Curb Those Cravings: In the Moment


What do you do when you want that extra dessert or handful of chips, but you’ve reached a point where junk foods are getting in the way of your health goals?

Addressing your foundation (eating patterns, sleep, stress and underlying medical conditions) is key to setting the stage to avoid or reduce cravings. But sometimes cravings sneak up on us even when we’re eating balanced meals starting with breakfast and taking steps to deal with stress and get better sleep. What then? Try these tricks to kick those munchies to the curb.

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Identify your triggers and a replacement behavior.

First figure out when the unwanted urge to eat strikes most often. Then think about actions you can take to avoid the trigger altogether or what you can do if the stimulus is unavoidable. Here are some examples:

  • Getting overly hungry after waiting too long? Prepare for busy days by having healthy snacks handy, and when you are out of the house, be ready with a portable strategic snack.
  • Passing by your favorite drive-through after work? Take another route home.
  • Ending a meal? Have some herbal tea or a small portion of a sour fruit like grapefruit.
  • Engaged in a stressful conversation? Try this 4-7-8 breathing technique before reaching for food.
  • Feeling lonely? Call up a friend, snuggle up with another furry friend or go for a walk and listen to the birds.

Remember, cravings don’t last forever. Typically, they’ll fade within 10-20 minutes unless you remain focused on them. Develop a plan ahead of time to identify how you will distract yourself when the hunger hits, so you can give yourself the space to let the craving dissipate naturally.

Opt for an alternative. 

If you’ve tried to distract yourself and have come to the conclusion that eating is the only thing that’s going to quell that craving, allow yourself a mini portion or healthier version of what you are after. A small bite can sometimes hit the spot, but if a tiny taste will only fuel the fire, consider some of the options below.

  • When sweets keep calling your name, go for versions that contain some form of a whole food with fiber. Avoid straight sweets on an empty stomach as they can spike blood sugar and insulin response, and for many people this translates into less satiety and increased hunger soon after eating. Remember, highly processed snacks are designed to keep tripping the reward center circuit in your brain so you keep eating more in attempt to keep that reward switch in the on position.

You may be wondering if using a no calorie sweetener is a good option. Check out these blogs on natural and artificial no-calorie sweeteners, and know that research has not shown that they help with weight loss/management if that is what you are after.

  • If you are looking for crunchy, salty or savory foods, consider raw veggies with a small amount of nut butter, hummus, guacamole or a few olives. Air popped popcorn with a few nuts sprinkled in, or pickles can also do the trick.

Remember, eating desires and behaviors are complicated. There will be days you successfully conquer cravings, and days you give in. Keep moving toward a balanced, whole foods-based eating pattern and healthy lifestyle while experimenting with different ways to avoid giving in to temptation in the moment. Over time, you’ll find that cravings will become less frequent and more manageable.

Chickpea Cookie Dough

Makes 6 servings
Recipe adapted from Chef Abbie Gellman


1 can 15-ounce (or 1.5 cups) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
⅓ cup nut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp almond flour
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp unsweetened nondairy milk (I used cashew milk)
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs


  1. In a food processor, add chickpeas, nut butter, vanilla, almond flour, maple syrup, almond milk and salt. Process until creamy, stopping to scrape down sides periodically.
  2. Move dough to a medium bowl and add chocolate chips, mix well throughout.
  3. Spread a few spoonfuls on a sliced apple for a stand-alone dessert or snack, or cap off a meal with a couple spoonfuls of cookie dough goodness.


Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To help with portion control, use a 1 tablespoon scoop to serve up 3-4 cookie dough balls onto a serving dish. You can also place the cookie dough in an ice cube tray to set in the fridge and transfer cubes to an airtight container once set.


About Author

Jen Sohl-Marion, MPH, RDN, LDN

Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs

Jen is the Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Outside of work, Jen enjoys hiking with her family, practicing yoga and spending quality time with her dogs.

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