweets.
In this case, a balanced meal consisting of complex carbs, proteins, healthy fats and fiber will be helpful. Whole-grain cereals, beans and vegetables are digested more slowly and do not require too much insulin. Fiber minimizes sugar fluctuations in your body. Protein and healthy fats help you stay full longer.
Reason #3. Diets that exclude macronutrients
No matter how beautiful the calls for diets sound, and there is a huge variety of them nowadays, this or that diet in most cases is based on the lack of variety, taste, and even worse, the lack of balance of nutrients.
Limiting carbs or fats, it is not surprising that you will want a sweet after dinner. Our bodies are designed in such a way that they need a balance of macronutrients to function properly. And when you deprive your body of one of those macronutrients, it will still find a way to get what it needs through cravings for sweets.
When on strict diets, people can control themselves during the day by shifting their attention to other things. But by the evening, they can no longer tolerate the deprivation and binge on sweets, eating more food and sugar than if they had just enjoyed a balanced meal that included complex carbohydrates.
We can also talk here about small portions that are not enough for your body. In this case, sweets and calorie-dense foods may be demanded by the hormone ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” which signals that your body needs food, that it has been left hungry.