May 27, 2021

Why We Crave Junk Food and Ways to Curb It

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Shanthi Appelö, registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss why we crave junk food and what we can do to curb our cravings.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • How the brain reacts to sweet and salty foods.
  • The nostalgia factor when it comes to junk food.
  • The boomerang effect of restrictive diets.
  • How to cater to our brain’s reward system and be mindful when stressed.

Check out how to use your five senses to calm anxiety that Shanthi mentions in the episode.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 81. Coming up, we discuss junk food cravings and what we can do to ease off of them.

Chuck Gaidica:
Hey, welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, a podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through small, healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we sit down with a certified expert to discuss topics that cover nutrition and fitness, and today we’re going in deep on junk food, right up to our eyeballs. On this episode, we’re diving deep into cravings that you may have, I have. We’re going to even get some healthy junk food swaps that we can have, some hacks so we can defer those cravings. With us today is registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Shanthi Appelo. It’s good to have you back, Shanthi.

Shanthi Appelo:
Hi, Chuck. It’s great to be here.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, thank you. And I know you’re passionate about the science of food. We want to learn about this, our behavior, it all ties in to junk food. Shanthi loves to be outdoors, working with art, spending time with her family. And I want to get into this. First of all, let me finish my cookie and my moose tracks ice cream. I’m just saying, it’s just a, you know, every once in a while, we’ve got to have a fun factor, right? So it’s not all about bad stuff.

Chuck Gaidica:
But here we are coming out of this pandemic, this episode dropping at the end of May, so we’re starting to get outdoors. We’re feeling a little different. But you could say a lot of us have been eating to feed the soul, I guess, would be a comfortable way to say this, rather than our health, but anxiety and stress in this time have driven many of us to consuming more junk food. It makes us feel better in ways, but in doing so, we’ve kind of slipped back into what I’ve heard called the COVID 15, although I’ve had even my kids and others argue, no, it’s a little bit more than that, Dad. So I know that we’ve got some issues with what’s happened during the pandemic. But how can we go about curbing the cravings that we have for junk food? Because oftentimes, it is good to grab a cookie, right?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. I’m always a fan of don’t restrict yourself too much. I think it’s perfectly okay to indulge in your favorite foods once in a while, because that’s what, I mean, we enjoy it. It’s fine to live your life. We don’t always have to be perfect.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, why do we crave junk food to begin with? What’s going on?

Shanthi Appelo:
There are a few different reasons. And I hope that when I go into this, it doesn’t sound like the world is against you. But first of all, there’s this reward system. I don’t know, Chuck, have you ever heard anyone refer to themselves as a sugar addict?

Chuck Gaidica:
I would say that I know I probably am, like, if I don’t stay away from that bowl of stuff that my wife puts out because she thinks it looks good and it tastes good. She can eat one chocolate covered almond. And once I get one, I’ve got some trouble.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. Well, there is some truth to it. Let’s add salty foods to that list, too. But basically what happens when we have salty foods and sweet foods, it triggers the release of dopamine. It’s this brain chemical, and it motivates us to keep eating it, because it’s rewarding that behavior. And then sugar, it releases serotonin, and serotonin makes us feel good. And so when we have these foods that are sugary, our brain is like, yeah, I’m loving all this serotonin. I’m going to encourage you to keep eating that. So there’s that reward system. And then of course, whenever we’re feeling stressed or sad or overwhelmed, we want that serotonin rush, and that’s why we might lean towards those sugary and salty foods whenever we’re feeling stressed.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I also know, because I’ve looked into this before, if you eat chocolate, it releases some of the same chemicals as getting a hug or a cuddle from somebody. So here we are coming through a season, and maybe for some it’s an entire year, where we have not been able to participate in high touch with family members, with moms, dads, grandmas, you know what I mean? And so maybe we’ve been looking for substitutions. Does that make sense?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, I think so. Another thing with that, you’re talking about relationships, you’re talking about getting close, nostalgia plays another role in why we might crave junk foods. Think about comfort foods. It’s often those kind of like ice cream, maybe it’s chicken noodle soup. And the reason for that, it’s because we associate it with a special memory, or a person, maybe. Maybe it was your grandmother that would bring you chicken noodle soup when you were sick. Maybe with your family you would have ice cream on Saturdays or something like that.

