Carbohydrates are a major staple of the American diet. Thus carbs are hard to avoid eating!
Americans are conditioned to eat carbohydrates as an essential part of every meal. Many of us know this often leads us down the wrong path of overeating them.
In this article we will offer 7 strategies to help you learn how to stop craving for carbs and break your addiction with a carb heavy diet.
1 – Don’t Cut Carbs Too Quick
If you cut carbohydrates from your daily diet too quickly then you’ll end up self-sabotaging and eating tons of carbs.
The key is to gradually decrease how much carbohydrates you consume.
(And as you decrease the amount of carbs you’ll also need to increase the amounts of protein you consume – but we’ll talk about getting more protein later!)
Studies have shown that people who rapidly cut carbs from their diet often see a rebound in weight. It’s easy not to stay on track if you’re going too fast!
Why Quickly Cutting Carbs Messes Up Your Blood Sugar Levels:
- You can’t cut carbs cold turkey from your diet and not replace them with anything.
- If you don’t find something else to eat, then you’ll likely end up eating even more carbs because your blood sugar levels will be too low.
- Since we don’t have enough blood sugar we feel sluggish, hungry and tired.
- Low blood sugar will cause carb craving because we need some degree of blood sugar. Carbs contain very digestible sugar that gives you a quick energy boost!
- This leads us back into old habits such as overeating on pastries in the office break room or ordering pizza.
Think back to when you last tried to cut carbs out of your diet.
Did you get extreme carb cravings or feel like emotional eating the next day? If so, this is a huge indicator that your attempts to lose weight with a low carb diet are backfiring!
2 – Replace Sugary Carbs with “Enough” Protein
Not all carbohydrates are created equal and there are ‘good’ carbs which we’ll speak about later.
But first let’s talk about the general principle of replacing sugary, refined carbs with protein.
Here is a partial list of sugary carbohydrate foods:
- crackers and chips
- soda, iced tea, sports drinks with sugar added to them
- sugary cereals
Do these sugary carbs sound familiar to you? Of course they do!
We all know these carbs have no nutritional value and make us gain weight. But whenever we try to cut these carbs out we end up eating them again.
Why Do We Keep Getting Carb Cravings?
A big reason is because you are cutting out carbs, but you are not replacing them with enough protein.
The mistake most people make is they don’t replace their carb intake with enough protein.
The protein itself can be converted into blood sugar, but you also need an equal amount of calories from the protein to replace the carbohydrates you are no longer eating!
For example, one client (before they started working with me) tried to eat one hardboiled egg instead of their bagel with butter in the mornings.
A bagel with butter is around 400 calories. But a hardboiled egg is worth around 100 calories.
After a week of this diet my soon-to-be client was starving. Just do the math in your head. A hardboiled egg is 300 calories less than the bagel.
After a week of this low carb ‘diet’ they were at a caloric deficit of 2100 calories and all they could think about were processed and refined carbs.
We worked instead to double their breakfast intake to two hard boiled eggs and get some complex fiber with a hearty Gaia apple.
They reported less cravings and overall less snacking on less carbs throughout the day!
Now what about getting enough protein? Well, the best strategy to get enough protein is a simple one.
Eat Protein at Every Meal
Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar and by eating protein with each meal, you’ll feel fuller faster and avoid cravings!
Why? Because with adequate protein your stomach will be less likely to make those hunger signals that trigger carb cravings!
Plus, when digested in higher doses, proteins can help reduce levels of ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone produced by cells lining the stomach and is responsible for stimulating appetite.
If you get more protein then this will help Ghrelin stay in check!
One study found participants who had about 40 grams of protein before they sat down for lunch consumed 12% fewer calories than people who had 40 grams of carbohydrates. Having a bit less calories is fine, as it won’t lead to a massive calorie deficit.
3 – Don’t Cut Out Fiber
Remember how earlier I said there were two types of carbs?
We have the sugary ‘bad’ carbs like soda on one hand. Yet we also have ‘good’ carbs like apples (which I listed above).
Good carbs have a lot of fiber and other vitamins and minerals. The sugary carbs like soda don’t have any fiber or nutritional value.
I know carbohydrates get a bad rap in our society for being all bad and contributing to weight gain.
But you really need to separate the ‘good’ carbs away from the ‘bad’ carbs!
Please do not make the ‘keto’ mistake of cutting out ALL carbohydrates from your diet including the good ones!
Remember, your blood sugar will plummet if you remove all carbohydrates from your diet.
And low blood sugar levels inevitably lead to more irresistible carb cravings!
So gradually reduce the simple sugar carbs, but keep the good carbs. Very important lesson here in your quest to learn how to stop craving for carbs!
Good carbs have fiber, and your body absolutely needs fiber.
Fiber is good for your body for several reasons:
- Fiber makes your body feel full so you don’t want to binge eat and it can help lower cholesterol.
- Slows down digestion, which means that people who have high levels of dietary fiber tend to have longer periods without hunger and experience less craving.
Here are the best sources of fiber and ‘good’ carbs:
- oatmeal and other high-fiber breakfast cereals
- whole-grain breads and whole-wheat pastas
- fruit (especially oranges)
- vegetables and beans
- brown rice
Please note: if you were trying to cut all carbohydrates out previously, then please know you should definitely keep these carbs in your diet!
By eating these carbs instead of the sugar carbs, your digestion will work slower. You’ll be satisfied and not hungry for longer periods of time.
