Food cravings are hard to resist. Maybe you’re feigning for a slice of pizza, or lusting over a glazed donut. In moderation, these foods won’t do much harm. The real problem is when they become the norm! With these seven tips, you can learn how to beat cravings, once and for all.
1. Eat Fiber
Fiber is one of the best ways to combat cravings. This “good” carbohydrate isn’t digested by the body, so it increases satiety and reduces hunger. The outcome? Better appetite control and less cravings.
Most Americans only get 15 grams each day, even though the daily recommendation is 20 to 30 grams. Only 5 percent of the country eats enough!1 To eat more fiber, reach for fresh fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Avoid constipation by increasing your intake slowly, and drink lots of water.
2. Eat Healthy Protein
Protein also keeps you full for a long time. It increases the “satiety hormone” called leptin, which tells the central nervous system that you’re not hungry anymore.2 In turn, cravings take a backseat.
But don’t just reach for any protein. Red meat is a rich source, but it’s also packed with saturated fat and lots of calories. Opt for healthy proteins like lean chicken, turkey, or fish. Non-meat sources include beans and nuts. By replacing red and processed meat with these choices, you’ll lower the risk for both chronic disease and cravings.3
3. Drink Water
Did you know that dehydration sometimes masks itself as hunger?4 It doesn’t help that dehydration lowers your liver’s glycogen, or glucose stores. This decreases blood glucose level and makes you feel hungry.5 The next time a craving pops up, reach for a glass of H2O. True hunger won’t go away after drinking up.
4. Limit Or Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
You might think that artificial sweeteners can please your sweet tooth. They’re sweeter than real sugar! For instance, saccharin (“Sweet’N Low”) is 300 times sweeter. Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is 600 times sweeter. If you’re trying to wean yourself off of sugar, artificial sweeteners may help. However, long-term use isn’t the best bet.6 They don’t activate the same taste pathway as real sugar, so sugar cravings are never met. It just builds up instead.7
To deal with a sugar craving, eat naturally sweet foods. Make ice cream out of frozen banana slices or add dates to a smoothie. It’s the perfect way eat a treat while avoiding added sugar.
Meditation controls stress, a state of mind that fuels appetite. It works by raising levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin.8 Additionally, stress hampers your ability to tell the difference between hunger and emotion, a major cause of behind stress-eating.9
With meditation, you better manage stress. The good news is that you don’t need to set aside a day or even an hour. A few minutes can promote mindfulness, awareness, and healthier food choices.10
6. Get Enough Sleep
We all know that sleep is needed for every cell. But did you know it affects ghrelin, too? Lack of sleep increases this hunger hormone, leading to cravings for fats and sweets.11 Essentially, your waistline and health depend on rest.
Listen to your internal body clock. When you’re tired, go to bed. Don’t stay awake by using electronics and artificial light. Adults should get 7 to 8 hours each night, but 1 in 3 get less than seven.1213 For the sake of food cravings, make sleep a priority.
7. Move Around
Combat cravings by staying active. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, a sedentary lifestyle is linked to a higher intake of fatty and sugary foods.14 After all, binge-watching Netflix doesn’t seem complete without treats and snacks.
Physical activity also helps out your hormones. In a 2009 study, researchers found that exercise decreases ghrelin, but increases appetite-reducing peptide YY.15 Goodbye, cravings!
Consider keeping a food log. Record your emotions, habits, and the food you eat during that time. This comparison can shed light on the causes of your cravings.
|↑1||Lambeau, Kellen V., and Johnson W. McRorie. “Fiber supplements and clinically proven health benefits: How to recognize and recommend an effective fiber therapy.” Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 29, no. 4 (2017): 216-223.|
|↑2||Weigle, David S., Patricia A. Breen, Colleen C. Matthys, Holly S. Callahan, Kaatje E. Meeuws, Verna R. Burden, and Jonathan Q. Purnell. “A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 82, no. 1 (2005): 41-48.|
|↑3||Protein. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑4||Mattes, Richard D. “Hunger and thirst: issues in measurement and prediction of eating and drinking.” Physiology & behavior 100, no. 1 (2010): 22-32.|
|↑5||Levchenko, K. P. “The effect of weight loss caused by tissue dehydration on changes in carbohydrate metabolism under physical load.” Ukrains’ kyi biokhimichnyi zhurnal 48, no. 1 (1976): 111-115.|
|↑6||Artificial Sweeteners. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑7||Frank, Guido KW, Tyson A. Oberndorfer, Alan N. Simmons, Martin P. Paulus, Julie L. Fudge, Tony T. Yang, and Walter H. Kaye. “Sucrose activates human taste pathways differently from artificial sweetener.” Neuroimage 39, no. 4 (2008): 1559-1569.|
|↑8||Meyer, Retsina M., Anthony Burgos-Robles, Elizabeth Liu, Susana S. Correia, and Ki A. Goosens. “A ghrelin-growth hormone axis drives stress-induced vulnerability to enhanced fear.” Molecular psychiatry 19, no. 12 (2014): 1284.|
|↑9||Daubenmier, Jennifer, Jean Kristeller, Frederick M. Hecht, Nicole Maninger, Margaret Kuwata, Kinnari Jhaveri, Robert H. Lustig, Margaret Kemeny, Lori Karan, and Elissa Epel. “Mindfulness intervention for stress eating to reduce cortisol and abdominal fat among overweight and obese women: an exploratory randomized controlled study.” Journal of obesity 2011 (2011).|
|↑10||Papies, Esther K., Martine van Winckel, and Mike Keesman. “Food-specific decentering experiences are associated with reduced food cravings in meditators: a preliminary investigation.” Mindfulness 7, no. 5 (2016): 1123-1131.|
|↑11||Broussard, Josiane L., Jennifer M. Kilkus, Fanny Delebecque, Varghese Abraham, Andrew Day, Harry R. Whitmore, and Esra Tasali. “Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction.” Obesity 24, no. 1 (2016): 132-138.|
|↑12||Getting Enough Sleep? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑13||How Much Sleep Is Enough? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑14||Leech, Rebecca M., Sarah A. McNaughton, and Anna Timperio. “The clustering of diet, physical activity and sedentary behavior in children and adolescents: a review.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 11, no. 1 (2014): 4.|
|↑15||Broom, David R., Rachel L. Batterham, James A. King, and David J. Stensel. “Influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY in healthy males.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 296, no. 1 (2009): R29-R35.|