How well you control your appetite and food cravings can help you either lose or gain weight.
The appetite is a psychological and physical phenomenon. This is because sometimes we tend to eat more when we are bored or stressed, and sometimes we end up at the dining table just because it is “time” to eat, irrespective of whether we are really hungry.
Apart from this, we all have weak moments when we crave sweet, salty or fatty foods. If you give in to your cravings, those unhealthy foods can undermine your efforts to lose weight and increase your risk of different health problems.
Constant cravings and hunger pangs need to be controlled, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or trying to eat healthy.
Luckily, there are ways to suppress your cravings so that you end up eating less and become healthier.
Here are the top 10 healthy tips to suppress your cravings and eat less.
1. Add Protein and Fiber to Your Diet
Foods rich in protein and fiber are filling and energizing. Plus, protein and fiber-rich foods take a good amount of time for your body to digest, so they stay in your system longer. This means such foods can suppress your cravings and you’ll eat less.
Dietary protein enhances satiety, promotes weight loss and helps you sustain energy. A 2011 study published in Obesity found that high protein intake improved appetite control and satiety in overweight or obese men during energy restriction-induced weight loss.
Dietary fiber takes a long time to digest and has few calories by volume. It also influences the release of hormones that tell your mind and body that you are full.
A 2014 study published in Obesity reports that adding fiber-rich beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils to your meal can increase feelings of fullness by 31 percent when compared to equivalent meals that do not have beans.
If you’d like to suppress your appetite and stop untimely cravings, ensure your diet is rich in protein and fiber.
Eat healthy protein, such as fish, eggs, poultry, legumes, and beans, with most of your meals. Also, eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains to get your daily dose of fiber.
2. Drink Water
Drinking water throughout the day and especially before eating your meal can help a lot in suppressing your appetite.
In fact, it is common to confuse hunger for thirst and desire food when your body is actually dehydrated. So if you’re feeling hungry between meals, drinking a glass of water may be enough to kick the hunger pangs to the curb.
Also, water takes up space, so you will not have any space for other food.
A 2016 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition reports that consumption of water immediately before a meal reduces energy intake in non-obese young males. This might help with weight management.
Not just water, anything liquid like juice or soup before a meal can prevent you from overeating. A 2007 study published in Appetite reports that consuming a preload of low-energy-dense soup in a variety of forms helps moderate energy intake in adults.
So, keep on drinking water from time to time to help you eat less. Along with plain water, try flavored water, coconut water, green tea, homemade juice or soup.
3. Always Have Breakfast
No matter how busy you are, always eat a healthy breakfast.
Skipping breakfast can lead to a drop in blood sugar, which may cause you to have more food cravings during the day. This often leads to unhealthy eating choices.
When eating breakfast, you need to keep it healthy. A breakfast featuring fiber and protein will help control your blood sugar level and prevent midmorning hunger pangs. This is why experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Opt for healthy breakfast options like a bowl of oatmeal, a homemade smoothie, a cup of yogurt topped with fruit, whole-grain bread, a sandwich or whole-grain cereal. If you do not have time to prepare breakfast in the morning, prepare something before going to bed to save time the next morning.
4. Get Some Sleep
Sleep deprivation has many negative impacts on the body, including an increase in hunger hormones that make you crave snacks throughout the day.
Insufficient sleep causes levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin to rise and may also make you more insulin resistant. At the same time, the hormone leptin released by fat cells that suppresses appetite highly depends on the length of sleep.
A 2007 study published in the Sleep Medicine Clinics reports that partial sleep deprivation is associated with changes in the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, and these changes lead to an increase in appetite that ultimately causes increased food intake and weight gain.
A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that short sleep duration is associated with a lower mean satiety quotient in overweight and obese men.
So, it is important to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to control your hunger pangs and cravings throughout the day. In fact, try to go to bed 1 hour after your dinner. This will prevent you from late-night snacking.
5. Go for a Walk
Moderate to intense workouts can affect the brain’s appetite control center. Hence, to suppress your cravings, take a break and go for a walk.
A walk of 15 to 20 minutes will help lower the appetite-stimulating hormones. Plus, this simple exercise is also a great distraction and stops you from thinking about food.
Also, a short walk will give you a nice break from whatever you are doing, which will aid in reducing your stress level.
A 2014 study published in Sports Medicine reports that an acute bout of exercise may influence appetite by suppressing levels of acylated ghrelin, while simultaneously increasing levels of peptide YY, pancreatic polypeptide and glucagon-like peptide 1, which may contribute to alterations in food and drink intake. However, more longitudinal studies are required to determine the precise role these hormones play in long-term appetite responses to an exercise intervention.
