Whether it’s cheese or chocolate, food cravings are specific and different from real hunger.
But rather than just mindlessly following them come the 3pm pangs, one dietitian explained you should actually see cravings as your body signalling to you that you need something extra, whether it’s more sleep or a boost of wholegrain carbohydrates.
Lyndi Cohen, from Sydney, revealed exactly what your cravings are trying to tell you, and the simple solutions that will help you to manage them for good.
If you’re craving chocolate, quit the distractions
Many think the chocolate cravings after dinner mean that you’re deficient in magnesium, but Lyndi said this isn’t actually the case.
‘The thing is, we condition ourselves to crave foods at certain times and in certain places,’ Lyndi wrote on her website.
If you can break the pattern of events – such as a few squares of chocolate after dinner in front of the TV – you can often ‘break the craving’.
‘The simple solution for this is to stop eating in front of the TV or computer,’ Lyndi said.
‘Find the patterns to your cravings (both the location and the time), and then you can break them.’
If you’re craving sugar and soft drinks, you need more sleep
In a similar way to chocolate, craving something sweet like sugar or soft drinks often doesn’t mean that you need these things – but rather something quite different.
‘Not getting enough sleep is a major contributor to sweet cravings,’ Lyndi explained, adding that 60 per cent of Aussies have trouble getting to and staying asleep.
The simple solution for this is take yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier, and you’ll always have an extra half an hour in the sleep bank.
If you’re craving carbs, replace how you eat them
The most important thing to remember with carbohydrates like bread and pasta is if you cut them entirely, you’re only going to end up craving them more.
Our bodies love to use carbohydrates as their preferred energy source, Lyndi said, but this doesn’t mean they should ever be ditched from our diets.
If you find yourself wanting delicious bowls of pasta with pesto or warm slices of bread laden with butter, the dietitian recommends you swap them for the wholegrain alternatives and seeded breads.
Lyndi recommends eating carbs mindfully, and enjoying every bite so as to avoid going overboard.
If you’re craving oily and fried food, try avocado
Craving oily and fried foods means you need some more fat in your diet.
But rather than reaching for foods like bacon and oily fats, Lyndi said you should try and eat healthy fats like smoked salmon or avocado, and air fry or bake your favourite fried foods, rather than deep fry them.
Lyndi loves making sweet potato fries in her air fryer, as she gets the crispiness without the added fat.
If you’re craving salty foods, you need more vegetables
You might think you’re craving salt, but Lyndi said the reality is that far too many Aussies eat too much sodium.
‘Eating too much salt isn’t healthy for our hearts – and heart disease is the number one killer in Australia,’ she said.
To combat this, cook at home as much as possible so you’re eating more vegetables and naturally have less sodium in your diet.
Vegetables have potassium which will keep you full, while going cold turkey on salt is the fastest way to reduce your cravings.