So far in Slice’s Healthy Diet Bootcamp, we’ve showed you how to set specific diet goals, we explained the crucial role of healthy snacking, we defined what constitutes a healthy meal plan for fitness and weight loss and we considered meal timing and food combinations. This week — week 5 of 6! — it’s time to talk about cravings.
Healthy Diet Bootcamp, Week 5: How to Handle Cravings
Cravings. No matter how strong your resolve, you know you’ve got them. However much we try to resist, we often give in to our cravings for certain foods — typically, sugary foods. I always ask my clients what they are craving and no one ever tells me they are craving tuna or chicken breast; it’s always carbs. You might be thinking you crave more savoury foods, such as chips. Well, remember: Underneath that layer of salt is potato. A.k.a. carbs.
Is there something specific about carbs that make them irresistible? Maybe. We are somewhat hardwired to like sugar. Unlike other tastes, which are learned, we are born with a liking for all things sweet. Carbs also affect the brain’s serotonin levels, and serotonin produces a calming effect. Research has shown that humans have a specific taste receptor for sweets!!! (Cats, by comparison, can’t taste at all.)
So, is research saying that we’re destined to be a slave to our cravings? After all, we’re born wanting carbs — we have an innate preference for them and they calm us down when we are stressed. Even if that’s true — and I’m not saying it is! — the fact is, you don’t have to be a slave to your cravings. There is hope. Here are 7 tried and trusted tips, all of which have been proven to help keep cravings under control.
- Have breakfast, preferably one that includes protein. Research shows that people are less likely to succumb to cravings throughout the course of the day if they’ve eaten breakfast.
- Be a smart snacker. Don’t wait until you are starving to eat — have snacks. You might think that’s just more calories, but research has shown that snacks do not lead to overall greater consumption of calories, over simply, and solely, eating 3 square meals/day.
- Avoid mindless nibbling, which does nothing to satisfy cravings, and only adds to the calorie count.
- Keep healthy options convenient. Make it easier to grab a handful of blueberries than a cookie. Basically, any healthy snack or food that takes work/effort to prepare is well and fine, but is also likelier to sway you towards those cookies…
- Chew gum. Research shows that the sweetness and oral stimulation of chewing gum are sometimes enough to satisfy a craving; the action may even help you de-stress.
- Don’t deprive — downsize! If you try to restrict a craving by eating something else in a curbing attempt, odds are you will still crave the food you wanted in the first place, despite having consumed extra calories you didn’t even want. Instead of depriving yourself, downsize — simply, have a smaller amount than you would usually have.
- When you are hungry — Don’t eat sweets.
So, take these tips to task — or to town. Whichever works for you, as long as you give them a shot. Let us know in the Comments how this anti-craving advice worked out for you, and please share with us any cravings-beating advice of your own.
Next week: Staying motivated
Ps. Follow me on twitter @MariaNutrition for tips to help you stay on track, and post Comments or questions below!
Maria Thomas is a registered dietitian and owner of UrbanNutrition.com.