Food cravings are a common problem. Sometimes you can resist, but when food cravings hit you hard you need some extra support to stay healthy and stay away from that junk food. Keep on reading and I’ll explain how to resolve some underlying reasons why you might be craving junk food, and then I’ll share some healthy snack recipes to calm those cravings!
Identify why you’re having food cravings in the first place.
The first thing is to look at why you might be having junk food cravings in the first place. Taking a moment to consider how you’re feeling can often be the key to overcoming those cravings.
- Are you dehydrated?
- Are you stressed?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you undereating?
- Are you following a balanced eating plan?
- Or, have you simply cut out all the foods you love, and you’re feeling deprived? (if so, you might like to read Sam’s guide to the best way to lose weight naturally)
Food cravings are common, especially when you first start out on a weight loss journey. The good news is that most cravings stop if you stick with your healthy eating plan. But if you’re really struggling, there are some useful tactics you can use to avoid cravings and resist the call of unhealthy snacks.
Often cravings occur because your body isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs
The good news is that once you follow a healthy, balanced meal plan your body will be well-nourished, so your food cravings tend to reduce significantly.
Sometimes food cravings can occur if your gut health is out of balance
Our gut does a lot more than just digest food, a lot of people believe the gut is like our second brain. We have an enormous host of bacteria in our gut, both good and bad, which are essential for optimal gut health and if the balance of gut flora isn’t quite right, this could be contributing to your sugar cravings. The bad bacteria in our gut LOVE sugar, it’s what they feed off, and if they aren’t kept in check they could be responsible for why you’re suddenly craving more sugar.
To improve your gut health and reduce the chance of sugar cravings, try including some fermented foods and probiotics into your diet and also make a conscious effort to reduce stress levels which can also affect our gut bacteria.
Do you have a hormone imbalance?
Hormones can be another reason why we experience food cravings. Hormone imbalances can trigger emotional instability for a lot of people (feelings of stress, anxiousness, depression, sadness) and when this occurs our body naturally craves foods that we feel are comforting hello sugar, salt and carbs! The best way to keep your hormones in check is to maintain a healthy weight and follow a healthy eating plan as closely as you can and, of course, seek advice from a medical practitioner to check if you have any specific hormone issues.
The most common reason for food cravings is…
Boredom and mindless eating.
Far too often we eat without paying attention while we watch TV, read our emails, or scroll on social. If you are not aware of what is going into your body, then it becomes hard for your mind to register that you have actually eaten, which means it isn’t long before your body is craving for more. So eat mindfully, eliminate distractions and pay attention to the nourishing nutrients going into your body.
Mindless eating can be a major contributor to food cravings so, when you eat, pay attention to the tastes, textures and nutrients going into your body – you might be surprised that your cravings reduce or even disappear!
How to reduce your cravings while you’re at home
So, now you’ve considered the reasons behind your food cravings, what do you do when your cravings are still hitting you hard? The final answer is to stop fighting it and, instead, redirect your craving to something healthy! If you get yourself prepared ahead of time by stocking up on a few healthy supplies at home, it can be quick and easy to grab a healthy alternative that will stop your junk food cravings in their tracks.
Remember, each time you choose a healthier alternative to calm your food cravings, the stronger your willpower and your healthy habits will become!
How to reduce cravings for sweet foods
- Try to avoid any processed sugary foods and instead choose ‘wholefood’ healthy snack options.
- Herbal tea with 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil can help to provide satiation and balance your blood sugar levels.
- Liquorice tea is naturally quite sweet so this can also be a good herbal tea option too.
- If you really feel like a snack then opt for a homemade bliss ball, a piece of dark chocolate or some berries for natural sweetness.
How to reduce your cravings for salty junk foods
Our salt levels are influenced by our water intake, so the first step to stopping cravings for salty junk food is to ensure you are hydrated (so that means more water and herbal teas).
If you are still craving salty foods then opt for
- An avocado with a pinch of salt
- homemade miso soup,
- sashimi with salty tamari, or
- slightly salted popcorn
How to reduce your cravings for ‘bad carbs’
On our 28 weight loss program, it is important to know we do not recommend cutting out carbohydrates from your diet – this is because our fitness plan keeps you active, but it’s also because we don’t believe all carbs are bad.
Our healthy approach is to change the kinds of carbs we regularly eat, so we only consume unprocessed, complex or wholegrain carbohydrates – which contain important nutrients our body needs.
When you are craving carbohydrates there are three things you can do to reduce the cravings:
- Eat some good carbs, or
- Eat some healthy fats, or
- Eat some good carbs AND healthy fats!
If you’ve got a carb craving you can’t shake, here is the best way to fix it: eat some carbs! But just make sure they’re ‘good carbs’.
Eating more ‘good’ carbs helps you resist ‘bad’ carbs
We often crave foods that we cut out of our diet completely. This is particularly true for carbohydrates because our body needs carbs as it is the main energy source for our brains! So, if you’ve got a craving and you can’t stop thinking about carbs, it’s perfectly fine and healthy to eat some ‘good’ carbs instead.
If you’re trying to avoid eating carb-heavy junk foods, choose a snack of healthy carbs, but keep your portion to about a handful; this should be enough to satisfy your carb craving but not throw your daily macronutrient/calorie balance out of whack.
Healthy ‘good carbs’ that can help reduce your carb cravings include:
- sweet potatoes
- wholegrain bread
- wholegrain pasta or noodles
How to reduce your cravings for fatty foods
Healthy fats can help reduce both fat AND carb cravings as they not only satiate your craving but they also satisfy your taste buds.
Here are some healthy fat snacks to stop you craving unhealthy fatty foods:
- oily fish,
- herbal tea with 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
Are you trying to start a diet and struggling with food cravings?
Food cravings are totally normal in the first couple of weeks of trying to lose weight. If it’s still going on several weeks later, it’s still fairly normal, but try to address the reason behind your cravings as I outlined earlier. Often, once you’ve identified your ‘why’, those unhealthy food cravings can completely disappear. And if they don’t, just ride the wave and do the best you can until they pass – because all cravings do eventually pass.
If you slip up and have some junk food, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Just shake it off and get back on the horse again tomorrow. Like Sam regularly reminds all our wonderful 28ers, you’re much more likely to reach your health goals if you embrace the concept of progress, not perfection. Keep trying, and do the best you can. You’ll get there!