What do you have – sweet cravings, salty or savoury? Most people experience food cravings from time to time and for various reasons. Next time cravings strike, try outsmarting them instead of relying on your willpower.
Knowing your ‘why’ of getting cravings goes a long way to helping you deal with them. Here are some tips on the various reasons you may experience cravings, and how to handle them -
1. Manage your stress levels
Food cravings can arise when we’re stressed or anxious. Stress increases your levels of the hormone cortisol which is linked to cravings and binge-eating behaviours.
Try handling your stress or anxiety with mindfulness techniques, taking a walk outside or having a shower to help reduce the craving. The idea is to remove yourself, physically and/or emotionally, from the stressful situation that may cause you to eat.
2. Know your “tempters”
Your surrounding environment can have a big effect on your eating behaviour. Stay away from temptation. If pastries or cakes are your weakness, avoid bakeries and those supermarket aisles.
By making a conscious choice to remove all temptations in your home and workplace, you won’t be able to eat them. In short, out of sight, out of mind. Have healthy substitutes at the ready.
3. Don’t go hungry
Eating high protein and high fibre meals during the day so you’re less likely to want to snack between meals. Protein-packed foods make you feel fuller for longer but high carbohydrate meals with little protein can cause cravings.
4. Get enough sleep
Insufficient sleep can suppress leptin, the hormone that gives off signals to your brain that you’re feeling full, so when you’re sleep deprived, you look for an extra cup of coffee or a doughnut for a shot of energy. But by getting around 7-8 hours of sleep every night, you can better control your appetite, feel more energised and set yourself up to lose or maintain weight, rather than gain it.
Read our blog about sleep and healthy evening routines.
5. Allow yourself to indulge
There is nothing like being told you can’t have something to make you want more of it! Allow yourself to eat one indulgence per day so you can enjoy some guilty pleasures while still maintaining a healthy diet. Keep an eye on portion size.
6. Plan around social occasions
If you know there’ll be a party or event coming up, it’s important to plan ahead. Ensure you are having protein with your meals so you’ll feel full and have less room for treats. Remember that alcohol doesn’t satisfy your appetite or add any essential nutrients in your diet.
7. Drink more water
Sometimes when we feel hungry, it’s really our body saying it’s thirsty. Stay hydrated – and when you feel ‘snacky’, try a big glass of water first, wait a few minutes, then check in with your body to see if you are still hungry.
8. Increase physical activity
Move it! An increase in your level of physical activity, even if just by walking more, may help reduce food cravings. Similarly, moving less than you usually do may cause you to experience more food cravings.
9. Avoid highly processed foods
There is evidence that highly processed foods rich in added fat and sugar may cause addiction-like symptoms and increased cravings.
Healthy eating helps your body WANT to eat more healthily. And eating junk food makes you want to eat more junk food.
10. Make healthy snacks more appealing
Edamame, popcorn, hummus, beef jerky, yoghurt, fruit, kale chips, hard-boiled egg, vegetable sticks with dressing are just some examples of healthy snacks. (for more see our blog on healthy snacks)
We ‘eat with our eyes’ – arrange your healthy snack on a platter beautifully so it’s more enticing. It’s worth the effort – YOU are worth it.
Listen to your body, work out why you are craving something bad for you, and address that issue.
It will get easier! - Reinforcing your good habits will help you reduce your cravings over time. It’s all part of creating a healthier lifestyle for you and your family.