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Food cravings and how to manage them

We've all been there – that sudden, intense craving for a specific food, whether it's sweet or savory. Food cravings are a common experience, and there can be many reasons behind them.

Fortunately, our nutrition experts have shared some strategies to help curb these cravings. By understanding the causes of our food cravings, we can manage them better, maintain a healthy, balanced diet, and avoid overeating.

Causes of food cravings

1. Positive memories

Sometimes, cravings are linked to positive memories. Just thinking about a warm slice of chocolate cake can make us almost taste it. When we eat it, we enjoy the taste and remember those pleasant feelings, making us crave it again when we see or smell the cake.

2. Emotions

Our emotions can also trigger cravings. We often associate specific foods with positive emotions like comfort, so we might feel a strong urge to eat those foods when we're feeling stressed or bored.

3. Environmental triggers

Our environment, such as seeing ads for certain foods on TV, social media, or YouTube, can influence cravings too. Studies show that exposure to food marketing affects our food choices. Our habits, like having a sweet treat after dinner, can also prompt cravings.

5 ways to manage your food cravings

There are many other factors that can influence cravings but no matter the cause, here are some ways to help manage our cravings. 

1. Eat balanced meals 

We need to eat a variety of different types of food to keep us feeling satisfied throughout the day. Our body needs a mix of nutrients that no one food can provide on its own.  

So during the day have plenty of fruit and vegetables, they provide fibre that keeps us full. Eat some wholemeal rice, pasta, potatoes, breads or cereals as they are all great sources of energy. And include some poultry, meat, fish, beans, eggs or nuts, these are filling choices. Finally include some low-fat milk, yoghurt or cheese. We have more information on what foods make up a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

2. Have healthy snacks on hand 

If we have healthy snacks ready to go, we’ll be more likely to reach for them. Some ideas include: 

  • Fruit or vegetable sticks 
  • Hummus and vegetable sticks 
  • Cheese and crackers 
  • Half a bagel with peanut butter 
  • Banana on toast 
  • A pot of yoghurt 
  • Egg muffins 
  • Tomatoes on toast 

Here’s some more advice on healthy snacking and our recipe book ‘101 Square Meals’ with plenty of healthy snack and recipe ideas. 

3. Plan the food shop 

We should plan our  snacks for the week and include them on our weekly food shopping list. This means we should buy only what we need and avoid impulse purchases. There’s more food shopping tips here

At home keep healthy snacks within easy reach. This could be a fruit bowl on the kitchen table, yoghurt pots in the fridge and vegetable sticks, pre-cut and ready to eat. This way, we’ll be more likely to reach for these snacks. 

4. Idle snacking 

Sometimes we snack when we feel stressed or bored or even when we aren’t hungry. It is important for us to figure out our triggers are and focus on non-food related ways to manage these. This could be leaving the room or doing something to distract away from food. 

5. Stay hydrated 

We should drink about 8 glasses of fluid each day. Water and milk are the best choices for drinking regularly during the day. Find out more about different drinks.

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