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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab), 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.
Lucy is a freelance journalist specializing in health, fitness and lifestyle. She was previously the Health and Fitness Editor across various women's magazines, including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own as well as Editor of Feel Good You. She has also previously written for titles including Now, Look, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Red and The Sun.
She lives and breathes all things fitness; working out every morning with a mix of running, weights, boxing and long walks. Lucy is a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios. Plus, she's pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to many classes of champagne and tequila on the rocks whilst out with her friends.
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