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7 Smart Ways To Kick Unhealthy Food Cravings

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon. I’ve already had a full day, and yet I still have a million other little things to do. One child is begging me to play a game, another keeps handing me books to read him, and the third . . . well, she should be napping. Yet somehow, with all the things I have to do, everything competing for my attention, the place my brain keeps going is to the kitchen. Specifically, to that box of crackers that I’d love to reach into but don’t want to share with my kids.

Ugh.

It’s bad enough knowing the things I crave are generally on the wrong end of the “health food” spectrum, but the fact that they’re keeping me from doing my job taking care of my kids, making our house a nice place to be, helping us be mindful and healthy makes it even worse. And then there’s the regret I feel when I do succumb.

Again, ugh.

But the good news is that cravings are generally a mental problem, which means you can overcome them if you know the right tactics to use. After all, if I were really just hungry, I’d be satisfied with anything, right?

Keep this list handy so that next time the mid-afternoon munchies strike, you’ll be able to strike back while keeping your calorie intake, and your guilt levels, low.

  • Conquer Cravings 1 of 8
    cravings

    7 tips to help you stay in control of your cravings.

  • Make A Goal 2 of 8
    garminrun

    Why do you want to resist cravings anyway? Are you trying to lose a few pounds? Limit calories? Eat better foods? Whatever the reason, make a goal that will give you a good reason to resist. Research shows that focusing on that goal can keep the reward center of your brain from activating, which can calm your cravings.

    And, truth be told, it doesn't even have to be a health-related goal. A friend and I once had a competition to see who could go the longest without eating any cookies. Having a goal to beat her made it easy to turn away from even my favorite chocolate chip cookies for months! 
  • Keep Healthy Options Around 3 of 8
    apples

    It's a lot harder to eat things that aren't there. Purge your pantry of your most common and most irresistible cravings. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, or dried fruit to munch on instead. If none of those sound like a good replacement for those potato chips your mind has been focusing on, then maybe you really aren't hungry. And if you do end up eating them, you can rest easy knowing that you're snacking on the good stuff.

  • Put The Food Away 4 of 8
    Peanut butter

    Keeping that box of crackers on the table just in case you're still hungry is a recipe for mindless eating. If it's out of sight, it's more likely to be out of mind as well. And sometimes the extra effort of having to get it out of the cupboard and open the package is exactly what you need to remind yourself that it's not worth it. 

     

    photo via istockphoto.com

  • Drink Water 5 of 8
    drink water

    Feeling a little empty, or craving salty foods may be a sign that you're actually thirsty maybe even a little dehydrated. Grab a glass of water to fend off the craving. It may be just what you need to flush it away entirely. 

     

    photo via istockphoto.com

  • Dive Into Something Else 6 of 8
    read a book

    When your brain is going a million miles a second, jumping from one thing to another, studies show that it sometimes latches on to one thing to focus on. And sometimes that thing is the slice of pie leftover in the refrigerator. So, what you're actually craving isn't necessarily food, it's some peace and quiet for your mind. Instead of heading to the fridge, grab a book or magazine, pick up that craft project you've been dying to get to, and tell the kids you're off limits for the next 15 minutes. (Then set a timer so they know you're serious.)

     

    photo via istockphoto.com

  • Write It All Down 7 of 8
    food log

    There's nothing like having everything you ate staring back at you in black and white to make you a little more careful about what you ingest. Are you sure you want to write down, "7 Oreo cookies" in your food journal? That added level of accountability may be just the thing you need. And if you do end up eating those cravings, and writing them down, you'll know exactly what's to blame when you haven't reached your goals. 

     

    photo via istockphoto.com

  • De-Stress 8 of 8
    relax

    Strong cravings are a sign your brain is overworked and is looking for a reward or some comfort. When cravings hit, take that as sign you need to give your brain a break. In the short-term this may mean sitting still, breathing deep, and giving your brain a rest. In the long-term, you may want to re-evaluate your activities and commitments and see if you can't re-arrange things to make them less stressful. At the very least, you'll likely have more energy to resist cravings when they hit.

     

    photo via istockphoto.com

 

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