If you’re trying to lose weight, food cravings can be a major obstacle. You know all the rules for healthy eating, but it’s hard to resist when you get a craving for something sweet or salty.
You may think that cravings just mean you miss your favorite junk foods, but actually they are often an indication of a nutritional deficiency or other medical issue. The good news is, they can often be controlled through changes in your diet or lifestyle. Below are some common factors that contribute to cravings, and tips for preventing or controlling them.
1. You’re not eating enough protein
It may sound healthy to limit yourself to carrot sticks for lunch, but if you’re not getting enough protein, you’re going to be hungry again soon after you finish eating — and that may send you running to the vending machine. High-protein foods keep you feeling full longer, so it’s important to include them in every meal. To ensure you’re getting a balanced meal, opt for a lunchtime salad topped with some chicken breast or hard-boiled egg. If you still get cravings later, eat a handful of almonds or have those carrot sticks with some peanut butter.
2. You’re not drinking enough water
Thirst can disguise itself as hunger, so if you’re experiencing food cravings, try drinking a large glass of water and wait a few minutes. Often, the craving will go away. To keep cravings from sneaking up on you, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the stay. Staying properly hydrated has numerous health benefits, and may even help you lose weight.
3. You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain and can also contribute to unhealthy food cravings. A study published in 2013 showed that a lack of sleep led to cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy foods. To keep cravings under control and function at your best, aim to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night.
4. You’re under too much stress
Whether you’re working at an office or home taking care of children, being in a stressful environment can lead to food cravings. Stress raises the body’s level of cortisol, a hormone that may indirectly stimulate the appetite and induce cravings by leading to other hormonal imbalances. Pay attention to stress signals and find other ways of combatting them, such as meditating or exercising.
5. You’re cutting out the wrong fats
Not all dietary fats are unhealthy. While you should be avoiding foods that are high in trans fats and saturated fats, it’s important to include sources of unsaturated fat in your diet. If you try to eliminate fats of all kind, your body will react by craving more fat, which can lead to unhealthy food choices. Make sure you are getting some form of healthy fat in each meal, such as fish, olive oil, avocado, and walnuts.
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