Food cravings - no one is a stranger to these. Some cravings are telling your body what it may need, yet others are tempting you to give into junk-filled treats. If you've started a New Year's diet, then chances are you are getting a little annoyed with food cravings. Food cravings are what derail most people from their diets. They are one of the biggest reasons why people have trouble losing weight or keeping weight off. Fortunately there are steps you can take to control your food cravings before they control you.
Stay Hydrated with Water
Sometimes when we're thirsty we can confuse it with hunger. I tell my clients that when they experience a food craving, they should drink at least one glass of water and wait 15 minutes. They often tell me that their craving goes away within that 15 minutes. Filling your belly with water may also make you feel more satiated and can decrease your appetite. This can lead to better weight loss results if that's a goal of yours. I advise people to drink half their body weight in water per day. For example, if you are a woman who is 150 lbs., you will need to drink 75 oz. of water each day. The amount needed increases when you're overly active or are consuming common diuretics like coffee, soft drinks and alcohol.
Eat More Protein
I find that eating clean sources of protein can help reduce cravings and keep people satiated. Protein provides your body with essential building blocks. Starting your day with a high protein breakfast could reduce cravings for unhealthy foods later in the day. A recent study showed that people who increased their protein intake by 25% reduced their cravings for unhealthy foods and decreased their desire for snacking. I always advise my clients to eat protein for breakfast so that they are less likely to crave junk and give into those cravings. The sources of protein I recommend are organic and grass-fed meats, pastured poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish. There is no rule saying you cannot have steak for breakfast. So forget what you've been conditioned to believe about breakfast foods and replace your nutrient-depleted Danish with some meat and vegetables.
Eat More Fiber
Filling up on fiber from colorful fruits and vegetables will help crowd out the unhealthy foods that you're craving. Plus colorful fruits and veggies are packed full of nutrients. Often times when we have a craving, it's our body's way of telling us we need a certain nutrient. For example, people who experience intense cravings for chocolate are often in need of magnesium. Some of the high fiber foods I recommend are broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, pears, apples, and raspberries.
Plan Out Your Meals
When you plan out your meals and prep them in advance, you're more likely to stick with what you've planned to eat. Cravings often occur because of hunger or a lack of planning. Knowing what you're going to eat next eliminates the uncertainty factor when it comes to food. For example, if you know that you're going to eat salmon with grilled vegetables for dinner, you'll be less likely to indulge in a bag of chips mid-afternoon. I like to set a time or two during the week to plan my meals and prep them in advance. I often tell my clients to take some time on a Sunday to do this and replenish supplies on Wednesday evening if needed. I've been doing this for nearly a decade and it has helped me out so much.
Don't Shop Hungry
I know you're familiar with those temptations that line the grocery store checkout lanes. Those treats are there because grocers are trying to get you to cave into your cravings and spend more money at their stores. Yes, it's a dirty trick, but it can be avoided. If you eat healthy foods before you go shopping, you'll feel satiated and won't need to buy impulse items at the checkout. So always do your grocery shopping after you've recently eaten, and never ever shop hungry.
Get Plenty of Sleep
You may be scratching your head wondering what quality sleep has to do with controlling food cravings. But there's a big connection. Your appetite is actually influenced by the hunger hormone ghrelin. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts ghrelin levels making you think you're hungrier than you really are. Plus, one study showed that those who were sleep deprived were more likely to reach for unhealthy foods when a craving struck them. People who are constantly sleep deprived are more likely to be overweight or obese thanks to ghrelin disregulation. So do yourself a favor and get at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night.
Keep Junk Food Out of Your House
Keeping unhealthy foods out of sight and thus out of mind may seem like the biggest no brainer when it comes to avoiding food cravings. But you'd be surprised how many people keep junk in their fridges and pantries. I know a few moms who keep treats around for their children. However, when they're craving something sweet and have nothing of their own to give into, they'll reach for their children's treats. Guess what! Your children are not dogs. They do not need to be rewarded with treats. In fact, they'll probably be better off in the long run if you're not letting them associate food with rewards. Plus, it's okay to say no to your kids every once in a while. I promise. They won't love you any less. Keep their unhealthy foods out of your house as well if you find that those foods are too tempting for you.
What strategies have you found to be helpful in controlling food cravings? Let me know! I want to hear from you.