MMMM . . . the enticing aroma of a baking pumpkin pie, the rich taste of chocolate, the salty crackle of a potato chip—is your mouth watering yet? It’s common to crave these kinds of goodies. They’re full of carbohydrates, a compound that, when eaten, can make us feel happy. During the holidays, when carb-loaded foods seem to be everywhere, it’s easy to understand how we can overindulge. How can you help curb cravings and steer your family toward healthier alternatives this month and throughout the year? We got answers from Bill Sears, M.D., renowned pediatrician and author of more than 30 books on child care, including Dr. Sears’s L.E.A.N. Kids: A Total Health Program for Children Ages 6 to 12; and co-creator of the L.E.A.N. programs (drsearslean.com).
PARENT & CHILD: Why do we crave carbohydrates so much?
DR. BILL SEARS: Because when carbs hit the brain, they trigger the release of serotonin, which is a happy hormone. So people who eat a lot of carbs learn to associate eating them with happy feelings. What’s more, foods full of junky carbs (such as chips and cookies), which are digested the fastest, produce a quick jet of serotonin, so the carb craver learns, “I eat this and I feel good fast.” It becomes a pattern.