Everyone craves a good burger or ice cream once in awhile, but when we find ourselves only wanting junk food, we know we are in trouble. Resisting these foods can be difficult, so why not start at the source and figure out ways to stop these unhealthy food cravings? A variety of factors can increase your desire for unhealthy foods, so it's important to know how we can train our body to crave kale instead of cupcakes, which can help us make healthier food choices in the moment.
"One of the major reasons we crave unhealthy foods comes down to basic biology," says Emily Kyle, MS, RDN over email. "Our bodies crave sugar and fat to store for future times of need. Our brains are hardwired to want to consume as much of these foods as possible when they are available. Unfortunately in today's society, these foods are almost always available and convenient to access."
Weaning yourself off junk food won't happen overnight, but making little changes to your diet can help prevent the urge to eat foods high in sugar, salt, and fat so regularly.
If you find yourself craving donuts and french fries more often than you would like, try these six tips to help cut down on your unhealthy food cravings.
1. Drink Water First
"Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, and many of us mistake our body’s desire for water as a hunger pang," says clinical nutritionist and health coach Amanda Hayes Morgan over email. Lack of water can cause fatigue and moodiness, which can have us craving some quick fuel in the form of junk food. "Before you grab a treat to satisfy what you think is hunger, chug a glass of water instead and reassess how you feel 10 minutes later," says Morgan.
2. Create A Healthy Environment
"Clean out your kitchen, desk, car, and any other place where unhealthy foods can be found," says Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, Corporate Dietitian at Medifast, Inc., over email. "Make it inconvenient to get to the unhealthy foods you crave. This will allow you to think through your decision and prevent impulse decisions to indulge."
3. Participate In Another Activity
"Have an activity or action that you will take every time you have a craving," says Miller. "Perhaps it’s going for a walk, taking a few deep breaths, or calling a friend." A study from Plymouth University found that going on a brisk walk for 15 minutes can reduce the desire for a sugary snack, suggesting that light exercise can help eliminate unwanted cravings.
4. Stay Nourished Throughout The Day
"Don’t skip meals and be sure to eat enough during the day to help prevent cravings and overeating later in the day," says Miller. "Incorporate protein and fiber at your meals and snacks as both help keep you full and focused." A study in the journal of Nutrition Research and Practice found that skipping meals leads to poorer food choices later on.
5. Eat Just A Bite
The key to getting rid of a craving good be giving in to it — but just a little. A study from Cornell University found that eating a small portion of the food you crave is just as satisfying as eating a large amount. People who eat a bite of their food experience just the same amount of satisfaction 15 minutes later, without all the guilt.
6. Eat Healthier
Foods that contain high amounts of fat, salt, and sugar are addicting, so the more you eat them, the more you crave them, according to the Food Addiction Institute. Replacing these foods with healthier ones can change your body chemistry and your tastebuds. "Your tastes can change over time," says Kyle. "Continue to eat a healthy diet, and you will start to crave healthy foods."
At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with indulging in a treat here and there, but if all you crave is unhealthy foods, you might want to work on kicking those cravings to the curb.
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