Beat the cravings without giving up the tastes you love!
You know that feeling when you can’t stop thinking about that one fatty, sugary junk food, and there’s no way you can get anything else done until you’ve hunted that specific food down and devoured it?
That’s a craving. We know it isn’t true hunger, because no other food will suffice.
Cravings are quite unrelated to hunger, and they can sneak up on anyone, at any time - including the most diligent healthy-eaters among us.
While hunger is our experience of the signals sent by the body when we genuinely require more food for energy, cravings have very little to do with our nutritional needs.
They can have a number of physiological and psychological causes, from hormonal imbalances to emotional stress, and cravings for healthy food are very rare.
This is because nutritionally balanced meals don’t trigger the reward centre in the brain like sugary, high-fat junk foods do.
Giving in to every craving can lead to excessive weight gain, poor health, and even food addictions - so it goes without saying that we want them under control.
While mind-over-matter won’t always be enough to overcome a spontaneous fixation on choc-chip cookies or French fries, there are some more practical tricks to help us win over cravings.
1. Start with a smoothie
Starting the day with a good breakfast is essential if you want to win over your cravings for sugar. The trick is to aim for nutrient density over empty calories.
A green protein smoothie for breakfast will satisfy your sweet tooth, keep you full, and help you start the day from a place of balance, calm and clarity.
2. Have plant-based protein with every meal
When our blood sugar levels spike and drop, unhealthy cravings are sure to follow.
Including plant-based protein with each meal keeps our blood sugar balanced, while helping us feel fuller for longer.
Amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of protein, and there are nine essential amino acids that we need in our diet because our bodies don’t make them. Getting all nine from a plant foods diet is very easy, and many plant foods such as quinoa, soy, chia, hemp and buckwheat, contain all of them.
3. Have regular, balanced, nutrient-dense meals
Eating smaller, more regular meals and snacks is another trick to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Waiting too long between meals can result in a plummeting blood sugar level, which leaves many of us irrational and desperate for a sugary fix. Aim to pack plenty of nutritional value and variety into each meal, as nutrient deficiencies can intensify our blood-sugar related cravings.
4. Sleep more, sleep better
Have you ever noticed a change in your eating habits after an all-nighter? Lack of sleep suppresses the hormones responsible for keeping our appetite under control, making it difficult for our bodies to read hunger signals when we’re sleep deprived.
Without enough sleep, we’re prone to mistaking our lack of energy for hunger and tend to seek out foods we know will give us an instant boost of energy - and a sharp blood sugar spike.
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important keys to hormone regulation, good moods and making healthy choices throughout the day - so there’s no question that we should make sleep our top priority.
5. Be mindful of emotions
If you’ve ever come home from a stressful day and wanted to dive head first into a tub of ice-cream, then you know first-hand that cravings can often be linked to stress.
Other emotions can give rise to cravings as well, and many of us will seek out comfort in food when emotional needs are not being met.
The trick is to practice mindfulness and foster our self-awareness.
Getting in touch with our emotions and recognising our triggers and warning signs can prevent us from emotional eating while helping us tackle the issue at hand with more clarity.
Next time you feel yourself on the verge of an emotional picnic, take 10 minutes to stop, breath and bring yourself into the present moment.
6. Find healthy alternatives
Healthy eating doesn’t necessarily mean we have to say goodbye to our favourite, indulgent foods.
While denying yourself the pleasure of eating the foods you love will set you up for certain failure, finding healthy alternatives to your ‘pleasure foods’ is the best way to stick to a long-term, sustainable diet.
Look for healthy foods that share some of the qualities of the problematic foods you tend to crave.
Need a crunchy way to satisfy a chip craving? Here are 16 healthier solutions.
Got an epic, chocolate fudge bar addiction? Check out this decadent, guilt-free alternative.
That’s right - there is always a healthy way to satisfy those cravings when they come.
The healthy options may not be as instantly obtainable as the processed, junk food version - but they do taste so much better, and those good vibes don’t fade into guilt once you’ve licked the plate clean!
Each time we win against our cravings, we’re strengthening our ability to do it again and again. In other words, it gets easier over time as consistent healthy eating becomes our default.
Eventually, we end up drooling at the thought of steamed broccoli and black beans, simply because we’re ‘addicted’ to feeling well - and this is the moment you realise you’ve won the fight against cravings.