There’s a reason I’m writing “Confessions of an Addicted Snacker” today. Every day around lunch time, I nearly always have a snack of cheese and crackers.

In fact, I need my cheese and crackers! Is that so bad?

Confessions of an Addicted Snacker - Cheese!

My near obsession with cheese and crackers for lunch started out as an easy snack to grab during work hours. But it turned into something more like an addiction. In other words, it was what I wanted. Period. If I ran out, I’d be more than a little perturbed with myself.

This experience of “needing” my snack, and especially my feelings of being perturbed when I ran out, was related to several pertinent factors, including…

  1. habit
  2. taste preference
  3. certain properties of cheese
  4. physiological reasons
  5. psychological factors
  6. nutritional deficiency

It’s pretty much the same with any “additive eating”. It can be hard to make any other choice.

Here’s why…

1. Habit Forming

Eating cheese regularly as a snack, especially during work hours, formed a habit.

Habits, especially those related to eating, can create a sense of routine and comfort. When this routine is disrupted, it’s common to feel a bit unsettled or perturbed.

2. Preference of Taste

Cheese is flavorful and has a satisfying texture, particularly when combined with the crunch of the crackers. This most likely helped it become a preferred snack choice.

The pleasure derived from its taste and texture created a strong preference – or more to the point – a craving.

3. Properties: Casein and Casomorphins

Cheese contains casein, a protein that, when digested, releases casomorphins.

Casomorphins can bind to dopamine receptors in the brain, potentially triggering a feeling of reward or pleasure. This reaction can be described as “addictive-like,” although it’s not the same as addiction in the clinical sense.

4. Emotional and Psychological Factors

Sometimes, food choices are influenced by emotional or psychological factors.

If eating cheese is associated with taking a break, relaxation, or a reward during work, it can become something you look forward to and miss when it’s not available.

5. Nutritional Needs

Occasionally, cravings can reflect the body’s nutritional needs. Cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, and fat, which can be especially appealing if your body is seeking these nutrients.

The fact that I switched to a plant-based diet some time back most likely led to changes in my nutritional intake, particularly less protein.

It’s important to ensure we’re getting enough protein from various sources. Protein is essential for numerous bodily functions, including muscle repair, immune function, and the production of enzymes and hormones.

Here are some potential reasons why we crave foods, and why I still crave cheese, particularly in the context of my plant-based diet:

  1. Protein Intake: Diets that lack sufficient protein could cause the body to crave certain rich sources of protein. It’s important to include a variety of plant-based protein sources.
  2. Fat Content: Plant-based diets can sometimes be low in fats, especially if they rely heavily on fruits and vegetables. Including healthy fats from sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil can help.
  3. Habit and Flavor Preferences: The habit and sensory aspects (taste and texture) of favorite foods (cheese in my case) can still influence my cravings, especially if the food has been a significant part of a diet in the past.
  4. Nutrient Deficiencies: Besides protein, again, in my case cheese, which is a source of calcium, vitamin B12, and other nutrients. On a plant-based diet, it’s crucial to find alternative sources for these nutrients.
  5. Psychological Factors: Food cravings can also be influenced by emotional or psychological factors, independent of nutritional needs. Easy, quick, tasty snacks work for me! What’s not to love!

My Personal Diagnosis

While enjoying cheese regularly isn’t inherently problematic, the key is always moderation and variety. Yep, therein lies the kicker!

The fact that I became concerned about my cheese “addiction” and potential health implications, I decided it was time to start diversifying my snack choices with other healthy options, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, or whole grains. Slowly change my diet even more than I already have.

This would definitely help reduce my dependency on cheese, while still enjoying it as part of a better balanced diet.

The Takeaway

To address my potential protein deficiencies in a plant-based diet, I need to consider incorporating protein-rich foods, such as:

  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Seitan (wheat gluten)
  • Quinoa and other whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds)
  • Plant-based protein powders (pea, hemp, brown rice protein)

Additionally, for nutrients commonly found in cheese like calcium and vitamin B12, I need to look for fortified plant-based alternatives (such as fortified plant milks and nutritional yeast) and include a variety of vegetables, nuts, and seeds that naturally contain these nutrients.

All this leads to my reason for writing Confessions of an Addicted Snacker…

If you find that your feelings about any type of food is causing you to be a bit concerned about it, or it’s impacting your daily life in some way, it may be time to rethink it. I’ve attempted to give you a roadmap for that.

So the question is…

Do you have a food-related addiction?

It’s time to look at it from a health perspective. It’s highly likely that your body is trying to tell you something and you need to pay attention to it.

Today, in discussing this topic, I want you to know that there’s no shame in it. At all.

Food, unlike many other substances, is an essential part of our lives and cultural experiences, making its overuse or misuse a complex and often misunderstood issue.

On the other hand, it’s important to consider the potential health implications that can arise from an unhealthy relationship with food, which mine was as well. These may also include physical health risks like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.

Addressing any type of food addiction, large or small, often requires a multifaceted approach, blending nutritional education, psychological support, and sometimes medical intervention.

It’s about finding a balance that supports both physical health and emotional well-being, acknowledging that moderation and mindful eating are key components of a healthy lifestyle.

If you’re concerned (or have questions about) your nutritional intake, or if you have strong cravings and don’t know what you may be missing — be open about it. Look into it. See what’s up! Perhaps, consider consulting with a dietitian. They can help you assess your dietary needs and ensure you’re getting a balanced intake of all essential nutrients.

By the way, did you notice I’m giving away a Food & Health Diary to help you track what you eat and how your food affects your health? Check it out here!

Be Well!