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How canI counteract the food cravings I get on HRT?

Asked by Julie C., Texas

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I've noticed since going on hormone replacement therapy, my appetite has been greater than before. This has resulted in a 25-pound weight gain. Do you have any suggestions for counteracting the food cravings beyond diet and exercise?

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi, Julie. I hear this complaint a lot in my office, and I have found that the best way to control hunger and cravings is by doing the following:

1. Try to eat lean protein with every meal and snack

Research suggests that protein promotes fullness better than carbohydrates and fat, so including lean protein every time you eat can help control hunger better throughout the day. Try including egg whites or low-fat/fat-free cottage cheese or yogurt in the morning; fish, skinless chicken, turkey or tofu at lunch and dinner; and string cheese, nuts (nuts are not lean but contain healthy fat, which can also help control hunger) or an energy bar with at least 10 grams of protein for snacks. Just make sure not to eat too much protein at any given meal, as too many calories, regardless of the source, can lead to weight gain.

2. Increase fiber/decrease sugar

Eating moderate amounts of whole-grain carbohydrates that are higher in fiber and lower in sugar can help control hunger by keeping blood sugar levels more stable. Dips in blood sugar after eating sugary or highly processed, refined carbohydrates can increase cravings, especially for sugar-filled foods, so by minimizing these dips, you can tackle both hunger and cravings.

3. Find healthier substitutions for cravings

It can be challenging to be constantly fighting cravings, so try to find healthier, lower fat/lower sugar substitutions whenever possible. If you crave greasy potato chips, try to find a baked or popped chip option instead. If you crave baked goods, experiment with baking lower-fat, lower-sugar varieties. Just make sure to build in portion control so you don't feel like you can eat more of the healthier version.

4. Don't "eat around" your cravings

I see this all the time in my office: People crave a chocolate chip cookie, but they don't want to eat one because they are watching their weight, so they end up eating three times as many calories worth of "healthy" food instead. Sometimes giving in to a craving is the best thing that you can do for your diet. Just make sure to trim calories elsewhere in the day or do a little extra exercise, and you can enjoy treats and maintain your weight.

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