Food cravings originate in the parts of the brain that manage feelings of pleasure and reward. There are a few different potential causes for a food craving to be triggered. The first is an imbalance of hormones, like serotonin or leptin, which can cause a craving. The absence of essential nutrients can also prompt the brain to crave certain foods.
The endorphins that are released into the body after you’ve eaten can also trigger a craving. Think about it, you literally feel good after eating certain foods. Cravings can then become emotionally driven, especially if you are eating for comfort.
So how can we conquer these cravings?
Don’t let yourself get hungry. Eating regularly reduces the risk of cravings, because your tummy stays full, and your body has the fuel it needs to function.
For some individuals, “eating regularly” means 3 larger meals and 2 snacks, for others it may mean eating every 2-3 hours. Find what works best for your blood sugar. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, as well. This not only keeps your metabolism running at top speed, but also helps you feel full.
The first meal of the day has an especially strong impact on your metabolism and blood sugar. Eating within 2 hours of waking helps set the stage for stable blood sugar all day. With a good breakfast, you are truly setting yourself up for all-day success.
This keeps your metabolism running, keeps blood sugar more stable, and prevents you from getting irritable due to hunger. Your meals should contain protein, good fats, and fiber. Good fats and fiber not only offer nutrients and health benefits of their own, they will also help regulate blood sugar and prevent hunger.
This tip is especially important for diabetics. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar will drop. As soon as you put the first bite of anything in your mouth, your sugar will rise. If what you put in your mouth contains sugar (real or artificial) your blood sugar will skyrocket. This can be very dangerous, and can have a lasting impact on your health.
Fill your fridge and pantry with nutritious, tasty foods. If you’ve identified some of the foods you crave on a regular basis, do not buy those foods at the store. If they aren’t easily accessible, you are less likely to give in to a craving. If you really want ice cream, but don’t have any in the freezer, it’s easier to settle for a bowl of Greek yogurt with fresh berries.
Replacing your cravings foods with food hacks is another great strategy.
If potato chips are a weakness for you, try replacing them with air-popped popcorn, almonds, or cashews. Sliced cucumber or zucchini are divine when dipped in hummus, pesto, even salsa. Yes chips taste good, but there are plenty of delicious, healthy alternatives.
Is that candy bar in the vending machine calling your name? Try a piece of whole fruits like an apple, peach, or melon slices to get your “sugar fix.” Fresh berries are a great low-glycemic sweet snack option, as well.
Craving an ice-cold glass of soda? Try sparkling water jazzed up with lime or lemon slices. It provides a similar fizz but has far less sugar and calories. Not sold on water? Check out these tips to help you guzzle more of the good stuff!
With some basic know-how, some food hack tips, and a little willpower, we can conquer food cravings, and focus on eating happy and living healthy!