Food & Wine

Learn to overcome food addictions

Pineapple boat
Pineapple boat Courtesy Philippa Sonnichsen

Would you eat too many chips if they weren’t fried and seasoned with salt? Would you overindulge in chocolate that contained no sugar? Of course not.

However, snack on salty, oily chips and sweetened chocolate and you could be giving your brain a fix similar to that of cocaine. If you can’t stop thinking about food, or if you feel blame, shame or guilt whenever you eat certain foods, your cravings may not be your fault.

It’s possible that you have food addictions. Brain images of people consuming foods high in sugar, salt and fat can look the same as those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, who studies food addiction and is a recovered food addict herself, suggests overcoming food cravings by doing three things.

1. Ask yourself, “Is it healthy?” This makes a food choice a conscious decision.

2. Anticipate situations and choose your response. For example, when you are going out to eat, look at the menu online and pre-etermine what you will order or decide to go elsewhere. Additionally, plan an activity to turn to after experiencing stress. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. For instance, after a tough conversation at work, walk up a flight of stairs, walk back down and think of a situation when you experienced happiness. Another option is to go outside, look up at the stars and take a few deep breaths before getting ready for bed. Compliment yourself on your successes and forgive yourself for any shortcomings every day. We are all works in progress.

3. Choose foods high in fiber and protein that make you feel full longer, like vegetables and whole grains coupled with low-fat protein sources. Examples are low-fat cheese, hummus and bean dip. It is likely that you will need help to fight a food addiction. Try to seek family and friends, or go to Don’t hesitate to find a mental health professional who works with people who have eating disorders.

There are many things that people can do to help food addicts, especially when it comes to holiday entertaining. Just like you always have nonalcoholic beverages available for any recovering alcoholics, always have healthy food options available.

Decorate with candles and mistletoe instead of dishes of candy. As hosts, we tend to feel offended if someone chooses not to eat something we have prepared. Instead, don’t push and show respect when someone says, “No, thank you.”

Try the recipe below as a substitute dessert offering. Holidays are more about celebrating with loved ones than celebrating with food.

Festive Pineapple Boats

Preparation: 20 minutes. Servings: 6.

1 fresh pineapple

2 large or 3 medium kiwifruit

2 Medjool dates, pitted

1 pomegranate

2 dozen mandarins, optional

1. Wash pineapple. Place on a cutting board with the leafy top pointing away from you. Insert a large knife into the middle of the pineapple and cut towards you through the pineapple. Turn the pineapple so that the green top faces you. Continue cutting through the pineapple and the leafy top. Separate into halves.

2. For each pineapple half, cut about ½” all around the edge of the pineapple with a paring knife, being careful not to cut all the way through the pineapple.

3. Remove the pineapple from the pineapple boats. Cut into bite-sized pieces and

place in a large bowl.

4. Wash kiwifruit, peel, cut into bite-sized pieces, and add to the bowl.

5. Chop dates into  1/4 pieces and place in the bowl.

6. Wash pomegranate and cut in half horizontally.

7. Hold pomegranate half cut side down over the bowl. Pick up a wooden spoon or a similar utensil with the other hand, and smack the leathery skin of the pomegranate to dislodge the seeds, working your way all around the pomegranate. Repeat with the other half.

8. Mix the fruit in the bowl and place in the pineapple boats.

9. Place on a serving plate surrounded by mandarins, if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition information per serving (without mandarins): 158 calories, no fat, 2 mg sodium, 289 mg potassium, 38 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 32 grams sugars, 3 grams protein, 2 percent vitamin A, 100 percent vitamin C, 3 percent calcium, 3 percent iron.