If you are a cigarette smoker, it can be difficult to stop because smoking evokes a pleasure response in your brain. It is not just about nicotine addiction, but also the taste of cigarettes and the sensory qualities of smoking.
A body of research has found that there are specific foods that can either increase or decrease the pleasure you experience from the way your cigarettes taste. When we focus on including foods that decrease our pleasure and steer clear of those that increase it, it may make quitting easier.
Table of Contents
- Which foods will help affect my urge to smoke?
- What drinks affect my urge to smoke?
- What else can I do to reduce the urge to smoke?
- What to do if you are scared quitting will make you gain weight
- Take-home message
Which foods will help affect my urge to smoke?
Increase your fruits and vegetable intake
We all know the drill, ‘eat more fruits and vegetables’. Not only are they packed full of important vitamins and minerals which are vital for good health, but by increasing your intake may also make your cigarettes taste less enjoyable.
Research also indicates that the more fruits and vegetables you consume daily, the more likely you are to kick your nicotine dependence and remain smoke free for longer.
If that wasn’t enough, increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 200-300g and 300-400g respectively may help you reduce your risk for lung cancer. Once you have stopped smoking cigarettes, take some time to taste the fruits and vegetables you are eating, you may find a new appreciation for them (and many other foods) as your taste buds come alive.
Choose more dairy and dairy products
Interestingly, many smokers remarked that eating or drinking dairy products (like milk, yoghurt and cheese) together with smoking gave them a bitter aftertaste, deterring them from smoking after consuming these foods.
Dairy is also a fantastic source of important nutrients like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and when low fat, unsweetened versions are chosen can contribute to improving your heart health. Milk based proteins can also be used as good quality substitutes for meat and meat products.
Cut meat and meat products
Meat has been labelled as one of the foods that improve the palatability of smoking and so opting for a few meatless days will go a long way to helping you quit. These don’t all have to be milk-based and plant based options are also a great substitute. As with vegetables, they are low in energy and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. They will not only keep your appetite under control but also keep cravings at bay.
What drinks affect my urge to smoke?
Limit caffeinated beverages
A cup of coffee (or a glass of your favourite alcoholic beverage) and cigarettes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, the one usually triggers the other. One of the reasons why they pair together so well is because the effects of one enhance the effects of the other.
Many of you may be very sad to be giving up your daily cuppa Joe, but may find solace in replacing them with a delicious herbal tea option. With so many flavours available, you will be spoiled for choice. In addition to being very hydrating and caffeine free, certain types of herbal teas may have a calming effect (like chamomile tea). So if you smoke when you are anxious or stressed, this may be the right option for you.
Avoid alcoholic drinks
When we drink moderately, we are less likely to have lowered inhibitions and more likely to steer clear craving a cigarette. Decreasing your alcohol intake can also significantly improve your health. The beneficial effects of alcohol have been overstated for many years with the current recommendation being: If you don’t drink, don’t start drinking. If you do drink, drink moderately. Moderate drinking is usually classified as no more than 2 standard drinks/ day for men and no more than 1 standard drink/ day for women.
What else can I do to reduce the urge to smoke?
Keep your hands and mouth busy
A common complaint from smokers is that their mouths feel ‘empty’ and they don’t know what to do with their hands. A better option is to chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar free mints which contain xylitol. Not only is xylitol cariostatic (meaning that it will literally clean your teeth) and minty fresh, but it’s strong flavour typically lasts longer than smoking a cigarette would.
Alternatively, you can also choose naturally low calorie snacks that have a similar shape to a cigarette, like carrots or a stalk of celery. The crunch will keep your mouth busy and as a bonus you will have something to hold. If munching on veggie sticks is not your idea of fun, try snacking on air-popped popcorn or sucking on cinnamon sticks.
A novel and exciting way to help you quit smoking is through the use of an app, like Quit: Hypnosis to Stop Smoking, that uses hypnosis. This program teaches you to reach into your subconscious mind to tackle the root causes of your addiction. Through the process of using hypnosis, your cravings for cigarettes will slowly dissolve.
What to do if you are scared quitting will make you gain weight
Eat low energy, nutrient dense foods
Many people avoid trying to quit because they fear weight gain. We don’t quite understand the underlying mechanisms of why this happens, but some research shows that the use of nicotine gum together with healthy lifestyle changes can delay (but not prevent) you packing on the pounds.
Some researchers postulate that cigarette smokers confuse hunger as an urge to smoke, and so filling up on fiber and nutrient rich foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grain starches, lean meats and healthy fats may help keep both hunger and cravings at bay.
Explore alternative methods
Exploring alternative methods to controlling your weight can be very empowering. The Quit: Hypnosis to Stop Smoking app also offers a hypnosis program to help you manage binge eating and weight gain naturally. The website is also packed with informative articles to give you the confidence you need to kick the habit.
Deciding to quit smoking is one of the most important things that you can do for your health. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide and you are making the right decision.
In short, when you are trying to quit smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables, have some dairy when a craving hits you hard, avoid trigger foods or drinks and have a plan for when your mouth and hands feel empty.