Tips to Help Control Food Cravings
Food cravings can be triggered by various things including low blood sugar, stress, and other emotional triggers. The best way to take control is to understand how to balance your meals and snacks to avoid the traps that trigger food cravings.
1. Do not skip meals. Eat three meals a day and include snacks when needed. Try not to let more than 5 hours go between meals and snacks. This will help keep your blood sugar stable and avoid getting to the place where you are extremely hungry. Low blood sugar and extreme hunger can be a dangerous combination and almost always leads to overeating. Plan ahead and keep healthy snacks around.
2. Include protein, fat, and carbohydrate at each meal and snack if possible. Instead of bringing an apple for a snack, try having half an apple with some peanut butter or a slice of cheese. This will help keep your blood sugar more level throughout the day.
3. Keep food records. Food records are invaluable to help identify your eating patterns. For example, you may experience sugar cravings every afternoon at 3 p.m. This could mean that you need to eat an appropriate snack at this time or it could mean that what you had for lunch may not have been the right choice. It also could indicate a high stress time for you where a quick break might be in order.
4. Avoid very low calorie diets. Eating less than 1200 calories a day will likely lead to food cravings because it is basically a starvation diet. There are few people who need to be on this low of a calorie level and studies show people who go on very low calorie diets have increased food cravings and can become preoccupied with food. If you are unsure what calorie level is right for you, contact a Registered Dietitian in your area by going to www.eatright.org/cgi/findanrd3.cgi or get a metabolism measurement. Go to www.healthetech.com to find out who can run a metabolism measurement for you in your area.
5. Include whole grain carbohydrate sources with each meal. The fiber content of these foods helps to keep blood sugar levels stable to avoid any blood sugar drops which can lead to food cravings. Look for
3 grams fiber or more per serving on the nutrition label.
6. Clean up your environment! Avoid keeping trigger foods in your house or office if possible. It will be hard to choose healthy snacks when a bag of chips and a package of cookies linger on your shelf. The less temptation you have, the better.
7. Don't be too rigid! Enjoy your favorite desserts and snacks once in a while. If you completely eliminate them, you will become focused on these foods and end up eating too much. Enjoy your favorite treats once in awhile.
Once you have the craving:
If you really crave a food (i.e. chocolate), you have two choices:
1. Allow yourself a small portion when you feel the craving (i.e. 2 Hershey kisses a day) or find a substitute (i.e. Swiss Miss sugar free hot chocolate or Chai tea).
2. Try to wait 15 minutes before giving in to a craving. Try to engage in another activity such as journaling, or taking a walk. Sometimes even a 5 minute distraction can help ward off the cravings.
If you do give into a craving and eat more than you would have liked, do not beat yourself up. Try to learn from the craving. What could you have done differently to have prevented the craving? Then- Let it go! We are all human. Guilt will only make things worse and we have to allow ourselves learning curves.
© Meri Raffetto, 2005
About the Author
Owner of Real Living Nutrition Services, Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian and a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She has developed online weight management programs that focus on a healthy, non-diet approach to weight loss. For more information or to sign up for our free newsletter, visit www.reallivingnutrition.com">http://www.reallivingnutrition.com.