Instead of getting crazy carb cravings out of the blue, you’ll be able to feel a gradual and natural sense of hunger that develops over time.
4 – Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is an important part of your journey learning how to stop craving for carbs.
Drinking enough water helps you to reduce cravings because it helps to keep your hunger at bay.
By drinking enough water, you can feel fuller faster when it’s time for a meal and avoid that feeling of deprivation.
A good rule of thumb is drink, every day, the number of ounces of water that is half the number of your weight in pounds (so if you weigh 150 lbs., then 75-100 ounces).
Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day so that by dinner time there will still be fluid left in your stomach. This will help decrease those cravings!
You can also have a glass of water during meal times to wash down your food!
Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake
Both alcohol and caffeine will dehydrate you and cause more cravings.
To process alcohol out of your body, your kidney takes about 1 cup of water for every ounce of alcohol consumed.
In fact dehydration is a major reason people feel hungover after a night of drinking!
When processing caffeine your kidney also requires water. But caffeine also inhibits how the body is able to use stored fat as fuel, which makes you crave carbs even more.
Long story short – if you are wondering how to stop craving for carbs and you are also drinking caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks … then you’re dehydrated!
Drink more water!
5 – Have The Occasional Treat
Earlier I said to cut out the sugar carbohydrates (and to replace them with enough protein).
Then I warned you about NOT cutting out the ‘good’ carbs which contain fiber.
You still need to eat carbs, just try to eat the carbs which have nutritional value and not the sugar treats that are so common these days!
Now I’m switching gears once again and telling you to have some occasional treats. Treats which would be considered a sugar carb!
I know all this might seem confusing, so let me pause real quick and give you the big picture:
Stop obsessing about weight loss. Realize weight loss happens gradually as you learn how to stop craving for carbs.
If you have this gradual mindset then you can slowly cut out the sugar carbs and replace them with healthy protein and good carbs.
(Hint: also make sure you get enough protein by eating protein every meal!)
Make sure you keep the good carbs which have fiber. Continue to eat those whole wheat breads and brown rice so you stay full and satisfied for hours after eating!
Now do you see how having a treat like ice cream fits in here?
Forgive yourself for craving a treat every so often – have some candy or whatever else satisfies your sweet tooth. Just don’t overdo it!
The majority of your intake should be ‘good’ carbs and proteins (along with some fats too!)
And of course drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and further reduce cravings.
6 – Get Way More Rest and Relaxation
If you’re anything like the average American then you are way too stressed and not getting enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation is a chronic stressor and it increases your appetite.
Stress of course makes you anxious and your thoughts race. If you are too stressed out during the day you won’t be able to sleep at night!
Even worse, stress and anxiety actually make you crave carbs more!
This happens because your body releases the cortisol hormone, which is because it thinks it’s in danger.
You need to find more time for relaxation so that your hormones can regulate themselves normally again. Sleep well!
If you can’t get enough sleep, then try meditation or yoga instead of sedatives. Sedatives mess up how all the other systems in your body work.
Here are tips to reduce stress:
- Don’t go on intense exercise programs as they will just increase cravings; restful activities like reading may be better.
- Slow things down and take care of yourself even if only by spending some quality time alone every day
- Do things that you enjoy. Take up a new hobby or try a different activity which takes your mind off of how stressed out you are and how hungry it’s making you feel.
- Everyday, do some breathing exercise like deep inhales for 30 seconds
Here are tips to get more sleep:
- Make sure your bedroom is the right temperature (between 60 and 75 degrees F).
- Keep a regular sleep schedule, go to bed at the same time each night.
- Have a daytime routine that includes plenty of restful activities.
- Limit how much caffeine you drink in the afternoon or evening hours.
7 – Mindfully Chew and Eat
Mindful eating can also help you to reduce carb cravings.
When you chew your food more slowly, you give your stomach a chance to register fullness.
This will make you eat slower and consume less calories in a meal. Plus you’ll also feel more full!
It also boosts the sensitivity of your taste buds, meaning that food with more flavor can then be enjoyed.
Here are some steps to practice mindful eating:
- Slow down how quickly you eat.
- Chew with your mouth closed and notice the flavors of what’s on your tongue.
- Put your fork or spoon down between bites to signal that you’re done eating for now. Take a deep breath, count ten seconds, then pick up your utensils again. Repeat until you’ve finished the entire meal.
- Ask yourself how hungry do I still feel? Is it time to stop yet? How am I feeling after this meal?”
- If you are not satisfied after one portion, ask if more is really necessary before going back for seconds!
Eating Enlightenment Philosophy on Mindful Eating
Eating Enlightenment has a unique philosophy towards mindful eating.
We believe in the power of journaling before eating.
When you journal before you eat you automatically tap into the power of mindfulness.
For more info on our services, read here.
Final Carb Craving Thoughts
In this article, we’ve outlined seven strategies so you can learn how to stop craving for carbs.
The first thing you can do is slowly start to cut out your ‘bad’ carbs. This replacement is not the same as a low carb diet because you replace these carbs with adequate protein and ‘good’ carbs that will meet any hunger pangs.
If you want a more sustainable approach, then try some of the other tips like getting enough sleep and being mindful about what you eat at the moment.
Be sure to read our other blog post on why you get cravings for bread for even more helpful information about how to stop craving for carbs!