Cravings hit – whether due to hormonal fluctuations (often as PMS in women), seasonal changes, shifts in microbiome (gut bacteria), some prescription medications or simply due to a concerted effort to eat less for weight loss – we all go through periods of time when we are hungry – All. The. Time.
It often becomes an internal debate: Should you give in or not? Restricting yourself is NEVER a good idea as it can lead to bingeing and guilt and self-loathing after. Giving in to whatever is in sight is not your best choice either – it’s mindless and has no regard to understanding what your body really needs. Here’re a few tips to implement when a craving-driven hunger strikes:
🔺Eat balanced meals – when your body gets the right amount of calories, proteins, fats and carbs it needs, it sends satiety signals to your brain, which in turn switches off the hunger/craving complex. How do you know your needs? Here’s a simple formula:
○ Caloric needs – for weight maintenance you need roughly 13-15 cal per 1 pound of body weight (depending on physical activity):
§ For weight loss – subtract 500 cal from estimated daily needs (below), preferably as a combination of caloric reduction and physical activity (eat about 1800 cal – reduce CARBs by 100 g, and exercise to burn 250 cal).
§ For weight gain – add 500 cal by adding 30 g of fat and 57.5 g of CARBs.
○ A 160 lbs relatively active (walks about 8,000-10,000 steps/day, exercises 2-3/week) person would need about 160 x 13 = 2,080 cal/day
○ Protein needs – minimum half of your weight in pounds or recommended 0.8-1.2 g/1 lbs:
§ Our 160 lbs person will need about 0.8-1.2 g per pound of body weight: 160 x 0.8 = 128 g of PRO (and even slightly more if our guy exercises and is trying to gain some muscle mass). Every gram of PRO has 4 calories, therefore caloric portion of PRO is 128 x 4 = 512 cal.
○ FAT – about 0.5-0.6 g per pound of body weight (in our case 160 x 0.5 = 80 g). Every gram of FAT carries 9 calories, therefore our formula is as follows: 80 x 9 = 720 cal.
○ CARBs -remainder of calories (2,080 – (512 + 720) = cal. Every gram of carbs has 4 calories, therefore here’s how much you’ll need: 974/4 = 243.5 g of CARBs.
This is what it looks like in a table:
|160 lbs Person||
🔺Eat your greens.
❗️According to this study, eating a sensible amount of vegetables (like a salad) prior to a meal can increase satiety and lead to reduced food intake. Green plants like spinach are rich in thylakoids that reduce hunger, increase satiety, and reduce cravings. They are also rich in fiber that fills you up and helps with regulating, well, regularity. I add spinach or kale to lunch I pack for work daily (I’d put some steamed or roasted veggies, beans, fish or chicken and throw in a bunch of greens) – it wilts when I heat it up and is integrated into the meal. You can even throw in some frozen greens.
❗️Legumes, which include lentils, beans, green beans, peas (and snap peas), chickpeas, among others, are a great source of protein and loaded with fiber. They take a while to digest and therefore keep you fuller longer, slowly releasing glucose into your bloodstream they help to combat cravings for sugary foods. A large systematic review (meaning a study that looks at all previous studies on the topic) done in 2014 showed that eating foods like these contributes to satiety.
🔺Make sure to get enough protein.
❗️Studies show that adding a high-quality protein to your meal improves satiety and helps combat obesity and metabolic syndrome. My favorite protein choices are fish (of course!), lean meats, and eggs. This is especially relevant for your first meal of the day. According to science, eating eggs and a meat protein for breakfast will make you feel more satiated for the whole day.
🔺Don’t skip healthy fats.
❗️You might still think that eating fat will make you fat. This is incorrect, if we are talking about healthy fats. Our bodies need fat for hormone production, keeping our cells intact and absorbing some vitamins (A, D, E & K). Adding fats like avocado and its oil, coconut products, extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, macadamia nut oil, nuts and the omega-3 oils that you can get from fish will help you feel more full and satisfied—while also boosting your metabolism and energy. Adding avocado to a meal, for instance, was found to significantly improve satiety for a three- to five-hour period. A good general rule is to not skimp on fats; just make sure you’re eating the healthiest ones possible.
❗️You’ve heard me saying it, even presenting on it, I’m a huge advocate. To me mindful eating is an important part of self-care and self-love practices. Eating and living mindfully not only helps us reduce stress and improve sleep, but also makes us more productive at work! Check out this study to find proof. So next time you place your lunch plate in front of your computer, think of how much more you’d accomplish is you take it to the break-room.