Shanthi Appelo:
For me, on Friday nights, every Friday night, we would have movie night with my family. And so we always had chips and what was called Shanthi’s special dip. So seven-year-old Shanthi would mix together sour cream with various spices and fresh garlic. And you know, it makes me feel at home when I have it. Did you have anything like that?

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, you know what, it’s funny you say that, because I was thinking in my mind, so we now have grandkids. We’re blessed to have grandkids. And they come over, and my wife will make mac and cheese. Now to be fair, they don’t eat a bunch of it. It’s just kind of a side dish. And obviously we give them other things, vegetables and whatever else, whatever meat there is.

Chuck Gaidica:
But I don’t particularly care for mac and cheese, but as soon as I taste it, because I’m the guy that’s got to help clean their plate after they’re done sometimes, it takes me back immediately. And I’m talking the cheapest box. You know what I mean. You just make it and it tastes good, because it’s butter, water, and noodles, and then there’s some kind of cheese powder. And I know intellectually, it’s like, oh, I shouldn’t even touch it. And as soon as I eat it, it just takes me back to this gentler time when I was a kid.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, absolutely. So it gives you comfort in a way, and that’s really where that nostalgia plays a role into why those foods make us feel good. I mean, it all is connected, those hormones that get released and then the feelings of comfort.

Chuck Gaidica:
So we’ve got the nostalgia piece, which can take us back. And I think that’s why we’ve seen so many brands live so long, right? I mean, your favorite cookie, it’s probably been around for a long time, including Girl Scout cookies. I’m just saying, not that I eat a whole sleeve of Thin Mints at a time. I’m just saying these are things that take you back. So I get that part. What other things do you think are triggers for our wanting, craving junk food?

Shanthi Appelo:
Well, I think you bring up a good point with those cookies, because food companies really know what is addictive. I’m not trying to say they’re evil, but there’s a lot of research into what makes people want to eat more of that particular food. Restaurants do it, too. There’s a reason why when you go to a restaurant, they keep filling up your soft drink for free, because it has high fructose corn syrup in it and that kind of turns off our feelings of fullness, the hormone that tells us that we’re full. And so we want to keep ordering food. We want to keep eating.

Shanthi Appelo:
And so the same goes for those kinds of foods, and especially those processed foods. Cookies go into that category. And when I say processed foods, I should say ultra-processed foods, because processed foods can mean really anything, like pasteurizing milk is a process. But ultra-processed foods is something where we just add ingredients and we basically change the composition of a food where it’s no longer in its original form.

Shanthi Appelo:
So these processed foods have some ingredients that we think could be the culprits of why they are so addictive. Hydrogenated oils. I mentioned high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, emulsifiers. But one of the most interesting studies that came out in 2019 by the NIH was a study on ultra-processed foods. And they looked at two different groups, and they actually switched between two different diets. And so at one point, they were on kind of a healthier diet, I would say, and then they switched over to an ultra-processed diet or vice versa.

Shanthi Appelo:
And so they were given the exact same number of calories. They were also given the exact same number of macronutrients. So think carbohydrates, fat, and protein. And so when people were on the ultra-processed diets, they ate about 500 more calories a day than they did on that minimally processed diet. And they actually ate faster, and all of the calories that they ate came from carbohydrates and fat. They didn’t come from protein, which makes us fuller for longer. So they also gained about two pounds on average on that diet.

Shanthi Appelo:
But then when they switched over, they lost about that same amount of weight. And I want to note that on both of these diets, all of the food was equally likable. And so they were given access to more food, and for the processed foods, they went back for more and they ate faster.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, you say eating faster, so a couple things popped into my mind. And I don’t know that study directly, but here’s the thing. You would think you could eat faster because you’re consuming a 200, 250 calorie bag of chips. It’s pretty easy to blow through those. And that’s just maybe an adjunct to your sandwich at lunchtime, so I can see how you could eat it faster.

