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Beating your food cravings could help you lose weight and steer clear of serious illnesses.
Why do we crave certain foods? It’s a commonly asked question and one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer. From satisfying a mood to beating hunger pangs, there are lots of reasons that we often have food cravings that we can’t seem to overcome without gorging on a treat.
A recent survey revealed that 76% of people around the world snack to beat hunger between meals or to satisfy a craving¹. Getting a strong appetite for certain foods isn’t something to feel guilty about, it’s something most of us have, but these tips could help you to beat them.
1. Find out what your body needs
When we have certain cravings, it can be because our bodies are deprived of certain proteins vitamins and minerals. It’s not always clear cut, and you might not crave exactly what your body needs. For example, you might yearn for cheese but actually need extra calcium. Finding out if you are deficient in any nutrients can help to pinpoint where your cravings are coming from so you can feed them with healthier options.
2. Swap your triggers
Research indicates that we crave what we eat². So if you often eat sugary foods, you’ll crave them more. If you often crave chocolate, sweets and cakes, try swapping them for natural sugars found in fresh and dried fruit; soon you will start to yearn for these healthy alternatives.
3. Drink water
Did you know that most of the time you think you’re hungry you’re actually thirsty? Keep up your intake and try drinking a glass of water before turning to your craving. Not only is it likely that you will no longer crave the food, but you will also feel more full, meaning you won’t eat as much of it should you choose to indulge.
4. Drink a coffee
Caffeine is known to suppress the appetite for short periods of time, so having a coffee when cravings hit can stop you reaching for your favourite food sin³. By opting for a latte, you could also beat hunger thanks to the extra protein from the milk. Remember to drink water with your coffee to avoid getting dehydrated, which could reverse the benefits of the caffeine.
5. Make sure you are getting enough sleep
When we are tired we often feel hungrier because the body turns to food for more energy. Try to get around eight hours of sleep a night to boost your energy levels. If you think tiredness is causing your craving and you’re in a position to do so, try having a short nap when a craving hits.
6. Find other pick-me-ups
Researchers at Yale University found that the foods we enjoy the most influence our levels of serotonin and endorphin, and our brains learn to recognise our favourite foods as mood enhancers⁴. 61% of Europeans choose to snack on chocolate and it’s likely that it’s down to the fact that eating a bar releases those hormones so we see it as a pick-me-up⁴. Exercise, laughter, the music you love and the scent of vanilla and lavender are all known to release these chemicals in the brain, too. Try going for a walk, indulging in a clip of stand-up comedy or lighting a vanilla or lavender candle to help curb your cravings.
7. Brush your teeth
As soon as we have a clean mouth, we don’t want to ruin it by eating. When you’re hankering for something unhealthy, try brushing your teeth to take your mind away from the food.
8. Try the 10-minute rule
Cravings are said to last 10 minutes, anything more than that is likely to be hunger². A 15-minute walk can burn off 100 calories, so try nipping out for a stroll for quarter of an hour and if you’re still hungry and hankering after a treat, have just 100 calories of what you fancy.
9. Win the supermarket battle
If it’s not in the house, you can’t have it and it’s easier to take your mind off something if it isn’t within reach. Take a list to the supermarket and stick to it to avoid reaching for what you’re craving. Rather than buying a whole pack of what you crave, try buying just one or a smaller amount. It might not seem cost-effective, but it will stop you from eating the lot and it might help you to cut down in the long term.
10. Let your imagination indulge
The brain is a powerful organ and it has the ability to totally transform how you see certain foods. It has been suggested that actively imagining eating the food you crave can curb your desire to eat it⁴. The science behind it is based on the idea that the tenth bite is never as satisfying as the first, so imagine tasting, chewing and swallowing the food you desire 30 times.
There is plenty of help available to help you change the way you eat. Speak to a dietary consultant to get a diet plan that suits you and your lifestyle.
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