I am yet to meet a woman who doesn’t experience food cravings regularly. With fluctuating hormones, swinging emotions, and lots of stress, it’s no surprise that cravings are a “thing” and they can be very difficult to ignore.
First things first, let’s talk about the difference between hunger and food craving.
Symptoms of Hunger:
- Weak / Less Energy
- Not An Emotional Thing
- Hollow Empty Stomach
- Growling Stomach
- Mouth Waters
- Feel “Low”
- Willing To Eat Anything
- Feel Stomach Hunger (Not Mouth Hunger)
Symptoms of Food Craving:
- Emotionally Charged
- During PMS
- Learned Habits
- Feel Mouth Hunger (Not Stomach Hunger)
- Not Willing To Eat Just Anything
- Want 1 Particular Food, Usually Comfort Food
- Feeling Usually Passes When Ignored
As you can tell, hunger and cravings are VERY different, So why do we have cravings?
Where Do Cravings Come From?
1. Long-Term Dieting
When we restrict food for too long, our body's levels of leptin and ghrelin (hunger hormones) are disrupted. Leptin is our “long-term” hunger hormone, while ghrelin is our “short-term” stomach growling hormone. When the two are out of balance, cravings are often the result. (Silver Spring - Obesity)
2. Chronic Stress
We’ve all had stressful days that cause us to want to reach for food- and not just any food- comfort food. When cortisol levels increase, food cravings often intensify.
As we near our menstrual cycle, progesterone and estrogen hormones change dramatically, causing cravings for specific foods. (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal)
4. Lack of Sleep
When we aren’t regularly getting enough sleep, our hunger and craving hormones can get out of balance, causing cravings, especially at night. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
5. Eating Junk Food
The more we eat highly processed, sugary foods, the more we crave them. The quick dopamine response from these foods makes us feel good for a short period of time, and then our bodies and brains desire more. Unfortunately, this quick blood sugar spike quickly crashes down, making us feel lethargic and negative.
6. Your Mood
For many women, a hard day or bad mood means they crave sweets, cookies, chips, and junk. Unfortunately, that boost doesn’t last. And these hyperpalatable foods make us crave more. (Frontiers in Psychology)
Now that we understand where intense food cravings come from, let’s look at healthy ways to deal with them.
Tips to Prevent Food Cravings
The good news is, there ARE things we can do to help beat food cravings.
1. Eat A Balanced Diet
This sounds repetitive, but it’s true! Cravings are far less likely when we eat a variety of foods, including a protein-rich diet with lots of veggies, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
2. Stay Hydrated
We often think we’re hungry when we are just dehydrated. Drink 20 oz of water when your craving hits, and wait 15 minutes for your craving to subside.
3. Drink BCAAs
Momsanity BCAAs help to hydrate while also balancing the brain and naturally increasing energy. BCAAs naturally balance blood sugar and lower cortisol, a winning combination for fighting cravings.
4. Refrain From Making Certain Foods “Off Limits”
The more we restrict (a.k.a. “selective food deprivation”), the more we crave. Enjoy the foods you love in moderation regularly to help keep hunger hormones in check.
5. Prioritize Sleep
Achieving 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night helps balance our hunger hormones as well as the “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brains.
Regular exercise is a great way to help eliminate stress and, ultimately, cravings. Even going for a walk can help.
7. Surf the Urge
This is a fancy way of saying wait. Drink some water or drink a Mom Fuel shake or Crave Cocoa drink while going on a walk or completing another activity and see if you still have the craving 15 minutes later. If the craving strikes near meal time, see if you can wait to enjoy a healthy meal rather than “pantry diving” before the meal.
8. Be Prepared With Healthy Alternatives
There are so many options to help satisfy cravings without overindulging. Get creative.
4 Healthy Alternatives to Satisfy Your Cravings
Need ideas to swap out those cravings for unhealthy foods? At Momsanity, our goal is to help you make better choices that are satisfying and help you reach your nutrition goals.
1. Drink a Mom Fuel Protein Shake
Protein is incredibly satisfying and helps fight cravings, plus Mom Fuel is a naturally sweet and delicious treat! Add fun toppings like sprinkles, cocoa nibs, or mini chocolate chips to make it extra satisfying.
2. Love Chocolate? Try CRAVE!
Momsanity’s Crave is a delicious cocoa blend that satisfies naturally. You can read all about cocoa and its craving-fighting benefits here. Crave has ZERO sugar and just 20 calories per scoop, plus it’s 100% natural and designed to KILL cravings! In the mood to chew instead? Make Crave Brownies or Cookies that are sure to satisfy your cravings and slim your waistline! Want the recipes? Find all our Crave recipes HERE.
3. Choose Your Chocolate Wisely
If you must have a chocolate bar, shoot for 70% or more dark chocolate, which is MORE likely to satisfy your cravings than the sugary alternatives like traditional milk chocolate.
4. Better > Perfect
When you allow yourself to make BETTER choices rather than shooting for perfection, you’re more likely to feel better about yourself and your choices while getting healthier nutrition! Shoot for higher fiber snacks vs. chips, protein bars vs candy bars, pork rinds vs. french fries, and flavored sparkling water vs. soda. The opportunities are endless!
For more ideas of what your body is craving vs. what it needs, use this handy chart: