Retrain your brain to decrease those unwanted cravings with these 6 tips.

If your food choices disappoint your tastebuds, you’re more likely to resort to an unhealthy sweet treat to make up for feeling deprived. Here’s how you can reduce those hunger pangs.

1. Choose low-GI foods

“Foods with a lower glycaemic index (GI) of 55 or less are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels,” says Melanie McGrice, accredited dietitian and director of Nutrition Plus clinics in Melbourne. “Low-GI foods also help you feel more sated after a meal and reduce risk of weight gain and conditions like diabetes.” Every day, aim to eat five serves or more of fresh vegetables and two of fruit plus wholegrains and some lean protein at every meal.

2. ‘Healthify’ takeaway meals with homecooked makeovers

Prepare homemade burgers with wholemeal buns and stacks of salad vegetables. Make fish and chips but grill the fish and bake large pototo wedges with a dash of olive oil.

3. Downsize your utensils

“Eating soup from a teaspoon or risotto from a small entrée fork encourages slower eating, so you feel more full and satisfied after a meal,” says McGrice. Chopsticks also encourage smaller mouthfuls.

4. Mix it up

Rigid, restrictive food regimes substantially reduce our pleasure of eating, are often nutritionally unsound and increase the risk of cravings and ‘all or nothing’ thinking about food. The Dietitians Association of Australia recommends aiming to eat 20 different nutritious foods every day.

5. Top ‘n’ tail

Roberts calls this method the ‘sandwich’ technique. “You put a moderate portion of a high-kilojoule food in the middle of a meal with lower kilojoule foods that are high in fibre and protein at the beginning and end,” she explains. This makes you feel you’ve been at a banquet. Soups make good starters and salads are a nice crispy third course.

6. Don’t blow off breakfast

Eat some filling slow-cooked porridge or eggs and dark rye toast. People who skip breakfast tend to have lower dopamine levels, shows research from the University of Missouri. This may explain why they are also more likely to crave sweet or savoury food later in the day.

Words by Stephanie Osfield

NEXT: Find out how to spot false food cravings.