Cravings for unhealthy foods can be really annoying. They put a hunch to your weight loss goals, make you feel guilty about consuming unhealthy food, and usually seem to come out of nowhere. If you find yourself craving that donut or fried chicken from your favourite fast-food chain often, or even daily, don’t beat yourself up.
Almost everyone is affected by food cravings. In fact, most food manufacturers create foods with the goal of igniting a cycle of addiction among consumers. How else will they keep their business running over the years? For this purpose, they aim to achieve a bliss point in the products. This is the point where the eater experiences ultimate pleasure with just the perfect amount of salty, sweet, and fatty flavours – not too much or too little.
Your brain reacts to this combination of flavours similarly to cocaine and other drug addictions, making them particularly hard to resist.
Although it may seem impossible not to give in to these cravings at the moment, there are some things you can do to control your food cravings over time. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
An instant solution to prevent yourself from succumbing to your cravings is to reach for a tall glass of water. Our brain often confuses thirst for hunger or food cravings. So if you feel a sudden urge for a specific food, instead, drink a glass of water and wait for a few minutes.
It is likely that your craving will go away because your body was actually craving hydration. Even if it doesn’t go away, drinking a glass of water before eating can reduce your appetite and make you naturally eat less. If plain water feels too boring, take a glass of low-calorie beverage such as ice tea, or just add some lime, lemon, or cucumber to your water to add some exciting flavours to it.
Keep Your Trigger Foods Out of Sight
Most people are less likely to go hunting for specific foods when they’re experiencing an untimely hunger pang. But if you’re craving something and it is right in front of you, it will become almost inevitable to succumb to your cravings. So if you’re aware that bagels are your weakness or that you can’t avoid chicken nuggets, it is better to keep them away from your home. If it’s too much to cut these foods out of your diet completely, try to at least keep them at a place that is relatively hard to reach.
Never Skip Meals
You are more likely to experience food cravings if you’re hungry. And you’re also more likely to give in to those cravings if your stomach is growling. However, if you make sure to consume your regular meals on time, your chances of feeling untimely hungry will reduce significantly. Skipping on breakfast is one of the significant reasons you crave unhealthy foods during the day.
So start your day with a healthy breakfast, follow it up with a nutritious lunch and dinner, and throw in a few snacks if necessary – as long as they’re healthy and don’t exceed your daily calorie requirement.
Increase Your Protein Intake
Protein is known to keep you fuller for longer, which can help reduce your appetite and prevent you from overeating. Since it keeps you satiated for longer, it can also help reduce unhealthy cravings. A study in overweight men showed that increasing protein intake to 25% of the calories reduced cravings up to 60%. It also resulted in a decreased desire for a midnight snack by up to 50%.
Consume Healthy Fats
The biggest fitness myth people still believe that fat is bad. The truth is that your body needs fats to perform optimally. The problem occurs when people consume a large amount of unhealthy fats. The fat you find in most unhealthy fats is trans or saturated fat. Trans fat provides absolutely no benefit and should be avoided as much as possible.
While saturated fat is healthy in low doses, consuming too much of it can lead to health issues. However, healthy fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – can help you feel fuller for longer and reduce cravings. A handful of nuts or half an avocado can provide you with enough healthy fats.
Learn to Manage Your Stress Better
Stress is another one of the major reasons you crave unhealthy food. In addition to that, when you’re stressed, you’re likely to consume a large amount of the food you’re craving. Try keeping the stress in your environment to the minimum by meditating, planning ahead, and generally slowing down.
If nothing works, consider seeing a therapist. If your stress is causing you to consume an excessive amount of calories, it may also be a good idea to consult a dietician nutritionist for yourself.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
Do you ever feel that you want something more when you’re told you can’t have it? Even if you didn’t want it initially, the forbiddance could make it seem more alluring. Food cravings can work the same way. When you restrict yourself from consuming certain foods, the more appealing those particular foods will become. Instead of deciding that a certain food is completely off the cards, tell yourself that you’ll have it later.
This way, you trick your brain into believing that you’re still going to eat what you are craving. By the time later comes, your cravings will most likely have passed. And if it doesn’t, you can give into it once in a while. Just make sure not to do it too often. Indulging in your cravings 2 to 3 times a month won’t do much harm if you’re otherwise following a healthy diet and lifestyle.
So next time you feel the urge to eat a specific food, drink a glass of water instead. Meanwhile, try implementing these tips into your lifestyle to reduce your cravings over time.