Chuck Gaidica:
And the other thing, what’s the word that you would use in the nutrition world, calorie density, right? If I’ve got an apple, a large apple that’s got 90 calories, I could probably have a cookie and a half, if it’s a really fat laden cookie. Well, that doesn’t fill up my stomach as much as a whole apple. You know what I mean? So I could see how you would eat more and you could eat faster, especially if you’ve been concentrating on the pandemic or political news of the day or who knows what that gets you going on your craving.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a good point.

Chuck Gaidica:
All right. So ingredients, so it’s not all diabolical, but it’s also made to make sure that when we do grab for a chip or a cookie, it’s harder for us to put the things down. It just is.

Shanthi Appelo:
It’s convenient, too. I mean, processed foods, they come in bags, they’re often packaged, and then even grocery stores do that kind of research, where they’re in the line of sight. They’re right at the checkout area where they’re easy to grab.

Chuck Gaidica:
So if I’m skipping my three squares a day, my meals, and I know some people are not big on breakfast and then you read studies that say you’ve got to start your day with breakfast or there’s trouble. But for some people, they’ve got their own thing going. But if you’re getting your three meals a day, does that give you more ammunition to stay away from cravings? In other words, you are feeling fuller so you’re not trying to substitute cookies or cake or potato chips for a full meal?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. There’s definitely something there. And so if you skip meals, or you were talking about having three meals a day, if you wait too long between your eating bouts, it might make you eat too fast because you’re not realizing that you’re full, because you’re so hungry you just want to scarf it all down. And then maybe you waited so long that you’re so hungry and you just don’t want to put in the time to make a healthy meal or go for something that’s healthier, and instead you crave more of those sweet and salty to get that immediate satisfaction.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. So in the past we’ve had discussions about various kinds of diets, or what we would call lifestyle changes, I guess, is a more comfortable way to look at it. But we’ve talked about this idea of boomerang weight. And it would seem like even that study you were talking about, it wasn’t boomerang. But if you go on an all protein diet and that’s not sustainable because you really do love bread and you don’t mind having an orange from time to time or something, once you shift, do you see, is that something you’re seeing in the research that indeed the weight can come back at you like a tsunami if you’re not careful?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, that’s what happens to most people, actually. It’s very difficult to maintain those low carbohydrate, high protein diets in the long term. They’re very effective, don’t get me wrong, but they’re difficult to follow. It’s difficult to live a normal life where you’re dining out with friends, you’re going to events, you’re enjoying your life, and you get very hyper-focused on that diet.

Shanthi Appelo:
So when you’ve achieved those weight loss goals that you want to have from that restrictive diet, you feel like you can return to some kind of normalcy. You’re like, okay, well I did really great. I’ve lost 30 pounds. I’m just going to have some pizza. And then it’s really what triggers that boomerang effect, and it’s really hard not to go back to what you were doing before. And so you really enjoy that. It triggers all those brain chemicals. It makes you feel good, and wow, you just want to have it again.

Shanthi Appelo:
And then it actually adds stress, too, because you’re like, wow, I lost all this weight and now I can’t stop eating all this junk food. And then we start feeling food guilt. That’s another form of stress that can become a vicious cycle and can trigger all those stress hormones. Stress is so related to why we might crave junk food. There are so many hormones involved. There are three in particular that I can go into, and all these are actually related to sleep, too.

Shanthi Appelo:
Sleep can affect our hunger so much. There’s so much research that shows that when you’re not getting enough sleep, it can make you hungrier, and then also crave those sweet and salty foods. So think about when you don’t get enough sleep. We have a hormone called ghrelin. That increases, and that is responsible for controlling our hunger. And so when that increases, it causes us to eat more.

Shanthi Appelo:
Then there’s cortisol. It’s another hormone that can increase, and it’s a stress hormone. So again, it’s not just associated with sleep, it’s associated with stress, and it can be food guilt related, too, but that can stimulate our appetite. So then, if we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re stressed, we have a higher appetite.

Shanthi Appelo:
And then there’s also an appetite suppressing hormone called leptin, and then this hormone actually decreases when we’re sleep deprived. So it’s this kind of hormone tsunami, if we’re on the tsunami topic there, that can affect our hunger and those cravings.

