What can we do about it? Well, first minimizing the extreme challenges in your environment can help. If there is no ice cream, potato chips or whatever you crave easily to be had - it helps. But sometimes in an extremely weak moment, even a trip to the store may happen to satisfy that craving.
What else might work? When the craving is strong consider what may be driving it? Ask yourself these questions:
How long has it been since I ate? Is it a good time for a meal or snack?
How much protein have I eaten today? Did I start out the day with adequate protein to keep me fueled?
What else could I do right now? A distraction may be just the thing to take your mind off of food.
Did I get enough sleep last night?
Am I feeling particularly stressed right now?
Address these other drivers first. If you haven't eaten enough or adequate protein, have a snack that will nourish you before reaching for the food you crave. If you are feeling tired or stressed take a break from what you are doing, go for a walk or do some simple stretches. If you just need a distraction, I am sure if you think about it you can come up with a long list of things that you could do besides eating.
Preventing the cravings
So you begin practicing some of the above tips to find other things that might work, but how can you make choices in your eating to prevent those cravings from happening in the first place?
Incorporate these foods into your diet on a regular basis and you will find yourself feeling more satisfied and watch the cravings diminish.
Nuts - walnuts, almonds, pistachios - nutrient packed powerhouses! Because nuts provide protein and a good amount of healthy fat, they keep you feeling satisfied longer. In addition nuts are filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are great for your health. To save $$ buy nuts in bulk and package them in individual serving size containers so you always have an easy grab-and-go snack for when you will need it.
Fruit - Though fruit is one of the sweeter whole foods in our diet, it is rich in fiber and water and doesn't create the same sugar cravings that eating a simpler sugar will. When you find yourself craving something sweet, reach for an apple - and even better top it with a tablespoon of almond butter and you have just created a nutrition-rich snack that will give you energy that lasts.
Vegetables - Of course filling your diet with lots of vegetables will help to keep you full and leave less room for cravings. Consider what you are craving - crunchy or salty? Try lightly salted Edamame beans or carrots or celery dipped in hummus. Giving yourself that crunch will help satisfy the craving in a nourishing way.
Fiber - If you regularly consume 30-40 grams of fiber each day, not only will your GI tract be healthier, you will reduce your food cravings all day long. All fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber, but some sources you may have not considered - beans (legumes, split peas, lentils), popcorn, whole grains. Pop popcorn to bring in a bag to work, make an easy bean salad or dip, or keep your freezer stocked with delicious bran muffins to grab and go. Find creative ways to get more out of what you eat!
Water or tea - Often when we feel like we need to eat, it may be a result of not having enough to drink. Carry a water bottle with you and place the number of rubber bands on it for the number of times you want to fill it each day. Remove one rubber band each time you fill up the bottle so you can ensure that you are getting enough to drink each day. A warm cup of tea will also hydrate you and is a great option to relax you if the cravings may be a result of stress or anxiety.
Food cravings are a challenge in our environment where food is at every turn. If you continue to make choices to nourish your body well, you will eliminate the cravings and you will be on your way to reaching your health and wellness goals.