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While the 1960's advertising slogan for Lay's Potato Chips was right, "No one can eat just one," everybody can find ways to control appetite. Here are five tips for controlling cravings for food without giving up all the pleasures tasty food can bring.

You Don't Have to Be a Slave to Food

Sooner or later almost all of us get the munchies. For many of us, it is a craving for chocolate. We might want something crunchy, crispy, and high in carbohydrate, like potato chips, or maybe our cravings are for comfort foods that reconnect us to happy times earlier in our lives.

1. Go outside for a few minutes

If you happen to live next to a bakery or a candy shop, chances are that this method is not the best way to control food cravings, but for most us, a change of scenery "unplugs" our brains to the stimuli that make us crave food. This is especially true if you, say, love McDonald's burgers and fries and your appetite is stimulated by watching a television commercial. If you can't go outside, simply going to a different room—other than the kitchen—usually helps.

2. Out of sight, out of mind

You probably have heard the worn-out joke about the "see food" diet. When you see food, you eat it. The converse, however, is true. If you don't see food, chances are you won't track it down just fulfill a craving. Keeping goodies locked behind opaque cabinet doors at least slows down your fulfillment of your appetite for the foods that wreck your diet goals.

3. Add soup to your diet

The cabbage soup diet is a perennial fad in the USA. The latest round of cabbage soup inventions has people adding acai berries to cabbage soup—which is just plain odd. Eating huge amounts of cabbage soup is an unsustainable approach to controlling food cravings. Eating about a cup (approximately 250 ml) of slowly simmered soup before a meal, however, reduces your appetite for the rest of your meal. Dr. Barbara Rolls of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Pennsylvania State University Department of Nutrition has conducted literally hundreds of experiments using soup as a "pre-load" for appetite reduction. On average, eating a bowl of soup (no cream soups, and no croutons or crackers) reduces consumption during the rest of the meal by about 150 calories. That's a way to lose about 3/4 kilo or 1-1/2 pounds a month. And no cabbage is required.

4. Go nuts

Australian researchers have found that adding calories to the diet, if the calories come from almond or macadamia nuts, can result in taking off pounds. The exact mechanism is still to be determined, but scientists believe that the oleic acid and other healthy fats in nuts reduce appetite and also reduce inflammation in belly fat. Lowering inflammation allows loss of fluid trapped between densely packed fat cells. Eating up to 100 g (3-1/2 oz) of nuts a day, despite the additional calories, often results in losing a pound (about 1/2 kilo) a month.

5. Eat it anyway

It's a lot better to go ahead and have a small indulgence than it is to eat a lot of things you don't want while you are thinking about eating the one thing you do want. Nobody's diet was ever wrecked by a doughnut. A box of doughnuts, or maybe a box of crackers, a package of cheese, and a whole chocolate cake while you were feeling upset about not eating that doughnut (or other food you would like) just might cause real trouble, however. It is better to give into a small temptation and get right back on your diet than it is to ruminate over the food you can't have.

  • Jenkins DJ, Wong JM, Kendall CW, Esfahani A, Ng VW, Leong TC, Faulkner DA, Vidgen E, Greaves KA, Paul G, Singer W. The effect of a plant-based low-carbohydrate ("Eco-Atkins") diet on body weight and blood lipid concentrations in hyperlipidemic subjects. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jun 8, 169(11):1046-54. Erratum in: Arch Intern Med. 2009 Sep 14, 169(16):1490.
  • Photo courtesy of KingBowser on Flickr: