Help me stem the urge to nosh.
November 10, 2008 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I am a taste addict. Is there anything I can do to kick this habit?

Okay, so this is kind of strange. I pretty much always want to eat, not because I'm hungry, but because I like the experience of having something to taste, pretty much constantly. Even when I'm quite full I still have the urge to eat simply because I have a desire for flavors and/or mouthfeel. It's generally really salty or sweet flavors that I have a hunkering for.

Right now I have a relatively good metabolism, but one day when that's slowed down this could really kick me in the tush. Also, loads of salt and/or sugar can't be great for me.

I know that I could, for example, sip tea sweetened with something like licorice or stevia, which at least wouldn't have calories in it, but ultimately I'd rather be free from this unending urge to nibble on something which seems totally divorced from hunger on my part.

Any suggestions?
posted by Deathalicious to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

Also, I wrote the headline "stem the urge" above and then thought, "Huh. Is that a real phrase? Why did it pop into my head?" A quick google search suggests that the phrase isn't widely used; if so, what did I really mean? Not intending to derail my own question, but this has me weirded out.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:18 PM on November 10, 2008

You probably combined "stem the tide" with "resist the urge."

I have no answer to your primary question, though.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2008

I find if I brush and floss often, the minty-clean feel of my mouth means I don't want to mess it up with another taste.
posted by GaelFC at 1:28 PM on November 10, 2008

How about finding a gum you like and chewing that? You could chew less and less until one day you don't feel the constant urge to taste.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:33 PM on November 10, 2008

Wow, I am just like this! I'm a freak, and I take tiny sips of Worcestershire sauce to satisfy the craving and avoid actually eating.

Ways to avoid eating anything altogether: Brush teeth, smoke, or drink some hot water? Carry around those Listerine film things?
posted by peachfuzz at 1:34 PM on November 10, 2008

for people with pica, adding a little flavor to your water is doesn't really sound like it's what you have, but pica sometimes points to an iron deficiency.
posted by nadawi at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2008

I have the same problem, but I find that it gradually disappears if I am strict about keeping junk out of my diet. If I stop eating chips and chocolate, within a couple days I don't crave them anymore. Also, keeping busy with something interesting helps. When I'm bored or don't like what I'm working on, those "hmm, what else could I eat?" feelings get really tough to control.
posted by vytae at 1:36 PM on November 10, 2008

Pickled/briney things could work to your advantage, because you get a big pop of flavor for few calories. If you feel industrious, you could make your own pickles (homemade giardiniera would rock!), which would allow you to control your sodium intake a bit more.
posted by giraffe at 1:36 PM on November 10, 2008

Have you tried taking everything ready-to-eat out of your house & work place? If you deny yourself the ability to access sweet or salty snacks on a whim, then you might find that the urge goes away after a few weeks. Force yourself to only keep on hand foods that require preparation, like raw meat, onions, potatoes, squashes, eggs, etc. Raw vegetables are fine as long as you don't keep any vegetable dip or dressing on hand.
posted by jedicus at 1:43 PM on November 10, 2008

I have the same urges, and I've had some success with vytae's approach: I avoid most of the strong-flavored stuff that I crave and eventually the craving backs off. For example, nuts and black tea seem to hit the same spot that chocolate does but don't send me into a rebound craving for salty food. I also sip homemade chai, which is flavorful, a little spicy, and only slightly sweetened.
posted by PatoPata at 1:44 PM on November 10, 2008

Nthing vytae; salty and sweet junk foods tend to get me addicted really easily, and cutting them mostly out of my diet (with occasional treats) helps a ton. It's hard for a few days, but after that the cravings die a bit. They don't die completely -- fruit will never hit the same spot for me that cake does, no matter how healthfully I eat -- but your body will stop demanding things like an ice cream bar every morning for breakfast.

Also, the Shangri-La Diet might be worth a try, as it's supposed to help you overcome that "wanting to eat" feeling. I've tried it after reading about it in a few AskMes, with a reasonable amount of success. (I've fallen off the wagon as of late, but the oil does seem to help me curb mindless eating.)

You might also want to experiment with appealing to your sense of smell instead of your sense of taste and see if that works -- e.g. burning some incense or showering with a really good-smelling soap.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:05 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the suggestions all.

In case you're wondering, I don't actually crave "junk food", just salty food. So, for example, one thing I've eaten when having this craving is celery stalks dipped in sriracha and fish sauce. Pickles don't tend to last very long in my fridge and I get funny stares when I take little sips of brine from the jar. Similar foods that don't last long in my house are hard cheeses, jerky, etc. Potato chips and chocolate can easily last a week untouched (by me, anyway). I do really like hard candy, though.

I had a flash of recognition reading peachfuzz's comment, although usually it is something like sriracha or miso paste (never liked Worcestershire for some reason).

Although I do get these cravings when bored, I also get them when watching a show I like, or when I am engrossed in a book.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:06 PM on November 10, 2008

Add spices, olive oil, and fruits to your diet.

There's something that's called "smart balance", it's spread with a blend of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat. It's a good alternative to butter and magarine...or olive oil, if you hate it.

