A nutritious, balanced diet plays an important role in overall good health and well-being. But sometimes cravings, portion sizes and added life stressors can derail good intentions. Adam Bruckner, MD, shares some strategic insight to help keep you on the right track.
There are a few things you can do to keep cravings at bay, Dr. Bruckner says. “Out of sight is out of mind. Avoid buying the junk food in the first place, and replace it with healthy options,” he says. “Drinking more water and increasing lean protein intake helps you feel full longer. Smaller, more frequent meals spaced throughout the day also keep blood sugar stable, so hunger and cravings occur less.” Distractions and activity can also help. “If you find you are thinking too much about food, get busy with an activity or go for a walk.”
Mind over matter
Mindful eating can be a real game-changer. Planning meals in advance can not only save time, but can help you focus on the healthiest options and portion size, Dr. Bruckner advises. “At mealtime, use smaller plates and bowls, because you are likely to eat less. Cutting food into smaller pieces is also helpful because it looks like you have more,” he says.
“Also, do not eat your meal in front of the computer, television or smartphone. Focus on the taste, texture and aroma of your food, chew your food thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites.” It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it is full. So if you eat more slowly, you can potentially eat less food before feeling full.
Suppressing the appetite
There are several ways to help suppress the appetite, both naturally and with medication. High-fiber foods, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas and whole grains take longer to digest in the stomach, so they provide a longer feeling of fullness, Dr. Bruckner explains. Drinking a glass of water before each meal can also help you feel full. For those interested in appetite-suppressing medications, Dr. Bruckner advises that they all have side effects and some are safer than others. “You should check with your doctor, because some medications contain stimulants and they are not recommended for anyone with cardiovascular disease,” he says.
Stop cravings before they start
Ironically, cravings aren’t all about food. Poor sleep and high stress can both disrupt the normal appetite hormones and lead to cravings and other issues with hunger control, explains Dr. Bruckner. “Exercise - both aerobic and resistance - can reduce the activation of appetite/craving centers in the brain and can result in less motivation to eat, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol,” he says. “High levels of cortisol can lead to sugar cravings.” In addition, better quality sleep and practicing activities such as meditation can help the body reset itself.
Snacks for the Long Haul
Incorporating the right kinds of foods into your diet can help keep you fueled all day long. Here are some great options with protein, fat and fiber to avoid temptation:
Protein: 1 low-fat cheese stick; 2 tbsp black beans; 5 ounces Greek yogurt; 4 ounces of chicken breast
Fat: 10 almonds; 2 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese; 25 pistachios; 1/2 avocado
Fiber: 3 whole grain crackers; 1 small whole wheat tortilla; 1 small apple; 1 cup mixed berries
get more ideas for healthy snacks