A lot of people want to know how to stop food cravings in their life. Cravings for that seemingly naughty piece of food, whether a delightful piece of chocolate or a bag of potato chips, often feel irresistible. But it doesn’t have to feel that way at all. Let’s dive in and explore effective strategies and techniques on how to stop food cravings and regain control over your eating habits.
Understanding the Challenge of Food Cravings
Cravings can be a tough nut to crack, but before we delve into the solutions, let’s understand what they are and why they occur. These relentless desires for specific foods are a result of complex interactions between our brain, emotions, and diet.
Why does taming food cravings matter? Because of the impact on your health and well-being. Beyond that, the indulgence of unchecked cravings can lead to weight gain, unhealthy food choices, and a rollercoaster of energy levels. By learning how to manage those cravings, you’re not just saying no to a snack – you’re saying yes to a healthier you.
Picture this scene: you’re out with your family or friends and someone orders some french fries.
With the spuds fresh from the fryer the first thing you might notice is the smell. That hot oil, starchy goodness that only fried potatoes can bring.
Then you reach in and hear the crinkle of the paper lining the basket. You pick up a fry, still hot from the fryer, and take a bite. WOW. It’s just so good, right? And then you end up reaching for another. And then another handful. And then …
That basket is empty. You may not feel so great or might be uncomfortably full. You may even ask yourself, “Why did I eat all of those?!”
Well, it’s your biology. It’s the way humans are built. The way our chemicals and hormones work.
What is Behind Food Cravings
The Brain Connection
The neurological connection between our brain and our cravings, our brain’s reward system is at play here. Eating foods high in salt, sugar, and fat literally tricks the brain into craving even more of those foods. How? Well, when we eat these foods, a flood of dopamine, our body’s natural feel-good brain hormone, is released. When dopamine is released during an activity, we want to “do” it again.
And when a food combines all of these ingredients, salt, sugar, and fat—like fries—it’s a pleasure bomb! And yes… some fries have sugar on them. It’s called dextrose, added at the fry factory or in the restaurant’s seasoning. And that’s why we can’t seem to get enough.
Understanding this intricate dance can give us a leg up in curbing those cravings.
How do your feelings influence your food cravings? Seeing how our feelings influence our cravings is another important piece. Stress, boredom, sadness – emotions play a significant role in our craving game. Recognizing these triggers is one of the first steps towards mastering your cravings.
You can prevent emotional eating. Stress is a big contributor to cravings and one thing that can send us straight into the arms of comfort food. Learn effective stress management techniques to break the cycle.
Linking cravings to your diet choices is another important step on how to stop food cravings. Sometimes, your body craves what it needs. Craving salty foods might mean you’re low on certain minerals. Decoding these cues can help you make informed food choices.
Unveiling Common Culprits
Common craving are for sugar and salt. However, a lot of people are deficient in carbohydrates, water, or total calories. These may be driving you to crave certain foods.
Dealing with a sweet tooth is necessary. Sugar is sneaky – it’s in everything from cereal to ketchup. Click here to purchase my sugar renegade e-course. Here are some tactics to satisfy your sweet tooth without derailing your health goals.
- Cut a small piece of dessert like a 2×2 inch piece
- Reduce your dessert portions by half; after a little bit, you may not notice the size but still satisfy the sweet tooth
- No matter the amount of sugar called for in a recipe, cut it in half
Is that bag of chips totally irresistable? Often, it’s the salt we are seeking, but we need to manage our salt cravings. There are ways to find balance and keep your sodium levels in check.
- Take out a serving size of your salty snack of choice and then immediately putting the bag away for another day
- Allow yourself to order the salty side for a special occasion, not every time you eat out
- Promise yourself to not buy pre-made meals, like pizza, but to cook your meal at home instead
Carbs can provide quick energy, and your body knows it. We need to find balance with our carbohydrate intake. Let me tell you how to choose carbs wisely and prevent the carb-craving rollercoaster.
