Does it ever seem like cravings start as soon as you decide to eat healthier? Just when you’ve made a commitment to healthy eating, all you can think about are the foods you’ve sworn off. But giving in to these cravings can lead to unwanted weight gain – and that can affect your cancer risk.
We talked with Erma Levy, MD Anderson Cancer Center registered dietitian, about how to respond to cravings. Here are her tips:
Consider why you’re having the craving
You could be experiencing cravings for any number of reasons. Of course it could be that you’re hungry, but often cravings aren’t triggered by hunger. Ask yourself if you are tired, thirsty or bored. Or do you just want a taste of something? Knowing why you’re having a craving can help you prepare for them and address them in healthy ways, instead of undoing all the healthy habits you’ve created.
Keep a journal
When you start to feel a craving, write it down in a food journal. Review your journal entries and look for trends. Do you notice any patterns? Are you craving certain things at certain times?
Spotting trends behind your cravings can help you prepare for them. Start by making small changes to cope with the cravings that you would like to work on first, especially if you face those cravings more often. Maybe you crave a sweet treat every afternoon and find yourself at the office vending machine. Next time, beat the craving by coming prepared with a healthy snack, like nuts or fruit.
Watch portion sizes
It’s OK to give in to cravings sometimes – as long as you watch your portion sizes. Often when you experience a craving, all you need is a little taste and the craving subsides. But make sure it’s just a taste. You don’t want a small indulgence to have a big impact on your weight.
Make healthy swaps
Find healthy alternatives to the things you crave. Try the following alternatives:
- If you’re craving something salty or crunchy, try celery with peanut butter or hummus instead of chips.
- If you’re craving something sweet, try a piece of fruit or a small piece of dark chocolate.
- If you’re craving ice cream, try frozen yogurt.
- If you’re craving a sugary coffee drink, try coffee with almond milk.
These tips can help you whether you’ve just started a new diet or if you want to continue eating healthy. Cravings are completely normal. How you respond to them is the important part.