How can I stop my food cravings?

Chris Powell
There are a few tricks to stop food cravings, like keeping your blood sugar steady all day long. Watch fitness trainer Chris Powell explain how to slow down your digestion, as well as when to eat protein, carbs, fiber, and fats throughout the day.
Kate Geagan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Here are fixes that combat cravings.

Fill up first on whole foods. The best way to reboot happy brain chemistry is to be sure you’re giving it the right building blocks, and that’s real, whole foods (as well as at least two servings of omega-3-rich fish twice a week, which has been shown to boost mood). Fill your plate first with whole foods that look like they do in nature, such as whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. This will make it easier to feel satisfied on smaller portions of the “nutritional no-nos” you may be craving. If instead you reach for that bag of potato chips or that cookie dough on an empty stomach, you’ll likely eat more -- a lot more -- reinforcing unhealthy brain chemistry.

Start your day with a brisk walk. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise suggested that exercise may be the secret to changing our Pavlovian-like response to tempting food. Women who walked briskly for 45 minutes in the morning had a much milder brain response to food images compared to the days they skipped the exercise. An added bonus? The women burned more total calories on the days they walked without increasing their hunger, another plus for weight control.

Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Call it the “dream diet.” Research from Stanford and the University of Wisconsin found that subjects who slept less than eight hours a night had significantly higher levels of body fat than those who were well rested. Getting too little shut-eye seems to interfere with ghrelin and leptin, the body’s hormones that regulate hunger and satiety. Be sure you’re getting at least eight hours of quality sleep on most nights to minimize craving related to sleep deprivation.

Write it down. It’s amazing the power food logs can have -- think of it as instant accountability. If you’re serious about curbing cravings, writing down everything you eat and drink during the day is a powerful step. Keeping a food log can also help you track trends (stressful day and skipped lunch?) to pinpoint what went wrong in your eating routine to cause the craving to come on in the first place. Whether you prefer a mobile app or pen and paper, documenting what you eat is consistently shown to help improve eating habits.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Cravings can be your worst enemy when you’re trying to lose weight. Certain foods can fuel cravings even more, making it harder to resist them. I have a 28-day plan to stop you from craving the foods that make you gain weight. My plan uses techniques that help retrain your brain to desire foods that fill you up and keep you healthy, rather than empty foods that won’t satiate your hunger.

Week one: Swap out salt. Salt is one of the worst craving offenders. It plays tricks on your taste buds, raises blood pressure and generally triggers cravings for unhealthy, sodium-rich foods. Instead of using salt as a seasoning, try any of these other kinds of seasonings as a healthier alternative: black pepper, basil, cilantro, curry, ginger, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage or turmeric.

Week two: Pair "booster" snacks with "pitfall" snacks. Pitfall snacks are the kinds of foods you can’t get enough of, like chips and chocolate; everyone's pitfalls are different, so be sure to focus on the foods that make you go overboard. To help wean your brain off of these addictive foods, make sure to have a booster food handy to pair with something you love. This will begin the association between the two and help make the booster food more palatable. If you start doing this just twice a day, by alternating bites of your pitfall snacks with booster foods, your brain will start to crave the healthy booster foods, too. My recommended booster foods are: quinoa, soba noodles, barley, brown rice, steel-cut oats, chicken, turkey, trout, buffalo, navy beans, Greek yogurt, almond milk, low-fat goat's milk, 1% milk, low-fat cottage cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, figs, grapes and kiwis.

Week three: Replace three pitfall foods with three booster foods. Kick the swapping up a notch by moving from snacks to full meals. If you replace pitfall foods, like fried chicken or thick cream sauces, with booster foods, like grilled chicken and sauteed broccoli, your body will become even more used to the booster foods as you work toward eliminating pitfall foods entirely. Try to replace at least one pitfall meal and two pitfall snacks a day.

Week four: Eat all booster meals. This might be the hardest week, as you’ll replace all your meals with booster meals. You can still indulge in one or two pitfall snacks a day, but chances are the first three weeks of training won’t have you craving the same unhealthy foods you used to love.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.