Nothing weakens diet willpower faster than craving sweet, salty, or fatty foods. Find out how to stop cravings and stay on your diet. Everybody has weak moments in their diet when they can practically taste the salty, sweet, crunchy, or fatty foods they crave. Yet these are often the very foods that undermine your efforts to lose weight. After all, when is the last time you complained about craving cauliflower? Follow these strategies to stop cravings in their tracks.
10 Ways to Stop Cravings
1. Get enough sleep. Loss of sleep increases hunger during the day, which leads to cravings. Getting the right amount of shut-eye could stop cravings.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast. For some people, cravings are part of a cycle of blood sugar highs and lows that can be kicked off almost the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning. A breakfast featuring fiber and protein is more likely to control this cycle. Consider a scrambled egg on whole-wheat bread or a turkey sandwich instead of sugary cereal or a Danish.
3. Fight hunger. “The core [to fighting cravings] is hunger suppression, since hunger amplifies other triggers,” says nutrition researcher Susan B. Roberts, PhD, a senior scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. If you often feel hungry on your diet you may want to revisit your diet plan. You might do better eating more frequent, smaller, balanced meals throughout the day or eating more of the foods that will keep you full longer, like whole grains and vegetables.
4. Eat meals at scheduled times. The secret to stopping cravings is to manage hunger and “only eating at set times — no casual eating,” says Roberts.
5. Budget cravings into your diet. “Craved foods can be incorporated into meals if they are used as the 100-calorie treat allowance, but only in the middle of meals, never alone as snacks, when they are too hard to control,” says Roberts, author of The Instinct Diet: Use Your Five Food Instincts to Lose Weight and Keep it Off (Workman Publishing Company, 2008).
6. Make the foods you crave difficult or impossible to get to. No matter how much you love brownies, if you don’t keep any at home or at work, chances are your craving will pass unsatisfied. Instead, make healthy alternatives easy to access in your eating plan and prepare ahead for those times when you’ll need a healthy snack within easy reach, like when you’re on the road.
7. Find healthy alternatives. If you tend to crave sweet treats in the afternoon, having a light yogurt and some fruit on hand could prevent a mad rush to the vending machine for a chocolate bar. “I think the best way to replace a craving is with something similar that has fewer calories and more fiber — you fill up on a similar taste, but the food is digested slowly to reduce craving over time,” advises Roberts. In a pinch, you could melt a little chocolate over high-fiber cereal and have it with milk — you get the chocolate taste but with more fiber, says Roberts. If you're craving salty chips, Roberts suggests, “have some with meals — a whole-wheat sandwich and salad, not chips alone — so they are more manageable.”
8. Keep a food journal. This may not totally stop cravings, but it could keep you from acting on them if the thought of writing down the calorie and fat content of a steak is more painful than going without it. A food journal will also help you identify the times of day when your cravings are the strongest.
9. Identify your craving triggers. Emotional eating is a real phenomenon. If you pay attention, you may find that your cravings are worse when you are stressed or depressed. Managing those situations will help stop cravings.
10. Eat a varied diet. Sticking to the tried-and-true may help you count calories, but it could also leave you feeling unfulfilled. People need variety in their diets, so try new dishes or combinations of foods to stop cravings. Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean it can’t be satisfying.
By Madeline Vann, MPH | Medically reviewed by Christine Wilmsen Craig, MD
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