Whether you’re just getting started, or have been on your weight loss journey for some time, you’ve probably discovered how difficult managing your food cravings can be.
After all, keeping your cravings in check day in and day out can be one of the single most challenging aspects of losing weight, especially when you’re on a low-calorie diet.
But from increasing your protein intake to better managing your stress levels, there are all sorts of different strategies you can use to better manage your cravings. Listed below are 10 science-backed tips and tricks you can start using today to assure that your food cravings don't interfere with your weight loss progress.
1. Incorporate More Protein into Your Diet
When it comes to fighting off food cravings, increasing your daily protein intake is a tried and true approach. Research findings have consistently demonstrated that calorie for calorie, protein is more satiating when compared to carbs or fat.(1)
For instance, in one 12-week weight-loss study, subjects who followed a high-protein diet (34% of their total daily calories came from protein) reported feeling significantly more satiated postmeal in comparison to subjects who consumed less protein and more fat in their daily diets (18% and 45% total daily calories respectively).(2)
And not only does research suggest that dieters who increase their protein intake wind up having to contend with less with hunger, but a number of different studies have also demonstrated that they ultimately end up losing more weight as well.(3)(4)
For example, in one such clinical trial, researchers examine the effects of 2 different weight-loss diets -- one high in protein (25% total energy) and one higher in carbs and fat (only 18% total energy from protein).(5)
At the conclusion of the 6-month study, the researchers ultimately found that while both groups lost significant amounts of weight, those who consumed more protein in their daily diets lost significantly more weight (21 lbs vs. only 13 lbs for those on the lower-protein diet).
2. Take Probiotics
In addition to upping your protein intake, some research also suggests that incorporating probiotics in your daily diet can help to curb your hunger and reduce your overall daily energy intake as well.
More specifically, probiotics have been shown to modulate the appetite-stimulating hormone known as ghrelin. Findings from several preclinical trials suggest that probiotics help to decrease the body’s production of ghrelin, helping you to feel more satisfied and less hungry over the course of the day.(6)(7)
These findings have also been carried over into clinical trials, with some studies even demonstrating a reduction in daily food intake as well.
For instance, one 2020 systematic review ultimately concluded that probiotics appeared to have a small but significant effect on appetite control, helping those who regularly took them to limit their food intake to a greater degree on average compared to those who did not.(8)
3. Take Other Proven, Natural Supplements
Evidence from clinical trials also suggests that a number of other natural substances may be able to help out when it comes to stopping food cravings as well.
For example, several weight-loss trials involving CLA have demonstrated that regular supplementation helped to improve feelings of fullness and decrease feelings of hunger over the course of a weight loss intervention.(9)(10)
Other research involving apple cider vinegar has also demonstrated similar results, with multiple studies finding that consumption helped to significantly reduce several measures of appetite.(11)(12)
5-HTP is another natural substance that’s been shown to help reduce appetite and overall energy intake in a number of studies involving overweight and obese participants.
As an important precursor in the body’s production of serotonin, it’s believed that 5-HTP plays an important role in the body’s production of hunger-fighting hormones.(13)(14)
Finally, there is also some evidence that fucoxanthin may help with curbing food cravings as well. Emerging evidence suggests that fucoxanthin functions as an excellent appetite suppressor, due to its effects on the body’s levels of leptin, an important hormone involved in hunger control.(15)
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4. Eat Smaller Meals More Frequently
While there is some debate on the subject, a sizeable body of evidence suggests that eating smaller meals more frequently may also help to decrease your hunger and lower your food intake in later meals.(16)
For example, one study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders divided participants into 2 groups.(17)
Group 1 was given a single meal consisting of 33% of their daily calorie requirement, whereas group 2 also received 33% of their daily calories, but it was divided up across 5 meals given hourly.
5 hours after both groups first ate, they were given a test meal to see whether or not there was a difference in how many calories members of each group consumed.