- Choose hearty and healthy carb sources like a sweet potato, avocado, or beans
- Look for “whole wheat flour” as the first ingredient of a whole grain product for the health benefits of vitamins and fiber
- Ditch the “low carb” mentality for a bit and see if you notice a difference with your cravings
How to Stop Food Cravings: Techniques and Strategies
Mindfulness isn’t just for meditation. It is a means to enhance awareness to counter cravings. By being fully present during meals, you can better understand your hunger cues and prevent overindulgence. For instance, stop eating with several bites left and take notice if you are truly satisfied with what you have eaten before you finish your entire meal.
Practicing mindful eating habits can be a big win with a little effort. Slow down and truly enjoy the flavors, textures, and aromas of your food. This practice can make a world of difference in how we perceive and respond to cravings. Maybe you start slowing down at the table by setting your fork down between one or a couple bites of food.
- Eat Balanced Meals
Balanced meals are your secret weapon against cravings. A balanced plate has a serving from every major food group, protein, dairy, fruit, non-starchy vegetables, and grains or starchy vegetables. Don’t forget to incorporate healthy fats, too.
Choosing more nutrient-rich food choices is extremely important for controlling cravings. Navigate your plate by including nutrient-dense choices, like a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and non-starchy vegetables for sustained satisfaction. More simply put, your plate can have a grilled chicken breast, roasted brussel sprouts with olive oil, and brown rice, for instance.
- Stay Hydrated
The role of water in controlling cravings is understated and unexplored by most. Dehydration can mimic hunger and trigger cravings. Staying hydrated can keep those cravings at bay. Everyone is different when it comes to fluid requirements, so speak to a Registered Dietitian and/or listen to your body.
- Plan Smart Snacks
Snacking isn’t the enemy. It’s all about choosing the right snacks that nourish your body and keep you on track. It is a good idea to have 2-3 major food groups and nutrient-dense food choices for snacks. Here are some healthy options when a craving hits: a piece of fruit with a string cheese, a piece of dark chocolate with almonds, or chocolate hummus with pretzels.
A well-stocked pantry is a secret weapon against cravings. Stock up on nutrient-dense options so you are prepared. Plus, it is easier to thrawt cravings for unhealthy options if they are not readily available. If you want my pantry stock guide, the must-haves for nutritious and satisfying meals, click here and provide your email for a free download.
- Distraction Techniques
Shift your focus away from cravings by redirecting your attention when a craving strikes. Engaging your mind with your to-do list, a walk, homework, or something you enjoy can often make those cravings fade into the background.
- Cognitive Behavioral Strategies
Re-wiring your craving responses is also an idea. You can retrain your brain’s automatic craving response by identifying patterns and practicing new behaviors. Take back control of your cravings by identifying your go-to food-of-choice, for instance.
- Food Substitutions
Craving pizza? burgers? nachos? There are healthier alternatives of your favorite foods out there to satisfy your cravings. Check out this RD site, this Chef’s site, or my recipe books to recreate favorite comfort foods using healthier ingredients without sacrificing flavor.
- Manage your portions
Maybe order a small fries instead of a large or maybe split the fries with a friend. Eat 2 slices of pizza versus 4 slices. Eat half the piece of cake. How might you take control?
Support Systems and Accountability
Controlling cravings is easier with a support network. Engage your loved ones or join an online community to share tips, triumphs, and setbacks. You can join my free Facebook community here!
Tracking your progress not only keeps tabs on your cravings but also allows you to see front and center your successes, which can be incredibly motivating. Track your cravings, note what worked and what didn’t, and celebrate your achievements along the way.
Every step forward is a victory. Celebrate your milestones, whether it’s a week without sugary snacks or choosing veggies over chips. Always acknowledge your accomplishments, no matter their size.
Using some or all the strategies and techniques put forward in this post will help you build a foundation. Now what? It’s about maintaining the habits you’ve cultivated, maintaining your new found control beyond the initial success. Stay mindful, stay resilient. Speak to a Registered Dietitian if you need – I’ve got you covered with a free discovery call.
Your journey to wellness is within reach. By understanding the science, practicing healthy eating habits, and adopting smart strategies, you will be equipped to conquer cravings and embark on a path to a healthier, more balanced life. Remember, you have the power to make choices that align with your well-being and aspirations.
If you want further resources about crushing your cravings, I have a Sugar Renegade e-course. This course is geared for overcoming added sugar intake and it’s cravings but the information can be applied to all types of cravings. Check it out here.