Eating triggers are everywhere.
Triggers that set off insatiable hunger and cravings are everywhere: in our homes, the streets and even in our memories. When a craving strikes — whether it’s sweet, salty or greasy — it’s hard to fight the urge to dive into the nearest box of cookies, bag of chips or tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
Being unable to fend off cravings can leave you feeling powerless, defeated and chips away your self-esteem. The good news? Research is beginning to uncover ways to manage your environment and stop common triggers from wreaking havoc on your diet.
Let’s face it: 2020 has not been a good year for limiting stress. For many of us, times are tougher than ever, but this is all the more reason to find a stress management routine that works for you. Unmanaged stress can take a toll on our overall health, and specifically, it can cause food cravings to skyrocket. Stress elevates the hormone cortisol, which triggers cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods. In this era of chronic stress, carve out time every day to decompress.
Using a meditation app — some good options include Headspace, Calm and 10% Happier — listening to music, catching up with friends, taking a bath or exercising are all good ways to provide stress relief. Know your stressors and what relief techniques work for you to take control of stress eating.
Get to bed.
Skipping sleep? Your lack of zzz’s may be the cause of serious food cravings. Over the last two decades, researchers have observed a strong link between inadequate sleep, cravings and weight gain. One study found that people ate more calories from snacks and carbohydrates after five and a half hours of sleep versus eight and a half hours.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people consumed 500 extra calories (22% more) when they were sleep deprived than when they had eight hours of sleep.
Researchers believe that getting little or no sleep disrupts appetite regulating hormones. Make getting at least 7 to 8 hours of quality shut-eye a night your priority, and you’ll be less likely to find your hand in the cookie jar in the afternoon.
Don’t deprive yourself.
Total deprivation of all your favorite sweets and treats can backfire, resulting in obsessing and bingeing. Rather than eliminate all the foods that you crave, enjoy them in portion-controlled servings.
Does chocolate hit your sweet spot? It does for me. What do I do? I have individually-wrapped chocolates that keep the calorie count in check. And for my ice cream cravings, I opt for a mini-cup of vanilla Hagen-Dazs that has just 210 calories versus an 800-calorie pint. I also like the new, individually-wrapped KIND Frozen bars that are just 180 calories and come in delicious flavors like Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt Bars that are creamy and satisfying with dark chocolate and nuts. There are many low-calorie options of ice cream to choose from. Just look at the label.
Clean up your kitchen.
One of the biggest food triggers may be right under your roof: How you stock and organize your kitchen can make or break your cravings. Having a kitchen fully stocked with healthy options is essential.
Another key: prepping and storing foods in a way that makes them appealing and easy-to-reach. If your pantry and fridge are so jammed you can’t even see into them, it’s time to clean up and re-organize. Toss items that have passed their expired date and use the prime real estate in your fridge for healthier foods like fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy, hummus and bean dips. Do the same for your pantry. Create your own portion-controlled snack packs that you can easily grab for on-the-go. Some of my favorites are orange slices, fresh strawberries, broccoli, carrots and high fiber crackers.
Skip the booze.
Many of us enjoy an occasional glass of wine or cocktail. One drink is fine, but make that your limit. Alcoholic beverages provide a triple threat when it comes to food and cravings. Not only do they add calories — a 6-oz. glass of white wine is about 120 calories — they stimulate your appetite and decrease your inhibitions, so that big plate of nachos and cheese might suddenly seem like a terrific idea. Save beer, wine and cocktails for special occasions, and even then, just have one drink.
5 Tips to Avoid Food Cravings
1. Manage stress.
2. Get to bed.
3. Don’t deprive yourself.
4. Clean your kitchen — and pantry.
5. Cut the alcohol.
More from U.S. News
5 Ways to Avoid Triggers That Cause Food Cravings to Spike originally appeared on usnews.com