Many people find it difficult to distinguish whether they are feeling hungry or if they are experiencing a craving for a certain type of food or taste. Hunger and cravings are completely different – hunger comes from the stomach and cravings come from the brain.
A craving can be caused by:
- A habit – if you eat something every day at the same time or you always eat something specific when with a specific person you will expect it
- An emotion – if you were once comforted by something such as chocolate you will look to repeat that feeling the next time you feel as if you need to be comforted.
- A message – if you are lacking in a specific mineral or vitamin your brain will send a message to consume something that contains that mineral or vitamin
The first thing to do is stop beating yourself up about your cravings. Instead try some of these ways to break the hold they have on you:
- Do you sit down at a certain time everyday with a cup of tea and biscuits? Swap the biscuits for 1 or 2 ricecakes with peanut butter.
- Do you reach for chocolate when you have an afternoon slump? Swap your normal chocolate bar for 2 squares of 75% dark chocolate.
- Can’t wait for dinner to finish cooking? Keep away from quick easy snacks and try a piece of fruit instead
- Hungry late at night? Don’t reach for the crisps or chocolate. Try a small bowl of porridge to fill the gap and help you sleep.
If you have very specific food cravings take a look at the list below to see what your body could actually be asking for
|Food||What does the body want||Alternative Food|
|Cheese||Healthy fats||Handful or two of unsalted nuts|
|Pasta/white bread||Chromium||Include onions, grapes, tomatoes, sweet potato and cinnamon in your diet|
|Bread/toast||Nitrogen||Try upping your green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts.|
|Red meat||Iron||Include spinach, cherries, beans in your diet plus vitamin C to aid absorption.|
|Crisps||Chloride||Try including celery, olives and kelp in your diet|
|Chocolate||Magnesium||Try upping your greens and fruit intake|
|Coffee/Tea||Sulphur||Try upping your asparagus, kale, garlic and onion intake|
Most of us give in to cravings because we believe that if we ignore them they will just get bigger and bigger until just wanting one biscuit will turn into a whole packet (or 2!). This is not the case though as cravings will build up, peak and will then disappear. It is possible to distract yourself until the craving disappears – go for a walk, listen to music or call a friend for a chat – anything to stop your mind thinking about the craving.
Next time you get a craving for something about why you are getting the craving and is there something else you could have or do instead.
If you have any tips for beating cravings I would love to hear about them in the comment box below.