Food cravings are a big problem for many of us, particularly when we are dieting to reduce weight. Here are some tried-and-true strategies to control food cravings.

There is also a new study that suggests another technique to reduce cravings.

Tips for Reducing Food Cravings

There are a variety of ways to reduce unwanted food cravings:

Reducing Stress Levels

Stress and emotional eating can influence a variety of health issues. Feeling stressed may promote emotional eating and cravings for comfort foods.

Stress may also cause weight gain on its own, without extra food cravings. Stress results in higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which may promote belly fat.

Drinking Plenty of Water

Hunger and thirst can produce very similar sensations in the mind, causing it to become confused. One of the easiest ways to reduce food cravings is to make sure the body is hydrated throughout the day.

Getting Enough Sleep

A 2013 study found that not getting enough sleep could alter the body’s hormonal balance. This imbalance contributes to overeating and weight gain.

The researchers noted that when the sleep-deprived participants switched to an adequate sleep schedule, they lost weight, which indicates that their hormones were brought back into balance.

Eating Enough Protein

A healthful diet should contain plenty of lean sources of protein, as they may help reduce cravings.

A study in the journal Obesity found that overweight men were able to reduce their cravings by up to 60 percent by getting 25 percent of their daily calorie intake from protein.

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum keeps the mouth busy and may help reduce both sweet and salty cravings.

Changing the Scenery

Changing habits, such as stopping at the park instead of picking up fast food on the way home, can help to reduce cravings in the long-term.

Replacing habits can be difficult, and some food cravings may be due to long-term habits. For instance, if someone gets fast food on their way home from work every day, this practice may reinforce their cravings.

For cravings at home, it may help to take a walk around the block, take a shower, or even call a friend. These things may help distract a person from their craving long enough for it to subside.

Avoiding Hunger

A healthful diet does not include frequent hunger pangs. In fact, under-eating can make food cravings worse.

When the body is very hungry, it may crave more calorie-dense foods than usual, including fried and processed foods.

Controlling Portions

For some people, completely avoiding the food they crave may make these cravings worse. This can lead to overeating or feeling miserable without that food. In this case, it may be better to satisfy the cravings with a small, portion-controlled treat.

A New Study Suggests a Novel Way to Reduce Food Cravings

A new study proves one sense can compensate another. Just a whiff of fried food may entice you to order a high-calorie meal. But breathe it in for longer than two minutes, and you’re more likely to be content with fruit.

A new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research finds ambient food scent can directly satisfy the belly. That’s because the brain doesn’t necessarily differentiate the source of sensory pleasure.

Lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, marketing professor at the University of South Florida College of Business, explains: “Ambient scent can be a powerful tool to resist cravings for indulgent foods. In fact, subtle sensory stimuli like scents can be more effective in influencing children’s and adults’ food choices than restrictive policies.”

Biswas discovered a direct connection between the length of exposure time and whether or not one will indulge.

  • He conducted a series of tests using an inconspicuous nebulizer that separately gave off the scent of healthy and unhealthy food items.
  • One experiment was conducted with cookie and strawberry scents.
  • A second trial compared pizza and apple aromas.

Results of Scent Food Craving Study

The research showed that the time of the exposure to the food scent mattered.

  • Participants exposed to the smell of cookies for less than 30 seconds were more likely to want a cookie.
  • But those exposed for longer than two minutes, didn’t find that cookie desirable, and picked strawberries instead.
  • The study showed the same results when the scent of pizza and apples were tested.

Click here to read full study about scents and food cravings.