The researchers ultimately found that those who had their calories split up across more meals ultimately consumed 27% fewer calories in the subsequent meal compared to participants who received ⅓ of their daily energy requirement in a single meal.
5. Avoid Processed Foods
On top of spreading out your calories across more meals, eating natural, whole foods and avoiding ultra-processed ones may also help to curb your appetite.
Research findings show that highly processed foods produce a higher glycemic response in your body, and the higher your glycemic response is, the lower your feelings of satiety will ultimately be.(18)
Conversely, several studies have demonstrated that the consumption of natural, minimally processed foods, leads to greater, longer-lasting feelings of fullness in comparison to less complex, highly processed foods.(19)(20)
6. Get a Workout In
While it might sound counterintuitive at first, given that it’s pretty common to feel hungry after a workout, exercising can actually help to improve how satiating your meal feels, which in turn, can help to prevent the onset of food cravings later in the day.(21)(22)
For example, one 12-week study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition placed individuals into one of two groups.(23) Both groups had their levels of hunger measured both before their first meal of the day and again prior to lunch. One group of participants exercised before their first meal each day, while the other group did not.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers ultimately found that while the exercise group did come into their breakfast meal with higher levels of hunger compared to the sedentary group, they ended up expressing higher feelings of satiety following their meal even though both groups consumed identical meals.
Better yet, the researchers also observed that those in the exercise group also saw a significant reduction in their overall appetite in the time in between breakfast and lunch in comparison to participants who didn’t work out.
7. Chew Gum
In addition to hitting the gym, chewing plenty of gum may also help you to reign in your cravings.
Though at a glance, it may sound too dubious, there is a real, sizeable body of evidence that chewing gum for 30 - 45 minutes can help to suppress your hunger and appetite, as well as promote greater feelings of fullness.(24)(25)
For instance, one such study ultimately found that chewing gum helped to significantly lower participants’ hunger and desire to snack in the hours in between lunch and dinner, with those who chewed gum, on average, consuming about 40 fewer calories compared to those who did not.(26)
8. Drink More Water
Drinking plenty of water is another simple tactic that may come in handy when it comes to conquering your appetite.
That’s because when you consume a lot of water, it quickly stretches out your stomach, helping to signal to your brain that you’re full -- though this effect may be relatively short-lived.(27)
Nonetheless, some research has demonstrated that consuming large quantities of water, particularly in the time period leading up to a meal can not only help to reduce your appetite, but also potentially decrease your food intake at mealtime as well.(28)
9. Reduce Your Stress Levels
When it comes to keeping your cravings in check, managing your stress is also important. That’s because plenty of research over the years has demonstrated that higher levels of stress are closely linked with an increased food intake, as well as eating in the absence of hunger.(29)
For example, one 2012 study ultimately found that compared to those in a normal state, those who were experiencing acute psychological stress, ultimately consumed over 20% more calories on average.(30)
The researchers also observed that changes in eating behavior were linked with an increased likelihood of eating in the absence of hunger in those struggling with stress.
10. Don’t Keep Trigger Foods Around the House
Keeping trigger foods out of the house is another simple and effective way to reduce the onset of cravings. It might sound pretty commonsensical, but if you’re around foods that you know you crave, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you give in.
On the flip side, making sure trigger foods are out of sight is one of the easiest ways to keep them off your mind. Now that doesn’t mean you can NEVER eat your favorite foods, but it may be best to keep them out of your home if you want to keep your appetite in check.
- “The satiating power of protein—a key to obesity prevention?” Astrup, A. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Jul. 2005.
- “The satiating effect of dietary protein is unrelated to postprandial ghrelin secretion” Moran, L.J., et al. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Sep. 2005.
- “Variations in Postprandial Ghrelin Status following Ingestion of High-Carbohydrate, High-Fat, and High-Protein Meals in Males” Moran, L.J., et al. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Sep. 2005.
- “Protein, weight management, and satiety” Paddon-Jones, D., et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May. 2008.
