You probably experience food cravings and go about your day without putting much thought into the situation. However, you should do your absolute best to listen to your cravings and what they tell you about your bodily needs.

What is a food craving?

How can you tell the difference between a food craving and hunger? Both create very real reactions in your body, but one indicates a need for food while the other indicates a desire for comfort.

Food cravings can occur even after you ate a good meal. The cravings tend to focus on a specific type of food. They can also develop when emotions run high or when hormones are high. Food cravings don't usually go away after you eat, especially if your meal doesn't match what you crave.

Hunger usually happens when you haven't eaten in several hours (or didn't eat food with proper nutrients). You may notice that hunger comes with coinciding rumbling in your stomach. Finally, you can satisfy hunger with a meal, even if you eat something healthy instead of what you wanted.

What do specific food cravings say about your health?

If you crave a specific type of food, it can provide insight into your health. See the following common food cravings and what they mean:

  • Hamburger- iron deficiency
  • Pasta - sadness/anxiety
  • Salty Snack - dehydrated
  • Candy - low energy
  • Chocolate - magnesium deficiency
  • Ice Cream - fat deficiency

Instead of satisfying your immediate craving, try looking to the cause behind the food craving and tacking the source of the desire for the extra calories.

Focus on eating a well-balanced diet every day to find a long-lasting solution to constant food cravings. This means plenty of vitamins and protein. Do not starve yourself! Avoiding eating all together will only exacerbate the cravings.

What factors increase food cravings?

Some food cravings occur due to factors outside of your control. The main causes of food cravings include increased hormone levels, emotional turmoil, and dehydration.

Increased Hormone Levels

Certain times come with intense hormone fluctuations that can cause food cravings. This happens for both males and females during puberty. For women, it also occurs during menstruation and pregnancy.

Many women crave chocolate during that time of the month. Pregnancy can lead to wild food cravings that the woman never experienced before, but traditional cravings include pickles and fast food favorites.

Emotional Turmoil

Food provides sustenance for the body, but sometimes it provides sustenance for the soul as well. When going through a particularly bad day, cravings can emerge to provide comfort. While indulging in a pint of ice cream after a breakup can qualify as self-care, using food to cure emotional distress can become a slippery slope. Proceed with caution.


Believe it or not, you may not be hungry at all. You may be thirsty instead. Many food cravings come from a lack of hydration, especially if you have nonselective food cravings. Nonselective food cravings refer to an apparent hunger that can't be satisfied instead of a desire for a certain type of food.

Hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water and passing on caffeine and alcohol before giving into your cravings. This may resolve the issue.

Replacing Cravings With Healthy Options

You can give into your cravings without being particularly unhealthy. Sure, you might not find the complete satisfaction you want, but it can help get you through until your next full meal.

Salty - Don't eat chips! Instead, try beef jerky, nuts, and seeds. These options taste great and provide energy.

Sweet - Instead of eating candy or chocolate, eat some fresh fruit, which contains plenty of sugar without the additional unhealthy ingredients.

Starches - Simple starches turn into sugar in your body. Instead, look into different grains, such as quinoa. You can also try pasta made from cauliflower.

Meat - Meat can be healthy for you! However, if you prefer to stay plant-based, try eating foods with avocado or peanut butter. If you don't mind eating meat, opt for chicken and other lean options that still provide plenty of benefits.

You can overcome your cravings! You just need to educate yourself and show some self-control. After you reach your initial goal, treat yourself with a small indulgence (you can't eat healthy all the time).