You are a hardworking person who gets up early, works a full day, exercises, and takes care of the kids at night. Life sure is easy, right? Riiiight… Something is already telling me you could use some tips to manage cravings during your weakest hours.
OK, maybe your story is a little different, but most likely you are living a busy life, full of stress, anxiety, and deadlines. While you sit at your desk or drive your car, your daydreams shift to thoughts of salty chips or a smooth, sweet chocolate bar. You most likely are not thinking about healthy foods.
Don’t fret, it’s perfectly normal to have food cravings. When you constantly give in to your cravings and overindulge, is when you pay the price. Go ahead and accept your cravings as part of life, but also be aware that you can take action to prevent going overboard.
Why Do We Have Cravings?
There are a number of reasons that people develop cravings throughout the day. Women tend to develop more cravings more often due to their wide range of hormonal swings caused by female physiology, but men get cravings too… we just don’t talk about it as much. In fact, 91% of women interviewed in a 2007 Tufts University study reported craving certain foods from time to time.
Common reasons for food cravings:
- Hormonal changes, fluctuations, or surges.
- Low blood sugar, caused by eating too infrequently.
- The body’s caloric requirements exceed the number of calories that have been consumed.
- Emotional triggers such as certain music, people, situations, or feelings.
- Stress and anxiety triggers cause some to eat their favorite comfort food.
- Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.
- Nutritional deficiencies in the diet cause cravings for the missing nutrients.
- Pregnant women are influenced by the above factors multiplied by two.
How to Beat the Cravings
Your best bet is not to fight your cravings, it’s to use these tips to manage cravings to simply do that – manage your cravings more effectively. What you should do, is assess your craving and determine if it is caused by a nutritional need; either more calories or a certain vitamin or mineral.
These types of cravings are great because you can satisfy your craving while also helping your body at the same time. Often you can pinpoint a nutritional reason for craving an unhealthy food, and find a healthy alternative that has a high concentration of that nutrient.
For example, if you are craving sodium you might feel like you need to eat a bag of chips. Instead, try indulging in a serving of lightly salted nuts, or go ahead and devour a small bag of beef jerky.
To suppress the cravings you are going to have a accept them as normal, but you don’t have to give in completely to everyone. Those of us who maintain a healthy weight have learned how to manage our cravings by satisfying basic needs through moderation. To deny 100% of all your cravings will most likely lead to catastrophic binging.
10 Tips to Manage Food Cravings
1. Eat Consistently
To manage your blood sugar and appetite, be sure to eat 5-6 small meals or snacks every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks on hand at all times. Sometimes it’s not feasible to eat every 2-3 hours. In this case, see my notes below about Intermittent Fasting.
Some healthy snack ideas include:
- Protein Shake or Protein Bar
- Skim Milk
- Beef Jerky
- Low Sodium V8
- Whole Grain Crackers
Your other option here would be to adopt consistent Intermittent Fasting (IF) protocols. Eating consistently while following IF means you stick to your fasting window, whether 12, 16, or 20 hours, and then indulge in your cravings during the feeding window. This requires much more discipline than eating every 2 hours but you learn to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable (hunger) and you evolve your understanding of what it means to feel ‘hungry’ or ‘starving’.
2. Drink a Gallon of Water
You will be able to keep your appetite at bay by drinking water all day long. Water also has a weird way of killing cravings.
If tap water is gross to you and you don’t want to buy bottled water, consider a small Brita water filter and consider doctoring your water with a flavor mix such as MiO Vitamins with added vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
3. Eat a Dill Pickle
When I was 17 I asked a bodybuilder named Ted how he keeps from eating junk all day long. He tells me that the smell of dill pickles curbs his cravings for anything sweet or salty. So I ask him if he sniffs a pickle when he gets hungry. He replies to me, “No. I eat the pickle.“
4. Postpone Your Treat
When the craving hits you, you can set a goal and make that craving a reward for accomplishing your goal. It can be something as easy as waiting 1 day. “If I can resist my craving for 24 hours, I will reward myself with a small serving.”
By delaying the craving, sometimes it will go away entirely and you can skip the cheat altogether. Or perhaps you’re practicing Intermittent Fasting, in which case you can have your treat at night after a healthy protein-packed break-fast meal (not necessarily ‘breakfast’).
