Why do I Have Food Cravings & 10 Honest (and Totally Doable) Science Backed Strategies to Finally Outsmart Your Food Cravings – Part 2

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More research is needed to truly understand food cravings. We all have them and we all give in to them sometimes. In an ideal world, our food environment and advertising wouldn’t take advantage of our natural tendencies. In the meantime, try these tips.

1 – Understand that food cravings are natural, we all have them, and they’re not a character flaw!

If you need to, go ahead and reread Part 1 of this article and know that cravings are so common. They’re ingrained in our biology.

2 – Eat a variety of nutritious foods. 

Keep nutritious snacks and meals on-hand and ready for when the cravings hit. Have them prepared and up front and centre when you open your fridge/cupboard so it’s the first thing you see and the most convenient option when you’re on the “hunt” for something to eat.

3 – Try to reduce your exposure to food cues in the first place. 

(NOTE: These are not your fault and it’s so difficult to go against the reality of our current food environment.) 

If you find that certain activities you do are strongly linked with food cravings (such as sitting in front of a screen means “popcorn time” or walking past the convenience store means “soda pop time,” try going the extra step and doing something different whenever you can. That may mean less TV or screen time, getting up and doing something healthier during ad breaks, or taking a different route home to avoid passing the drive-through or your favourite cafe or bakery. 

Identify if you crave a food because you’re doing something you associate with eating (e.g., relaxing in front of the television, preparing to watch a movie, commuting). You can try making a quick note on your smartphone or jotting down in your journal when you experience them. Then, instead of these activities, try doing something else. Maybe head out for a walk, relax with your favourite hobby, or call a friend or family member.[11]

4 – Are you truly hungry?

Physical hunger has a feeling of emptiness in your stomach, fatigue, and/or lightheadedness. If you’re not sure whether you’re hungry or just have a craving, try to delay acting on it right away. For example, drink a glass of water and wait 10 to 15 minutes. Keep yourself busy and distract your mind from food. If that feeling hasn’t gone away tune into your body and discover if it’s a physical feeling in your stomach or an emotional need for a specific food. Try a mindfulness practice or eat a nutritious snack or meal. If none of those work it’s probably a craving, and you may want to try another distraction.[11]

5 – If you’re experiencing a food craving and are not truly hungry.

When experiencing a food craving, try to identify where it came from. Was there a food cue (advertisement, smell, memory, or are you looking at something right now that makes you want to enjoy it)? Are you stressed or bored? Is there a pattern you can identify?

If you’re responding to a food cue, try to remove that cue. Stop paying attention to it by changing the channel, hiding the food, or otherwise distracting yourself from it.[11]

6 – Enjoy the craved food slowly and mindfully.

Start with a small amount of the craved food. Allow yourself to fully enjoy it mindfully. 

Mindfulness includes paying attention to whatever arises in the present moment with an open, curious non-judgmental attitude. It is a state of “enhanced receptive awareness and attention to present reality.”[7] 

Mindful eating is therefore eating slower and paying more attention to your food. Do this by chewing well and savouring the smells, tastes, and textures. Your body feels satiated when your stomach feels physically full and your digestive hormones send a signal to your brain that you’re no longer hungry. By eating slower, you’re allowing these signals to work before you get a chance to eat too much.[11]

Studies show that being mindful of thought and emotions can help reduce cravings. One clinical study showed that participants ate fewer cookies when they did a mindfulness activity, as compared to those who did not do the activity. Doing a brief mindfulness exercise can even change your level of hunger to reduce the influence of the attractiveness of less-nutritious foods.[7] 

7 – Make nutritious foods more appealing.

A few studies show that it may be possible to change the foods we crave. In a process called “cognitive reappraisal,” some people have been able to reduce their cravings for less-nutritious foods and increase them for more nutritious foods by focusing on the long-term health consequences of frequently eating that food.[12,13,14] 

In one recent study, 58 college students were asked to look at a picture of a food and think about whether it will increase their risk for heart disease or whether it will provide vitamins and minerals to keep them strong. This cognitive reappraisal exercise affected how frequently and how strongly those foods were craved (e.g., cravings for nutritious foods became stronger and more frequent than they were before the experiment). Just one week later, some participants reported that they ate less of the less nutritious foods.[12]

While it can be difficult (but possible!) for adults to change the foods we already prefer to eat, it may be easier to influence how children develop food preferences. If you have children, you can expose them to nutritious foods as often as possible.[10]

8 – Take care of your mental health.

Remember that our emotional state—including stress—are linked to food cravings. Taking care of your mental health can also transfer to taking care of yourself physically. 

