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Combat those cravings

Cupcakes pose a cravings challenge

Always ravenous? Can’t stop snacking? Then hunger is not the only cause – identify the trigger and combat those constant cravings.

Trigger: Stress

Remember being rewarded with a sweet treat after a skinned knee? We often try to recreate that childhood sense of feeling secure and nurtured through snacks. Unfortunately, comfort eating is a fast track to weight gain.

Combat your craving

  • Soothe without food: Listen to classical music, do slow breathing or hit the gym at lunchtime to burn off stress hormones.
  • Take up meditation: A daily 20-minute session can reduce anxiety by 39 per cent or more, according to research by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in the US.
  • Get snack savvy: Reach for low-GI snacks such as nuts, strawberries or rye sourdough. “Low-GI foods provide long lasting energy and regulate your blood sugars so you feel full for longer,” says Professor Jennie Brand-Miller of the University of Sydney.

Trigger: 11am blahs

The most common culprit? Breakfasting on coffee or low-fibre white foods like raisin toast or a shop-bought muffin.

Combat your craving

  • Eat eggs at breakfast: Research from the University of Washington School of Medicine has shown that increasing protein intake helps people feel full for longer and increases their levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone that tells us our belly is full.
  • Hit the H20: “Your body can easily mistake lack of hydration as a hunger signal, when in fact what you really need is a drink of water,” says Cathryn Pruscino, a sports scientist and hydration specialist at the Victorian Institute of Sport. “Aim to sip a little water every hour and drink one to two litres of water every day.”

Trigger: Boredom

If you’re stuck in a rut, food can become the most exciting pit stop in a dull and repetitive day.

Combat your craving

  • Shake up your routine: Home with kids? Get out of the house to a play group, friend’s house or the park. At the office? Suggest a walking meeting or take a gym break to refresh and reboot.
  • Distract and delay: Hold off eating for 10 minutes and then another 10, as you divert your focus. If you’re at home, call a friend, do the crossword in the paper, hang out the washing – whatever will distract you. If you’re at work, stand up and make a tea, or fill your bottle at the water cooler and drink half. Visit a colleague for a quick chat or make that phone call you’ve been putting off.

Trigger: Afternoon energy slump

Do you find yourself popping past the vending machine at 3pm daily? You’re probably suffering a blood sugar drop.

Combat your craving

  • Get more sleep: Hunger hormones increase the less sleep we get, causing an energy dip in the day. So aim for eight hours of shuteye on most nights.
  • Choose chewy foods: “Foods that take longer to chew are usually higher in fibre so they break down more slowly in your digestive system, keeping you sated for longer and giving you longer lasting energy,” says Aloysa Hourigan, senior nutritionist from Nutrition Australia. Good chewy choices include fruit salad, crunchy veggie sticks or dense rye bread with hummus.

Trigger: Mindless eating

“The less attention you pay to what you eat the less satisfied you are at the end of the meal,” says Hourigan. Hello, second helping or after-meal snack!

Combat your craving

  • Never eat on the run: … or in front of the TV, at your desk or while reading a magazine.
  • Focus fully on the food you’re eating: Chew slowly and enjoy the texture, smell and flavour. You’ll be amazed at how much more flavoursome it tastes! 


Words by Stephanie Osfield.