If your diet’s been derailed by a sudden desire for chips or hankering for a hamburger, you’re not alone.
According to Cheryl Forberg, RD, nutritionist for “The Biggest Loser” and author of “A Small Guide to Losing Big,” cravings are one of the biggest diet downfalls and something that affects everyone. Studies by Tufts University and the Monell Chemical Senses Center found that nearly everybody experiences food cravings.
“Several different things can trigger food cravings,” Forberg said. “Sometimes our bodies are in need of a particular nutrient. Sometimes it’s hormonal. But most of the time it’s emotional. A lot of us are emotional eaters and often – if we’re feeling bored, anxious or lonely – we reach for food when we’re not even hungry for satisfaction.”
How do you curb the cravings? Forberg recommends some cupboard spring cleaning.
“If the kitchen is full of unhealthy options, when a craving strikes we reach for what’s immediately available,” she said. “Swap out the bad for the good. When only healthy alternatives are on hand, we naturally make better choices.”
Salty and crunchy. Toss the chips and replace them with pistachios. One serving of pistachios – a whopping 49 nuts – has 150 calories, so they totally satisfy that craving, plus they’re filling. While they satisfy that craving for salt, they actually only have 120 milligrams of sodium per serving, which is less than 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, a cup of chicken noodle soup or 1/2 cup of canned green beans.
Sweet. Many people have a sweet tooth. Keep loads of fruit on hand. Focus on the sweetness of a berry, rather than reaching for a cookie, and you’ll benefit from the vitamins and nutrients as well.
Chocolate. Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate (70 percent or greater cocoa content), as it is a source of flavanols and antioxidants for disease prevention and heart health, and stick to serving size suggestions. Or try chocolate milk low in fat and sugar, which provides a nutritional boost in the form of calcium and vitamin D.
Carbs. Substitute a leaf of romaine for a slice of bread and try a lettuce wrap instead of a sandwich. Craving pizza? Flip the head of a Portobello mushroom over, top with a dollop of marinara sauce, some Italian sausage and grated mozzarella cheese, stick it in the oven for 8-10 minutes and you have a Portobello Pizza – with less than 100 calories.
Dairy. Sometimes those cravings translate into textures. If you have a hankering for something creamy, skip the ice cream and reach for slices of avocado or bananas instead.
Coffee or soda. Believe it or not, many people who are overweight drink their daily calorie allotment. Swap that sugary soda or cream-filled coffee for a glass of sparkling water or cranberry juice with a lime.
Once you make a switch, you’re on the road to mindful eating rather than mindless snacking, which can make all the difference when it comes to tackling cravings.