Tips from a dietitian: Control your cravings

Have an afternoon craving for something sweet? Put down the cupcake and follow these tips. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images)

Kait Fortunado
WTOP Wellness Contributor

WASHINGTON – If there’s one thing that can throw off the everyday good intentions of meal planning and healthy eating, it’s a sugar craving.

When it hits you, it’s hard to think about anything else, and often it can cause you to feel out of control.

Next time a craving strikes you, squash it with these tips.

Manage your blood sugar

A craving is often the result of low blood sugar, which happens when you don’t properly balance your meals or when you wait too long between them. To help better manage your blood sugar, try eating healthy meals or snacks every three to four hours.

Aim for carbohydrates, protein and fat at every meal so you are satisfied and energized. If you skip carbohydrates, you may crave them later on in the day. If you pass on protein or fat, your blood sugar will initially spike and then crash, causing you to crave sweets for energy.

Increase the variety of your foods

If you eat the same oatmeal for breakfast and turkey sandwich for lunch, day in and day out, it only makes sense for your body to crave something different. Try to plan out fun meals you will look forward to so you don’t get bored.

Here are some recipe ideas for meals; here are some for snacks.

Check-in with yourself before eating

Before each meal or snack, rate your mood and hunger. Perhaps you identify cravings associated with stressful and anxious moods, or maybe you crave certain foods as a reward. Pay attention to how you feel in the moment, as food may not be what you need at this time.

Come up with a stress action plan

Speaking of stress, when you are going through a rough time, your body goes into flight-or-fight mode and releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

These hormones cause you to use up your energy stores, leaving you to feel hungry. It is important to have some activities you can turn to when you are stressed, before automatically reaching for food. Ideas include deep breathing, journaling or calling a friend.

Get good sleep

When you are constantly tired, your body will crave sugar to help keep you awake. Make sure to take time to unwind each night and get an adequate amount of rest.

Honor your cravings

Most importantly, make sure to fit in fun foods and honor your body’s needs in a realistic way. If you have a desire for chocolate, try to fit it into a meal or snack in the right portion. My favorite snack is homemade trail mix with chocolate chips and almonds.

Are you more of a salty person? Have a serving of chips with lunch, instead of sitting down with the whole bag in the afternoon. If you plan out your meals and fit in these fun foods, you will be less likely to crave them or over-eat them later on.

Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates and serves on the board for the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association. Kait focuses on individualizing her recommendations to have each client see results and live a healthier, more productive life, and she works to help people enjoy food and eat the foods they love. Kait lives in the D.C. area and loves trying new restaurants and activities around the city. Visit Kait’s blog, Rebel Dietitian, and tweet her @Rebel_Dietitian for recipes, nutrition tips and activities in the Washington area.

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