Chuck Gaidica:
And that guilt that you speak of, that could become a self fulfilling prophecy, too, a vicious circle, if you will, that you’re feeling guilty about snacking on the box of cookies. And then the more you feel guilty and stressed, the more you feel better if you grab another cookie, right? I mean, it literally can be happening right there at the table or the counter.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. I mean, the world isn’t against you, but is it?

Chuck Gaidica:
Right. So, okay, we’re looking at all these different inputs, and back to sleep for just a minute. The time of day that you’re snacking, here’s another issue, it would seem to me. I know it’s bad, but yet we all don’t stop eating after eight o’clock at night. It’s a good goal to have so that you’re going to go to sleep and have 12 hours of not eating and not snacking until you wake up the next day. But the closer you eat to going to sleep, that is not really a good idea, right? Like, you’re snacking at 10:30 and then you want to go to bed at 11 and hit the hay. That’s probably not a great idea.

Shanthi Appelo:
It’s not very clear, but I will say there’s a lot of emerging research and promise in the field of just our circadian rhythm, that our body caters to the circadian rhythm and a sense of normalcy when it comes to an eating pattern. So yeah, if we have a regular eating when we’re eating really late at night, and again, it kind of plays into that three meals a day scheme, where if we wait too long to eat, we might overeat, and that especially can happen at night. So there are a lot of factors there. There might be something there, but it’s not super clear about whether that late night eating has an effect.

Shanthi Appelo:
I think there’s a mix of things. There’s a mix of how many calories you consume. There’s the circadian rhythm that plays into it. And again, the late night eating might not be the best idea for multiple reasons, whether that’s related to how many calories we consume before we go to sleep or if it’s just that we’ve been under-eating during the day and overdo it at night.

Chuck Gaidica:
So is there research that really proves the fact that if you’re going to snack, and I mean healthy snacks, so I mentioned an orange or an apple or something. So it could be vegetables with a dip or even a yogurt. If you’re going to snack, does it help you to snack healthfully between meals? Like, you had lunch at noon and you’re not going to get dinner tonight because of work and kids and whatever until 6:30 at night, is it good to grab an apple or something at 3:30, just so you’ve got something in your stomach to help you kind of swing from one branch to the next?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, definitely. You make a good point, because then you’re not going to overeat at your next meal and you can kind of keep it under control.

Chuck Gaidica:
What does water and hydration play into this idea of the stomach not being full and it wants something, and the closest something you are is the machine. Now we’re going back to work, many of us, in a building, but it’s just easy to get. But is hydration part of this at all, that you’re filling up on something that’s not really filled with calories?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, definitely. Water plays a couple different roles. One is going to be that oftentimes we can mistake hunger for thirst. We just want something to consume. And sometimes it’s just water we need, but we want the food instead. And so it’s a good idea to take a few sips of water, drink a glass before you eat, especially if you’re having a craving towards something really sweet and salty. Another thing that it does is it can put us into a little bit of a brain fog when we don’t have enough water. We’re feeling dehydrated, and it’s difficult to make good decisions whenever we’re dehydrated.

Chuck Gaidica:
So for you personally, what are you finding even in people that you’ve worked with, what are some of the hacks or tricks for us to combat these cravings and deal with them? Because this is based on context. You’re going to be younger. Maybe you love the outdoors. You’re able to burn off more calories. And somebody sitting right next to you maybe can’t. So I know that it’s very personal, but what are you seeing, ways that all of us generally can combat some of this stuff?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. You know, it’s more than just a swap. It’s really catering to how our brain works and catering to those reward systems and our stress. So one thing we can do is definitely manage our stress, and it’s different for everyone. Anxiety is something else. Actually, on ahealthiermichigan.org, I actually found my favorite tip that I’ve been doing if I’m feeling anxious. You think of five different things you see, four different things you can hear, three different sounds that you hear, two smells, and then one thing you can taste. And when you go through those, it puts you kind of in a state of relaxation where you’re focusing on other things. I really love it. That’s why I had to mention it.

Shanthi Appelo:
But managing stress is going to be different for everyone. Maybe it’s a yoga session. Maybe it’s sitting down and reading a book. Maybe it’s having a phone call with someone you love. There are many different things.

