A sudden yearning for chocolate—an overwhelming desire for chips and salsa—food cravings can feel intense! We explain why cravings occur and how you can keep them at bay.
Why We Crave
According to Psychology Today, 97 percent of Americans experience food cravings. For women in the U.S., chocolate is the most sought after food. Various theories explain the urge to indulge. It’s possible that people train themselves to crave certain high-calorie foods when they’re hungry, such as pizza, cake, and ice cream, a study at the University College of London reveals. Other research suggests that you may crave carb-laden fare because it increases the production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical produced in the brain. A third theory implies that cravings are linked to nutrients your body may be lacking, such as protein from cheese and dairy products.
Five Ways to Fight Cravings
- Eat frequently. When you go longer than five hours between meals, you’re more likely to crave unhealthy foods.
- Rethink salty. Instead of reaching for chips, try edamame sprinkled with a touch of sea salt or a small handful of lightly-salted nuts. Both will give you a healthy dose of fat and protein and help fill you up.
- Downsize. Grab one serving of the food you crave, and place the rest of the package out of site. If you have absolutely no control, don’t keep it in the house. Only buy one serving when you truly want it.
- Make sweet swaps. Next time your sugar craving rears its head, grab a piece of fresh fruit, or top a nonfat yogurt with a handful of dark chocolate chips. Candy or toffee your weakness? Opt for dried fruit or a homemade trail mix instead.
- Give in to chocolate. When chocolate cravings hit, go for it! Choose a one-ounce piece of dark chocolate, which is brimming with antioxidants. A hot cup of cocoa may do the trick as well.
Toby Amidor is a registered dietician and the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @tobyamidor.