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The Facts About Food Cravings

7 ways to deal with those irresistible urges

7 Tips About Food Cravings continued...

4. Don't let yourself get too hungry

What happens when you skip a meal, or refrain from eating when you're truly hungry? Sooner or later, you get SO hungry that you end up overeating to compensate. It's in this state of extreme hunger that we tend to crave quick-fix foods like candy bars. Eating several meals through the day may help to control cravings and binge-type eating.

5. Start a cravings journal

If you have a real problem with food cravings, keep a cravings journal for a month. List the times of day you have cravings, the emotions you're feeling at the time, the foods you crave, and what and how much you ate. When you look back through your journal, ask yourself if there are any patterns, such as certain times of day when you tend to experience food cravings. Are there certain emotions or situations that tend to bring them on?

6. Smart carbs to the rescue

We've established that our bodies often crave high-fat and high-sugar (or high-refined-carb) foods. And we know that when we feed our stressed-out bodies carbohydrates, it helps calm them down. So the best way to calm our bodies and yet nourish them is to choose "smart carbs" like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. These foods give your body the carbs it craves along with lasting nutritional power from fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.

Craving a grilled cheese sandwich? Make it with whole-wheat bread and reduced-fat cheddar. Craving chocolate cake? Make it from scratch, substituting whole-wheat flour for half the white flour and Splenda for half of the sugar. Cut the recipe's fat in half by substituting some fat-free sour cream. For the rest of the butter or oil the recipe calls for, use a smarter fat like canola oil or a margarine high in monounsaturated fat and plant omega-3s.

7. Take care of yourself

Most of us could use a good dose of nurturing. If we take good care of ourselves day to day, we may be less likely to feel stressed, angry, unhappy, etc. -- and therefore less likely to crave comfort foods. If the voice inside you seems to be telling you to indulge in junk food every time you turn around, it may be a red flag that you need some nurturing. Maybe you need some support, time to yourself, or time to play a little.

Here are a few non-food ways to nurture yourself, along with their costs:

  • Treat yourself to a facial ($25 on up).
  • Meet a friend for coffee ($2 to $5, depending on how fancy your coffee is and whether you are going Dutch).
  • Read a good book or magazine. You can trade books and magazines with friends, too (free to $10).
  • Get a massage. It can come from a friend or spouse too, which makes it free, although you may need to reciprocate (free to $75).
  • Get a pedicure ($15 to $25).
  • Take a hike -- literally! (free).

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Reviewed on January 13, 2005

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