So, the next time you need to suppress your cravings, engage in a low-intensity exercise like walking.
6. Eat Mindfully
Under normal conditions, your brain knows whether you are hungry or full. But eating too quickly or eating while watching television or browsing your social media feeds can make it difficult for your brain to recognize these signals. This can lead to overeating.
To solve this problem, practice mindful eating. Mindful eating techniques can help a lot in controlling your cravings and eating less.
To eat mindfully, you need to concentrate on what you are eating and enjoy the food. On the other hand, eating in a hurry to finish your meal will make you eat a lot more.
A 2011 study published in Eating Disorders reports that mindfulness-based eating awareness training helps in decreasing binge episodes, improving one’s sense of self-control with regard to eating, and diminishing depressive symptoms.
However, before practicing mindful eating, you must learn to recognize the difference between cravings and actual hunger. This will help you a lot in dealing with the problem of food cravings and unnecessary overeating.
7. Drink Coffee
Drinking a few cups of coffee, especially decaf, can help reduce hunger.
In fact, drinking a couple cups of coffee in the morning may boost your metabolism and suppress your appetite. In fact, coffee has numerous other health benefits and can even prolong your life. However, cut out sweeteners in your morning coffee. This is important because the sugar in your coffee can spike your insulin levels, which in turn will cause you to crave more.
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers concluded that decaffeinated coffee can acutely decrease hunger and increase the satiety hormone peptide YY.
Peptide YY is produced in the gut in response to eating and promotes a feeling of fullness.
8. Pinch Your Earlobes
Another surprising and simple trick to suppress your appetite is pinching your earlobes. In fact, stimulation of this acupressure point helps restore balance in your energy. It is a known fact that imbalances and blockage of energy cause cravings.
A 1998 study published in Australian Family Physician found that frequent stimulation of specific points on the outer ear is an effective method of appetite suppression, which in turn can lead to weight loss.
So, the next time you wish to suppress your cravings, simply pinch your earlobes for 10 seconds.
9. Brush Your Teeth
Although it may sound strange, brushing your teeth when you have a strong craving for some food can stop the craving. When you have a fresh, clean mouth, you don’t feel like eating or drinking anything.
Use flavored toothpaste or mouthwash to brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash. The sweet taste will trick the brain into thinking something sweet has been ingested and help you deal with the craving.
You can carry a toothbrush and toothpaste to use when big cravings hit. But you must keep in mind that brushing your teeth too often can wear away at the enamel on your teeth. So, do not use this trick too frequently.
10. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Another simple tip to suppress your cravings and make you eat less is chewing sugar-free gum.
Simply pop one in your mouth and start chewing it whenever you have strong cravings for food. The act of chewing will lead to decreased feelings of hunger and snack cravings. Chewing gum can trick your brain into feeling satisfied, especially if you have a craving for sugar.
Another point of chewing gum is that it can help fight midafternoon fatigue that often makes cravings harder to fight off.
Sugar-free gum also helps keep your mouth and teeth clean by generating more saliva production.
- No matter what you are eating, keep the portions small. Eat slowly and focus on the food.
- It is recommended to eat more frequent, smaller and balanced meals throughout the day.
- Eat meals at scheduled times and avoid casual eating as much as possible.
- When you’re craving something to eat, do something to distract yourself. Taking your mind off the moment at hand can help you reduce cravings and make healthier eating choices.
- Make the foods you crave difficult or impossible to get. For instance, if you love brownies, do not keep any at home or at work.
- Since stress has been shown to increase cravings, take steps to reduce your stress level by doing some exercise, meditation or deep breathing.
- Sniff on a nice-smelling sachet or essential oil like rosemary or lavender to keep your appetite in check.
- If you often feel hungry, you may want to revisit your diet plan.
- Include more foods in your diet that will keep you full longer, like whole grains and vegetables.
- You can tap your forehead for 30 seconds to reduce the intensity of a craving, as well as blur the image of the food you crave in your brain.
- When you are craving something sweet, eat a piece of dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. The bitter taste of dark chocolate can help suppress your appetite.
- Serve your food on a smaller plate. A smaller plate will trick your brain into thinking you ate a whole plate of food.
- Put less food on your plate. The less you see, the less you eat.
- Spend at least 20 minutes per meal to chew and swallow your food, so that you chew and digest it completely.
- Keeping a food journal will also help you identify the times of day when your cravings are the strongest. This will help you be prepared to deal with them.