Registered nutritionist Nicola Jackson shares four pointers to consider if unhealthy food cravings are getting the best of you.
At some stage, we’ve all had that irresistible urge to eat a specific food. Whether your craving is for chippies and chocolate, or white bread with butter, food cravings can really throw you when you’re trying to get into a pattern of healthy eating. So what should you do when that bag of potato chips is calling your name?
1. Have you got your baseline diet right?
The first port of call when dealing with cravings is to take a look at your overall diet. Is it balanced? Are you eating enough? If you’re regularly getting food cravings in between meals, you might need to look at the balance of your meals. Often a 3pm sugar craving can be avoided by eating a more balanced lunch. This is something I see a lot of, especially when people eat salad-based lunches. To feel full, you need more than just greens! A serve of protein, a little healthy fat and healthy carbohydrate alongside those greens is a much more balanced lunch that will increase satiety and help keep those cravings at bay.
2. Is it emotional?
If you’re getting food cravings after a bad day at the office, chances are the cravings are emotional. Emotional eating becomes an issue when you’re consistently using food as a way to cope with emotions. Sometimes, it’s a habit so engrained, you don’t actually realise your craving is related to emotions. Next time you are craving something, have a think about how you are feeling and ask yourself, ‘Do I really feel like this? Is this going to make me feel better long term?’ Have a list of other things you can do when you are tempted to emotionally eat. Distracting yourself and doing something else that makes you feel good is a technique which works for many. If it’s a habit you’ve had for a while, emotional eating can be tricky to break, but finding new ways to soothe those emotions is an important first step.
3. Don’t ban foods
A sure-fire way to intensify cravings is to ban foods from your diet. If you can’t have it, you want it! Unless you have a food allergy, there’s no need to completely ban foods from your diet. Focus on a healthy diet, but don’t deprive yourself of the foods you love – allowing treats occasionally in appropriate portions can really help to avoid those intense cravings.
4. Retrain those taste buds
By making some simple food swaps, you can retrain your taste buds to enjoy less sweet and less salty foods. Every few weeks, our taste buds renew themselves. Whilst food will taste a little less flavoursome when you use less sugar and salt, after a few weeks it will become the new normal for your taste buds. If cravings, emotional eating or binge eating are an issue that you’re dealing with on a regular basis and finding it hard to beat, the best thing to do is get support from a qualified professional.
Nicola Jackson is a NZ-registered nutritionist with a passion for helping people to develop a healthier relationship with food. Nicola’s blog Eat Well NZ tells you why you don’t need to quit foods, follow rules, or go to the extreme to be healthy. Her blog showcases a balanced approach to eating well, with plenty of healthy recipes and other tips on nutrition, fitness and wellness. You can also find Nicola on Facebook and Instagram.