So you’ve made it through a day of healthy eating and you even got a workout in, but now the post-dinner cravings are beginning to creep up on you. Your taste buds are screaming out for dessert and you just can’t figure out how to stop craving food.
Can’t you just have a little something to satisfy that sweet tooth?
You already know the answer, so let’s pose a more helpful question instead: How do you figure out how to stop craving food?
This question comes to us from Monica, and I thank her for asking it because I know it speaks to a struggle which a lot of people face.
How to Stop Craving Food
I share several nutrition tips with you, but this is such a common problem that I created a workshop around it called The Craving Cure.
One of the things I talk about in that workshop is that cravings are not just physiological; they’re actually very different from hunger.
Cravings are largely a result of environmental factors, brain chemistry factors, and a couple other influences.
Figuring out how to stop craving food requires you to consider all of these things.
Although some diet myths would have you believe that cravings are due to deficiencies in certain minerals—let’s say, a chocolate craving being due to a magnesium deficiency—the latest research proves otherwise.
First of all, you have to understand how your brain responds to certain foods.
For example, when you eat carbohydrates—let’s use breads as an example—they release opioids that make you feel elated and also stimulate a neural pathway in our brain that leads to our reward center.
This ends up triggering the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which makes us feel even better.
With bread, there’s sometimes also the release of serotonin, which decreases our level of anxiety.
If you have a salad or something healthy and you find yourself feeling anxious and in need of something more satisfying, that can be due to a decrease in serotonin; having bread and carbohydrates can increase serotonin and make us feel a bit more calm.
It’s very much like a drug.
Actually, the very same neural network is stimulated by drug habits or gambling, making these food cravings and addictions very tricky to overcome.
Figuring out how to stop cravings is a bit like figuring out a puzzle: you have to find foods that both nourish you and satisfy the reward center of your brain.
Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds!
This is why I suggest you consume protein with most of your meals.
Eating protein is going to curb some of those cravings, it’s going to reduce hunger, and it’s going to keep you full longer.
The other thing I recommend is the use of healthy fats like coconut oil, coconut milk and butter.
These high fats are also going to give you a degree of satiation that you can’t reach with vegetables alone.
If you’re having a salad, throw some olive oil on top, along with some nuts, avocado and olives. Here and here are both good salad ideas. All those really important fats are going blunt your desire for anything else afterwards.
I put this principle to work when I was developing my Pure Plant Protein powder.
For example, the Smooth Chocolate flavor is remarkably nutritious, but also very tasty.
It’s one of the few things I’ve ever experienced that not only nourishes me and cuts hunger, but also rewards that dopamine center in my brain.
I’m a sucker for chocolate, and usually when I have protein shakes, I want real chocolate afterwards. Not only does the Pure Plant Protein shake taste like a chocolate milkshake, it also gives you 20 grams of protein and almost no carbs.
It’s a great thing to reach for when you’re craving sweets.
Whether you choose to use Pure Plant Protein or any other protein powder, please understand that healthy fats and protein go a long way towards defeating those nagging cravings.
If you do want something a little more carbohydrate-based, beans are a great alternative. With options such as these, you really don’t have to give in to your cravings ever again. Have you tried my My Ultimate No-Hunger Post-Workout Shake made with beans yet? It’s delicious and filling all in one.
I hope this is a big help to Monica or anyone else who’s been trying to figure out how to stop craving food.
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.