- “Effect of normal-fat diets, either medium or high in protein, on body weight in overweight subjects: a randomised 1-year trial” Due, A., Toubro, S., Skov, A.R., Astrup, A. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. Oct. 2004.
- “Identification of Novel Probiotics to Modify Appetite and Satiety Directly Targeting the Ghrelin Receptor” Fuentes, C.T., et al. FASEB. Apr. 2016.
- “Effects of a Diet-Based Weight-Reducing Program with Probiotic Supplementation on Satiety Efficiency, Eating Behaviour Traits, and Psychosocial Behaviours in Obese Individuals” Sanchez, M., et al. Nutrients. Feb. 2017.
- “Probiotics have minimal effects on appetite-related hormones in overweight or obese individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials” Cabral, L.Q.T., et al. Clinical Nutrition. Oct. 2020.
- “Effect of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation after weight loss on appetite and food intake in overweight subjects” Kamphius, M.M.J.W., et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Sep. 2003.
- “Medium-chain triglycerides and conjugated linoleic acids in beverage form increase satiety and reduce food intake in humans” Coleman, H., Quinn, P., Clegg, M.E. Nutrition Research. Jun. 2016.
- “Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake” Darzi, J., et al. International Journal of Obesity. Aug. 2013.
- “Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial” Khezri, S.S. Journal of Functional Foods. Apr. 2018.
- “Serotonin (5-HT) Drugs: Effects on Appetite Expression and Use for the Treatment of Obesity” Halford, J.C.G., et al. Current Drug Targets. 2005.
- “Relationship between the absorption of 5-hydroxytryptophan from an integrated diet, by means of Griffonia simplicifolia extract, and the effect on satiety in overweight females after oral spray administration” Rondanelli, M., et al. Eating and Weight Disorders. Jul. 2013.
- “Anti-obesity activity of the marine carotenoid fucoxanthin” Gammone, M.A., D’Orazio, N. Marine Drugs. Apr. 2015.
- “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency” La Bounty, P.M. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Mar. 2011.
- “Acute appetite reduction associated with an increased frequency of eating in obese males” Speechly, D.P., et al. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. Nov. 1999.
- “Minimally processed foods are more satiating and less hyperglycemic than ultra-processed foods: a preliminary study with 98 ready-to-eat foods” Fardet, A. Food and Function. 2016.
- “The degree of processing of foods which are most widely consumed by the French elderly population is associated with satiety and glycemic potentials and nutrient profiles” Fardet, A., et al. Food and Function. 2017.
- “Snack Food, Satiety, and Weight” Nkike, V.Y. Advances in Nutrition. Sep. 2016.
- “The ability of habitual exercise to influence appetite and food intake in response to high- and low-energy preloads in man” Long, S.J. Hart, K., Morgan, L.M. British Journal of Nutrition. Mar. 2007.
- “Short-term appetite control in response to a 6-week exercise programme in sedentary volunteers” Martins, C., Truby, H., Morgan, L.M. British Journal of Nutrition. May. 2007.
- “Dual-process action of exercise on appetite control: increase in orexigenic drive but improvement in meal-induced satiety” King, N.A., et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Aug. 2009.
- “Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis” Niquel-Kergoat, S., et al. Physiology and Behavior. Nov. 2015.
- “Effects of chewing gum on short-term appetite regulation in moderately restrained eaters” Hetherington, M.M., et al. Appetite. Oct. 2011.
- “Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite”Hetherington, M.M., Boyland, E. Appetite. May. 2007.
- “Yes, drinking more water may help you lose weight”Johns Hopkins Univesity HUB. Jan. 2020.
- “Pre-meal water consumption reduces meal energy intake in older but not younger subjects”Van Walleghen, E.L., et al. Obesity. Jan 2007.
- “Acute stress and food-related reward activation in the brain during food choice during eating in the absence of hunger”Born, J.M., et al. International Journal of Obesity. Oct. 2009.
- “Acute Stress‐related Changes in Eating in the Absence of Hunger”Rutters, F., et al. Obesity. Sep. 2012.