How to handle those pesky cravings

Ever find yourself constantly feeling the need to satisfy cravings? Cravings are one of the number one reasons to derail people from meeting their nutrition goals. Cravings can hit at unexpected times and have you reaching for the sweet, salty or savoury indulgent choice, often leaving you feeling dissatisfied once you’ve finished. Rather than relying on willpower to beat the battle of the craving, outsmart them by understanding the what, the why and the how to overcome them.

The What ..

Food cravings are an intense desire for a specific food. These are often highly sensory foods either sweet, salty, crunchy or smooth, which are packed with excess calories and not much nutrition!  And the desire can seem uncontrollable, that feeling of not being satisfied until you get that particular food! The one thing to remember is that cravings are most often short lived and transient.

The Why …

There are a number of reasons why cravings can occur and often they are triggered by seeing, smelling or hearing about a specific food. They can be related to learned experiences for example your parents giving you a chocolate to make you feel better when you were a child. As an adult you associate chocolate with comforting you from a sad emotion.

Other reasons for why cravings hit include:

  • under eating or overly restrictive
  • stress levels
  • fatigue
  • nutrition deficiencies
  • depriving your self of satisfying your taste preferences
  • emotional triggers
  • visual cues like food advertising

The How to handle cravings …

There are a variety of ways to reduce unwanted food cravings. By following a few steps you can prepare yourself for even the most unexpected craving.

  • Understand your triggers: recognise the when and why of your cravings. Are you leaning on a glass of wine every evening after work, or reaching for the 3pm sweet treat? Be mindful of where that craving is coming from and why, so you can more strategically understand how to fuel your body, without having to sacrifice completely
  • Manage your stress levels: use techniques other that food rewards to support stress levels. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you need include more exercise either upbeat or downtime stretching?
  • Nourish yourself: Stay hydrated and ensure your meal plan has enough food to support your bodies nutritional needs especially protein
  • Be prepared: keep foods that you know you crave out of sight (and hopefully out of mind). Also create yourself a list of healthier alternatives to your craving. For example if you love salty chips as your craving weakness, why not swap out for some airpopped popcorn or a handful of crunchy roasted almonds. And make sure you have a little emergency craving kit that has healthier options.

Example healthy options to handle cravings:

  • For potato chips try air popped popcorn
  • For chocolate opt for dark chocolate with a handful of raspberries – this reduces the amount and adds extra nutrition
  • For sweets/lollies try natures sweets like berries or fruit like pear/apple with yoghurt to add some protein

Other ideas include:

  • Grainy crackers and your favourite cheese (40g is a dairy serve and you need to hit 3 serves a day for most adults)
  • Some dry roasted nuts (30g is a serve)
  • Tomato salsa or a dollop of hummus or tzatziki dip with veggie sticks like carrots, celery, capsicum or tomatoes (unlimited amount – you can never have enough)!

Why not try making these delicious peanut butter bliss balls that are packed with protein, sweetness and goodness to combat any craving!