No matter how much you love healthy eating I’m sure you all get cravings for junk food now and then. You should certainly give in and allow yourself some of what you crave, it wouldn’t be healthy to deny yourself all the time, but it’s all about moderation. So if you find those cravings taking over and getting out of control then try these tips to help reduce them.
#1 Always be prepared
Prevention is the best cure. If you eat regularly throughout the day and are eating proper meals with protein, good fats, fibre and some carbs then you will set yourself up to avoid those sudden cravings and crashes. Cravings often emerge when you haven’t fueled yourself properly and if you’re hungry you’re far more likely to give in to that craving. So be prepared with snacks to tide you over between meals. Snacks which are high in protein and fibre will slow own the digestion and keep you feeling satisfied for longer. High sugar foods will be digested quickly causing that crash which makes you crave even more shortly after.
So go for snacks with at least 5g of protein, and aim for up to 5g of fibre in all your daily snacks. Veggies and hummus fit the bill, as do fruit and nut butter for example.
#2 Play the waiting game
Set yourself an alarm when you feel a craving for 20 mins later, and then do something else until it rings. Distractions help to get your mind off food and you may realise that you’re not actually hungry. If you still feel hungry after 20 mins then you aren’t actually hungry,” says Rumsey. The thing is that you’ve got to give time a fair shot to win out over your hankerings. While a craving might feel just as strong after five minutes of distraction, it may go away completely after 20.fair play – you probably do need to go get a snack.
#3 Could you eat an apple?
This is one of the best measures for whether you should have a snack or not. When you feel like you want to eat something just ask yourself – could you eat an apple right now? (or any other fruit/veg you like). If the answer is yes – then you’re actually hungry – so grab an apple! If the thought of that apple isn’t appetising at all then it’s probably not real hunger. Have a think about what is really driving your desire to eat – is it boredom? procrastination? comfort eating?
Many of the junk foods we crave cause the brain to release serotonin – the feel good hormone, which is why we enjoy eating them. Exercising also causes feel good hormones to be released – endorphins and can have the same effect on your mood. So instead of reaching for the chocolate bar get active instead – it doesn’t have to be a gym workout, it could just be a dance around the kitchen! 🙂
#5 Quench that thirst
Often we think we’re hungry when actually we’re just thirsty. So your first port of call when you’re feeling snacky is to down a glass of water. If once you’ve done that you’re still hungry 10 – 15 mins later then you’re probably actually hungry so it’s ok to go eat something. Even if you really are hungry by having a drink of water first you will have given yourself time to consider the craving and be feeling a little fuller so are less likely to eat so much.
#6 Have a cuppa
Hot drinks are also great at filling you up and helping to reduce cravings. So make yourself a cup of tea, herbal or otherwise and savour it before you go for the snacks.
#7 Chew chew
Now although it’s not a great habit, chewing gum does actually help to combat cravings. So if you are really struggling with boredom or emotional eating then try chewing some sugar-free gum instead when the craving hits. the act of chewing can sometimes be enough to tell your mind it’s eating and to stop you craving more when you’re not actually hungry.
Try swapping your junk snacks for something a little better for you. So instead of reaching for the ice cream maybe try some frozen slices of banana dipped in yoghurt (and refrozen), or blended up into a delicious ice cream alternative (recipe here – you can add any flavour you like), or have a frozen medjool date instead of caramel. Yes you can still eat too much of the healthy stuff but these are great alternatives when you really can’t stop yourself, and they’re tasty enough to hit that button.
#9 Make it harder
Make it hard to get to the foods you tend to crave. Either don’t have them in the house – so if you want them you will have to go and buy them, or try concealing them somewhere difficult to access – on top of a high shelf that needs a step ladder to reach for example. Then if you really want them you will have to make some serious effort to get them and often that’s enough to make you realise you don’t really want it badly enough in the first place.
#10 Just have it
If you’ve tried everything I’ve suggested and you still desperately want that bar of chocolate then have some, and have it guilt free. There’s no point beating yourself up about it. Chances are if you’ve gone through all the tips above and still want it then you’re not going to go mad with it – so have a small bit, enjoy it and include it as part of your balanced eating for that day.
This article is written by Dr Nancy Priston. Please remember, she isn’t a medical Dr, the information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site.