Food cravings are intense or uncontrollable desires for specific foods, stronger than normal hunger. Cravings are more common than you may think. In fact, more than 50% of people experience cravings on a regular basis.
The types of foods that people crave are highly variable, but often they are processed junk foods that are high in sugar. Food cravings play a major role in food addiction, binge eating and well as weight gain.
Cravings are also one of the biggest reasons why people get off track. Being aware of your cravings and their triggers makes them much easier to avoid. It also makes it a lot easier to eat healthy and lose weight.
Here are 9 simple ways to prevent or stop unhealthy food and sugar cravings.
1. Eat More Protein
Increasing protein intake may reduce cravings by up to 60% and cut the desire to snack at night by 50%. Eating protein also reduces cravings by helping you feel full and satiated for longer.
One study in overweight men showed that increasing protein to 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60% and the desire to snack at night by half. This may be mediated by an improvement in the function of dopamine, one of the main brain hormones involved in cravings
2. Eat Balanced Meals
Eating proper meals helps prevent hunger and cravings, while also ensuring that your body gets the nutrients it needs. Make sure all meals contain protein, fats and carbohydrates ideally that come from plant sources (vegetables as well as fruits). A balanced meal containing these three macronutrients would be about 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrate. But everyone’s body is different so figuring out your macronutrient ratios will be key to having your body feel balanced and full.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Your appetite is largely affected by hormones that fluctuate during the day. Sleep deprivation as well as poor sleep hygiene disrupts normal fluctuations in appetite hormones, specifically leptin and ghrelin, which leads to cravings and poor appetite control. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increases, causing you to eat more. Leptin, the appetite suppressant hormone, decreases, so you never feel fully satiated.
4. Drink Water
Often, many confuse thirst and hunger, studies have shown that 37% of people mistake hunger for thirst because thirst signals can be weak. Drinking water before meals may reduce cravings and appetite, as well as help with weight loss. Furthermore, drinking enough water has many other benefits too!
5. Avoid Getting Extremely Hungry
Hunger is a big reason for cravings. Avoid extreme hunger by always having a plan of when you are going to eat, avoiding long periods of not eating, and if needed, having a healthy snack ready.
6. Fight Stress
Being under stress may induce cravings, eating and weight gain. When you feel stressed, your body sends out cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Cortisol can make you crave sugary, salty, and fatty foods, because your brain thinks it needs fuel to fight whatever is causing the stress.
7. Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is about learning to recognize the difference between cravings and actual hunger, helping you choose your response. Try to eat and drink without distractions. You will be best off not eating while driving in the car, watching TV or answering emails. Instead focus on tasting the food you are eating and enjoying your meal. This will help secrete the correct hormones, so you feel satisfied and full. And, therefore will not need a snack later!
8. Distance Yourself From the Craving
Try to distance yourself from the craving by distracting yourself with an activity you find pleasurable and emotionally satisfying. Some ideas are: reading a book, calling a friend, going on a walk, getting your nails done, or taking a shower or warm bath. Find a way to be kind to yourself without sabotaging your goals.
9. Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals for the day or upcoming week eliminates spontaneity and uncertainty, both of which can cause cravings.