How to Reduce your Food Cravings
I used to suffer from really bad food cravings, I was addicted to sugar and didn’t realise that what I was eating was impacting my life so much. I was moody, tired, lacked focus and energy and my general mood was low. I was going through a massive change in my personal life and found myself a single mummy of three wee boys under 5. It was a scary time but I knew I had to keep strong and take care of my babies.
This was when I started focusing on my nutrition and how it was impacting my life and so much more than just my weight. I became so interested in my health and well-being I went on to study nutrition and sports nutrition. I implemented everything I learnt and I transformed my health. I am realistic in my approach and live a balanced life, I am not 100% good all the time and I certainly enjoy my treats and a vino or two.
Finding that balance has set me up for a life of healthy eating and no more yo yo dieting. I eat without the guilt and all the other emotions we feel while we follow horribly restrictive diets. It has been a really positive journey that I now feel so privileged to be helping lots of other people make some positive changes.
So, what can we do to reduce cravings? By adopting the following eight practices, you can reduce your cravings for sugar or other unhealthy foods and drinks.
1. Don’t skip meals.
It’s super important when it comes to eliminating cravings. When we skip meals, we may think we’re reducing our calories for the day. The problem with this is that by mid-afternoon, hunger hits with a vengeance, we give in to the temptation and then we get mad at ourselves for failing. This often leads to eating even MORE empty calories, more sugar, more processed food, because now we again feel we are starving and we’re stressed from failing. It’s easy to just start to shovel in the closest food you can find when you’re “starving.”
When you can spread out your meals as evenly as possible throughout the day, ensure that your meals are based on whole foods, and add a healthy snack when needed, your blood sugar is likely to be more stable. This mean no more energy crashes which result in a craving for sugar to get your energy level back up.
Often, sugar cravings are our body’s response to needing energy. By eating balanced meals throughout the day, our energy levels stay up, thereby reducing cravings.
2. Don’t bring temptation home
This sounds simple, but it’s oh so true.
If you want to make good choices, only keep good choices in the house. I like to keep the veggies and fruit at eye level and up front for my kids. When they see healthier choices first, they go for what’s within easy reach. Keeping washed, pre-cut veggies with a pre-made yummy dip means healthy snacks are all ready to eat.
Plus, if the junk food, sugary cereals, cookies, cakes, ice cream, crisps, etc., are not there, you can’t eat any, right? Stock your kitchen with whole foods that fill you up, satisfy your hunger and give your body the nutrients it needs. This greatly aids in the reduction of cravings, because you don’t feel so hungry.
3. Eat enough protein and healthy fat
The low-fat diet craze caused people to fear all sources of dietary fat, including the healthy fats that our bodies desperately need to function properly. Healthy fat is crucial to providing essential fatty acids, the absorption of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals and are a source of energising fuel. To make up for the lack of fat and taste in their products, the food companies added more SUGAR! Low fat foods are not very satiating, which leaves us hungry again a short time later. This leads to consuming more calories, which is not good if your goal is weight loss.
By eating more whole foods that are packed with the nutrients our bodies need, the less junk food we crave. Our bodies need real food – whole food in its natural state – to thrive. Providing our body with what it needs can reduce addictive cravings.
If eliminating junk food from your cupboards is a challenge for you because your children or spouse have snacks they “have to have,” try replacing one type of snack at a time. For example: Maybe instead of Doritos, which are full of artificial ingredients and MSG, transition to something like organic tortillas. Be sure you have a great fresh salsa or guacamole for the dip and serve with a plate of fresh cut veggies too! Starting with small changes and transitioning little by little can avoid a major mutiny. You don’t have to do a major overhaul all at once. This can take some time. It’s good to introduce new foods and see what everyone likes. You never know what may become a new favourite.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
Are you sure you’re getting enough sleep each night? And do you get quality sleep?
What does sleep have to do with healthy eating and achieving your ideal weight range? A lot!
Think about the difference of how your entire day goes when you wake up tired vs. how you feel and how your day goes after you get a full night’s rest. It’s typical that we make different food and activity choices throughout the day when we are rested and feel energetic compared to days when we are dragging.
Tiredness, stress and exhaustion all trigger food binges. When we’re tired, we get stressed more easily. Studies show how signals from the brain, which control appetite regulation, are impacted by sleep restriction. Our body craves more energy and we get more energy from food, so we end up eating more, and usually end up making less healthy choices.
5. Be a food label detective
We’ve been taught to look at the calories and fat content on labels, but not the actual INGREDIENTS. It’s shocking what our food is made up of these days. When we consume sugar, we CRAVE more sugar, so it’s important to know where it’s lurking.
To eat healthy food, you need to know what’s in it! That means you have to read the label! Sugar is often disguised under different names as well as being listed more than once under the different names.
Here are just a few of the names sugar goes by: high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, sucrose, dextrose, maltose.
Before you put something in your trolley, know what it is that are buying to eat. The front of the package is designed to be an advertising billboard to “sell” you the product and the food manufacturers know how to trick us! They know the buzz words that fool us, don’t they? Words like “healthy,” “natural,” “baked,” “whole grain”, etc. You might think baked would be healthier than fried, right.
IGNORE what the front of the package says and look at the list of ingredients. If it sounds like a science experiment full of names you can’t identify, put it back on the shelf.
6. First eat something healthy
Don’t tell yourself you can’t have something you feel you’re craving!
Instead, tell yourself, “I can have it, but first I’m going give my body something nutritious, such as a banana and a few nuts or a fresh salad with some protein.” This way, by the time you’re done with the healthier choice, you are way less likely be craving the sugar anymore and will skip it. Try it and see what happens. Some of my clients that try this are sceptical at first, but are pleasantly surprised to see how well it works.
Look at what some of your habits are and the food choices that go along with them. Do you pour yourself a cup of coffee and automatically reach for that biscuit? Do you nibble on a cookie before dinner to “hold you over” and then not feel so hungry when you sit down with your family? Does dessert automatically mean ice cream or cake?
7. Are you hungry for food or are you really craving something else?
What do you crave that’s not food?
Sometimes cravings are caused by things we feel are missing from our lives and food fills the void for us. We may be conscious of the void, or not. Stress, feeling bored or being lonely can do this as well. When you feel cravings coming on be real with yourself about whether it’s the food or something else. Get in touch with what you’re craving that’s not food and learn ways to nourish yourself without food.
Ask yourself if you’re REALLY hungry…or is it something else? If you just ate a meal an hour ago and felt satiated, maybe you aren’t really hungry. See if doing something else takes your mind off of mindless munching as a distraction. Boredom can be a big trigger for cravings.
I hope my top tips will help you reduce your cravings….