Try to reduce stress in ways that work for you: meditation, physical activity, socializing with people you care about, getting enough sleep (read my sleep blog for tips on how to improve your sleep), etc.[4,9] 

9 – After you indulged in your food craving. 

Don’t beat yourself up! We both know that this is so common. Indulging does not make you a bad person. It makes you a human with a deep biological need for physical and emotional wellbeing who is surrounded by food cues and easy access.

If you need to, reread strategies 1-8 again.

10 – If you suspect you may be deficient in nutrients or have an underlying condition, be sure to see your licensed healthcare professional.

Remember, that even though right now there is more evidence of the conditioning hypothesis leading to food cravings, that’s not a 100 percent guarantee! Food cravings may be a sign of nutritional needs, so reach out to an excellent practitioner who can help you.

Feel free to book a free 15 minute call with me to see how I can help you. https://calendly.com/biobabehealthfitness/15min


1 – Kahathuduwa, C. N., Binks, M., Martin, C. K., & Dawson, J. A. (2017). Extended calorie restriction suppresses overall and specific food cravings: a systematic review and a meta-analysis. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 18(10), 1122–1135. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12566

LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28557246

LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6226249/

2 – Examine’s Nutrition Examination Research Digest. (2017, October). Can dieting actually suppress food craving? Issue 36. Retrieved from https://examine.com/nerd/article/can-dieting-actually-suppress-food-craving/

3 – van den Akker, K., Schyns, G., & Jansen, A. (2018). Learned Overeating: Applying Principles of Pavlovian Conditioning to Explain and Treat Overeating. Current addiction reports, 5(2), 223–231. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-018-0207-x

LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29963363

LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5984639/

4 – Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, June 24). Why people become overweight. Retrieved from 


5 – Blechert, J., Klackl, J., Miedl, S. F., & Wilhelm, F. H. (2016). To eat or not to eat: Effects of food availability on reward system activity during food picture viewing. Appetite, 99, 254-261. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.006

LINK: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S019566631630006X?via%3Dihub

6 – Lee, Y. H., Kim, M., Lee, M., Shin, D., Ha, D. S., Park, J. S., Kim, Y. B., & Choi, H. J. (2019). Food Craving, Seeking, and Consumption Behaviors: Conceptual Phases and Assessment Methods Used in Animal and Human Studies. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, 28(3), 148–157. https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes.2019.28.3.148

LINK: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31583379/

LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6774451/

7 – Fisher, N, Lattimore, P., & Malinowski, P. (2015). Attention with a mindful attitude attenuates subjective appetitive reactions and food intake following food-cue exposure. Appetite, 99, 10-16. ISSN 0195-6663.

LINK: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666315301185?via%3Dihub

LINK: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/2561/1/Attention%20with%20a%20mindful%20attitude%20attenuates%20subjective%20appetitive%20reactions%20and%20food%20intake%20following%20food-cue%20exposure.pdf

8 – Monteiro, C., Cannon, G., Moubarac, J., Levy, R., Louzada, M., & Jaime, P. (2018). The UN Decade of Nutrition, the NOVA food classification and the trouble with ultra-processing. Public Health Nutrition, 21(1), 5-17. doi:10.1017/S1368980017000234


9 – Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). How stress can make us overeat. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/how-stress-can-make-us-overeat

10 – Harvard Health Publishing. (2017, June 5). Controlling what — and how much — we eat. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/controlling-what–and-how-much–we-eat

11 – Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). 5 ways to outwit your appetite. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-ways-to-outwit-your-appetite

12 – Reader, S. W., Lopez, R. B., & Denny, B. T. (2018). Cognitive reappraisal of low-calorie food predicts real-world craving and consumption of high- and low-calorie foods in daily life. Appetite

131, 44-52.

LINK: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666318306263?via%3Dihub

LINK: https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/103245/Appetite_postprint.pdf;jsessionid=86D3A256EFF63EB2B93032C99CB599A5?sequence=1

13 – Giuliani, N. R., Calcott, R. D., & Berkman, E. T. (2013). Piece of cake. Cognitive reappraisal of food craving. Appetite, 64, 56-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.12.020

LINK: http://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC3711873&blobtype=pdf

14 – Siep, N., Roefs, A., Roebroeck, A., Havermans, R., Bonte, M., & Jansen, A. (2012). Fighting food temptations: the modulating effects of short-term cognitive reappraisal, suppression and up-regulation on mesocorticolimbic activity related to appetitive motivation. Neuroimage, 60(1), 213-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.12.067

LINK: http://researchers-sbe.unimaas.nl/neuroeconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2015/03/Siep-et-al.-2012.pdf