Beat your cravings: 8 effective techniques

Don't let a sweet tooth or carb craving prevent you from reaching your goals. Keep cravings in check with these practical methods.

The foods you crave are likely to be high in sugar, fats and carbohydrates — such as pizza, chocolate, cake, chips and ice cream. Cravings can derail your efforts at weight control and may lead to binge eating, but you can learn how to manage them and stay on course with these tips.

1. Enjoy a small portion

Don't give up these foods. In your overall healthy diet, include a small portion of the less healthy foods you crave. Better to enjoy a square of chocolate than to avoid it altogether.

2. Eat something healthy first

It's often easier to eat less of the food you're craving if you're not ravenously hungry.

3. Keep the food you crave out of the house

Buy the item only when you plan to eat it, or order it at a restaurant.

4. Change your mental picture

When you experience a craving, replace the image of the food with a picture of yourself doing your favorite activity or some other pleasant image.

5. Distract yourself

Food cravings usually pass after 20 minutes. Try taking a walk or talking to a friend.

6. Chew gum

Chewing sugarless gum reduces hunger and cravings for sweet and salty snacks.

7. Get enough sleep and exercise

These habits help lower your levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep can lead to food cravings and overeating.

8. Substitute a healthier option

Satisfy your craving for something smooth and creamy with something low-fat or fat-free, such as yogurt, pureed fruit or buttermilk. Eat a piece of fruit as a healthy sweet snack.

Experiment to see which strategies work best for you so that you can control your cravings — not the other way around.

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