5. Observe Moderation
Whatever it is that you are craving, eat it. But only eat a small portion. Recognize before you even take your first bite that you have to stop after half a serving or so. Basically, if you are craving chocolate, just eat half the bar instead of the whole thing.
One trick you can try is to put whatever you are eating into a small bowl, cup, or plastic bag. This will keep you from eating a whole box of Cheese-Its in one sitting. I have used this tip to great success all throughout my 20s.
6. Remember, Snacking is Not Always so Bad
Most diet plans and even the USDA say that snacking is not always bad. You should be allowed 200-300 calories a day to eat whatever you want. This is not an invitation to suck down 50 grams of sugar all in one shot, but it should provide enough flexibility to eat that half bar of chocolate, one slice of pizza, a small bag of Sun Chips, or whatever it is that you are pining for.
7. Supplement with Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
This will keep your body from randomly craving certain nutrients that can sometimes be found in foods that are not good for us. Chocolate is famous for this.
We mentioned the MiO Vitamin water enhancers earlier as well. MiO has the added benefit of making water more palatable, and adding vitamins to your diet, as well as some MiOs include electrolytes, which is a perfect combination for sipping during exercise.
Vitamins & Minerals
I recommend you try a product called Centrum Adult.
You can get a Men’s and/or Women’s formulation in order to better target nutrition to your body type. Designed in a tablet formula that is easy to swallow and fast-absorbing, Centrum Adult features premium ingredients from all 12 nutrient groups that your body needs to thrive.
- 200-count bottle of Centrum Adult Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement with Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, and Zinc, Vitamin D3 and B Vitamins
- Vitamins for women and men with iron, antioxidants, and B Vitamins for energy, metabolism, and immunity support (1)
- 23 micronutrients including Vitamin D3 to support bone health, B Vitamins for metabolism support, and antioxidants for immune support (1)
- Vitamin supplements with 100 percent or more of the daily value of iron, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin B12
Acai berries have far more antioxidants than any other fruit. Even more than blueberries! Besides that, the nutrients in acai help many other diseases and maladies, from diabetes to arthritis to blood clotting. Acai has great anti-aging benefits, will cleanse and detoxify you, and has destroyed cancer cells in recent studies. It really is a worthwhile antioxidant supplement to add to your daily nutrition.
Acai can also be a great weight loss aid. The berry’s natural concoction of essential fatty acids, fiber, phytosterols, and amino acids work together to help your body burn fat more efficiently, process food more quickly, and shed the unwanted pounds that you’d like to lose.
8. Find the Healthiest Form of Your Craving
If you crave chocolate, choose dark chocolate, which has a number of antioxidants. If you crave crackers, choose a dip that contains vegetables or olives. You might choose some nice frozen yogurt over ice cream, although frozen yogurt typically contains more sugar. Satiate your sweet tooth by topping something with honey.
9. Keep a Food Log
In my opinion, this is one of the better tips to manage cravings in this list. Keeping a food log, even for just a couple of weeks, will help you to understand important nutrition information about the food you normally eat. You will soon be able to apply what you learn about nutrition labels to your food choices moving forward and for the rest of your life.
Write down the names and quantities of each food you eat throughout the day. If you are really ambitious you can also write down the number of calories, protein, fats, carbs, sugar, etc… Whatever interests you most. You can also record your mood and daily activities for a more complete lifestyle analysis.
When it comes to combating cravings, there are two benefits to keeping a food log:
- You can check previous days for similar cravings and possibly figure out why you are craving a certain food. Analyzing such factors as hunger, boredom, stress, lack of fruit, and lack of veggies might indicate to you why you are feeling the craving.
- Reading back through all the instances where you indulged in your cravings might spur you to ignore it or postpone it this time. Remember that moderation is key.
10. Use Your Good Old-Fashioned Willpower
Seriously sometimes when it comes down to the final straw, you need to show your metal. If you are craving sweets and you see a big piece of cake, just say no. Utilizing all these tips will definitely help you, but you still need to display some sort of motivation to git ‘er done.
The idea is to live with your cravings and not let them control you but to also listen to your body and try to understand why you are experiencing cravings. These tips to manage cravings should help you save several hundred calories a week if you apply them to your daily diet strategy right away.