Cravings can often be a downfall of a seemingly healthy diet. They are often not the “good for you” foods, they are tricky to avoid, and, most importantly, hard to resist. So I asked Rene Ficek, registered dietitian at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating (SSHE) how you can identify and fight these temptations that are seemingly everywhere.
Out of sight, out of mind
Ficek suggests to keep the tempting foods out of the house:
“It’s much easier to control your willpower when there is no unhealthy food to worry about. Take the junk food out of your house and replace it with healthy snacks.”
Ficek thinks one healthy alternative is you drink water when you get a craving or enjoy several small healthy meals throughout your day: “I find if I let myself get too hungry between meals I begin to crave all the wrong things which leads me to junk food. Plan what you will eat ahead of time.” She says rather than totally eliminating the foods you crave, hide them. If they are not constantly available to you, you will eat less. Another approach could be to purchase single servings of foods you crave. Instead of buying a whole box of cookies, buy just one cookie from a specialty bakeshop.
Other options for your cravings
Ficek says you should choose alternatives for your cravings: “Yearn for potato chips? Buy a brand that’s low-fat or fat-free. Desire something crunchy? Skip the chips: try fruit or a salad packed with crisp greens and veggies. Want something sweet? How about baking an apple or even roasting some veggies? Roasting brings out the sweetness in many foods.”
Wait out your cravings
Put your craving off, says our Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating expert:
“Tell yourself you’ll deal with the craving in 20 minutes. Food cravings are typically short-lived, and while the desire for chips, chocolate, or cake feels overwhelming now, it will wane, especially if you can find a healthier food substitute or distract yourself.”
Or, take a step further and cut yourself off from the cravings for a longer period of time. Ficek thinks 2 weeks is a good start: “It may be difficult to eliminate chocolate or sweets from your diet, but after that time period you will notice you crave the food a lot less.”
The most important point: How not to give in to a craving
Plan ahead, says Rene Ficek, R.D. Look at your calendar, think of your schedule. Are there parties happening? Will there be a piece of cake in your future that you won’t be able to resist?
“Schedule your indulgences”, says Ficek.
“If you know you will have a piece of cake, eat less of your meal. It’s OK to have treats once in a while. And if they are planned and you can still stay on track with your healthy meal habits, the treats become even more enjoyable!”
Ficek says it’s also important to plan for nutritious snacks to prevent between-meal hunger: “Keep portable, healthy snacks in your desk, backpack or car to prevent from overeating on unhealthy foods.” Some healthy snacks may include almonds and apple, or wholegrain cracker like Wasa with hummus or nut butter, or hard-boiled eggs.
Dr. Grace Hsu, of The Long Island Dental Spa offered a few other healthy snack ideas for kids and families:
– veggies and fruit that do not stick to teeth as much, so you’ll keep your teeth healthy as well. For example, Fruits like apples, melons, pears, oranges, berries, pineapple or Veggies including carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli.
– Nuts & Seeds, including unsalted or low-salt pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts. Of course, remember to floss afterwards.
Are you more prone to cravings than others?
Well, it all depends on your childhood. If you grew up with certain foods, it’s normal to crave those. Ficek says “for those who grew up eating a lot of sugar, it’s normal that sugar cravings are a part of your adult life.”
“Food preferences are developed in the womb and very early in life, so your diet as a child could affect your food cravings as an adult.”
If you are a parent, you should definitely take a note of this and make sure your kids are growing up with lots of fruits and veggies and healthy foods overall, so they start off on the right foot.
Easy way to outsmart a craving
This should have been the story headline, right? One easy way to outsmart a craving is to get active. Ficek recommends you take a walk, work on a hobby or call a friend.
“What you really may be craving is social support”
“A chat with a sympathetic friend can get you through a tough craving. It’s also important to 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. You’ll start noticing patterns so you can be better prepared to handle cravings in the future.”