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How to Train Your Brain to Crave Healthy Food


Life is too short to see food as a chore. It’s too short to give up your favorite foods. It’s too short for restricting yourself or always starting yet another diet.

Food is fuel and also one of the great joys of life. So everyone deserves to love the foods they eat, and also feel good from their meals.

That’s all well and good, but it can be easier said than done. Everyone always preaches listening to your body, but what if your body is craving nothing but donuts, ice cream, and boxed mac and cheese?

You can take tangible steps to train your brain to want healthy food.

Luckily, we’re not helpless victims to our food cravings. All your food cravings come from your brain, and you can take tangible steps to train your brain to want healthy food.

After all, no one is born hating veggies and whole grains and wanting Kraft mac and cheese. Those yearnings are learned over time, as we begin to associate indulgent meals with hits of pleasure.

So, what can you do to train your brain and learn to crave healthier choices instead?

Follow These 8 Steps to Train Your Brain to Crave Healthy Food:

No, we’re not suggesting you do some fancy mindf*ck tricks to convince yourself you’d rather have that kale salad than a cupcake. Let’s be real.

What we are suggesting is that by paying attention to the following points, you can authentically start to change the way you view healthy food versus junk food. Over time, you may actually find yourself craving that salad sometimes, or not needing the whole pint of ice cream.

Here’s how:

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Have you ever felt tired and craved a salad? Heck no! When you’re tired you naturally want to reach for that Chinese takeout, mac and cheese, or ice cream. So getting plenty of sleep each night directly impacts the presence of food cravings as well as your ability to fight them off.

The reason for this? Hormones responsible for our food cravings and sense of satiation (that tell us when we’ve had enough and when to stop eating) are affected when we don’t get enough sleep.

Studies have found that when subjects were repeatedly sleep deprived (getting less than seven to eight hours a night), more hunger hormones were circulating in their bodies.

Train your brain to crave healthy food by sleeping more? Ummm, yes please . . . sign us up!


2. Don’t Let Hunger Hit

Studies suggest that the key to beating rampant food cravings is to, of course, prevent them from ever happening at all. You can do this by keeping yourself well fed and satisfied.

In other words, snack often! We’ve all felt those out-of-control sensations when our hunger reaches desperate heights, so don’t let yourself get to that place.

Interestingly, research has shown that loading up on high-fat meals can be counterproductive to controlling our hunger hormones.

Healthy eating gives us the chance to fill our bodies with good – embrace that opportunity!

Instead of a diet higher in fat, such as Keto, focus more on “good carbohydrates” and protein, which can both help suppress the hunger hormone more effectively than fatty foods.

Keto has a lot of hype lately, but take A Closer Look at the Keto Diet: Is It Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

3. Drink Plenty of Water

Did you know that a shocking 75% of Americans walk around dehydrated, and don’t even know it?

Many times what we think are pangs of hunger or food cravings are simply our dehydration speaking. Even mild dehydration can masquerade as hunger! Quench your thirst, and watch as the rest of your bodily cues and food cravings improve too!

The old adage of eight cups a day is actually old news by the way. These days, all experts recommend getting half your body weight in ounces each day. (For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you need 70 ounces of water.)

4. Try New Foods

This should be a no-brainer, but often our idea of what constitutes healthy eating is stale and outdated. You might even feel uninspired or apprehensive about your healthy food options (or giving up the less healthy options you so enjoy).

So instead of focusing on what you “can’t” have, flip that script and start blowing your own mind with the amazing smorgasbord of delicious options out there.

Spend some time scrolling through Pinterest and food blogs, or check out the YogiApproved YUM section for delicious healthy recipes (and all things healthy eating-related) to get inspired and find new recipes to try.

Here’s a headstart for your dinner this week: Mouthwatering Vegan Buddha Bowl With Quinoa and Sweet Potato (Recipe)

5. Give Yourself Some Time

When we revamp our eating style, we have to give our bodies some time to detox. If you’re used to fueling up on processed, sugary, sweet, and fast food options, you can’t be surprised when it’s a bit of a shock to all of a sudden eat fresh salads and grain bowls.

You should expect that it may take two to three weeks or more before your taste buds adjust to your new healthy eating habits. But adjust they will!

Remember when you were a kid and hated tomatoes or avocado, and now you love both? The same thing can happen to us as adults. But just don’t expect your taste buds to change overnight.

6. Get in Touch With How Healthy Food Makes You Feel

Mindfulness is everything when it comes to our food. We are naturally pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding creatures. This basic principle is why we do most of what we do.

So while, sure, a donut may give you temporary pleasure, how does it make you feel in a half hour? And while you may not associate healthy eating with as much pleasure, start thinking about it.

How does your body feel when you’ve eaten healthy for a day, a few days, or a month?

The more conscious you become of how healthy eating literally fuels your body and brain, the more you will want it.

Think back to times your nutrition has been on point. How was your energy, mood, and strength during your workouts? Start noticing and connecting the dots between what you eat and how you feel.

The more conscious you become of how healthy eating literally fuels your body and brain, the more you will want it.

Struggle with mindfulness? Found: 8 Useful Hacks to Make Mindfulness a Daily Habit

7. Don’t Deprive Yourself

It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to stick to healthy eating long-term is to let yourself enjoy treats with regularity. We’re not saying binge on ice cream daily, but stop seeing foods as “off limits.”

The second you rule out a food or food group, your brain naturally fixates on it even more. Ever cut carbs? We bet ALL you wanted was carbs, more so than you would have craved them if you’d just let yourself have them. It’s one of the quickest ways to sabotage yourself.

Instead, allow yourself one day a week or even a couple meals per week where you can have your treats – be it salty, sweet, or boozy. Just let yourself have it now and again in moderation.

Once you know there’s always another donut in your future, and there will always be more time to indulge in ice cream, the frantic NEED to have it diminishes.


8. Focus on the Experience

Fixated on that amazing pizza you had with your friends, and dying to have it again?

Often, it’s not really the pizza we’re lusting over so much as it’s the experience of that pizza that’s associated with pleasure in our brains. It’s who we were eating it with, the surroundings, the view, the fun we had that day, etc. The pizza itself is secondary.

Start creating new positive associations in your brain with healthy food and fun times. Go to dinner at a healthy restaurant with your bae, invite your girlfriends over to make homemade sushi, start a salad bar night tradition, or make grabbing acai bowls instead of ice cream a thing.

Soon, you’ll start to associate these healthier meals with good times which will help you crave more of both. Win, win.

Train Your Brain to Ditch the Food Cravings With These Healthy Eating Tips

Ask any super-healthy eater you know, and they’ll likely agree: healthy eaters aren’t born with some inherent ability to deny themselves of sweet treats, nor are they better than you at staying disciplined.

Likely, they’ve made the connection between healthy food and feeling good, and simply enjoy reaching for healthier options . . . and you can do it too!

If you’re looking to improve your relationship with the gym by starting with your brain too, here’s How to Train Your Brain to Crave the Gym: It’s Simpler Than You Think (And Totally Doable!)

What we eat either slows us down or fuels us, so change what’s on your plate, and change your life.

Healthy eating gives us the chance at least three times a day to fill our bodies with good – embrace that opportunity!

What we eat either slows us down or fuels us, so change what’s on your plate, and change your life.

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