Do You Know How to Stop Food Cravings?

By Mel Thomassian (RD)
Flickr: obo-bobolina

If you try to eat healthy and take regular exercise I think it’s possible to allow for all types of food in your diet in moderation.

But, sometimes you may find yourself overcome with evil cravings that seem to have a mind of their own!

So, why do we crave certain foods? According to Dr Elizabeth Markley, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut:

Research shows that people tend to binge if they´ve been restricted, we don´t know how much of that is purely psychological – simply wanting what you can´t have.

So, whether you crave particular foods because you´re experiencing low mood, or you’ve been too restrictive, it can be extremely difficult to prevent at times.

Here are 5 things you can do to stop food cravings:

1. Stay well hydrated
Very often when you feel “hungry” it’s your bodies way of telling you to drink more. Water also acts as a natural appetite suppressant because it keep your stomach full, and this is why it’s my number one way to fend off food cravings!

2. Wait a few minutes
Have you ever noticed that cravings don’t last long? If you give them a few minutes you may just find you actually don’t need anything after all. Try doing something else to take your mind off the craving for 15 minutes, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or walking the dog, etc.

3. Avoid your trigger foods
Marcia Pelchat, of the Monell Center says,

You crave what you eat, so if you switch what you’re eating, you can weaken your old cravings and strengthen new ones.

In her study, volunteers were asked to drink a bland dietary-supplement drink for five days. Participants noticed that during this time they craved fewer of their trigger foods.

So, if you’re trying to avoid your food triggers, remember that the first few days are always going to be the most difficult. Again, it may not be possible to completely eliminate your old cravings, but if you can avoid your trigger foods for a while you may notice you begin to crave them less.

4. Choose a healthy snack instead
Sometimes ignoring your cravings or drinking water simply won’t cut it! On these occasions make a healthier choice instead. I’d suggest drinking a big glass of water, and eating around 1 1/2 ounces of mixed unsalted nuts and seeds to help satisfy those cravings.

5. Indulge once in a while
Allowing yourself a treat on occasion can be a really helpful strategy for most people. The thing to remember is portion control. So, if you feel like eating chocolate, have a few small squares and go for a high cocoa version – as a general rule of thumb, aim for 70 percent (or higher) cocoa for the most disease-fighting antioxidants.

Vanilla-scented aroma patches
If none of the above work for you, research suggests a vanilla-scented patch may be another way to beat cravings.

The research was conducted at St George’s Hospital, London (where I trained as a dietitian), and they found the patch was as effective as some of the popular slimming drugs, but without the side effects.

Chief dietitian Catherine Collins said:

The aroma patch significantly reduced sweet food intake and there was greater weight loss amongst those using the vanilla patch, compared to a lemon-scented dummy or no patch…The most interesting thing we found was that the chocolate score was halved for people wearing the vanilla patch.

Unfortunately, the patches didn’t affect peoples appetite for boiled sweets, savory snacks or alcohol.

I’m wondering if you could simply light a vanilla-scented candle for the same effect?

What tips do you have to stop food cravings?


  1. Jake

    I had a terrible time with cravings – I just didn’t have the willpower to ignore them, and trying to “wait it out” was useless. But now I have it under control. This is going to sound crazy, but I found a “weight loss formula” that is actually an all natural fiber supplement.

    I take it every morning mixed into some orange juice. They say in their literature that it expands in your stomach to make you feel full.

    All I know is that I haven’t had those cravings I used to be plagued by constantly at the office, and I really don’t get hungry. In fact, I have to remind myself to go eat lunch. gastric bypass surgery – something I’ll NEVER consider again!

  2. Lynn

    I find drinking lots of water to be real helpful as well as chewing gum. Usually I’ll ask myself what else could I eat for the same amount of calories, or I’ll wait an hour to see if I really am hungry, and the urge will go away especially if I find something to do. I don’t allow myself any food after 9pm as this really helps me avoid those snacking calories. If I want something to eat and a mealtime is only several hours away, I’ll make myself wait, and usually this avoids any snacking at all. This has all been real successful for me so far. Once my body got used to only eating at mealtime and eating smaller portions, I didn’t feel hungry very often or for very long.

    On occasion I allow myself to indulge as a sort of reward, but generally I don’t just because this has become a lifestyle change that I’m really used to. On top of that, I used to try to imagine what I’d look like wearing what I was considering eating! 😉 That helped!

  3. Andrew

    For me, I think drinking water has been the most successful tip for curbing cravings. Like someone mentioned, it is important to know that thirst can be misinterpreted for hunger, so you should always have a glass of water and wait 15 minutes before snacking/eating. Finally, I think having higher protein, lower carbohydrate meals can help you stay fuller for longer!

  4. Spectra

    I don’t usually get true cravings, but on the odd occasion that I do, I usually drink water or a diet soda instead. Sometimes I’ll chew a piece of gum and do something else. Most of the time, it’s just an oral fixation thing; if I keep my mouth busy, I don’t really crave food. I’d never heard of that vanilla patch thing though…sounds kind of weird. I do sometimes light scented candles around the house so it smells nice, but I never thought about putting patches on my skin.

  5. Elaine

    Boiled sweets is a British term for hard candy.

  6. Katie

    Again with the overuse of the word “binge.” Somehow, I doubt that eating, say, 4 chocolate bars because you haven’t allowed yourself to have a small one is a real binge: the hallmark of binge eating is the inability to stop, and I don’t think this is what the professor mentioned is trying to address.

    Perhaps I’m just odd in this regard, but food cravings do not last for only a short while. I’ve sat and fought with them for two or three hours, knowing that they were psychological rather physiological, and still not been able to get rid of them.

  7. FitJerk - Flawless Fitness Blog

    I swear this topic has been revisited on diet blog for the 3rd time already, and that’s only since I’ve known about it.

    No one else picking up on this or doesn’t want to say anything. hah.

    Running out of topics are we?

  8. ErinNicole

    I also think this is a great point!!!


  9. kitekrazy

    Smells make me hungry. I don’t think the aroma therapy crap works.

  10. Rose W.

    I’ve found low-carbing to help with the cravings. Just wade through the first few days of intense cravings, and they go away. I find it much easier to keep cravings at bay by avoiding that addictive sugar rush.

  11. Barry

    “If you try to eat healthy and take regular exercise I think it’s possible to allow for all types of food in your diet in moderation.”


  12. Ann

    What are boiled sweets?

  13. Jody - Fit at 51

    I do all of the above.. except the vanilla patch thing. The thing that works best for me is to wait at least 10-15 minutes & in that time I ask myself why I want the food, what will it do for me, why am I eating it, what will I do to have to work it off, will I enjoy is after the fact if I am stress eating. etc. I also get away & keep busy with something else during that time. 99% of the time, this works.

    Since I do allow myself treats here & there as part of my food program, I am not denying myself everything so that helps to. I also sip on flavored water as a means to get some flavor without going crazy.