The food cravings struggle is real. Some days we just want to eat and eat – and not necessarily the stuff that’s good for us, which can be a problem when trying to eat healthily for wellbeing or weight loss reasons.
So what’s going on? Happily, there’s a science behind our need to feed. Psychologist Dr Megan Arroll says we often crave food when we’re bored. "If you’re a ‘boredom eater’, do something that scares you. If you’re a bit shy, talk to a stranger. If you don’t like spiders, find some videos on YouTube."
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Not crazy about creepy crawlies but still keen to find ways to prevent the munchies? We asked Rob Hobson, nutritionist and co-author of Detox Kitchen Bible, for his top tips to help curb food cravings. Here’s what he advised…
1. Sniff vanilla
"Some people swear by this," Rob says. "Try carrying around a bottle of vanilla essence and have a good sniff when you fancy something sweet. It works for me!"
It may sound out-there, but it's backed by research. In a study conducted by researchers at St George's Hospital in London, participants' appetite for chocolate and sweet food and drinks were significantly reduced when they wore vanilla-scented patches.
2. Swap sugar for spice
‘Use cinnamon and nutmeg in place of sugar as they have a sweet taste and add a really interesting flavour,’ suggests Rob.
3. Up your protein intake
You don’t have to gorge on chicken, but Rob recommends planning meals around protein, healthy fats and a good source of fibre. "This helps to maintain fullness and beat the desire to snack," he says.
4. Keep busy
‘Idle hands make for the devil’s work,’ warns Rob. ‘Evenings are one of the times most people crave treats. Try going out for a walk, cleaning the house or having a long bath rather than just flopping in front of the TV.’
5. Drink a glass of water
That craving might not be hunger – it could be dehydration. Try glugging back a large glass of H20, then wait 20 minutes to see if your ‘hunger’ remains.
6. Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals is a huge no-no. Rob says we should eat three meals daily and keep healthy snacks to hand. ‘If you let yourself get ravenous your blood sugar will drop and you’ll be more likely to crave something sweet.’
7. Manage stress
Find yourself reaching for biscuits when you’re stressed? "Seek out relaxing foods, rich in magnesium, such as nuts, seeds and even a little high-cocoa dark chocolate," says Rob.