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Food cravings usually mean your body is trying to tell you something, whether it’s that you’re not eating enough or that you have a deficiency in a certain vitamin or nutrient.
There are plenty of ways to understand common cravings, including symptoms to watch out for and ways to manage cravings, and it’s all here for you.
According to the Dictionary, a “craving” is “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.”
In this case, food cravings are when you just can’t get a certain snack or type of food off your mind…
One of the main reasons the body craves extra food on a diet is that it wants more energy. Calories are a unit of energy.
So, when you diet and start losing body fat, your body will do everything in its power to maintain balance.
This includes sending out powerful signals to make you want to eat.
These signals aren't helpful if you’re overweight and need to reduce your weight for health reasons.
Don’t forget we have another powerful source of energy available to us, and it’s calorie-free.
Extra sleep and rest are very useful when you are on a diet.
If you are having cravings on your diet, look at what you have been eating.
Choose foods which replace key missing vitamins, minerals, or micronutrients.
When you are in a calorie deficit, you need to be careful about nourishing your body and making good food choices.
Here are 11 popular food cravings and what they might be trying to tell you.
Chocolate cravings can indicate a need for happy hormones like serotonin, meaning that a low mood could be a clear symptom for incoming chocolate cravings.
Alternatively, consider a non-food treat like an early night, a cuddle with your pet, or some quality time with a loved one.
Outside of that, milk has high levels of protein (8g) and fat (7g), so if you recently started a diet, your body may be searching for a quick way to appease your hunger.
Milk also contains 18 of the 22 essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need, a number of which – Vitamin A, Vitamin B-12, calcium, magnesium, and zinc – our bodies can’t produce on their own.4
See if your daily meals are giving you enough of these nutrients!
Try fruit or berries, ideally combined with some protein to fill you up.
Real Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese, with frozen berries and some 90%+ dark chocolate, is a great idea.
And drink some water. Experts think we crave sugar more when we are slightly dehydrated.
Handpicked content: How to beat sugar cravings
Studies have proven that restrictive diets that leave you hungry may significantly increase cravings, as you might expect if you’re hungry throughout the day!13
Even if you’re not on a diet, not getting enough calories throughout the day has been found to increase the frequency and strength of cravings.14
High-protein diets have been associated with a decrease in late-night bingeing on high-sugar, high-calorie foods, and also help to decrease food cravings.15,16,17
If you’re calorie-counting or on a new diet, it’s natural to be thinking about food more than normal.
The more you think about food, the more you think about the treats you’re depriving yourself of, so keep yourself busy with healthy snacks and activities away from unhealthy food.
Studies have found a strong link between chronic stress and cravings, believed to be because stress can significantly affect hormone levels, also responsible for controlling the appetite.18,19
Not only will it keep your breath minty fresh, but studies have found that chewing gum may also help to reduce cravings for sweet and salty foods.20
When you have low blood sugar, your body sends signals to send you in search of high-calorie foods that will provide energy.21
Try not to leave long durations between meals to avoid this!
Drinking more water throughout the day may reduce your cravings as hunger and thirst often have very similar feelings.
Studies have found that diets with more flexibility – e.g. treating yourself now and then – may actually help to reduce cravings.22
Now you’re all clued up on cravings, from what cravings mean to how to manage them.
Last updated: 23 August 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.