Can’t resist a mid-morning biscuit? Or a late-night chocolate fix? You’re not alone. We all know how easy it is to let food cravings ruin good eating habits, but fear not, there are actions you can take to prevent this. With expert help from dietitian Dr Helen Bond, we’ve got tips on how to curb cravings, beat those bad snacking habits and stay on track.
First, let’s find out what’s behind those cravings?
If you’re craving: Coffee and/or red meat
Then you might need: Iron
Try: Chickpeas or kidney beans, ostrich fillet, or a lean steak.
If you’re craving: Sugary fizzy drinks
Then you might need: A blood-glucose boost.
Try: Fruit juice, a dollop of Greek yoghurt with honey or a banana.
If you’re craving: Chocolate
Then you might need: Magnesium
Try: Seeds or legumes, Brazil nuts, leafy greens, wholegrains or salmon fillet.
If you’re craving: Fried potato chips or fast food
Then you might need: More healthy fats
Try: Flaxseeds, walnuts or avos.
Now, here’s how to curb cravings in just one week:
1. Eat decent sized meals
Hunger is often the reason we get cravings – it’s simple but true. Make sure you’re eating proper meals that are full of nutrients so you feel full. ‘Skipping meals is really not good for helping to curb your food cravings either’, explains Dr Bond.
2. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry
We know the feeling – trailing around the supermarket aisles with a rumbling stomach. Suddenly everything is appetising. Avoid this scenario and have a healthy bite before you hit the shops. Dr Bond also suggests sticking solely to your shopping list. ‘Remove the temptation of having easily accessible junk food in the cupboards. If you don’t have treats in the house, you won’t be able to eat them.’
3. Distract yourself
If you feel a craving coming on, distance yourself and do something that will take your mind off it – whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, having a relaxing bath or finally organising that kitchen drawer – anything that will shift your focus. ‘Picking at food or opening that bottle of wine is often just a habit,’ explains Dr Bond. ‘If you distract yourself well enough, you’ll find that your strong craving for comfort food and drink will soon go away.’
4. Get organised
Plan your meals for the coming week to help regulate food cravings and hunger pangs. If your meals are planned and thought out you are already setting yourself up with more of a structure and avoiding spontaneous splurges.
5. Get enough rest
‘The hormones ghrelin and leptin that control hunger and fullness are also influenced by how much sleep we get,’ explains Dr Bond. ‘If we don’t get enough sleep, our hormones are disrupted even more and it can lead to seriously strong cravings, so think, “Am I really craving that cupcake or did I just not get enough hours of sleep last night?”’
6. Bulk up on protein
Adding more protein, like nuts, soy or lean meat into your diet can reduce your appetite and keep you fuller for longer, meaning you’ll be less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack in the drawer.
7. Keep healthy food options close at hand
Whether it’s an apple in your handbag or frozen fruit in the freezer, it’s easier to stay away from naughty foods if you have got an easy, guilt-free fix nearby. However, Dr Bond explains how the odd treat now and again is totally necessary, so don’t beat yourself up or deprive yourself too much – you’ll only end up with more cravings.
8. And relax…
A hectic day at work, a relationship breakdown, or a tricky social situation can add to your daily stress and stress can often make us turn to food. It raises your blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that can affect weight gain. Take time each day to relax so you don’t get overwhelmed, but also take time to keep active. Dr Bond explains that exercise can keep you calmer and keep the weight off.
9. Stay hydrated
We often get hunger pangs confused with thirst. When you feel a craving creeping up, drink a glass of water and wait for the craving to pass.