When a food craving hits, it knows no mercy.In a matter of seconds, the thought of a cupcake or bag of chips can go from “A cupcake sounds good” to “I must have a cupcake or I’ll explode!”Â And, unfortunately, we usually crave less-than-healthy foods that can pack on pounds.
“Calories consumed during a craving binge can amount to 1,000 to 2,000 if you’re not careful,” says Mary Ellen Herndon, wellness dietitian at MD Anderson. “And while you won’t pack on the pounds if you indulge a craving every now and then, you may start to gain weight if you don’t get those cravings under control.”
And, that’s bad news since unhealthy weight gain can put you at greater risk for diseases like cancer. Use these tips to help reign in those pesky cravings.
Â Indulge in moderation
It’s true: cravings often just get worse when you try to ignore them. So, Herndon says it’s often better to go ahead and indulge your cravings, but in a healthy way.Â “Don’t be afraid to give in – just a little,” Herndon says. “It may keep you from splurging even more later.”
Take a close look at your cravings, and you’ll probably see a pattern. Herndon suggests making a “Most Wanted” list of the foods you most often crave and overindulge in. Then, create a special stash of healthier options that can calm the beast.
Satisfy cravings with healthier substitutions
Try these healthy alternatives for commonly craved high-fat, high-sugar foods.
Â Instead of: Try:
Chocolate Fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk (8 oz.) or 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
Cupcake Mini angel food cake rounds (available in packages of six at the grocery store) with light whipped topping
Soft drink Club soda, chilled water with a lemon wedge, sugar free iced tea
Chips or salty snacks Low-fat tortilla chips, baked potato chips, whole grain pretzels, low-fat rice snacks or mini rice cakes
Bacon cheeseburger Turkey or veggie burger with one slice of Canadian bacon
Ice cream Low-fat frozen yogurt, frozen yogurt whips, no-sugar-added low-fat ice cream or sugar-free fat-free pudding cup, frozen grapes
Donut Cinnamon toast; low-fat flavored bread, like banana, pumpkin or blueberry
Follow this advice and you’ll be better prepared the next time a craving hits. By having a plan, you’ll be more likely to stay on a better eating track and maintain a healthy weight. And, that’s one of the best ways to fight cancer.
Dawn Dorsey – Focused on Health April 2012, MD Anderson Cancer Center