Every year, millions of Americans set the same goal: eat a healthy diet.
An astonishing 70.2 % of Americans were considered overweight or obese in 2014, and 17.4 % of children were considered obese. These startling statistics drive home the importance of eating well and maintaining a healthy weight, but that is often easier said than done.
Following healthy eating guidelines can seem next to impossible when there are tasty treats and salty snacks to tempt you at every turn. It can be easy to indulge your cravings, but that may lead to regret when you step on the scale.
Here are a few ways you can fight your cravings and stick to a healthy diet:
Fight emotional eating
Recognizing what drives you to overeat can help you address the problem. For many people, eating is an emotional release. They may fight feelings of sadness, loneliness, boredom or anxiety with food. If this sounds familiar, take control of your eating and deal with these emotions in a healthy way. Get support from family, friends or professionals if needed to work through your emotions without food.
De-stress to avoid eating more
A long, stressful day at work frequently seems to end with you heading to the closest fast-food restaurant for dinner. But, is stress eating really just all in your head? Probably not, according to some research.
Stress releases cortisol, which in turn increases your appetite. Foods full of fat and sugar help bring down stress, but they add to your waistline as well. Avoid the stress eating pitfall by addressing your stress head on. Try exercising or meditation to help keep you relaxed.
Don’t starve yourself
It can be tempting to cut as many calories as possible when you’re trying to lose weight, but this strategy could backfire. When your body gets too low on energy, you begin to crave foods, especially the sweet and salty kind. Don’t let your body get too low on nutrients or you may reach for high-calorie options to curb your hunger.
Don’t avoid treats
Everyone likes to have a little treat now and then, but you’ll have a hard time staying healthy if you eat too many. However, cutting them out of your diet entirely may not help as much as you hope. Don’t banish treats and turn them into forbidden fruits that tempt you. Instead, make some room in your diet for little treats now and then. Buy smaller amounts of your favorite craving so you can’t eat it in excess. Or, if you find it is just too tempting to have goodies in your home, save the reward for when you go out.
“Having a well-balanced meal means eating a variety of foods and listening to what your body needs,” says Cameron Glassman, administrator at Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center. “There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with the treats you love as long as you do so in moderation.”
Opt for healthy snacks
When you find yourself reaching for snacks between meals, don’t feel too bad about craving a little something extra. There’s nothing wrong with eating a snack, and light snacks may help keep you from overeating when the next meal comes. Rather than avoiding snacks, find some healthy options. Skip the butter on your popcorn, but snack on this healthy grain plain, with a little salt or another low-calorie topping. Trade milkshakes for healthier fruit smoothies, and have tortilla chips with salsa instead of potato chips.
It is important to limit junk food and feed your body nutritious fuel, but that does not mean you can’t enjoy the food you eat. Kick your cravings to the curb with these tips, and teach your body to yearn for healthy grub. Your health will be better throughout your life, and that’s worth the effort now.
A version of this article was published by the Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.