For me, cravings tend to creep in after dinner. I usually eat, and then feel like I could use a little something more — usually sweet and caloric. Like cake. Or cookies. Or ice cream. *cue delighted smiles here*
Only problem? While completely delicious, significant doses of sugar also make me feel sick. Yuck.
After a while, I realized these calories were kind of busting my healthy-eating regimen. So not only did I feel terrible at night, but I was also packing a bunch of calories I truly didn’t need. Which is why I developed certain strategies to conquer cravings when they strike.
You might experience food cravings when you’re happy, sad or stressed. Or maybe it’s during that afternoon lull at work, where you start to get a little bit sleepy. Or maybe you’re a post-dinner craver like me. Any which way, some of these strategies may work for you. Here’s where to start.
Brush your teeth.
Immediately after your meals, get in the habit of brushing your teeth. Not only are you doing your oral health a favor by cleaning off food residue, you’re also essentially telling your taste buds that you’re done. Your palette usually craves foods that complement each other, so wipe the slate clean. Nothing tastes that great with minty, grainy toothpaste.
When I’m tempted to reach for more after dinner, I immediately reach for my water bottle instead. First off, most of us don’t hydrate enough, and you might still be feeling faux “hunger pangs” that are really hints of dehydration. Secondly, it gives your body time to digest your food so your brain can recognize you’re full.
Remove yourself from the kitchen.
Cookies are a lot easier to resist if you can’t reach them, so have a post-dinner getaway plan. Go outside for a walk in the fading fall twilight, finish that work correspondence you’ve been putting or, or hit the grocery store — which is a smart move after dinner. Research tells us it’s best not to shop on an empty stomach, or we’ll buy unhealthy foods instead of making smart choices. No matter what it is, though, save one activity for dinner.
I’ve been saving my workout for after working hours and after dinner. Why? Not only does it give me something to do as an escape from the urge to nosh on chocolate, it also suppresses appetite. There’s ample research to prove it; aerobic exercise especially works on key hormones that factor into our drives to eat, and those effects can even stick around all night and into the next day.
Make a good swap.
Sometimes, you simply need to eat something more, oftentimes while you’re body is still registering your meal. But choose wisely. Try having smart choices on standby, so you don’t reach for the easy, processed chips or cookies. Sweet and smooth banana ice cream can be a delicious way to top off a meal; if crunch is what you’re looking for, I opt for carrots and (healthy lite) dip. Nosh, but not mindlessly; be aware of your hunger cues and when your body is telling you it’s done.
If your cravings tend to pop up at night before bed, try tea. Especially in winter, this warming beverage will pack some hydration and have a calming effect on your system. There’s some evidence to suggest green tea’s active ingredient, EGCG, is helpful for weight loss and appetite suppression — but not enough to say conclusively. (Although, anecdotally, I have friends who sing its praises.) I’ve found that calming teas work best to blunt hunger pangs and calm the body; try chamomile, peppermint, jasmine, or cinnamon with a dot of honey if you want something sweet.