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The Facts on Food Cravings: When to Resist and When to Give in

Closeup of woman eating chocolate cupcakeYour mouth is watering, you are distracted, and all you can think about is a blissful piece of smooth chocolate melting in your mouth while angels toot trumpets next to your head. This craving is driving you crazy, but you don’t want to give in. You’ve been doing so great with eating healthy and staying on track and you’re not actually hungry, so you decide to hit the internet for a little motivation to resist. The number one article on resisting food cravings that pops up on Google tells you to use “the swap method.” Craving chocolate? Eat a piece of fruit. Um, ok. Cause those are the same.

This is not that type of article.

Cravings are real. They aren’t just a lack of willpower. Cravings can usually be categorized as either psychological (I’m stressed; gimmie chocolate now!) or physiological (you are dehydrated, therefore, you feel thirsty) and somewhere in between (I’m starving and need to eat. Man, a big filling cheeseburger sounds PERFECT right now!) Where do these all consuming urges to eat come from? Despite popular belief, says Mary Hartley, RD, “studies show that food cravings are not linked to nutrient deficiencies.”

“People who have unstable blood sugar—metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and diabetes—do have physical cravings for food when their blood sugar drops,” says Hartley, a registered dietitian who blogs at AskMaryRD.com. “But for everyone else, cravings are mostly psychological.”

A psychological food craving happens when you see something tasty, smell a yummy aroma or a stressor causes you to reach for something comforting. Stress, depression, happiness, even boredom, can cause you to crave a certain food or just food in general. The good thing about psychological cravings is that they do pass as time goes on, if you are strong enough not to give in to them or come up with a game plan to stop them in their tracks.

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  1. Cat says:

    I had a craving for crunchy, salty carbs! So I had a small handful of whole-wheat pretzels. Everything in moderation 🙂

  2. Kellee says:

    My cravings are almost always sugar related: usually for jelly bellies or some other candy. In my case, swapping a piece of fruit actually does usually work since it’s something sweet that I’m craving. But it usually means A LOT of fruit. Still, I feel like 3 apples is healthier than a bag of jellies. If that doesn’t work, I turn to chocolate. I don’t really care for chocolate, so I don’t have to worry that I’ll be tempted to eat more than a few bites – but the sweet is still enough to curb the craving. And if all else fails, I head to the store that has bulk jelly bellies and buy a reasonable amount to eat in a single sitting. I know once I start eating them I won’t want to stop, so only buying a handful at a time is a great solution!

  3. Celina Yanez says:

    Lately I’ve been craving salty chips. Little did I know that it was due to the fact that I was doing major Bikram Yoga. My yoga instructor advised to give into these Taro chips they sell at Whole Foods. They are delicious and they’re high in fiber (I usually open the bag and IMMEDIATELY pack two zip lock bags to cut down the portion).

  4. Nyx says:

    For me I always found a reason for my cravings – how I learned this was if I had a craving I’d think about why I was craving what I was craving, I’d go though various foods and if I kept coming back to the same food time and time again then I’d look up that food and see what nutrients they where high in or the like and if there was a more healthy option for those deals I found eating the more healthy option would cure that craving, take the the craving for iron rich foods it was a common deal for me when I was bleeding but since that’s over with the craving have disappeared completely (that and my iron levels are back to normal).

  5. Dania says:

    Hi, great article! Just wanted to say that I recently discovered this site, I’m 13 years old, and am currently working on fitness. A lot of your posts have some great tips, so thanks for posting them! 😀
    For me, like you suggested, I usually take a deep breath and sit down and think about it.
    Measuring the pros and cons really helps for me.

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