You are walking down the road, watching a movie or working at your desk and suddenly the craving hits: Chocolate, Chips or something spicy. You have been trying to stick to healthy eating all week but still the craving is so strong….. A couple of chips won’t harm, will they? The craving grows strong with each passing minute and you soon start searching for it everywhere.
Many dieters believe that craving is a signal their bodies need the nutrients that food provides. But it is more a psychological thought rather than a physiologic need. A craving for chocolate, for example, would signal a physiologic need for sugar or antioxidants. But there are other foods which are better and healthier sources of sugar and antioxidants. However you do not crave for those foods.
So what could be the possible cause of these cravings?
When people follow overly restrictive diets or completely cut out groups of foods, cravings can develop out of deprivation. These can lead to a vicious cycle of indulging, overeating and guilt. A diet that allows small amounts of foods you love to have be it high-fat or high-calorie, will be easier to maintain since you are not eliminating that food completely from your diet.
Here are few tips to prevent or handle food cravings:
- Put your craving off. Give yourself a little time before you completely give in to the temptation. Food cravings are typically short-lived, and while the desire for chips, chocolate, or cake feels overwhelming at that particular moment, it will decline, especially if you can distract yourself with a phone call or some pending job or a glass of water or some healthier substitute.
- Choose alternatives for your cravings. If you are in love with potato chips and miss them dearly, buy a brand that is low-fat or low in sodium. If you think that you crave chips because you feel like munching something crunchy, skip the chips: try fruit or a salad packed with crisp greens and veggies. Want something sweet? How about baking an apple pudding (minus sugar) or trying out carrot kheer? If you crave chocolate, keep some dark chocolate on hand. Dark chocolates are low in sugar and high in phytochemicals that may aid in the prevention of heart disease. But remember moderation is the key here. When looking for dark chocolate, read the label to make sure that cocoa is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar.
- Buy single servings of foods you crave. Instead of buying a whole box of your favorite food, buy minimum possible quantity.
- Schedule your snacks. Plan for nutritious snacks to prevent in-between meal hunger. Keep portable, healthy snacks in your desk or car.
- Be Selective: Whenever you go out for a party and before you begin eating, check out all of the options and choose the foods that you really want to eat. If everything looks tempting and delicious, have a small sample of different foods to satisfy your craving.
- Keep a craving journal. Note the time of day your craving appeared, how long it lasted, the food you craved, and how you handled the situation. This way you will start noticing patterns so you can be better prepared to handle cravings in the future.
Craving is more of a psychological response of a deprived empty mind and it can be efficiently counteracted by diverting the mind as well as preventing deprivation of your much-loved foods.