Shanthi Appelo:
Another thing is going to be to sleep well. Again, we’ve discussed those hormones that we want to keep in check. And then drinking water. We want to make sure that we’re not confusing thirst for hunger. And then thinking about the foods that we’re choosing, and maybe those processed foods are causing you to overeat them and eat too fast. And just kind of think about how that’s affecting you.

Shanthi Appelo:
And then another thing, of course, is practicing mindfulness, when you are eating, just making sure that you’re getting every bit of enjoyment out of that meal so that when you leave that meal, you are satisfied. Whenever you had that cookie, you don’t feel like you just scarfed it down and you want another one. You really got to spend time enjoying it for what it is, the flavors, the kind of feel in your mouth, all the different things that go into having that cookie, maybe it’s recognizing that nostalgia.

Chuck Gaidica:
That kind of takes me back to that study you mentioned earlier, where people were eating food faster, and we were always told we really should chew our food. It’s going to be more healthful that we do that before we set the fork down. And there even used to be some rule about counting a number of seconds for every bite. But what you’re saying is to savor the food, which can lead to enjoyment, and fullness can follow, and maybe that sets the cravings aside. So I think that’s a great way to look at that, is to really enjoy what you’ve taken so much time to prepare. Just don’t wolf it down.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, absolutely. Another thing that I wanted to mention is just kind of rewiring your brain’s reward system. It’s not necessarily the most technical term, but I think we need to think about how food plays the role of rewards to us. It originates from childhood. Think about if you get good grades, maybe you were taken for ice cream. At school, if you got good grades, maybe they gave you a pizza party. If you got a shot at the doctor’s office, you might’ve gotten a lollipop or a piece of candy. There are so many rewards to things that we do well that involve food.

Shanthi Appelo:
And so maybe you have a celebration for yourself or you graduated or something great happened to someone in your family, oftentimes that involves food. And so I just challenge anyone to think about how you’re treating yourself and celebrating, and maybe thinking of ways that doesn’t involve food. Maybe it’s a way to treat yourself, like a massage or buying yourself something new and fun, or doing a fun activity, like renting a kayak or something.

Chuck Gaidica:
I think that’s a really good idea because all of what you just said is a really awesome circle of not just self love and self care, but if you are getting outside, you are riding the bike, you are doing things, you will tend to be more naturally tired because you’re pooped out after your nighttime bike ride. So you’re like, oh, it’s time to go to sleep. And you’ve kind of collapsed that window of feeling like you’re up and maybe you’re not getting into the circadian rhythm that you talked about.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, that, and after we have been outside and we have been active, we sleep better. We are less likely to be stressed. There’s so much research emerging about how just getting outside is so good for our health. And of course moving does that, too. So there’s a lot there.

Chuck Gaidica:
There’s one thing we haven’t talked about, and I know the focus of this is not on alcohol, but we wouldn’t really consider beer and wine and spirits to be part of junk food. But just think of all the stats I know you’ve seen. We all read them about what’s happened during the pandemic. You’re talking about a lot of vacuous calories. So if you’re not drinking water, you’re not filling up, but you’re turning to three, four glasses of wine to take the place of that, that’s got to be an issue for a lot of people now, that they’ve been dealing with.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, alcohol consumption definitely has increased with the stress during the pandemic. And you’re right. I mean, it’s a lot of empty calories. Typically, whenever we have calories from liquids, it’s consumed a lot quicker than it is from food and we don’t get that same satisfaction that we do from chewing and enjoying those flavors in our mouth. And so it’s difficult to imagine, too, because you think a glass of wine is about 120 calories, if you have four to five ounces. And you think, okay, well, I’m going to have vodka with soda, because that’s clear, doesn’t seem to have too many calories, but in fact, alcohol has seven calories per gram. And so even a shot of vodka adds up really quickly. So even if you’re not adding all the sugar and fat to some fancy cocktails, it’s still there.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and let’s be honest about this. At home with a bottle of wine, it doesn’t even have to be two or three buck Chuck. I just use that name because it’s mine. But you know what I mean? It can be whatever kind of drink it is. You over-pour. I mean, we’re not talking about going out with your friends to the local pub where you know they’re going to pour it gingerly because that’s how they make their profits. At home, how many of us are really taking time to measure out three ounces, honestly? So you’re probably getting a little over-pour to begin with on every glass that you’re pouring. So that’s going to add up if you multiply it by 365.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And alcohol inhibits the breakdown of other nutrients. So you’re kind of limiting the breakdown of a lot of important nutrients, but also, our body prioritizes that breakdown. And so the calories not only rack up, but we’re also digesting and absorbing other nutrients at a slower rate.

