It’s National Nutrition Month and we are all trying to “Go Further with Food”. Even with the best intentions, do you find yourself falling victim to overwhelming cravings that lead to overeating? Oftentimes, cravings grow in response to restrictive dieting. Completely cutting out food groups can increase your body’s natural urge for them. When these cravings become more intense, they often lead to overindulgence and guilt. While there are some foods we should enjoy in moderation, especially those high in calories or fat, be leery to taking whole food groups or foods out of your diet completely. Including treats every now and then as a part of a balanced eating pattern is a way to enjoy your favorite foods, while avoiding overwhelming cravings.
There are a few behaviors that can help you stop cravings before they start. For example, if you find yourself craving chocolate frequently, keep small single-serve chocolates on hand, especially dark chocolate, which is higher in antioxidants. Enjoying a small piece of dark chocolate more frequently can make you less likely to overeat it.
Another tip is to make sure you are not allowing yourself to get too hungry. Plan nutritious snacks throughout the day that include a lean protein and a high-fiber carbohydrate. Snacks can act like a bridge to get you to the next meal. Fueling your body every three to four hours ensures you don’t get too hungry and start to crave foods that you might overeat.
When a craving hits, make sure you are actually hungry. Sometimes hunger cues can be similar to thirst signals. Keep your body hydrated by drinking eight to ten cups of water every day. Also, make sure you are physically hungry and not emotionally hungry or bored. If you are just craving a single food or a type of food, like something salty or sweet, it could be a sign that you aren’t actually hungry for food, but perhaps emotionally or socially hungry. Try going on a walk, calling a friend, or distracting yourself. After twenty minutes, if you are still hungry, have a healthy snack!
Lastly, keep track of your cravings in a food journal. This can help you identify the times of day and typical foods that you crave.