Try these 12 tips on how to conquer cravings if cravings are preventing you from achieving your health goals. The answer is not just in food solutions, but in lifestyle modifications. And don't think you are alone in this quest. 90% of people report experiencing food cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. Here's what to do when the cravings attack so you can fight back.
Cravings are the main reason adopting and sticking to a healthy lifestyle get derailed. Studies show also that cravings may be gender specific. Women tend to crave more sweet foods and men more savory foods. Women also experience cravings up to twice as often as me. Try these tips to beat your cravings.
1. Drink Water
What seems like a craving could be dehydration. Check your water intake for the day and drink water before you eat food. Aim for half your body weight a day in ounces of water. And if you've sweated a lot, be sure to include electrolytes in your water to replenish critical minerals.
When cravings hit, get outside for a walk and get some fresh air. If the weather is bad, do laps in your house, turn on music and dance, turn on a fitness video, do jumping jacks or pushups. Just get your body and blood moving.
3. Check Your Sleep
It may not be lack of willpower, but lack of sleep creating your cravings. Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep messes with your hormones. The hormones ghrelin and leptin drive your hunger and fullness signals. Studies show you need between 7-9 hours per night. How to improve your sleep?
- Got to bed at the same time each night
- Set your room to be dark and cool
- Use a sleep mask and ear plugs to block light and sound
- Put away all screens 1 hour before bed so your mind can shut down
- Try a tool like an Oura Ring. It provides amazing information on your sleep and how to improve it (I wear one)
- Stop late night snacking
- Research a natural sleep aid supplement
4. Reduce stress
Studies show that stress has a significant effect on food cravings. Try these ways to de-stress:
- Prayer and meditation
- Use an app like Calm, Headspace, Relax Melodies or Nature Sounds
- Call a friend for social support
- Consider a natural stress-reducing herb like Ashwaghanda
- Get outside for some fresh air
5. Break Your Routine
Bad habits die hard. If your afternoon break is all about cookies, chips or that fancy sugary whipped cream filled coffee drink, change it up for something healthier and start a new habit.
6. Eat Some Protein
Protein is satisfying and suppresses hunger. Grab a hard-boiled egg, a small cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt. Try a handful of almonds, walnuts or cashews. Also good are toasted pumpkin seeds (here is my recipe). They are addictive in a good way and good for you.
7. Toss Foods That Sabotage You
Toss anything with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, junk or processed food. The food industry purposely engineers junk and processed food to be addictive so that you crave them. They don't care about your health, only their profits. Never buy them again lest you be tempted. When you think about them, think about the damage they cause. See them with a skull and cross bones.
8. Consider Supplementation
How to conquer food cravings? One line of thought is that might be the sign of a nutritional deficiency. Consider taking a multi-vitamin to fill in any gaps, and consider a multi-mineral blend too. Calcium, zinc, chromium, and magnesium deficiency can express themselves as sugar cravings.
Dr. Daniel Amen writes that N-acetylcysteine (NAC), alpha-lipoic (ALA) acid, chromium, dl-phenylalanine, and l-glutamine are 5 natural supplements with good scientific evidence showing they can help take the edge off cravings.
And be sure you take an Omega-3 fish oil supplement daily as it's good for your brain and beating your cravings. Be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner before adding supplements. Many doctors are not trained in supplementation (so don't believe in them). Do some research for yourself then talk with a Functional Medicine, Alternative Medicine or Naturopathic physician to see if supplements will help you.
9. Stop Skipping Meals
If you skip meals then get overly hungry, you're putting yourself at risk for making bad food choices and giving in to cravings. Get protein with each meal, prep ahead and plan ahead so you have balanced and satisfying meals and good things to reach for.
10. Avoid Trigger Places
You undoubtedly know the smell of Cinnabon in an airport. Don't tempt yourself. Be strong, exercise willpower, and don't give in or place yourself in harms way. Avoid trigger place or events. Don't walk by the bakery if pastries and cookies are your weakness.
11. Distract Yourself
When cravings hit, take a shower, get outside, take a walk, move to different room, talk with a friend, pray or meditate, get busy in the kitchen or garage. Do something to change your focus.
12. Eat Slow Carb Not No Carb
Focus on eating lots of veggies and low-sugar fruits, whole grains and beans, and skip refined carbs like pasta, crackers, bread and the like.
Bonus! 12 More Tips on How to Conquer Your Food Cravings
- Sniff some peppermint oil. This report states that the scent of peppermint can be used as an effective replacement decreasing appetite and hunger cravings (plus it is energizing).
- Eat a naturally sweet food like strawberries or a sweet apple, carrots, whipped sweet potato or winter squash.
- Enjoy a tablespoon of healthy fat such as a nut butter or coconut butter.
- Eat half an orange with the fiber (don't drink the juice). You get a sweetness boost and the fiber in the whole fruit slows absorption of the natural sugar.
- Consume a small piece of dark, bittersweet chocolate. Make strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate.
- Eat 1 pitted date. Dates are very sweet and highly nutritious and provide fiber and minerals.
- Make a small berry based smoothie with protein and almond or oat milk, add half a frozen banana and some warm spices.
- Sip herbal or floral teas like elderberry or peppermint tea.
- Beat soda cravings with sparkling water, adding cola stevia drops and a little lemon or vanilla
- Get more fiber at meals keeps you full and satisfied plus it's critical for a healthy gut
- Sip a mug of warm bone broth or my Instant Pot broth, providing calming minerals like glycine and magnesium
- Swap potato chips for air-popped popcorn or kernels popped in coconut oil tossed with nutritional yeast and spices over the top. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor, is vegan and gluten-free. Here is my recipe.
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