It is unknown what causes cravings, it could be a combination of a physiological need for a nutrient and a psychological desire. A great example from eatright.org: when children are sick, a bowl of Mom’s chicken noodle soup makes them feel better by relieving congestion and through other health benefits. When the children grow up and fall ill, the children crave chicken noodle soup to not only help them feel better but because it brings back fond memories of being cared for by Mom.
But, food cravings can also become overwhelming and may lead to overindulgence and negative feelings such as guilt. When people follow very restrictive diets, such as one that cuts out whole food groups, cravings can become more intense and may lead to a repetitive cycle of indulging, overeating, and guilt or remorse. A healthier diet is one that allows small amounts of all foods. It is easier to maintain because you are not eliminating your favorite foods – you are instead using portion control and moderation.
If food cravings come about, here are some tips for handling them:
– Wait 20 minutes before indulging in your craving. The wait may cause the desire to wane or you may find a healthier alternative during the wait
– Buy the healthier versions of the foods you crave: look for dark chocolate, low-fat ice cream, baked chips, etc
– Use portion control: When you buy food or make food, separate your items into single portion bags. You could also buy pre-portioned items. Limit yourself to a single serving.
– Schedule snacks: plan for snacks throughout the day to prevent between-meal hunger. Look for nutritious options to stay on track
– Find something non-food related to do: start a craft project, take a walk, or call a friend. Busy hands or a busy mind may keep the cravings at bay.
– Keep a food journal. You may start to notice trends in the time or reason why you are indulging in a craving – you can then make healthy steps to change the habit!