There are a variety of ways to reduce unwanted food cravings. These include:
Reducing stress levels
Pregnant women often experience strong cravings. This may be due to hormonal changes, which are thought to cause some food cravings.
Stress and emotional eating can influence a variety of health issues. Feeling stressed may promote emotional eating and cravings for comfort foods.
One study found that stressed women are more prone to cravings for sweets than women without stress. Eating due to stress may also cause weight gain and a larger hip circumference.
Stress may also cause weight gain on its own, without extra food cravings. Stress results in higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which may promote belly fat.
Drinking plenty of water
Hunger and thirst can produce very similar sensations in the mind, causing it to become confused. One of the easiest ways to reduce food cravings is to make sure the body is hydrated throughout the day.
Drinking plenty of water helps clean out toxins from the body, which may also benefit a person’s overall well-being.
Getting enough sleep
A 2013 study found that not getting enough sleep could alter the body’s hormonal balance. This imbalance contributes to overeating and weight gain.
The researchers noted that when the sleep-deprived participants switched to an adequate sleep schedule, they lost weight, which indicates that their hormones were brought back into balance.
Eating enough protein
A healthful diet should contain plenty of lean sources of protein, as they may help reduce cravings.
A study in the journal Obesity found that overweight men were able to reduce their cravings by up to 60 percent by getting 25 percent of their daily calorie intake from protein.
The same study found that a high protein diet helped reduce the desire for nighttime snacks by 50 percent.
Chewing gum keeps the mouth busy and may help reduce both sweet and salty cravings.
One study found a small but significant difference in sweet and salty snack consumption among people who chewed gum and those who did not. Those who chewed gum rated themselves less hungry, had fewer cravings for snacks, and felt fuller than those who did not chew gum.
Changing the scenery
Changing habits, such as stopping at the park instead of picking up fast food on the way home, can help to reduce cravings in the long-term.
Replacing habits can be difficult, and some food cravings may be due to long-term habits. For instance, if someone gets fast food on their way home from work every day, this practice may reinforce their cravings.
In situations like these, it is best to start new habits. This can be as easy as taking a new route home from work or stopping at the park for a quick walk instead.
For cravings at home, it may help to take a walk around the block, take a shower, or even call a friend. These things may help distract a person from their craving long enough for it to subside.
A healthful diet does not include frequent hunger pangs. In fact, under-eating can make food cravings worse.
When the body is very hungry, it may crave more calorie-dense foods than usual, including fried and processed foods.
Instead of waiting for intense feelings of hunger, it is better to have a regular pattern of meals and healthful snacks planned throughout the day to avoid potential cravings.
For some people, completely avoiding the food they crave may make these cravings worse. This can lead to overeating or feeling miserable without that food. In this case, it may be better to satisfy the cravings with a small, portion-controlled treat.
It can help to put this treat at the end of a healthful habit, such as going for a walk or completing an exercise routine.
If a person is prone to binge eating, a better option is to replace the craving altogether.