Spring craving?

Fight food cravings by understanding what they are and practicing these simple tips when a craving hits.

Food cravings, we have all experienced them. Some food cravings are based on the mental need for sugary or high fat foods. Some people experience cravings for spicy foods, while others simply admit to being hopeless   “chocoholics.” Cravings are not the same as hunger. Hunger is controlled by the stomach, but cravings are controlled by the brain.

Why do we have food cravings?

  • Because the foods we crave taste and smell good, they invoke pleasant “feelings” which are the result of our brain releasing chemicals in response to each experience.
  • According to The Facts About Food Cravings,areas of the brain responsible for memory and sensing pleasure are partially to blame for food cravings.
  • It is true in that the three regions of the brain (the hippocampus, insula and caudate) appear to be activated during food-craving episodes. If it is true that food cravings arise to satisfy emotional needs, such as calming stress and reducing anxiety,  then it may be possible to identify food craving patterns and triggers.     

How to guard against food cravings?

  • Identify when you crave. Enjoying food is intertwined in culture and society.  For some, there is a constant battle between healthy eating and food management. Learning how to identify the root of food cravings may be the first step in managing them. If you find that you cave when eating out then eating a healthy snack before leaving the house may help you feel satisfied. Ultimately, you’ll be more likely to have control of cravings.  
  • Don’t bring your cravings to the grocery store. Ridding the refrigerator and cupboards of high-fat, sugary comfort foods will mean less calorie intake and less temptation.  Keeping emotional “comfort foods” handy only invites trouble.
  • Replace cravings!  - Replace foods that are high in empty calories with better choices. For example, try a yogurt parfait with low-fat or fat-free yogurt and sliced fruit or frozen grapes for a sweet treat. You can still get the sweet you want without the excess calories.

How to kill a craving? 

  • A short burst of exercise such as five toten minutes of brisk walking can help. How? For one, the tempting trigger is out of sight and you have time to think about the potential consequences. Secondly, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are flowing, helping to manage your stress which will increase your sense of calm and reduce your appetite.
  • Finding social support can be extremely beneficial. Talking with a friend, joining a wellness center, or attending a self-management workshop can keep you both active and distracted from habitual food cravings.
  • Avoid empty calories. A great way to help you manage your body weight is to eat fewer empty calories. Ironically, most food cravings are made up of empty calories, calories from solid fats, added sugars or both.

Managing food cravings helps support overall disease prevention and management. The American Heart Association offers these tips to avoid stress and find pleasures outside of food cravings.

For more healthy tips contact your local  Michigan State University Extension office.

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