Even when you know how packed full of sugar and unnecessary calories that biscuit contains, or how unhealthy and processed that burger and chips is, do you still cave and eat it? Research from psychologists at the University of Amsterdam suggests that this is a common occurrence for many of us. The study investigated the effects of health warnings on food choices in the presence or absence of food-associated stimuli. This included stimuli of all kinds, from adverts that can trigger thoughts of a tasty snack, or stimuli that appeals to your senses such as the sight or smell of food, which can then lead to cravings.
The study suggests that picking unhealthy choices could be due to learned associations in that particular environment, so if someone see’s an ‘M’ logo it can cause cravings for a burger and could trigger the learned behaviour to head to a fast-food restaurant.
We have asked our experts for their top craving busting tips, to prevent stimuli choosing what we eat….
1. Get planning
“Plan your meals a few days or a week in advance. By already knowing what you’re going to eat, you eliminate the factor of spontaneity and uncertainty. If you don’t have to think about what to eat at the following meal, you will be less tempted and less likely to experience cravings,” explains Pippa Campbell, Nutrition & Weight Loss Coach (www.pippacampbellhealth.com).
2. Snooze away from cravings
The importance of sleep has been making headlines practically every week, but did you know that quality sleep has been found to deter urges for junk food, according to research? The study also found that having a good night’s sleep prevented participants from eating bigger portions of unhealthy food, especially after a stressful day of work, when usually after a poor sleep they would have given into their cravings.
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3. Out of sight, out of mind
“Avoid situations when you might be tempted to eat unhealthy foods. Tell your colleagues in the office not to offer you the biscuits and cakes. The smell and sight could get you craving sugar again,” suggests Pippa.
4. The ‘F” word
“Foods high in ‘good’ fats – such as oily fish, avocadoes, raw nuts, seeds and cold-pressed oils made from seeds can help slow the release of sugars into the blood and make us feel fuller, preventing cravings,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Alternatives.
5. Water is key
“It’s actually relatively common for people to confuse thirst for hunger, that’s why keeping your fluid intake up is really important. Try drinking a large glass of water when you are feeling those hunger pains and wait to see if they dissipate,” says Marilyn.