For many healthy eaters, our greatest nemesis is food cravings. The seemingly insurmountable desire for something very specific (and usually very unhealthy) is more than normal hunger. Some research shows that these strong yearnings are linked to habits, hormones, and emotions.
Cravings differ from person to person, but the foods that usually cause us to blow are clean eating habits are processed and full of salt, chemicals, fat, and sugar. It’s because of these cravings that many of us struggle with losing weight and keeping it off.
But you don’t have to be at the mercy of your cravings for salty snacks or sweets. Here are some simple ways to help curb or stop cravings for unhealthy foods.
Drink water - When you feel a craving coming on, drink a tall glass of water and wait. Within a few minutes you’ll notice that craving start to disappear and you’ll realize that your body was simply thirsty, not hungry. An additional benefit to keep in mind: Drinking plenty of water daily provides many health benefits like curbing your appetite and possible weight loss.
Increase protein intake - Eating more protein will help you feel full longer, curb your appetite, and send those cravings away. A high protein breakfast will greatly reduce your cravings throughout the day. It may also help reduce the craving to snack late at night.
Redirect from the craving - As the feeling of a craving starts, try to distract yourself. Go outside for a walk, do a house project, jump in the shower. Redirect your focus toward something other than the craving. Changing your focus or surroundings will help stop the craving.
Meal prepping or planning - This may take a little discipline and effort but will be worth it. By planning or preparing your meals in advance, you will know what you’re eating for the week, eliminating a spontaneous bad decision because you were starving after work. Knowing what you’re going to eat ahead of time can circumvent a craving.
Sleep - Cravings and appetite are greatly impacted by hormones, primarily leptin and ghrelin. Lack of sleep causes these hormones to fluctuate, which then increases appetite. It also decreases feelings of fullness and satiety after eating. In short, not getting enough sleep may give you a larger appetite and strong cravings—especially for carbohydrates and sugar. The bottom line: Make sure to get a good night’s sleep to prevent those cravings from creeping up.
Eat balanced meals - Being overly hungry after skipping meals or eating a diet low in nutrients can cause strong cravings. It’s important to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals. Your body will receive the nutrients it needs, and you’ll feel more satisfied, eliminating those cravings. If you still feel the need to snack, go for something healthy like raw nuts, veggies, or fruit. Give your body what it needs.
We all have cravings and they occur on a regular basis. They are a major influence in weight gain, food addiction, and binge eating. Being aware of your cravings and their triggers makes it much easier to avoid them.