Photo: Maitree Boonkitphuwadon via 123RF

Food cravings, or the intense need to gobble up whatever’s in the fridge during a midnight Netflix marathon, are reasonably common. More than 90% of the population has experienced the sudden urge to eat at one point or another. 

While every person’s cravings are different, sweet and salty snacks are a go-to for many. To help you fight your cravings, here are four simple lifestyle changes you can make to prevent (or stop) yourself from grabbing that last donut. 

Stay hydrated 

Certain studies show that up to 37% of people confuse thirst for hunger. Dry skin, dry eyes, headache, and dizziness are common signs that your body isn’t getting enough fluid. Your urine may also appear dark yellow or produce a strong odor. If untreated, dehydration can lead to serious issues such as brain swelling, seizures, and even death. 

Here are a few ways to train yourself to drink more water: 

  • Add some flavor. If you hate the taste of plain water, try adding a few fruit slices to your next glass. Strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon are all good contenders. You can also purchase an infuser bottle, powder, or liquid water enhancers (e.g., Crystal Light, MiO, etc.).
  • Eat foods that are high in water content. Cucumber, watermelon, grapes, berries, spinach, broccoli, and bell peppers are foods with high water content. 
  • Set a timer. Create one or more alarms on your phone to remind you it’s time to drink water. 

According to The National Academy of Medicine, the average adult should consume 90–125 ounces of fluid per day. 

Distract yourself 

If you’re struggling to stay away from the pantry, try distracting or distancing yourself from whatever you’re craving. Take a brisk walk or hop in the shower to shift your thoughts onto something else. Going into a new room or leaving the house could help curb your craving. 

If you can’t leave, try chewing a piece of gum. Some studies suggest chewing gum may reduce hunger and help you feel fuller. Additionally, chewing gum between meals may aid weight loss.

Add protein to your diet.   

Eating protein-rich foods can help you feel fuller and more satisfied for longer, according to an article published in the Annual Review of Nutrition. The general recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult should get 10–35% of their daily calories from protein. 

High protein foods include: 

  • Oats
  • Spirulina 
  • Hemp seeds 
  • Corn 
  • Black beans 
  • Lima beans 
  • Salmon
  • Tuna 
  • Broccoli 
  • Potatoes 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Eggs 
  • Beef 
  • Chicken breast 

Need some help figuring out how much protein you should be eating? Try using this protein calculator.

Photo: fizkes via 123RF

Get a good night’s sleep 

Losing sleep can affect your mental and physical health. The body needs rest so that it can recharge and heal. Without sleep, the body cannot function (sleep deprivation can impair your ability to concentrate, think, and process memories). According to the Sleep Foundation, most adults require seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. 

In addition to impairing one’s cognitive ability, sleep deprivation may lead to poor appetite and cravings. On the flip side, overeating can negatively affect sleep as well. Many doctors say it’s best to stop eating at least three hours before bedtime. 

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, here are a few tips to help you get a good night’s sleep:

  • Refrain from looking at electronic devices (e.g., smartphones, computers, tablets) late at night. The blue light exposure could be keeping you up. 
  • Avoid drinking caffeine later in the day. Refrain from drinking coffee after 3–4 p.m., especially if you have difficulty sleeping. 
  • Get on a schedule. Studies show that waking up and going to bed at the same time every day can aid long-term sleep quality. 

Craving junk food late at night (or even in the middle of the day) is typical. The important thing is that you’re aware of your triggers (e.g., peer pressure from friends or family members, stress, proximity to a Krispy Kreme, etc.). Training yourself to be more self-aware will make it easier to avoid cravings in the future.