10 Ways to Curb Your Carb Cravings

When you crave carbs, you probably don't yearn for a crisp, juicy apple or a plate of steamed green beans, both of which are actually chock full of carbohydrates. No, carb cravings are usually reserved for the calorie-dense, doughy stuff-bread, bagels, cookies, and doughnuts-that are loaded with sugar and often with fat, too.  And if you don't crave sugary carbs, you crave salty carbohydrates like pretzels, potato chips and cheese puffs.

No one knows for sure why we get cravings, or why women seem to get them more than men, especially just before their menstrual periods. But researchers do know that women are more likely to crave carbs than men (men are more likely crave protein) and one theory is that carbohydrates raise levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood and appetite. So if you're feeling down, a high-protein meal or snack might fill you up but it won't make you feel better. Carbs do the trick, at least temporarily.

If your carb cravings are getting the best of you, these do's and don'ts can help control the urge:

Don't ever shop for food on an empty stomach. You'll create a craving right there in the supermarket.

Do exercise. Working out raises the levels of serotonin your brain, which should diminish cravings.

Don't skip meals.
You may be getting cravings because you don't eat often enough. If you tend to skip meals, your cravings may be a result of true hunger.

Do change your attitude toward food. Sometimes losing the "forbidden food" mentality can actually help you change your obsessive behavior around food.

Don't deny yourself. If you routinely crave carbohydrates, satisfy the urge with small indulgences every so often rather than wait for a craving that's so strong it drives you to eat half a box of cookies.

Do eat small meals more often, instead of three big meals spaced further apart. Even if you're eating regularly, you may be waiting too long for your next meal. In addition to eating often enough, be sure to eat enough food to satisfy your hunger at each meal.

Don't keep fatty carbs and sugary sweets around the house. If you must cave into a craving, make yourself work for it. If you have to walk or drive to a store to get the food you crave, you may be able to use other methods to talk yourself out of it before you get there. If you do make it to the store, buy only a single serving.

Do avoid temptation. If you can't keep trigger carbs out of the house completely, try to keep them off the kitchen counter and out of sight.

Don't give in right away. If you can distract yourself when you get a craving, the urge to eat may go away within about fifteen minutes.

Do seek professional help if you are overweight and your cravings are out of control.
Speak to your general practitioner, who can refer you to a specialist, if necessary.


Science Daily: Links Between Food Cravings, Types of Cravings and Weight Management

Penn State: On Demand: Food Cravings (Video)

Montana State University: Tips to Help Control Carb Cravings

Joslin Diabetes Center: Food Cravings and Diabetes