Healthy diet programs must address cravings and how to reduce them. Ask anyone what foods they crave and they will have a ready answer. Some people binge on sweets while others can’t deny themselves crunchy,salty snacks.
Healthy Diet Programs Need Strategies to Reduce Cravings
Healthy diet programs experiment with different strategies to reduce these carvings which can add up to a lot of empty calories. In my experience as a holistic nutritionist, I’ve learned that different techniques work for different people. Brains are different, so trial and error is the appropriate approach.
Food craving, the intense desire to eat certain foods, can sabotage your best efforts to maintain healthy eating habits and body weight.
Candice Myers, PhD, assistant professor — research at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center recently did an examination of 28 current peer-reviewed scientific studies to determine how to best deal with cravings. Here are her comments:
- “Craving influences what people eat and their body weight, but there are some components of our behavior and diet that we do have control over. Being mindful of these desires gives us more control of them.”
- For example, one proven way to reduce the longing for a certain food is to eat it less frequently. In other words, it’s better to remove something from your diet than to try to eat smaller helpings of it.
- “Food craving is an important piece of the weight-loss puzzle. It doesn’t explain weight gain 100 percent. “A number of other factors, including genetics and eating behavior, are also involved.”
John Apolzan, PhD, director of Pennington Biomedical’s Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory, who also participated in the study says: “The upside of craving is that it is a conditioned response that you can unlearn. It’s not easy, but it can be done.”
Other takeaways from their review include:
- Losing weight reduces food craving.
- Exercise can increase cravings.
- Cravings account for as much as 11 percent of eating behavior and weight gain, more than genetics currently explains.
- Many obesity drugs — phentermine, lorcaserin, semaglitude and liraglitude among others — reduce craving.
- Different demographic and socioeconomic groups may have different responses to food cravings. But little is known about these potential differences, and more investigation is needed.
Healthy Diet Programs Reduce Cravings
Healthy diet programs devise various ways to reduce food cravings. Here are some suggestions from WebMD.
1. Out of sight is usually not out of mind
According to Adam Drewnowski, PhD, of the University of Washington “Dietary restrictions definitely make cravings worse. Does this mean it’s best to give in to food cravings? That probably depends on your level of control once you begin eating. If you’re able to satisfy a chocolate craving with a few chocolate kisses or a fun-size Snickers bar, go for it.”
But if you are someone whose cravings get out of control it gets more complicated. If this describes you, your best bet may be to have only portion-controlled amounts of your desired food on hand. Buy a single slice of pie or cake instead of a whole one; buy one chocolate-chip cookie instead of baking a batch; or treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream instead of a pint or half-gallon.
2. Make lower-calorie choices when possible
Will lower-calorie craving choices be as satisfying as the real deal? This depends on how great tasting the alternate food or beverages are. If you make lower-calorie, lower-fat brownies that taste just as yummy as regular brownies, they’ll probably satisfy your fudge brownie craving. If you crave soda and you drink a glass of half diet soda and half real soda, chances are it will do the trick.
3. Our environment is toxic
Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders., notes that everywhere we turn, our environment seems to be screaming at us to eat more fast food and junk food. “Unhealthy food is highly accessible, it’s convenient, it’s engineered to taste good, it’s heavily promoted, and it’s inexpensive. If you wanted to engineer a good food environment, you’d have the reverse of all that.”
4. Don’t let yourself get too hungry
What happens when you skip a meal, or refrain from eating when you’re truly hungry? Sooner or later, you get SO hungry that you end up overeating to compensate. It’s in this state of extreme hunger that we tend to crave quick-fix foods like candy bars. Eating several meals through the day may help to control cravings and binge-type eating.
5. Start a cravings journal
If you have a real problem with food cravings, keep a cravings journal for a month. List the times of day you have cravings, the emotions you’re feeling at the time, the foods you crave, and what and how much you ate. When you look back through your journal, ask yourself if there are any patterns, such as certain times of day when you tend to experience food cravings. Are there certain emotions or situations that tend to bring them on?
6. Smart carbs to the rescue
We’ve established that our bodies often crave high-fat and high-sugar (or high-refined-carb) foods. And we know that when we feed our stressed-out bodies carbohydrates, it helps calm them down. So the best way to calm our bodies and yet nourish them is to choose “smart carbs” like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. These foods give your body the carbs it craves along with lasting nutritional power from fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.
7. Take care of yourself
Most of us could use a good dose of nurturing. If we take good care of ourselves day to day, we may be less likely to feel stressed, angry, unhappy, etc. — and therefore less likely to crave comfort foods. If the voice inside you seems to be telling you to indulge in junk food every time you turn around, it may be a red flag that you need some nurturing. Maybe you need some support, time to yourself, or time to play a little.
Here are a few non-food ways to nurture yourself:
- Treat yourself to a facial
- Meet a friend for coffee
- Read a good book or magazine. You can trade books and magazines with friends, too
- Get a massage. It can come from a friend or spouse too, which makes it free, although you may need to reciprocate
- Get a pedicure
- Take a hike
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