Americans' reliance on processed foods and snacks is undoubtedly one of the main factors driving our skyrocketing obesity and disease rates.
Processed foods contain carefully measured amounts of flavor and other sensory factors designed to be as addictive as possible. This is in stark contrast to whole foods, the taste and consistency of which was created by nature and therefore work with your body to satiate hunger and nutritional cravings.
Fortunately, there are solutions to unhealthy junk food cravings.
1) Drink lots of water
Thirst is often confused with hunger or food cravings.
If you feel a sudden urge for a specific food, try drinking a large glass of water and wait a few minutes. You may find that the craving fades away, because your body was actually just thirsty.
Drinking more water each day can drastically improve weight loss results. Drinking water increases the amount of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure.
Make sure you’re drinking about half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water daily (if you’re 140 lbs, drink 70 oz of water a day). Thirst and dehydration make you feel hungry, and may kick up your food cravings.
Drink water throughout the day to help you stay hydrated and control your hunger.
2) Eat More Protein
Eating more protein may reduce your appetite and keep you from overeating. Not only can high protein diets build muscle and optimize body composition, they can also curb hunger, promote weight loss, reduces cravings, and help you feel full and satisfied for longer.
One study of overweight teenage girls showed that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced cravings significantly.
3) Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective ways to eliminate sugar cravings and shed unwanted weight.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It does not say anything about which foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them.
There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.
Fasting will help reset your body to burning fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. When sugar is not needed for your primary fuel and when your sugar stores run low, your body will crave it less.
4) Avoid sugary foods and processed carbs
Wholesome carbohydrates give you energy, supply vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber. They are found in foods in their natural state. They take longer to break down in the body, which steadies blood sugars and promotes a feeling of satiety.
To prevent leptin surges and blood sugar crashes that pump up your appetite, avoid processed carbs and sweets as much as possible. Refined carbohydrates are not whole foods and offer no fiber, minimal nutritional value and promote unsteady blood sugars.
Related article: What Do Food Cravings Actually Mean?
5) Make meditation and sunshine a priority
Taking a few minutes every day to meditate and getting 10-15 minutes a day of sunshine or light therapy may boost serotonin levels so you’re not reaching for double-chrunch Twix Bars to turn your mood around.
6) Exercise and stay rested
Rather than relying on chips, cookies and chocolate to help you feel relaxed and happy, go for a brisk walk during the day and get into bed a little earlier in the evening. These habits produce endorphins just like the best tasting chocolates on the planet.
Plus, the exercise will boost your serotonin levels—something that should help you skip sugar and extra carbs more easily, too.
Are there ways to train your brain to crave healthy foods?
Britney Kennedy, founder of OnPoint Nutrition, a leading nutrition counseling provider based in Philadelphia, suggests applying the following three techniques to help train your brain to crave healthy foods:
- Break your routine:
- We are creatures of habit. If you find yourself reaching for unhealthy foods at 3:00 pm, implement a new habit. Take a few laps around your office or simply stand and stretch as ways to interrupt this cycle.
- Keep healthy food handy:
- The best way to avoid unhealthy foods is to make healthy options available. Fill your home with snacks such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and low fat dairy items instead of processed, high sugar foods.
- Avoid your “trigger” foods:
- Whether your weak spot is sweet or salty treats, be sure to identify the foods that send you into an unhealthy, snacking spiral. Once you have identified these items, avoid keeping them in your home.
Are you or someone you know trying to lose weight? The concierge doctors at Total Access Medical are here to help you.
It's never too late to start living a healthy life.