How To Control Cravings Between Meals
It’s those times between meals when our cravings can really hit. An afternoon dip in blood sugar, a difficult day at work, or just the temptation to treat ourselves (because of #YOLO!) are all the excuses we need to start honing in on that niggling craving for a chocolate-smothered sundae.
But, while a treat every once in a while is part of a balanced life, constant cravings for junk food can add up to dietary self-sabotage. To help buck the cravings, here are seven key tips:
Slow down during meals.
Eating meals slowly have several benefits. Most importantly, it gives your brain time to register feelings of fullness, so that you know when to stop eating. This helps with digestion and with keeping blood sugar levels stable post-meal.
There’s a psychological benefit of eating meals slowly, too. Studies have shown that if we quickly shovel our meals down while distracted, we’re likely to eat more later on. On the other hand, if we’re eating slowly and are mindful during meals, we are able to vividly remember what we’ve eaten. This makes us feel mentally more satisfied, and therefore we are less likely to end up with our hand in the cookie jar an hour later.
Eat satiating foods.
The best way to prevent cravings is to eat right at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fill your plate with satiating foods: a portion of a quality protein will help you stay satiated for longer, as protein takes more time to digest. Healthy fats also have a satiating effect, while high-fiber foods (like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) give you a feeling of fullness.
Manage your blood sugar.
Once you’re on a sugar-spike roller-coaster, it’s hard to get off. Blood glucose crashes will have you craving an immediate energy hit — often in the form of sugary treats. To avoid this, stay away from refined carbohydrates and replace them with complex carbohydrates and low-GI foods that will keep your blood sugar steady for longer. Also, try a little sprinkle of cinnamon with breakfast: the spice has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.
Drink tea or coffee.
While too much caffeine can cause spikes in cortisol — a stress hormone — small amounts may actually work as an appetite suppressant. And even without the caffeine, a hot drink can give you something to sip on as an alternative to snacking. Skip the cream and sugar, and try either black coffee or herbal teas to get something warm and comforting in your belly between meals.
Drink plenty of water.
Often we confuse thirst for hunger. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep you hydrated and make you feel more satisfied. If you get bored of plain water, try water infused with a slice of lemon or a sprig of fresh mint for variety.
A lot of the time cravings are mental rather than physical. Snacking can be a response to boredom or particular emotions. If you feel the urge to snack, take a deep breath, relax, and try to get in touch with what’s going on in your body. The aim is to distinguish whether you are genuinely hungry or just bored. If it’s the latter, do something that will occupy your mind- like reading a book, going for a walk, cleaning the house, socializing, or engaging in a hobby that you love.
Ditch the restrictive mentality.
You might think that the only way to stop yourself from snacking on doughnuts is by banning yourself from doughnuts. But this is actually counter-productive. The more something is forbidden, the more alluring it becomes! Some psychological studies of willpower have shown it to be a limited resource. In other words, if you rely on the sheer power of will, you’ll eventually come unstuck — and when you slip up you’ll feel like you’ve failed, perpetuating a cycle of guilt.
Instead, focus on your health and on giving your body the nutrients it needs to feel energized. Relax and realize that all the doughnuts in the world aren’t going anywhere and if you truly wanted you could eat them anytime. This takes the urgency out of the situation. Therefore, you get a little more time to choose something that will actually make you happy, rather than opting for instant gratification.
Sometimes, what we need is to be loving and forgiving to ourselves, rather than obsessing about restrictions. This way, we can focus on choosing the right foods for the right reasons.