Day after day it’s the same story. You get up and have a balanced breakfast (egg whites), and it’s salad for lunch. You’re planning to work out, and google-ing healthy dinner recipes--you’re on track for a day of absolutely perfect eating.
And then the clock strikes 3 p.m.
All the sudden something has changed and you’re searching, wait-- hunting for some chocolate to get you through your next meeting. Going to the gym later? Ha! That idea is out the window. Fast forward a few hours and now you’re home, and sure as anything, that salad you had at lunch hasn’t held you over a bit. So you reach into the pantry for some tortilla chips and hummus before dinner. And this downward spiral continues from here, cause hey, you might as well ride this wave out and start fresh tomorrow, right?
This is he dreaded cycle of food cravings, and it is full of twists and turn and ups and downs. As humans, we eat for a lot of different reasons; sometimes for emotional reasons, most of the time for physical needs. No matter the trigger, cravings can throw our healthy eating habits off track. You don’t have to be the victim though; here are four simple tricks to combat both the physical and emotional cravings that sneak their ways into our days.
1. Wear a bracelet as a reminder
When making a decision to diet or eat healthier, you need to set forth your intention. Your intention (or goal) may be to lose weight or to generally feel better. However, intention alone is not enough to bring forth your goal, there is also action. And if intentions and actions don't align, goals cannot be reached. This is where a reminder bracelet can be useful. Any piece of string or cord can serve this purpose. Tie the string on your dominant hand. The string will serve as a visual cue for you to lift those subconscious goals to your conscious thinking and bring action and intention in unison. Whenever you are about to give into a craving and reach for the cupcake, instead will see the bracelet and immediately be reminded and aware of your overall goals. This will also give you time to take a moment to stop and think about what you’re reaching for before it is too late. Refuse the craving by refocusing on your best you and you will be sure thank yourself later. After all, no one ever regretted not eating that handful of M&Ms.
2. Eat fiber
Fiber, the indigestible portion of a carbohydrate, can aid in preventing certain food and sugar cravings. The fiber found in whole grains, legumes, veggies, and fruit slows down the introduction of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore, helps control blood sugar highs and lows. This blood sugar stability helps to provide you with sustained energy between meals. High refined carbohydrate and low fiber meals like cereal and milk, sandwiches made on white bread, pretzels and crackers lead to high blood sugar levels. This is followed by a rush of sugar into the blood, a resultant insulin spike, and a powerful uptake of sugar into the cells. The sugar rushing into the cells leaves little for the blood, which results in low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is an emergency state which can lead to additional cravings and hunger. Fiber helps prevent this fluctuation of blood sugar which leads to homeostatic blood sugar and therefore, reduced cravings. Try adding fiber to each of your meals with high-fiber foods like high fiber cereal, raspberries, artichokes, whole-wheat bread, and flax and chia seeds.
3. Make your dentist proud
Following each meal, try to floss, brush your teeth or use mouthwash. Most foods don’t taste very great directly after using mouthwash or a minty toothpaste, so if you take a moment to freshen up, you’ll be less likely to eat more. Flossing also provides a sense of satisfaction, which may take the place of food as a reward. Flossing is a focused and mindful activity, which is, within itself, another way to defeat cravings. After each meal, the leftover food in your teeth breed bacteria, which degrade enamel. Flossing or brushing will also eliminate this bacteria, which is certainly an added bonus. At work, on the go, or in situations where busting out your toothbrush isn’t the norm, popping a Listerine Breathstrip can work similarly.
4. Low-carb living
When starting a low carb diet, many people assume that the less carbs they eat, the more they will crave them, when actually eating a low-carb diet can help reduce cravings. A study published in the journal “Eat and Weight Disorders” revealed just that. The lower-carb group (35 percent of calories coming from carbs versus 65 percent of calories coming from carbs) in the study actually saw reduced carbohydrate cravings the longer they abstained from overeating them. In fact, the study also revealed that any low calorie diet helped reduce cravings in people. Furthermore, additional clinical studies have supported the same conclusion that a carbohydrate restricting diet reduces cravings for sweets and additional carbohydrates. Diets that help control your blood sugar better, like low-carb diets aid in reducing sugar cravings in a similar way to how eating fiber does.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.