Food & Drinks

10 Ways to Curb Unhealthy Food Cravings

Whether you’re shopping at the grocery store or looking in your pantry, refined sugars, processed ingredients, and unhealthy fats surround us. So it’s no wonder so many people have trouble fighting unhealthy food cravings.

Sugar and carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin—a hormone that stabilizes mood—within your body. So not only does junk food taste good, but it also makes you feel good. And it programs your brain to want more. Companies are purposeful in how they develop their addictive products. Junk food is designed by food scientists to contain just the right amounts of sugar, salt, and fat to keep you hooked, despite the long-term effects on your health.

The food cravings you feel are very real, but there are ways to fight back. Here are 10 ways to kick your unhealthy food cravings to the curb.

  1. Drink Water

It’s not uncommon to confuse hunger with thirst. So if you finish your dinner and crave a second helping, drink a tall glass of water instead. In fact, whenever you feel yourself longing for unhealthy foods, grab your water bottle and gulp away—you may find the craving weakens or disappears entirely, and your body will thank you for the extra hydration.

  1. Plan Healthy Meals

If you plan your meals ahead of time, buy healthier ingredients and reduce the chance of having to dig through your fridge for a desperate (and likely unhealthy) meal. And eat regularly so you don’t become famished—going without food for a long time will intensify food cravings and may cause you to overindulge later.

  1. Eat More Protein and Healthy Fats

By including more protein and healthy fats in your diet, you’ll come away from meals feeling more satisfied for longer periods of time—which will help keep your cravings in check. You can also compliment your diet with nutritional supplements or weight-management kits to help you feel satisfied.

  1. Eat Probiotic Foods

Restore a healthy balance to your gut by adding fermented foods and probiotics to your diet to help reduce your cravings for sugar and fats. The bacteria in your gut (your microbiome) eat what you eat. So if you feed them a lot of junk food, they’ll become accustomed to it, and you’ll continue to experience the same cravings. So stick with nutritious and probiotic-rich foods to thwart those unhealthy temptations.

  1. Don’t Grocery Shop While Hungry

The grocery store is a maze of advertisements. And if you’re already craving unhealthy foods, then you’re more likely to take home an armful of sugar, salt, and fat. So eat a satisfying meal before hitting the town.

Also, fresh and healthy foods—like produce, dairy, meat, and fish—are typically found in the perimeter sections of a grocery store. Some markets have a dedicated health foods section as well. Avoid the inner aisles lined with processed foods and snacks.

  1. Purge the Pantry

If you’ve given in to your cravings while grocery shopping before (and who hasn’t?), there’s a good chance your pantry or fridge already contains unhealthy foods. Even if you can’t see them, you know they’re there. And when the craving strikes, they’ll be in your hand before you know it.

Clear the addictive junk food from your kitchen and replace it with healthy snacks like fruits and nuts.

  1. Discover New Foods

Cutting unhealthy foods from your daily life can be challenging—it may feel like a drag, or like you’re living by an unexciting set of rules. But there’s another way to view your healthy goals. Changing up your diet is a great opportunity to discover new foods and evolve your taste.

Try new recipes that involve healthy ingredients you’ve never tried before. And as you savor new foods and expand your horizons, you’ll find junk food doesn’t hold a candle to the natural, exciting flavors.

  1. Manage Your Stress

Studies show sugar and carbs can give your emotional state a strong—but short-lived—boost. So it’s no surprise most of us eat unhealthy foods to help us cope with stress or anxiety. Stress is a normal part of a healthy life, but it’s important to manage it in constructive ways. Instead of turning to food, socialize with friends and family, pursue a new hobby, go for a walk, or give yourself some time to rest and relax.

  1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Chances are you’re not getting enough rest. Recent studies have shown a lack of sleep may increase food cravings. Sleep also helps you handle stress and anxiety throughout the day—so try and get to bed a little earlier tonight. And avoid phone and TV screens right before bedtime as they interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

  1. Reward Yourself

While you fight to leave your cravings behind, take a moment to reward yourself, even for small successes. Yes, even with a treat—moderation is key.

While some people are able to cut out junk food from their diet cold turkey, this plan can often backfire for many. Stick to realistic goals you can follow for the long haul. And celebrate every achievement.

If you give in to your cravings, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, reflect on your goals, change them if necessary, and press forward in a way that works for you.

Bio

Born and raised in Utah, Taylor Pulver grew up fishing, camping, and hiking his way through the Wasatch Range. Now, he lives in Salt Lake City as a writer, gardener, and avid reader of fantasy and science fiction novels.

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