Why You’re Really Craving Pizza, Chips, or Candy – Meal Replacement Shakes Why You’re Really Craving Pizza, Chips, or Candy – Meal Replacement Shakes

We’ve all been there: you’re sitting in a meeting or at your computer checking email and all of a sudden you’re craving junk food. “I want cookies!” shouts your brain, a la cookie monster. Or, maybe it’s calling out for a late-night potato chip snack.

Food cravings can seem irregular and unexplainable. But there’s often something happening behind the scenes resulting in your hankering for a sweet treat or salty snack. This could be anything from strong emotional feelings to a lack of nutrients in your diet.

One of the first steps you can take in stopping unhealthy food cravings is to take note of why you might be experiencing that craving in the first place. Because once you know the cause, you can substitute a healthier solution. 

Check out our list of some of the most common causes of food cravings, including healthier ways to manage them: 

Lack of Sleep

Woman passed out at her desk from lack of sleep

Sleep is intricately tied to hunger. If you haven’t gotten enough sleep, your body might not have enough energy to stay awake throughout the day. To compensate, your body will start craving high-energy foods, which are usually full of sugar and carbs. (1,2)

And when you’re sleep-deprived, your body may release more hunger hormones, which will leave you feeling hungrier than normal. You can support your weight loss goals (and reduce your cravings!) by getting enough sleep each night. Aim for 7-8 hours if you can! 

Thirst

Woman sitting on the floor drinking water because she's thirsty

Thirst can often disguise itself as hunger, especially a hankering for salty snacks. Try answering your food cravings with a glass of water or low-sugar electrolyte drink instead. It could be that your hunger was actually dehydration. And as a bonus, staying hydrated keeps you healthy and helps you manage your weight loss goals! (3

Strong Emotions

Woman eating junk food like donuts while sitting on a couch

Sometimes cravings have nothing to do with physical hunger at all. This is especially true if you’re feeling strong emotions like stress, frustration, anxiety, sadness, or even boredom.

Stress or a bad mood can lead to emotional eating—when you’re eating for comfort instead of hunger. Researchers believe that high levels of cortisol released when you’re feeling stressed result in these emotional cravings. (4,5)

Learning how to manage your stress and reduce stressful situations in your life could be a great way to limit your food cravings. Start by looking for small ways to add self-care to your daily routine. And, when needed, enforce healthy boundaries for yourself. 

This can be as simple as not checking your email first thing in the morning or reducing the amount of time you spend on social media. Instead, spend that time reading a good book, taking a yoga class, or meditating. 

Context or Physical Location

Woman and man eating popcorn at the movie theater

Another interesting cause for cravings is our physical location or eating context. Where you are, who you’re with, and the context of the location can all cause cravings. 

Like the need for popcorn and sugary soda at a movie theater. Or the tradition of ordering fried foods or splitting a couple of bottles of wine during a night out with friends. Food and snack commercials are also a really common cause of cravings. Just seeing your favorite snack food on the screen can have you headed to the pantry to find a snack.

The best way to manage context or location-based food cravings is to identify when they happen and plan ahead when you can. For example, if you know you’re going to crave a sweet treat at the movie theater, enjoy a healthy protein shake before you arrive or pack your own healthy snack instead

Low Levels of Protein or Fiber

Table filled with high-protein and fiber foods like meat and vegetables

When it comes to a well-rounded diet, there are a couple of critical nutrients you need to feel full or satiated. These include both protein and fiber. A diet high in protein and fiber makes it easier to resist snacking by keeping you full throughout the day. (6,7)

If you’re starting to crave junk foods, try to redirect yourself to something that contains both fiber and protein. (Like one of the high-protein and fiber shakes on our top-rated shakes list!) Not only will this help halt hunger cravings, but it’ll also make sure you’re loading up on healthy nutrients and not empty calories. 

Sugar and Salt Addiction

close up of chocolate, oatmeal cookies, candies and muesli bars on plate

It’s important to recognize that both sugar and salt are addictive. The more you eat them, the more your brain craves them. So instead of eating out of hunger, you could be eating to satisfy your sweet tooth or salty food cravings. 

And who can blame you! Sugar and salt taste great. And they make you feel happy when you’re eating them. Sugar even causes a release of serotonin or the happy chemical in our brains. 

It’s normal to want to reach for the sugary and salty snacks as a way to chase those good feelings. But, unfortunately, your body builds up a tolerance to these foods over time. That means the more sugar and salt you eat, the more of it that you need to experience the same good feelings.

So how do you stop a sugar tooth or salty food urge? You cut back on your high-sugar and salty foods and replace them with healthier alternatives instead. But don’t attempt to go cold turkey! Start by slowly reducing the amount of sugar and salt you consume each day. Over time you’ll find that your taste buds and brain start craving these unhealthy snacks less and less. 

Extra Physical Activity

Fit woman walking in park during autumn time

If you’re working toward a weight loss goal, you may be incorporating more physical activity into your life. Like going to the gym more often or getting out and walking around your neighborhood a few days a week. This increase in your physical activity means you need more calories to stay full, resulting in greater food cravings.

If you’ve increased your physical activity, you should also increase the amount of protein and fiber in your diet. (Like with these high-protein smoothie recipes!) Protein and fiber help you feel full or satiated for longer periods and can help your body recover from your workout routine.

Hunger

Hungry woman sitting at a table filled with healthy foods, looking at her watch

And sometimes you’re experiencing a food craving because you’re… hungry! It could just be your body’s signal that it’s time to eat. 

But instead of reaching for the chips or cookies, give your body the energy-supporting nutrients it needs like high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, or healthy fats. This will help train your brain to stop craving junk food when it’s hungry and to start getting excited about nutrient-rich (and delicious!) foods like juicy fruit or crunchy veggies.

 

We all get food cravings. Whether it’s because of a commercial on TV, not getting enough sleep the night before, or overwhelming negative emotions, cravings are a normal part of the human experience. Recognizing your food craving triggers is the first step toward reducing these cravings and sticking to your weight loss goals. 

Head to our blog for even more healthy-eating tips and suggestions!

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950738/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23803882/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302707/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5373497/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20847729/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18448177/

Compare Popular Shakes Side By Side