“How do I deal with food cravings?” That’s a common question that I am asked as a Certified Nutritionist. If we don’t deal with food cravings, whether they be for pizza, ice cream, or French fries, they may result in a week’s long binge into the black hole.

My Favorite Strategy for Controlling Food Cravings

Since cravings are powerful, we need strategies to handle them so we are not at their mercy. Let’s use a sweet tooth as a common example. My advice is to indulge it periodically and intentionally outside the house and savor every mouthful. I like to use the ice cream example. For most of us, once we know Ben & Jerry’s is living in the freezer, we have a battle on our hands. In a weak moment, we may tell ourselves that a tablespoon won’t hurt. After all, how many calories could that be? But, the reality is that once we get the taste on our tongue and the thought in our brain, we will finish the pint.

One good solution to an ice cream craving is to go to your favorite creamery and get exactly what you want, no matter how indulgent, and really enjoy a moderate portion. That will satisfy the craving and you can go on with healthy eating without gorging on sugar for a week. Give it a try.

Other Strategies for Controlling Food Cravings

Brigitte Zeitlin, registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition, offers these suggestions in mindbodygreen.com.

1. Avoid the fake stuff.

First off, Zeitlin says if you’re craving something specific like your favorite ice cream or a cookie, it can be better to eat it instead of looking for alternatives that are packed with artificial flavoring, sweeteners, and chemicals. “If you’re craving ice cream, having a ½ cup of the real thing is healthier and more satisfying than 2 cups of frozen yogurt,” said Zeitlin. It’s important to remember that eating anything with added sugar will likely contribute to more cravings down the line, so you’ll want to factor that into it your choices, she explained.

2. Opt for naturally sweet ingredients.

If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth with all natural ingredients, you’re in luck because it’s doable and delicious. Some of her favorite ways to sweeten things up are adding fresh fruit to any meal or having it as your dessert. Instead of adding sweeteners to your cup of coffee, she recommends sprinkling some cinnamon on top to get your fix. Cinnamon is an excellent alternative to sugar, she explains, as it satisfies your craving without the dips in energy, blood sugar, and mood. You can also consider adding pure vanilla extract, about two to three drops to your yogurts, smoothies, or coffee for a touch of sweetness.

3. Experiment with naturally sweet snacks.

Zeitlin reinforces her philosophy that if you’re craving something specific, it may be better to have it than to be too restrictive and avoid it. But if you find yourself looking for a sweet option and want to avoid sugary treats, here are some of Zeitlin’s favorite snacks:

  • 1 ounce of dark chocolate, either solo or dipped into a tablespoon of nut butter
  • ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt with 2 to 3 drops of pure vanilla extract and an optional teaspoon of dark cacao
  • 2 to 3 dates sliced lengthwise with some nut butter in the middle
  • a decaf latte or cappuccino with cinnamon and 2 to 3 drops of pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of grapes with a tablespoon of cashew nut butter
  • ½ cup of berries
  • sliced apple with cinnamon sprinkled on top

4. Make lifestyle changes that help reduce sugar cravings.

Feel like you’re always craving sugar? You can incorporate foods high in protein, probiotics, or fiber into your diet, which may help curb your cravings. For some protein, opt for things like Greek yogurt, eggs, hemp hearts, and nut butter, says Zeitlin. Add in fiber by including lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains into your diet. “When it comes to fighting sugar cravings, your daily lifestyle patterns factor in just as much as the foods you’re eating,” said Zeitlin. She recommends avoiding skipping breakfast, staying hydrated (half your weight in ounces of water) and getting enough sleep. Who knew these small tweaks could do the trick?

It’s always best to determine whether you’re craving something specific (and are OK indulging) or generally itching for a sweet treat and want to avoid the sugar. If it’s the latter, consider one of these naturally sweet snacks and add in some foods that may kick the feeling down the line.

Click here to read full article about controlling sugar cravings.