Food cravings refer to the strong desire or urge to eat a particular food, often high in sugar, fat, or salt.
Although the exact reasons for food cravings are not fully known, they are typically a natural part of human behavior and are not necessarily worrisome.
However, if your cravings are hindering your weight loss efforts, there are some strategies you can implement to control them and achieve your weight loss goals.
Consider the following tips to help you manage your cravings and stay on track with your weight loss journey.
1. Keep Your Stress Levels In Check
If you’ve been extra stressed lately, that could explain a sudden increase in cravings. Stress and junk food go hand in hand, and one way to get those sugary foods off your mind is by simply calming your nerves. Since studies have shown increased stress can make you want sweet food in particular (and lots of it!), lowering your stress levels with methods like meditation and exercise can help get your eating patterns back on track.
2. Eat Breakfast
If you typically skip breakfast, here’s a reason to make it the most important meal of the day again: According to one study, making that first meal a priority decreased both sweet and savory cravings later on. And if you want to really show your sweet tooth who’s boss, make it a high-protein meal by including foods like oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, or tofu, which made it even easier to stay satisfied until the next meal.
3. Increase Your Protein Intake
Speaking of protein, breakfast isn’t the only meal to focus on. Multiple studies have shown increasing your intake is great news for fighting off cravings, but one in particular found that increasing your protein intake to 25 percent of your daily calories could reduce cravings by 60 percent, helping you avoid thinking about food throughout the day and even fight off the urge to eat a late-night snack.
4. Exercise Regularly
If you already exercise regularly, keep up the good work. And if you don’t, here’s a good reason to make it part of your daily routine: In a 2016 study, researchers found those who exercised often had more self-control than those who didn’t, making them better able to avoid giving in to their cravings. And the best part? The more they exercised, the more their self-control increased—and that benefit lasted the entire time they kept up their workout regimen.
5. Have A Little Dark Chocolate
If you need something sweet and are simply trying to figure out the best option to satisfy your craving, go for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate: Not only is the variety made with 70 percent cacao or higher a powerful source of body-protecting antioxidants, but eating it made one group of study participants less inclined to indulge in sweet, salty, or fatty foods later on.
6. Chew Gum
Popping a piece of sweet gum in your mouth when you start thinking about ice cream could do you some favors: A 2011 study found chewing it for at least 45 minutes can significantly suppress your cravings. When you do grab a pack, just be sure to choose the sugarless variety to keep your teeth healthy, says the American Dental Association.
7. Eat Dessert With Breakfast
Eating dessert might be what you’re trying to avoid doing in the first place, but one study found those who ate a protein-filled, 600-calorie breakfast with 60 grams of carbs that included a small treat actually lost more weight than the other participants in the study who ate a 304 calorie, low-carb diet. How’s that possible? Well, those who started their day with dessert felt less hungry and reported fewer cravings throughout the day, which made able to stick to their diets better than the other group.
8. Get Some Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done—there are a countless number of Netflix shows to binge, after all. But when it comes to beating cravings, it’s probably the most effortless tactic. One study showed being sleep deprived makes you more likely to crave junk food, and catching a proper amount of zzzs will ensure you have a little more self-control.
9. Reward Yourself
When you were a kid, your parents might have given you a treat for being good—and that doesn’t have to stop as an adult. One study found that rewarding yourself after resisting the temptation to give in to a craving can actually make you have better self-control in the future because you’ll look back at those moments you resisted and be proud of yourself. Whether that’s treating yourself to a movie night at the theater or a new fitness gadget, you’ll be more likely to continue with a good habit when you get something in return.
10. Tap Your Forehead
It might sound silly, but one study says you could actually tap your cravings goodbye. When participants were asked to either tap their forehead, tap their toe on the floor, or stare at a blank wall when they craved a certain food, the intensity of their cravings reduced drastically in each scenario—but the whole forehead-tapping thing came out on top as the most successful option.
11. Snack On Walnuts
Walnuts aren’t just a great way to get in your omega-3s—in a recent study, they also promoted feelings of fullness, controlled appetite, and helped the participants deal with their cravings. In the experiment, they drank daily smoothies that each contained 48 grams of walnuts, but instead of drinking your calories, pop some in a baggie and carry them around for when you get hungry throughout the day.
12. Think About Long Term Consequences
When you’re thinking about pizza, your mind is focused on one thing and one thing only: getting that pizza in your belly. But according to researchers, thinking about the long-term consequences opposed to just the immediate satisfaction can actually help diminish those cravings. If you know you’ll be lying on the couch in pain after devouring three greasy slices and really think about that outcome, you’re less likely to want to indulge.
13. Limit High-Glycemic Index Foods
Obviously high-glycemic foods like sugar, white potatoes, white bread, and white rice are delicious, but when it comes to controlling cravings, one study showed it’s best to avoid them. (Yep, that means French fries, too.) Researchers found high-glycemic foods are easier to overeat and might trigger the same brain mechanism tied to addiction, making your body crave those foods. Luckily, it’s easy to reverse the urges by limiting those foods and eating healthier options instead, like brown rice and plenty of green veggies. (And sweet potato fries, because a life without fries is no life at all.）