by Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE
You’re working so hard to eat a little better. Smaller portions. More fruits and veggies. But there are times when you are just craving something specific to eat. Usually it’s something sweet or salty. Your inner voices are driving you crazy taunting you with “Go ahead, you can have it….” or “It’s just this one time…” Sure, we know that allowing treats now and then is fine.. but we also know there are times when the “occasional’ treats become a daily (hourly?) thing!
What can you do to calm the cravings? How can you feel in control and not let yourself give in when you don’t want to? Review these 10 tips and plan to try those you think might work bests for you. Also, check out our list of “Better Bites” for those who crave salty or sweet treats!
- Know your “PMR”– Everyone needs to identify their own PMR – a Personal Motivating Reason why you want to be healthier, eat better and lose weight. It might be so you can drop to the floor (and get up again) with more ease when playing with your grandchildren or your dog. It might be so you can take that walking vacation you’ve been dreaming of with friends without being the first to call it quits. Write it down. You don’t need to share it with others, but you may need to remind yourself of why you’re working so hard! People who hold health goals that are personally important are more likely to keep them!
- Resist and reward – It’s easier than you think. When a food seems to be calling to you, acknowledge the temptation and turn your back on it. Distract yourself by taking a walk, picking up a book, writing an email or just entering into your journal a congratulatory note to yourself. Most people find that “mind over matter” really does work. Then, give yourself a pat on your back for your accomplishment. It may take a little while to lessen some cravings, but you can train yourself out of them!
- Eat meals and snacks on time – Start the day off right with a breakfast that includes some protein (such as an egg, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt). Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time so you won’t be left wondering what’s to eat.
- Avoid hunger – Especially avoid going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. It’s so easy to pick up a bag of chip or chocolate – as no one will know except for you. Shop after you’ve eaten, but if that can’t be helped, put an item on your list that you can eat right away when you get in the car that you’ll feel good about such as a banana or a small granola bar.
- Limit exposures to food – Keep tempting foods out of sight and keep the better-choices within easy reach. Consider recording your favorite TV shows and fast-forward through commercials if they serve as a trigger for you to eat.
- Eat enough protein and fiber – With more fiber (veggies, fruits, whole grains) and protein in your diet, you’ll feel fuller and be less tempted by cravings
- Get enough sleep – It’s true. Poor sleep habits can disrupt normal fluctuations of appetite hormones leading to cravings and poor appetite control
- Drink water – Sometimes cravings for food are confused with hunger or thirst. If you’re thinking about eating something you’re trying to avoid, start with a big glass of cold water or a cup of herbal tea.
- Be realistic – Remember the 80/ 20 rule. Healthy foods at least 80% of the time, but allow room for treats to fit in. Buy the tempting foods you crave in small serving sizes to reduce temptation to overeat.
- Be prepared – If there is a particular food you crave, make your own list of “better bites” to be prepared as a substitute. If you find yourself craving ice cream, instead of eating out of the gallon container, find a lower calorie single-serve ice cream bar you can enjoy instead. Check out the list of suggestions to get you started below.
Control Your Cravings: Risky Business and Better Bites
Opening a bag of potato chips and munching through the whole bag.
Waiting in the check-out line and buying a full-size candy bar.
Create your own snack bags putting 10 chips in each. Keep them out of sight. Plan to have one a day at a certain time so you know you can look forward to it.
Buy a pack of gum or some breath mints. Avoid the lines that offer candy sales as you wait, as many stores now have kid-friendly lines that only offer healthy snack-foods, so grab a lower-calorie granola bar instead.
Salty snacks for less than 200 calories
Skinny pop popcorn (4 cups)
Whole grain crackers and hummus (2 Tbsp)
Salted nuts (1/4 cup) and fruit
Peanut butter (2 Tbsp) and wheat toast
Sweet snacks for less than 200 caloriesHershey’s Kisses (23 calories each)
Frozen Yogurt Popscicle
Hot chocolate packet (low calorie) and a cookie
Chocolate dipped fruit (banana or strawberries) 4