It's 3 p.m. and the munchies hit: you might find yourself dreaming of chocolate chip cookies, tortilla chips, and your favorite diet soda. Unfortunately, many of these foods can cause cravings and lead to spikes in blood sugar, which will only create a feedback loop, where you'll be craving more and more sugar with every sugary bite, as explained by experts at WebMD. You'll then feel the need to consume more sugary, fattening foods to satisfy your never-ending cravings, in a form of addiction, the experts explained. Ugh.
As a certified health coach, I work with people on decoding their cravings, understanding the root causes, and how best to address them without giving in to unhealthy temptations that might leave them with regret, fatigue, digestive issues, and other compromises. Understanding how the body and brain work in tandem to cause cravings and knowing how to decipher when or when not to act on these urges can be beneficial for staying strong and gaining more control over willpower and desires. Often, a craving can come from a source unrelated to food, such as stress or fatigue, as explained by healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines, over email with Bustle; yet, food can help mitigate symptoms. Here are 11 foods that can prevent cravings and that should be eaten regularly in the day. Filling your plate with healthier, stabilizing foods is easy and beneficial.
1. Flavorful Foods
Over email with Bustle, running coach and personal trainer, Susie Lemmer, who is based in Chicago, explains that foods that are high in wonderful flavors can help prevent cravings, as they are seen as more filling and tasty and can easily please the mind, body, and its tastebuds. Indulge in delicious flavors to add more zest to rather bland dishes.
2. Spicy Foods
Foods that are spicy and have an extra kick, advises Lemmer, can help ward off cravings, as the spiciness levels can boast flavor and heat up the system to feel more satisfied and less likely to need additional flavors to fulfill a craving. Enjoy hot sauce, chili peppers, and other spicy garnishes as much as possible.
3. Hot Tea
Lemmer recommends brewing a hot cup of tea, as the tea can help the body overcome cravings and fill up with a warm, delicious blend of something aromatic and numbing. However, avoid sweeteners, Lemmer warns, as those can spike blood sugar and lead to cravings after consumption. Artificial sweeteners count, as well, Lemmer adds.
4. Whole Grains
Whole grain or wheat bread is high in fiber, which can fill you up and help beat cravings, advises dietician Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, and spokesperson for America's Better Sandwich, over email with Bustle. "Fiber rich whole grains can help keep your energy up during the day leading to more productivity. Fiber digests slowly helping to maintain stable blood sugars and avoiding a mid-day crash," Gans says.
5. Chia Seeds
Over email with Bustle, Hunter Pechin, Brand Manager at Health Warrior, says, "ounce-for-ounce, chia seeds have more fiber than flax, and they expand as they absorb water in your stomach, both of which could explain why many people report feeling fuller, longer after eating them as compared to other foods. A fact supported by clinical studies."
6. Leafy Greens
According to Elizabeth Stein, CEO and founder of Purely Elizabeth, eating leafy greens can help alkalinize the body and ward off cravings, as explained over email with Bustle. “Leafy greens are my top favorite pick as the most versatile and nutrient dense food. You can include greens raw in a salad, added to smoothies, sautéed with some simple garlic and oil, and much more. They are one of the most nutrient rich vegetables and make you feel amazing," Stein says.
Stein suggests eating oatmeal, especially for a breakfast, to get in adequate nutrients first-thing and to prevent cravings during the day. "Protein is an essential component of every cell in the body as well as an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood," Stein says. "As a macronutrient, the body needs a relatively large amount of protein providing for a substantial form of energy. Additionally, dietary fiber is a nutrient that can also help keep your body full faster throughout the day," Stein explains.
8. Protein-Dense Foods
Sharon Brown, co-founder of Bonafide Provisions, shares over email with Bustle, "meals high in protein make people feel fuller faster. This is because muopioid receptors (MORs) are found in the walls of the portal vein, a major blood vessel that drains blood from the gut. MORs communicate to your brain when you have eaten something, and tells your brain how full specific foods should make you feel." Enjoy bone broth, Greek yogurt, lean meats, and beans, among other foods, for protein.
"Adding healthy fruits like apples and coconut into your diet reduces the intake of refined sugars, found in processed foods, which helps boost serotonin and reduce unwanted mood swings," explains Dana Cohen, director of marketing at Bare Snacks, over email with Bustle. Plus, the crunchiness can help get rid of cravings, too, as noted.
In interview with Bustle, Alicia Ward, VP of Marketing at Beanitos says, "beans are a source of low-fat protein, a nutrient touted for keeping you fuller, longer. Beans are also high in fiber. Fiber-rich foods take longer to digest and can help you extend your energy boost from the complex carbs in beans – giving you sustained energy. Beans also have a low glycemic index to prevent insulin from spiking, which can also keep your energy levels more constant." Feel free to eat them for a nutritious lunch.
Roberta Anding, MS, RD, sports dietitian at Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute in Houston and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association said over interview with Everyday Health that eggs are a great snack or meal to have during the day to fight cravings due to their high protein and cholecystokinin (CKK) content, the latter being an appetite suppressant.
Maintaining energy levels and mood during the day can be achieved through nutritious foods and healthy habits to fend off cravings and centralize the mind and body. Staying on track can be great for health and happiness both short and long term, so eat these filling foods to stay strong and resist temptation.
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