When it comes to food, some of us crave kale and smoothie bowls. Some of us, however, want nothing but french fries and pizza. While both cravings are totally OK, if you want to eat the former, but constantly crave the latter, it can be frustrating to figure out how to crave healthy food rather than junk food. But there are ways to get there. It just takes some practice and some knowledge on what our bodies need to crave the right things.
"Emerging science suggests that our cravings for food may actually be controlled by microbiome, or gut bacteria," Rima Kleiner, MS, RD tells me over email. "Researchers...recently found that microbes in the gastrointestinal tract have the power to alter our moods, change our taste receptors and take control of nerve pathways between our stomach and brain." These studies have found that we can influence our GI tract by eating a healthy diet, so responding to cravings instantly with healthy foods can help alter these cravings later on.
To help you kick your sugar and processed food cravings to the [curve]CURB, [and start wanting the right thingsCUT] and begin the cycle of healthy eating, [I've come up with] HERE AREseven helpful ways to crave nutritious foods.
1. Engage With Other Healthy Eaters
Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are great places to connect with like-minded people who can help motivate you to eat well. "Hearing about another person's excitement for healthy food can be contagious," Lisa Hugh, RD says to Bustle. Studies have even found that support from online communities can play an important role in maintaining healthy eating habits.
2. Keep Junk Food Out Of The House
"It might feel like you don't have anything good to eat at first, but having all healthy foods at home will probably help you get creative in preparing healthier foods," suggests Hugh. "You will be more likely to eat when truly hungry — this helps reinforce that healthy food is satisfying and tasty." Foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat can actually be addicting and increase cravings, so the less you eat them, the less you'll desire them.
3. Learn About Healthy Foods & How Other People Are Eating Them
Get motivated to create healthy dishes in fun ways by looking at blogs, magazines, social media, cookbooks, and cooking shows. "This can improve your cooking skills, give you fresh ideas, and help you to see that other people are enjoying healthy foods," says Hugh. "Finding what you like is a good habit. If you like it and know you can cook it, you'll be more likely to want to eat it, add it to your grocery list, and prepare it on a more regular basis."
4. Take A Walk When Unhealthy Cravings Strike
"Walking — or any kind of physical activity — helps to distract your brain from a craving and puts you farther away from the food that may be calling your name," says Kleiner. In addition to distracting you from your craving, taking a walk can also help boost your energy, reducing the need for a junk food boost.
5. Or Indulge Just A Little
Giving in to your craving by eating just a small amount can help satisfy your craving and prevent you from overindulging later on. "The trick is to eat a little and do not keep these foods at home or at your desk," suggests Kleiner. "Going to the bakery for a small cookie, ice cream shop for a small cone or store for a small candy makes it much more difficult to eat regularly than just opening your pantry or desk drawer."
6. Take Advantage Of Snacks
"Meals and snacks that are high in simple carbohydrates may provide a quick energy burst but often leave us feeling hungry and craving more," says Kleiner. "Add foods rich in heart-healthy proteins to meals and snacks to prevent your blood sugar from crashing, which often leads to that 3 p.m. vending machine craving."
7. Find A Substitute
The most important part of cravings is how you respond to them. There are ways to give your body what it needs — just don't opt for the junky option if you don't want to. Find something else. "Craving something salty? Try hummus and vegetables, black olives or grilled salmon sprinkled with sea salt," says Kleiner. "Craving something sweet? Reach for a piece of fruit, sweet and sour shrimp, or a piece of dark chocolate. Choosing superfoods over less healthful options to satisfy your cravings will help to optimize your health, brain and gut."
Ultimately, what you eat is entirely your choice, but if eating healthy foods is something you'd like to incorporate into your day-to-day life, learning how to crave them instead of the other stuff a little more often is never a bad thing.