Snack Attack: Coping With Cravings
Moderation is key to satisfying your sweet tooth or salt craving.
Body or Mind? continued...
Emotions play a big part in food cravings, too, Wilborn says.
"When we're stressed, anxious, frustrated, lonely ... all those feelings
can trigger our cravings." She adds that we may have memories of how good
certain foods made us feel when we were younger.
Sensory triggers, like smells and visual cues, can also set off
cravings, says Wilborn. If you walk by the pizza stand on your trip through the
mall, chances are you're going to start salivating.
How to Cope
If you're not physically hungry, Wilborn offers several
recommendations for handling your cravings:
- Brush your teeth and gargle with an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine.
"Part of wanting to eat is the taste. Nothing tastes good after you've
gargled with Listerine," Wilborn says.
- Distract yourself. "Take yourself out of the situation for 45 minutes
to an hour," says Wilborn. "Then if you still want whatever it is
you're craving, have a small amount."
- Relax with deep breathing exercises or meditation.
- Choose a healthy substitute. If you want ice cream, spoon up some fat-free,
sugar-free ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet. Wilborn also recommends
freezing a container of Dannon Light yogurt. "It takes on a wonderful
consistency," she says. If you want potato chips, try baked tortilla chips
- Listen to your cravings. If you want something salty, you may very well
need salt. Add salt to your food instead of having salty snacks.
- If you know what situations trigger your cravings, avoid them if
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. "Often hunger is a signal that
we're thirsty," says Wilborn.
But allow yourself some moments of weakness, too. "Give in
now and then," Wilborn says. "It's really not healthy to be so
Jennifer Grana, a registered dietitian with the Dr. Dean Ornish
Program for Reversing Heart Disease in Pittsburgh, agrees that if there is no
medical reason for you to avoid your favorite snacks, you should cut yourself
some slack. "If you're reaching for a bag of chips only now and then,
that's OK." As long as 80% of your food intake is good for you, you can
play with that other 20%, she says.
Think of your favorite foods as a reward, she says -- a small
treat after you've finished your exercise for the day, perhaps. "Don't
think of a food craving as a negative," she says. "For most people,
anything is OK in moderation."