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6 Simple Tips for Managing Junk Food Cravings

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Do you ever have days where you can’t seem to stop thinking about something you’re trying to learn to live without, or even just live with less of?  Maybe it’s the fudge brownie you’ve gotten into the habit of sneaking in after work, or the double mocha latte that’s become a daily habit instead of an occasional treat, and it’s placing a strain on both your waistline and your wallet.

A change in routine rarely comes without these urges to return to status quo, the habits we’ve acquired to feed a need, but now we’ve decided to try choose new habits which will serve us in a more positive way.  It can be challenging to get through this rough patch.  It takes more than willpower to successfully navigate, but don’t worry, there are ways to make it better without resorting to shock treatment.

Here are 6 simple tips to help you control cravings when they stand to come between you and your goals.

  1. Stay ahead of the hunger curve. Cravings are often triggered by plain old hunger, a biological signal that simply requires calories to stave.  When it’s not immediately addressed however, that signal reaches the thought center of the brain, which superimposes its own notion of what you need, which is not necessarily in your body’s best interest.  By the time you get to the stage where you’re pretty hungry, you’re not in a place where you’ll make your best decisions health-wise, it’s more about finding food, any food…now!  So stop that feeling before it starts with smart snacks* you have readily available for times like these.  You’ve planned ahead and are well stocked with good choices, don’t wait until you’re overly hungry and not using your best judgment, instead stay one step ahead of the curve.
  1. Identify options:  If you hate raw carrots, or find raw almonds completely uninspiring, no wonder you can’t stop thinking about the nacho Cheezits you’ve stashed in the back of the cabinet.   Deprivation never works, so you need to find the sweet spot between refined carbs or sugary treats, and a perfect healthy alternative.  You need a good enough happy medium, like apples and peanut butter, or whole grain crackers and avocado.  Satisfying in terms of protein and fiber content, and delicious tasting too.  See the list below more favorites.
  1. Change your scene.  Cravings pass, and you’ll get through the rough spots more easily is with some good old fashioned distraction.  New studies show that tapping:  your ear, your forehead or your toes can significantly reduce food cravings.  Alternatively, imaging a blank wall can also do the trick.  Worth a try!
  1. Listen to your body. Cravings can indicate a nutritional imbalance, especially if you’re on a restrictive diet.  A craving for ice cream may simply be your body’s way of telling you you’re deficient in healthy fats, in which case some avocado, almonds or Greek yogurt would be a smart and satisfying fix.
  1. Sugar cravings are typically more emotional than physical, and sometimes attempting to stave them only leads to wanting more. Certain dietary supplements may help stop your sugar cravings, or try some stevia-sweetened licorice tea, or a piece of fresh fruit to see if the cravings subside.
  1. Stay strong! Cravings often come with change, as the body and brain adjust, but hand in there!  After the new habit takes hold they generally subside, often for good.  This is the hardest time in the process of creating new habits, but so worth the effort to achieve your long term health goals and enjoy all of the benefits they bring.

Ten Smart Snacks to Have on Hand*

Looking for snack inspiration?  Experts suggest that two snacks a day, kept to about 200 calories each, will go a long way toward helping you to avoid overeating.  Look for snacks that combine fiber and protein, without added sugar.  Here are some good options to choose from:

  • Carrots dipped in 2 tablespoons of your favorite hummus
  • 2 pear halves, topped with 1 rounded tablespoon of cottage cheese, sprinkled with 1 tsp. of nuts
  • 2 crisp bread crackers spread with 1 tablespoon of almond butter. Top with 1 sliced small banana
  • 1 whole grain tortilla cut into chip sized wedges and baked at 350 for 5 minutes to crisp,  dipped in fresh salsa
  • Edamame from the grocer’s freezer section, thawed and sprinkled with salt.
  • 1 whole grain rice cake with a tablespoon of peanut butter, topped with thinly sliced apple
  • 4 cups sesame popcorn; air popped popcorn topped with ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil and ½ teaspoon sesame seeds and lightly salted.
  • 2 large celery sticks filled with 2 tablespoons of hummus and 1 tablespoon of sliced olives
  • Banana, Kale, and Almond Milk Smoothie; 1 medium banana, 1 cup chopped kale, and 1 cup almond milk until pureed in the blender or food processor until smooth.
  • A handful of raw almonds and a chai latte

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