Chuck Gaidica:
So let’s understand balance. So when you’re thinking about your daily life and how it reflects in all the people that you come across, the balance that we have with even a piece of junk food or a cookie here and there with the rest of our diets can tend to be fine, right?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, definitely. And I really encourage people to do that, because again, we discussed those really restrictive diets. It can make us kind of go overboard, but it’ll also make us have that guilt. So if we can develop that really healthy relationship where we can have something sweet once in a while and really enjoy it for what it is, and then not put such a bad label on it, like this is bad and this is evil, because that’s what makes us feel more guilty in the first place. But there are a lot of healthier options you can substitute with.

Chuck Gaidica:
And by that, you mean what? Like what would I be substituting with, a little peanut butter with apple? What’s your suggestion for healthier options?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. Well, one thing, when you say peanut butter and apples. I actually really, if we want to get into sweets first, I love the powdered peanut butter.

Chuck Gaidica:
Do you?

Shanthi Appelo:
The one with that chocolate flavor.

Chuck Gaidica:
I’ve tried it. It just seems so grainy to me. I don’t know, I can’t get into it.

Shanthi Appelo:
Does it?

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelo:
I just think of the grains as being a little peanut butter. Like peanuts, little peanuts.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s great.

Shanthi Appelo:
But that’s really great with an apple or bananas. Another thing is that it’s grill season now. So grilling peaches or pineapple can be such a treat, even without ice cream. For peaches, I love it with a little bit of goat cheese and basil and balsamic reduction.

Chuck Gaidica:
Wow, that sounds really good. Yeah.

Shanthi Appelo:
My mouth is watering a little bit. Another thing is to take advantage of the air fryer. So bananas in the air fryer are great. You get that edge of the bananas when you slice them that gets caramelized, so there’s a slight crisp to them, and you can pair it with a few chocolate chips and a dollop of vanilla yogurt, or you can do ice cream. But again, it’s about packing in those nutrients, so you get that banana in there.

Shanthi Appelo:
I also love doing a whole wheat toast with some bananas and chocolate chips and some peanut butter. That also is a sweet treat, but could function as a breakfast, too. And then there are crunchy options you could take advantage of in the air fryer. Do you have one, Chuck?

Chuck Gaidica:
We just got one. We’re kind of late to the party on it. And to be fair, all we’ve done, we’ve done some homemade chicken thing and then we’ve done some homemade sweet potato fries. We’ve done stuff like that, more part of a meal than we have fruit, but I’ve heard the fruit is incredible in there, depending on what you do with it.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. Well, I like that you brought up chicken, because it does reduce the amount of oil that the breading absorbs. We do it for fish, as well. And it’s so easy. It’s just like hanging out in there and all of a sudden you get this really crispy product. But what’s great is I use just a little bit of oil when you spray it instead of that full maybe tablespoon that soaks up into the breading.

Shanthi Appelo:
Another thing that I just noticed about the air fryers, that you can make tortilla chips. So I was making this salsa recipe video for Cinco de Mayo, and my boyfriend didn’t realize the chips were meant for that. And so they were gone. And I saw some wraps, like some whole wheat wraps in the pantry, and I was like, you know what, we’re going to try to air fry these, and it worked great. And so you have more fiber, more nutrients, less fat than with the fried ones. And then if you’re having salsa with it, that’s packed with nutrients and flavors, and then you get this guilt-free dip to enjoy with it.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s great. I need to step out of the mindset of the air fryer just being for standard stuff. Like, even as you’re talking about chips, I’m thinking homemade croutons with a little bit of garlic and stuff.

Shanthi Appelo:
Ooh, stop it.

