Beat Cravings With These 6 Simple Tricks

No matter how hard we try to stick with our healthy eating habits, hard-to-control cravings always seem to come knocking at the door. Satisfying your sweet tooth with an occasional decadent indulgence is totally OK, but giving into it more often can halt your health progress dead in its tracks. Suppress the urge to splurge with these simple tricks and swaps.

1. Use a Hunger Scale

Sometimes you think you’re hungry, when in reality you’re probably just bored or stressed out.

Becoming more aware of your appetite and feelings of hunger/fullness is an important tool you can use to identify what’s really happening.

Here’s how it works: when cravings or hunger arise—especially when you recently ate or it’s not mealtime—rate your hunger on a scale from one to five, where one means you're full and not hungry at all, and five means you're starving. If you want to eat something but know you’re at a neutral level (about three), wait 20 minutes to see if the feeling goes away. If it’s still there, you’ve at least given yourself time to think about a healthful option.

2. Get Busy

Can’t kick the thought of a bowl of rocky road ice cream topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry on top? Make it a point to find something else to do and get out of the kitchen. Distraction is often the best remedy. Grab a book, go for a jog, clean the house—whatever it is you need to do to get your mind off eating, do it.

Busy your mind and your cravings will disappear.

3. Drink Water

Your next level of defense against unnecessary eating is good old fashioned H2O. You’ve used the hunger scale and tried to find something else to do, but you still can’t stop thinking about the cookies in the pantry or your kid’s goldfish crackers.

Before indulging, drink a large glass of water. The water will initiate feelings of fullness, and the desire to eat will often subside.

4. Be Your Own Motivational Speaker

If you’re still battling thoughts and cravings, take a moment to think about why you started your healthy eating journey to begin with. Ask yourself, “will this food help me, or will it hinder me?” “Am I really hungry, or am I just wanting to eat?” “Is there something else I could have to satisfy my craving that is healthier?” And definitely remind yourself how you typically feel after eating junky foods (pretty lousy, I’m guessing).

5. Brush Your Teeth

To avoid giving in, try flossing and brushing your teeth. It’s likely that you won’t want to eat anything when your teeth are fresh and clean. Not to mention, the minty toothpaste flavoring has a sneaky way of making yummy foods taste terrible. This trick is useful any time and will contribute to a brighter smile—win-win.

6. Make a Smart Swap

Craving chocolate, salty-crunch, or sweet satisfaction?

  Here’s a quick list of food swaps that’ll do the trick.

  • Chocolaty cravings: Grab a 100-calorie pack of cocoa roasted almonds (loaded with healthy fats and filling fiber); try mixing cocoa powder into plain Greek yogurt (packed with satisfying protein); opt for a light chocolate pudding cup or low-sugar, high-fiber chocolaty granola bar. You can also grab a bag of Monkey Love.
  • Salty-crunch cravings: Try 4 cups of light popcorn (filled with fiber); baby carrots with ¼ cup hummus (packed with protein and fiber); or opt for a single-serve bag of whole grain pretzels or Just Chillin’.
  • Sweet cravings: Opt for fresh fruit, frozen fruit, or a good-for-you smoothie; fruit is loaded with fiber that will help fill you up without excess calories​.

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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