Beat your food cravings

Food cravings can challenge even the most disciplined dieter. Whether you have a sweet or savoury tooth, discover some of the most popular cravings - and how to beat them.

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Ask people - particularly women - what their dieting downfall is, and many will point the finger at chocolate. So what makes it so irresistible? Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, the same chemical that our brains produce when we fall in love, as well as a serotonin-like substance that promotes feelings of happiness.

To beat the craving, try having a cup of low-fat hot chocolate, or have just one or two squares of dark, high quality chocolate. If you need a pick-me-up, try going for a brisk walk or put on an upbeat fitness DVD - exercise a great way to boost serotonin levels.

Sugary snacks and sweets
If you get a craving for sugary snacks, such as biscuits, in the afternoon it's usually a sign of tiredness. The problem is, that once you have a sugary snack, your blood sugar levels will rise and plummet again - leaving you feeling low and tired and in need of another sugar fix.

To beat the craving, try eating several small meals throughout the day which will help keep blood sugar levels steady. Go for low GI foods that release their energy slowly, such as whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta, and make sure you get plenty of protein, such as chicken and eggs.

Comforting carbs
If you crave comforting carbs, such as bread and butter or potatoes, it could be a sign that you're feeling low. As carbs stimulate the release of the body's feel-good chemical serotonin, some experts believe that when we crave carbs, it's actually a sign that we're in need of reassurance.

To beat the craving, try doing something else to cheer yourself up that doesn't involve food. Meet up with a friend or watch a funny movie. Again, remember to opt for low GI foods such as whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice when choosing carbs, and stick to a fist-sized portion with each meal.

Fatty fast food
You start by pinching just one or two chips from your partner's plate - before you know it, you've ordered an extra bowl. If you it hard to limit your love of chips you're not alone. Researchers in America believe the body is hard-wired to crave fatty foods, which trigger the body to produce addiction chemicals that make us want more.

As the body is evolutionary designed to want more after just one taste of fatty food, the best way to avoid the craving is avoidance. Avoid the fast food chains and cook food the healthy way - grill lean protein, such as skinless chicken, and enjoy with steamed vegetables - and resist adding that extra knob of butter!