3 ways nutritionists fight cravings
Can’t kick your sweet, salty or crunchy craving? Avoid derailing your weight-loss plan with these expert strategies.
Even the world’s healthiest eaters feel pangs for chocolate at 3 p.m. or fixate on a bag of chips in the vending machine like it’s the last food on earth. The difference between them and us: They somehow resist, while we’re left scrounging for change and tearing into a bag of Cheetos Flamin’ Hot.
Before you get down on yourself and your faltering willpower, consider this: The secret to withstanding a craving isn’t a steely reserve, it’s about identifying the underlying reason you’re hankering for a Snickers bar and then responding accordingly.
“Sometimes it’s emotional, and you reach for those foods that you love for comfort,” says Molly Morgan, a registered dietitian, owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions in Vestal, N.Y., and author of "The Skinny Rules." “Other times, it may be that you’re tired, which lowers blood sugar and triggers the release of hormones linked to hunger.” Sometimes you simply haven’t eaten enough calories and you really do need energy.
So what’s a hungry person to do? We asked top nutritionists how they stop themselves from overindulging, and they shared three strategies for kicking cravings to the curb.
No. 1: Distract yourself
“I make it a rule to wait at least 15 minutes before I indulge any craving and keep busy with an activity that occupies my hands so I can’t reach for a treat,” says Marjorie Nolan, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “I psych myself out by washing dishes, brushing my teeth or vacuuming. The craving usually passes by the time 15 minutes are up. Sometimes you just have to wait it out.”
No. 2: Decode your cravings
“Hunger, fatigue and dehydration all lower blood-sugar levels, which increases appetite,” Nolan says. Take a moment to close your eyes, mentally scan your body and ask yourself if you’re really hungry — or if it’s tiredness or thirst that’s making you want to eat. “If I know I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before, I take a 10-minute nap to help me feel better without reaching for comfort food.” Or, if you haven’t had enough liquids, try drinking a cup of passion-fruit-flavored tea to quench sweet cravings, or V-8 or tomato juice if you’re yearning for something salty.
No. 3: Make a smart swap
Whether you want sweet, salty, crunchy, savory or a combination, there are times when your body simply needs an energy boost. Fiber-rich or nutrient-dense snacks are longer-lasting pick-me-ups than the sugar- and fat-filled treats we tend to yearn for. Try one of these healthier alternatives based on your craving type for a longer-lasting appetite tamer.
Sweet: Warm up half a ripe banana, one square chocolate, 1/4 cup oats and a drizzle of honey; mash together.
Salty: 1/2 cup shelled edamame with sea salt.
Savory: 2 ounces water-packed tuna with 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard.
Creamy: Laughing Cow Light wedge spread with sliced cucumbers.
Crunchy: Dip carrots, sliced peppers and sugar snap peas in 2 tbsp. hummus or guacamole.
Sweet and salty: Make trail mix by combining 1 cup air-popped popcorn, 1/8 cup pretzels, 1/8 cup dried cranberries and 1/8 cup chocolate chips
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Diabetics - try to have a nutritionist contact, at least once/year. Tips, like these, are invaluable.