January is the perfect time to renew your passion for healthy eating. If you’re trying to eat more healthfully but find yourself dreaming of donuts and potato chips, you’re not alone.
You might have heard that you crave foods that your body needs, but it doesn’t work that way! If it did, we’d all be craving vegetables and fruit – ‘cause most of us don’t get nearly enough!
Cravings are more about brain chemistry and the psychology of pleasure and reward.
You may be feeling cravings because you’re not eating enough food, not eating the right foods to help keep you satisfied, eating foods that trigger cravings (e.g. highly processed, sugary treats), or you could be depriving yourself of your favourite foods. Or maybe, you just really like the taste.
So, what to do?
The bigger picture here is to enjoy a healthy relationship with all foods and to skip restrictive dieting. That can take time to nurture and is a big topic for another day (or several!).
For the here and now, try these five easy (but really effective) ways to help crush food cravings:
1. Make time for meals.
Waiting too long between meals can set you up for cravings. When you skip a meal and get so hungry that your body is screaming for food, usually it’s not looking for lettuce. Instead, plan to eat balanced meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you’re hungry between meals, eating small, nutrient-rich snacks (not treats!) can help keep those cravings at bay. Choose snacks that give you some quality carbs, a bit of healthy fat, fibre and protein for staying power.
Foods that make my A-list for snacking:
Whole grain crackers (e.g. Triscuits)
Greek yogurt, hard cheese, cottage cheese
Edamame, pulses (fresh and roasted, e.g. chickpeas, lentils, broad beans)
Nuts, seeds and nut butters
A nourishing snack can help you to manage your appetite so that when it comes to meals, you can eat enough to be satisfied, not stuffed.
2. Put protein on your plate (3 times a day).
Most of us load up on protein at dinner, but a better plan is to spread your protein intake out over the day.
Eating about 30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner can help build and maintain muscle (along with exercise of course). And because protein delivers long-lasting satisfaction, it can help you control your appetite and manage the munchies.
Foods that are particularly packed with protein include eggs, nuts, seeds, pulses, lean meat (e.g. lean beef, turkey), fish, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and hard cheese.
3. Fill up with fibre.
Eating a good amount of fibre with your meals and snacks might help keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Fibre can slow the emptying of your stomach, which in turn impacts hunger/fullness hormones. That means you will be more likely to make it to your next meal without feeling hungry.
Fibre-rich foods tend to be lower in calories too, so you can fill your plate for fewer calories. Just seeing your plate filled up with might actually help you to feel satisfied. Neat!
So, go for more vegetables, pulses, whole grains (e.g. oats and barley) and fruits. A good way to make sure you are getting lots of fibre (from quality carbs) is to make more of your grains are whole and fill at least half your plate with vegetables or fruit.
4. Swap in a good-for-you alternative.
Whether you’re craving a sweet treat or savoury snack, there are lots of healthy alternatives that are just as tasty and can help satisfy your cravings. Here are just a few of my cravings-crushing snacks. For more ideas, check out 15 Simple Swaps to Help You Crush Food Cravings.
Craving a sweet treat? Swap that cookie for…
Craving a something salty? Swap salty snack foods for…
Craving a crunchy snack? Swap potato chips for….
Craving chocolate? Swap that chocolate bar for…
5. Just eat it.
Sometimes it’s best to just eat the food you are craving. That’s especially true if you end up eating a whole day’s worth of food just trying to avoid that one food you’re craving! And, making foods “off limits” is a sure-fire way to set up cravings.
Go for quality over quantity and savour the flavour.
If you’re eating mostly healthy foods, enjoying a small serving of that food you’re craving isn’t an issue. In fact, it’s a good option to enjoy foods you love, in moderation.
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