Resisting food cravings can be a superhuman feat. When we crave a certain food or even just an ingredient like sugar or salt, several areas of our brain activate. These areas are traditionally associated with memory and sensory pleasure. This means that when we’re hit with a certain craving. It’s literally our brain telling us that it wants to experience the same pleasure that it did before.
We can’t survive without nutrition from food, but it’s also inexplicably bound up with our emotions. It helps us calm down from anxiety or stress and makes us feel more like ourselves. Today, we’re going to talk about some ways that we can help curb and control these food cravings and ensure an overall healthier diet.
1. Eat More Often
Although food cravings are associated with the pleasure centers in our brain, we typically don’t have cravings unless we’re already hungry.
One way to control your cravings is to eat more often. Eating several small meals a day rather than two or three large meals spaced hours apart is a great way to ensure that your blood sugar remains steady. Plus, it makes sure you’re not suffering from intense hunger pangs between meals.
Some nutritionists suggest eating around five meals per day, spaced only a few hours apart. This can help ensure that you’re never far from a meal, which will help you resist the urge to give in to cravings.
2. Ensure You’re Getting Enough Protein
Another way that you can help yourself resist cravings when they occur is to ensure that you’re getting enough protein.
Meals that consist mostly of carbohydrates and refined sugar will make you feel full for a while, but you’ll likely find yourself hungry an hour or two later. A high-protein meal will help curb cravings and make you feel fuller for longer.
Adding more protein to your diet — especially at breakfast — is a great way to ensure that you eat fewer calories throughout the day. One study found that by increasing protein consumption by 25 percent, study subjects reduced their impulse eating and thoughts of food by a whopping 60 percent.
3. Slow Down and Savor Your Food
With so many people eating on the go or eating in front of a TV screen, it’s easy to get distracted. Therefore, you either eat more than you realize or fill up on unhealthy sides without really touching the central portion of your meal.
Developing a practice of mindful eating can help ensure healthier eating habits that will leave you less susceptible to cravings. You can practice this by slowing down as you eat your food, chewing, and swallowing carefully to help yourself savor every bite.
This may feel strange at first. However, the more you do it, the better you’ll be able to respond to your body’s impulses and cravings with a slow and measured response.
4. Press Pause and Distract Yourself
Many people give into cravings before they’ve even given themselves a chance to resist.
One way to test whether your craving is due to a deeper emotional need or just boredom is to distract yourself for half an hour. Go for a walk, fold some laundry, or spend some time doing a hobby. Once you’ve moved your body and have occupied your mind for a bit, you may find that you’re no longer experiencing cravings with the same intensity.
Sometimes, doing a high-intensity activity, like a tough workout, can even help decrease cravings. In fact, intense activity can cause levels of appetite-stimulating ghrelin to drop, which makes us less hungry overall.
5. Make a Smart Substitution
Sometimes when we’re having cravings for sugar or salt, we satisfy it with the easiest thing to find. This is usually fast food, super-sugary baked goods, or other ready meals. In addition to being full of sugar and salt, these foods are often loaded with other chemicals and processed ingredients.
If you’re experiencing a craving, try to curb it with the healthiest version of that snack. For example, if you’re craving something sweet, munch on an apple or a few dried figs instead of a cupcake. If you’re craving salt, eat a handful of almonds rather than a bag of chips.
These healthier options will knock out that craving. Also, they will provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are nowhere to be found in processed foods.
6. Only Purchase Trigger Foods in Small Quantities
Many of us are aware that we’re vulnerable to certain types of food and have a hard time resisting them when we know they’re in the house.
Don’t test your resolve. When you go shopping, either leave these triggering foods out of your cart entirely or only purchase them in very limited quantities. If you keep them in the house, it’s a lot harder to resist their tempting call.
Also, did you know that you can actually develop a tolerance to foods like you would alcohol or drugs? The more you consume a certain food, the more it will take to make your body feel sated. For this reason alone, try and ensure that you’re only eating the bare minimum when cravings hit.
If you can, limit yourself to the unhealthy treats you crave once a week. Additionally, if you know that you’ll have to drive to the store, purchase them, and drive home in order to eat them, it’s much more likely you’ll go without or substitute something healthier.
7. Eat Something Nutritious First or Drink a Glass of Water
When we’re not being mindful of our eating, it’s hard to tell when we’re actually hungry and when we’re just feeling an emotion that sparks a food craving.
The next time you feel a craving, spend a few moments examining that feeling. Ask yourself whether you think that you really want that food or whether you’re bored, tired, or just hungry. Then, if you feel hungry, eat something nutritious or drink a big glass of water. Most of the time, our cravings are our body’s way of prompting us to eat or drink water.
8. Ensure You’ve Always Got Healthy Snacks Around
One of the best ways to ensure that you’re making good choices in the face of food cravings is always to make sure that you’ve got plenty of healthy snacks around. It’s easy to give in to our worst cravings when we don’t have any food in the house or find ourselves out in the middle of a ton of different fast-food restaurants with no other options in sight.
To make sure that there’s always a healthier option, get in the habit of stocking healthy snacks at home. This includes:
- Roasted nuts;
- Sliced veggies;
- Chunks of cheese, or;
- Little bites of pre-cooked, seasoned meat.
You can carry most of these in a bag or purse on the go, in order to ensure that you’re never without a healthier option. When the path of least resistance is easier, cheaper, and healthier, it’s hard to resist.
9. Make a Plan to Fulfill Your Cravings
Many people find it easier to schedule specific meals on a regular basis that they know will fulfill their cravings. Once these indulgences are on the calendar, it’s a lot easier to resist your cravings. This is because you know that it’s only a short time before you’re able to dig into your favorites.
Plus, having your favorite foods on your regularly scheduled calendar will allow you to look forward to them. This makes their consumption more of an occasion, rather than treating them like something you need to feel guilty about.
This is a much healthier attitude towards food. Even sweet treats are part of a healthy diet — as long as they’re eaten in moderation.
10. Don’t Shop Hungry
If you go to the grocery store hungry, you’re much more likely to be tempted by unhealthy options, rather than sticking to your sensible list.
If you want to resist the delicious food that’s strategically placed by grocery store marketers, make sure you’re heading into every store with a full stomach. It’s much easier to plan healthy meals and choose healthier options when you’re not already hungry.
You can use a helpful app like Paprika to help you stick to a list when you go shopping. You can even customize their grocery list format, so it mimics the layout of your home grocery store.