6 Ways to Curb Pesky Cravings When You’re Dieting (Without Skipping Meals)
You’re trying to eat less to drop a few pounds, but your tummy growls all the time. How do you squelch those hunger pangs or cravings without chowing down?
Make friends with water
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to confuse thirst with hunger: Even slight dehydration can leave you feeling ravenous. If munching is on your mind, think about how long it has been since your last glass of water. Aim for around eight glasses of water daily, more with exercise or if you live in a hot climate. When hunger hits, drink a glass of water. Roxana Begum, PhD, a dietitian in Chattanooga, Tennessee, fills a pitcher of water in the morning, and sips on it throughout the day. Your weight loss and maintenance efforts benefit from hydration, as well.
Don’t skip meals—seriously
Skipping meals is a sure-fire way to bring on overwhelming hunger, according to dietitian Betsy Ramirez of Shreveport, Louisiana. “Prevention and planning are crucial,” she says. Long stretches of time between meals result in stomach growling. Three well-balanced meals, spaced about 5 hours apart keeps you fueled. Cathy Craig, a dietitian in Tucson, Arizona, reminds us that “balanced” means a carbohydrate with a protein and fat. “The meal takes longer to digest, helping with satiety between meals as well as keeping your blood sugar constant, which assists in mood stability.” Skipping breakfast negatively affects your appetite and hunger cycle more than other meals. Here are some more hazards to missing your morning meal.
Keep a stash of healthy snacks on hand at your desk, in your purse, or in the fridge for moments of weakness. Good choices include fresh carrot and celery sticks, bell pepper strips, radishes, grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas. Ready-to-eat fruits like apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes and nectarines provide flavorful fiber. Wash berries and cut up melons ahead of time, so they can be eaten right when hunger hits. Nutritious fruits and veggies are low in calories, but rich in fiber—satisfying snacks between meals without busting your calorie budget. And look for tasty ways to boost your fruit and veggie intake.
Power up with protein
The best meals and snacks include a source of protein for staying power. High-carb meals and snacks provide energy, but not long lasting feelings of fullness. Pair an apple with some almond butter. Add cheese slices to crackers. Pour a bit of milk into your afternoon tea. Munch on cashews or Greek yogurt. Protein-packed snacks keep you full until your next meal. Don’t forget protein at your meals, too. Mid-day meals need protein to tide you over until evening. Here are some more ideas for boosting protein in your lunch.
Hungry, but you shouldn’t be? Maybe you’re really just bored? Look for activities to take your mind off your hunger temporarily. Some examples: “Go for a walk,” recommends Jessica Levinson, a dietitian New Rochelle, New York. “Stepping away from the kitchen and getting fresh air reduces the urge to snack and takes your mind off of food.” Chew gum. Work on a puzzle. Read a book. Complete one chore. Chat with a friend. Play a game. Do 10 push-ups. Work in the garden. Wait at least 20 minutes to determine if you’re experiencing true hunger. Be mindful of your surroundings and appreciate some beauty around you.
Focus on fiber
Fiber-rich foods keep you full longer, because they slow down the speed of digestion. When you’re truly hungry, reach for snacks containing fiber—fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Some great high-fiber snack examples include hummus with carrots, natural nut butter with celery, or Greek yogurt with berries. Sneaking fiber into your regular meals keeps you satisfied longer, too. Try out these tricks for getting more fiber in your diet without really trying.
Get enough sleep
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Double check your sleeping patterns. Research shows that sleep deprivation influences appetite and hunger. Toronto-based dietitian Shahzadi Devje teaches her clients about the hormones that regulate our appetite—leptin and ghrelin—and how they are influenced by the amount of sleep we get. Aim for a solid eight hours per night. If you work night shift, adjust your routine so that you still get enough shut-eye. And you can never have too many tips on improving your sleep quality.