Chuck Gaidica:
It just like, it opens up a whole new world, you know?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah, yeah. Actually, one of my latest obsessions has been air fried chickpeas. I love how crunchy they get. I’m not even a chickpea person, but if I want a sweet snack, I’ll do a little bit of cinnamon and sugar, more so heavy on the cinnamon. But all you do is 17 minutes at 390, shaking it every few minutes. You can flavor it with different things. I mentioned that cinnamon and sugar. But it’s great for salads, too, if you want to do some chili and lime or just kind of a mix of what you usually would do, maybe some roasted garlic, paprika, things like that.

Chuck Gaidica:
So you’re sprinkling anything you want, whether it’s sweet or savory, before you put it in there. You then put them in for how long?

Shanthi Appelo:
17 minutes. Yeah, and just shake them every so often. I like to spray them with a little bit of spray oil, but yeah, I mean, it is so good.

Chuck Gaidica:
See, that sounds really interesting to me. And I love hummus and stuff, but I don’t regularly think of chickpeas unless I’m out and they happen to come on a salad, but that’s an interesting grab and go. You could have a handful and really not have any guilt like forever.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. And chickpeas are incredibly high in fiber and they also have protein, so all of a sudden you have a snack that is full of fiber and protein so it’s going to keep you energized and it’s going to keep you fuller for longer with that protein. With the sugar though, if you do add it, you want to do that towards the end so it doesn’t get burnt, but other spices are fine the whole way.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay. Well, that’s a good new thing. I think I’ll step into that space really soon. So as we start to wrap this up, any other takeaways you want, and I do want to end one more time, I know we kind of got to it in the middle of the podcast, so people can find it, but this five, four, three, two, one thing you were saying you found on A Healthier Michigan. I thought maybe you could leave us with that, but anything else you want to provide us with and takeaways relative to junk food and cravings?

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. I think be mindful of those sugary drinks and liquids, especially because they do rack up. But I think we can all just benefit if we focus more on the foods that we can have instead of the foods that we can’t have. So it can not only help improve our stress, but it can also help relieve that relationship with food, both that can be really damaging towards your mental health.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Okay, and then one more time with this five, four, three, two, one thing that helps to give you mindfulness and also kind of count you down relative to food.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. So think about five things you can see around you. So just look around the room, take a moment, maybe, to pick out your five favorite things, even. Acknowledge four things you can touch around you. So it can be parts of your body. It can be things around you. And then three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and then one thing you can taste. So you can go grab something to drink if it’s flavored, or a little bite to eat.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, and it all leads us right back to that great moment of what we’re eating, just focusing on that and calming down.

Shanthi Appelo:
Yeah. Calming down and getting that mindfulness in.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, it’s in the podcast for sure, and we’ll also find it and put it in the show notes so people can find the countdown, because I think it’s a remarkable way of getting you, you’re kind of running everything through the funnel until it drips out the bottom and that’s what you’re looking to taste. And it probably helps kick that up a notch, so good stuff. Really good stuff.

Chuck Gaidica:
And I have a big admission for you that you probably couldn’t tell, but I have a labradoodle. She made her way into my little studio in here while we were at the end of our … You know, talking about your dog. She knows how to open doors. She’s figured out how to jump up, and she slaps the handle until the door pops open. And she just made her way in, like, I’m just here, don’t worry about it. So I know you can’t see her, but it’s just too funny. I think she’s going to learn how to drive pretty soon. It’s just, like, thanks for coming in.

Shanthi Appelo:
Is she 16 yet?

Chuck Gaidica:
No, no, she’s only two, but she only has two speeds, off and full tilt boogie on. So she heard me in here, so she wouldn’t stay away. She had to be in here anyway. Well, it’s good to talk to you again, Shanthi.

Shanthi Appelo:
Great to be here, Chuck.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Thanks for all the great info and all the tips. So Shanthi Appelo is with us. She’s a registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, but you can tell, so much more and so much great info today. We want to thank you for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you want to learn more, you can check us out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. And of course at A Healthier Michigan in general, you can find all kinds of great information, as well, as Shanthi was talking about.

Chuck Gaidica:
You can leave us reviews or ratings on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. You can get great new episodes on your smartphone or tablet. Take us with you on your healthful walk or when you’re going out for a jog. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. So thanks again for being here. Want you to be well. I’m Chuck Gaidica.