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12 Ways to Crush Your Unhealthy Cravings for Good

These easy tips will have you on your way to better habits.
Woman craving junk food while on a diet

Cravings are powerful forces. A bowl of M&Ms or Hershey's Kisses can pull you toward it like a high-powered magnet. We've all been there. It's like we are weaklings with no strength or willpower to fight this invisible tug of instant gratification.

Yes, cravings are powerful.

But they are not insurmountable. In fact, they are pretty easy to head off, to crush even. You're stronger than a food craving. Much. You just need to recognize the power within you to break its grip. It also helps to use some tricks to outsmart your brain's fixation on those chocolates, donuts, scoops of ice cream, slices of cake—you fill in the blank.

You have more power than you think to manipulate and change your long-standing habits, intense cravings, and even your mood, which plays a huge role in eating behaviors. Try these tools and techniques to empower your resolve. And once you crush those cravings for good, go ahead and stock up on any of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

Eat yogurt.

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Feeling down can jumpstart emotional eating. Head it off by having a small cup of Greek yogurt. The protein in the yogurt will elevate levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters while feeding your gut probiotics, which research has linked to improved mood.

2

Run for 30 minutes.

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Scientists at Loughborough University in England say running for that length of time curbs hunger by increasing production of the appetite-suppressing peptide YY and decreasing the appetite stimulant ghrelin.

3

Jump rope.

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The bouncing motion disturbs the digestive track, which can quell the impulse to eat, say British researchers. Who knew?!

4

Drink cold water.

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Did you know that 60% of the time we inappropriately respond to thirst by eating instead of drinking? So says a study in the journal Physiology & Behavior. Experts believe the mistake stems from the fact that the same part of our brain controls hunger and thirst, and sometimes it mixes up the signals. Not only will keeping a water bottle around help you respond to thirst correctly, but chugging water can help you feel full and keep your metabolism humming. In fact, if you drink ice-cold water, your body will burn a few extra calories heating that water up once it's inside you!

And just so you know, this 7-day smoothie diet will help you shed those last few pounds.

5

Close the kitchen at night.

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Limiting when you eat is, in some ways, just as important as limiting what you eat. According to a study published in Cell Metabolism, mice that engaged in "time-restricted feeding" (TRF)—eating only during a nine- to 12-hour period of activity and abstaining from food for the 12-hour sedentary, overnight period—showed signs of reversing the progression of metabolic disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the experiment showed that eating under a time-restricted feeding schedule effectively stymied weight gain even when used with high-calorie, high-fructose, and high-fat diets, and was still effective even when the TRF was disrupted on the weekends (which is great to know, because how many times have you given in to a late-night craving on a Saturday?). In other words, stay away from the pantry from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

6

Try some chickpea "chips."

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If you have an insatiable craving for a salty snack, have one, but make it this one: spicy chickpea "chips."

Ingredients: 

  • 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Cajun spice mix
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled

How To Make Them: 

  • Preheat oven to 450 ̊F.
  • Place the chickpeas and olive oil in a resealable plastic bag. Close the bag and shake until the chickpeas are well coated with oil.
  • Place the oiled chickpeas on a rimmed cookie sheet and then roast, occasionally turning with a spatula until golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer the roasted chickpeas to a serving bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.
7

Stay busy.

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Downtime can be bad for your waistline. One study concluded that most people eat when they are bored to escape monotony rather than to increase satisfaction. Keep busy with a hobby like learning to play guitar or piano, knitting, or doing a craft project. Pop packing bubbles if it will keep your hands out of the chip bag. Research shows that cravings usually last between three and 10 minutes, so doing something to distract yourself for 10 minutes or so may be all you need to crush a craving. Put down the candy bar and take a walk instead. You'll feel great when you get back.

8

Call a friend.

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Take a few minutes to connect with someone you care about. Your spirits will be lifted, and your mind will be distracted from thoughts of eating. Chances are your call will perk them up, too.

9

Gnaw on some celery.

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High-water-content, low-calorie foods that are crunchy, like celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower help boost your energy and reduce cravings for sugar and processed foods.

10

Swig a shot of kefir.

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Fermented drinks like kefir have been said to reduce or eliminate cravings for sugar and baked goods. Give it a shot! The next time you have a craving, take a two-ounce shot of your favorite probiotic liquid. You'll be amazed at how the sour taste of the fermented drink relieves the desire for sugar and processed foods.

11

Meditate.

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Meditation can help chase away cravings by helping to reduce stress and focus your mind. In 2015, Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, discovered that meditation not only has the power to reduce stress, but it can change the brain by increasing gray matter in the auditory and sensory cortex. Stress creates the hormone cortisol, which increases your blood sugar. This is a vicious cycle that damages your adrenals and creates sugar cravings. Adding a short meditation before meals can help you relax, which means better digestion and absorption of nutrients.

12

Indulge in a spoonful.

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According to one Stanford University study, we all have a unique "taste-health balance point" that allows us to feel satisfied with a certain ratio of indulgent food to healthy food. Specifically, the study concluded that most people only need about a quarter of their "vice–virtue bundle" to be made up of the vice (let's say it's ice cream), and three quarters can be the good stuff (apple and peanut butter); this ratio was shown to encourage people to feel satisfied and eat more of the healthy stuff. So, go ahead and let yourself have some French fries with dinner, but be sure to also have a couple extra bites of salad for the perfect balance.