I work from home. That means my kitchen pantry is always close by. It’s really hard to stop myself from grabbing an unhealthy snack just because it sounds good.
Why are food cravings so intense? You may think it’s your stomach that’s controlling your snacking desires. It’s actually your brain that triggers your need for high calorie and high fat treats.
There are two reasons you have food cravings. The first reason is you need a boost of energy. Your body craves carbohydrates, fat or sugar because it needs a burst of energy. Even though it would be better to eat foods with a higher nutritional value, we want those foods that only give us empty calories.
The second reason is you’re feeling miserable. You crave a certain type of food because it will make you happy.
The good news is you can conquer your food cravings. Here are 9 ways to fight back and make healthier food choices:
Know your triggers
Do you have cravings when you skip a meal? Do you get stressed and want comfort food? Are you bored? If you know when you crave those sugary or salty snacks, you can prevent the triggers. Make sure you eat regular, healthy meals throughout the day. When you start feeling stressed, take a few minutes to relax and unwind. If you’re bored, get up and take a walk or do a quick chore.
Buy small quantities
If you buy single serving snacks, it’s easier to stop when the package is empty. Stock up on small bags of chips, or even better yet, packages of crackers. Buy little packets of cookies. You are more likely to stop eating when you finish the smaller quantity.
Make a substitution
When you want chips or sweets, have fruit or veggies on hand. You can snack on a handful of grapes or baby carrots instead. Or, eat a handful of nuts or a few pretzels. Trust me, I know they don’t sound as satisfying as the junk food, but once you start eating you’ll feel satisfied – and you’ll feel better about your choice.
If you don’t have a healthy substitute available, distract yourself from the craving. Call a friend, listen to music, run an errand, do chores, meditate or exercise.
Let go of stress
Being anxious or stressed can be a huge trigger for cravings. If you can learn to handle stress, you can save yourself from eating potentially hundreds of extra calories a day. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your day can also help you manage stress.
Take a nap
Since cravings can become stronger when you’re tired, take a power nap. A quick 20 to 30-minute nap can help you feel rejuvenated and ready to take charge of your cravings.
Break a bad habit
You may have developed a habit of eating a treat at a certain time of day. If you eat a candy bar every day around 10am or grab a cappuccino on your way back from lunch, your brain will learn to expect it and crave it. You can break a bad craving habit. Substitute a healthier snack or distract yourself by changing your routine.
Eat with others
Eating with friends, family or coworkers, especially those who support your healthy eating goals, can give you the added power you need to curb your cravings. You are more likely to make better food choices.
Give in a little
If you really enjoy having a bite-sized piece of chocolate or a handful of potato chips every once in a while, let yourself indulge on your terms. Just remember to eat a moderate amount so that you don’t end up feeling guilty about it later.
If all else fails, keep chewing gum on hand and pop it in your mouth when a craving strikes. It gives you a burst of flavor and keeps your mouth occupied!