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Cravings - Why You Crave Weird Foods & How To Prevent The Munchies

Cravings - Why You Crave Weird Foods & How To Prevent The Munchies

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Ring ring! The M&Ms are calling. Oh wait, Domino’s and his friend Doritos are on the other line. Hold up, let's conference in those Sour Patch Kids! Those random desires for food, from indulgently delicious to  simply weird, can call the body at any time. And although they totally use *67, there’s another way to understand (and even block) their prank hunger calls.

Gimme More, Gimme Gimme More - What It Is


That sudden urge for late night, salty munchies starts in the brain, not the belly. The cravings are outcomes of the interaction between cues (such as tummy rumblings or a commercial for gooey fudge brownies) and biological characteristics (like actual hunger) [1]. So know the next time a Cocoa Puffs commercial pops on the screen, it’s the brain that goes coo-coo for them.

Science also suggests that different people are prone to desiring specific foods [1]. While some, like Ronald McDonald, crave french fries, others might have a weakness for banana ice cream. One study shows that people who are on a low-carbohydrate diet crave carbohydrates less and are less bothered by hunger while those on low-fat diets desire less high-fat foods like greasy burgers and pizza [2]. This suggests that by restricting certain types of foods, cravings and preferences for that food are greatly decreased [2]. Ironically, I find that the more I’m concerned about what I eat, the more thoughts, emotions, and cues I notice. So although restricting certain foods can help curb cravings, perhaps being mindful of those restrictions can actually make it harder to stick to a diet.

Craving a specific food might also be the body’s way of saying that it is deficient in something. A person craving salty foods might be low in calcium while those craving sweets might be in need of an energy boost. Regardless, devouring a basket of fries and blaming it on low-calcium levels is not encouraged (every night, at least).

Stave The Crave - What It Means To You

To avoid cravings, it seems that diets with varied choices are best to help maintain a healthy weight [1]. Here are some simple tricks to help control the om-nom-nom-nom, snack attack:

  • Plan ahead and stock up on healthy snacks. (Try these double-duty, healthy summer treats).
  • Avoid eating in the car or in front of the TV so these places don’t become associated with snacking.
  • Take it one flavor at a time. Studies suggest that eating different flavors together can lead to overeating [3].
  • Catch up on sleep. Lack of sleep increases appetite, hunger, and food intake [4]– especially donuts.
  • Relax and de-stress. Stress increases pleasurable or compulsive activities, including eating high carb/fat foods.
  • Keep a “craving survival case.” Except probably not that one.

Now there’s a way to fight cravings before they call (or at least try to).

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Works Cited +

  1. Determinants of food choice: relationships with obesity and weight control. Mela, DJ., Unilever Health Institute, Unilever Research Vlaardingen, The Netherlands. Obesity Research. 2001 Nov;9 Suppl 4:249S-255S.
  2. Change in Food Cravings, Food Preferences, and Appetite During a Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diet. Martin, CK., Rosenbaum, D., Han, H., et al. Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US. Obesity (Silver Spring, MD). 2011 Apr 14.
  3. Understanding variety: tasting different foods delays satiation. Hetherington, MM., Foster, R., Newman, T., et al. School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK. Physiology & Behavior. 2006 Feb 28;87(2):263-71. Epub 2006 Jan 6.
  4. Role of sleep duration in the regulation of glucose metabolism and appetite. Morselli, L., Leproult, R., Balbo, M. Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Best Practice & Research, Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2010 Oct; 24(5):687-702.