Ever wish you could put the kibosh on food cravings? Feel like they run away with your plans for healthy living? We do. And it may help you to know that we're not alone. Millions upon millions of people struggle with food cravings every day. And for many of us, they sideline our plans and better intentions for ourselves. Let's look at how to tackle them.
Understanding Food Cravings
Each of us may experience food cravings in different ways, but there are certain elements that distinguish food cravings:
- Cravings are specific: "I want THAT food." Not general: "I'm hungry."
- Regardless of what else we eat, we may feel hungry until we consume the food we crave.
- Cravings often revolve around the desire for foods high in fat, simple carbs, and/or sugar.
Food cravings are often not related to the need for food at all. They're usually the result of a need for comfort or are triggered by hormonal fluctuations, or they may even come out of thirst. That's right. Many people need water, not the salty chips they're dreaming of.
And when we’re trying to explore a new type of diet or eat more healthfully, food cravings may derail our best intentions as the brain longs for the comfort of the familiar, and what's worse is that denial of certain foods may even increase those cravings. We're complex! That’s where the tips below can help.
5 Tips to Banish Food Cravings
Ready to say farewell to food cravings? Try these tips:
- Ease Stress: Feeling stressed may cause us to turn to food for comfort. Studies show that we tend to choose comfort foods high in fat and sugar, such as ice cream. Although we might temporarily feel better while easing our food cravings with our favorite treats, the resulting weight gain may harm our health. And it's pretty likely that we didn't deal with the feelings we tried to smother in food so we still have those things piling up, too.
What to Do: Meditation may ease stress and make us more mindful of our food choices. Exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, or running or using a rowing machine, or even swimming all offer opportunities to combine meditation with fitness and burn off the stress at the same time.
- Get Enough Sleep: Researchers have found that lack of sleep may increase hunger. The food cravings that result may make it even more challenging to eat healthily.
What To Do: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 7 or more hours nightly for adults 18 and older. Having ongoing sleep problems? There are a number of ways to tackle them. Being proactive is best.
- Clean Out the Kitchen: Researchers have discovered that when we eat sugary treats, we may experience a rewarding feeling. In turn, those positive emotions might lead us to crave more high-sugar foods. And we're much more likely to at them if they're in the house, setting us up for a vicious cycle.
What To Do: By keeping these foods out of the house, we may avoid the temptation to have “just one” cookie or scoop of ice cream. Stock up the kitchen with healthy treats, such as fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit. It's been said that if you're not hungry enough to snack on broccoli, you're probably not really hungry.
- Eat More Protein: Our busy lives may cause us to rely on meals and snacks that are high in simple carbohydrates (like pasta and bread) or sugar. Bu research shows those nutrients may act as triggers for food cravings pushing us to eat more and more of those foods and turning our attention from the better-for-us foods like vegetables and fruits.
What To Do: Boosting the intake of protein might help us avoid those cravings. One study found that when overweight participants ate 25 percent of their calories from protein, they experienced a 60 percent reduction in their food cravings. A diet higher in protein also lowered their cravings for bedtime treats. Remember that greens are actually the best source of protein, not meat.
- Drink Water: It’s not always easy to determine whether hunger from thirst. As a result, we may decide to have a quick pre-meal snack like chips or a cookie. That habit may set us up for more cravings. And research says that thirst can actually trigger food cravings s it may help eliminate those by drinking water.
What To Do: Drinking water before meals may also help us avoid cravings as we age. Researchers found that when adults 60 and older sipped water prior to eating they lost weight. Try sipping water 30 minutes before each meal to see if it helps you, too.
Understanding our food cravings may help us to feel more control over our lives. The tips above for easing stress, improving sleep, and changing our diet may help boost our overall health in a sort of perfect storm of creating health to reduce cravings and reducing cravings to create health. But there are other ideas, of course, though we stand by the idea that simple is often best and overcomplicating and trying to trick the mind and body are often temporary at best. Simple and consistent wins most of the time. As always, before making significant changes to your diet, please talk with your healthcare provider.
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