Spices are great for satisfying your taste buds, yet most of them are healthy in moderate amounts.
posted by sixcolors at 2:09 PM on November 10, 2008

Start smoking. That will kill your taste buds quick-smart.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:23 PM on November 10, 2008

Walnuts are super-healthy and a small amount goes a long way toward making me feel "full." YMMV.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2008

I'd suggest sunflower seeds. They are healthy, and contrary to popular belief, there isn't THAT much salt in them. I go through a bag of seeds every few days and it's much better for your teeth and health than gum. They won't fill you up like walnuts will, but should keep your taste buds sated for that salty flavor.
posted by DrDreidel at 2:35 PM on November 10, 2008

The first things I thought of were Dutch salty licorice (which, I just found out, doesn't actually have any salt in it), Sen Sen, and Atomic Fireballs. With each of these, a little goes a long way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:41 PM on November 10, 2008

maybe it's an umami craving - hard cheese, jerky, fish sauce, "mouthfeel" - makes sense. I think those Listerine breath strips might be the best bet for avoiding food and breaking the flavor craving - the mouthwash taste is pretty potent, and makes the idea of eating anything savory seem pretty gross, for a little while at least. They're fairly sweet, though, and you could potentially start craving THEM - maybe try Binaca or a non-sweet anise-based breath freshener instead?
posted by peachfuzz at 2:46 PM on November 10, 2008

...oooh now I've got cravings for tamari roasted almonds. Damn this tasty thread.
posted by robotot at 2:48 PM on November 10, 2008

I'm curious about this, as I tend to do the same thing...sneaking off to the kitchen for little taste samples of smoked paprika, flavored salts, bbq sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, a caper or two, a slice of jalapeƱo, a nibble off of a bouillon cube, etc... It seems to me to be centered mostly around umami flavors.

Something I have found helps for me is to just get totally and completely engrossed in something. If I have something occupying my mind, then I don't get those strange taste cravings. Somebody above mentioned that, too, and it is spot on in my experience.

Not sure, as far as other tips go...
posted by kaseijin at 2:49 PM on November 10, 2008

And if it's anything like my cravings, being hungry (or needing to feel full) has nothing at all to do with it... it's just about having the taste of it in your mouth. One pinch of a flavored salt, not a sack of potato chips.

...or maybe another pinch. Or a third...
posted by kaseijin at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2008

That said, if you have a specialty food store, maybe flavored salts *would* be your best bet. A lot of folks are saying things like nuts (and smokehouse almonds are powerfully addictive things), but with flavored salts, I would think that you could get the taste without the calories.

...of course your sodium is another story, altogether.
posted by kaseijin at 2:53 PM on November 10, 2008

I am gonna second the salty licorice-- once you acquire the taste, it's lovely stuff.
posted by everichon at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2008

Yeah, kaseijin pretty much nailed my cravings. Pinches of salt indeed. (My weakness is pretzel salt, you know, from the bottom of the bag.)

I already like licorice so maybe salty licorice is just the thing.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:29 PM on November 10, 2008

Mmmm, the salty-sweet leftovers at the bottom of the Honey Roasted Peanuts can.....
posted by trinity8-director at 4:13 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since you're looking to break the habit of constantly grazing, and you know that the foods you habitually eat have a certain profile (strongly flavored things,) it might be helpful for you to follow a fairly strict diet for 21 to 30 days - long enough to let your old habits fade.

For instance, you could plan three meals a day, plus two or three snacks, using lower-sodium recipes, and avoid the foods that you crave. Use herbs and spices to flavor your food, and hide the salt-shaker. During this time, you'll probably want to stick with familiar foods - if you're anything like me, novel flavors are fascinating, and it would be easy to substitute the old foods your avoiding with an exciting new food.

This will help to reset your palate a little, and also give you some time and space to think about what triggers the behavior of snacking on strongly-flavored things. For instance, maybe those cravings arise when you're tired, or bored, or when you work too long without giving yourself a break.

It also can't help to get a checkup and bloodwork to rule out anemia, thyroid hormone imbalance and other issues.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 5:07 PM on November 10, 2008

Trader Joes has these Wasabi almonds that are great for this.

I thought I was the only person to do the Worchester sauce im not alone! Good to know!
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:08 PM on November 10, 2008

I'm the same way, and everything beyond a reasonable calorie intake is low- or no-calorie. Pickles, popcorn with no butter, rice crackers, fruit, vegetables, frozen yogurt. It's much more satisfying than denying myself the heavenly goodness of indulging my taste buds.
posted by Rykey at 5:53 PM on November 10, 2008

I think this is fairly common -- overeating isn't just pigging out, but it can be continuous grazing to keep their mouth happy/entertained/satisfied... not only do i have this for salt/starches, but I especially have the 'mouthfeel' issue -- wanting something crunchy (and i have subtypes of "crunchy"; popcorn vs pita chips, for instance), or chewy, etc.

Flavor-craving-wise, tea or gum works for me, as does lemon or lime flavored water or seltzer. (all calorie free and low in sodium too)
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2008

I also get this sometimes! I sip a cup or two of chicken/beef stock (made from granules). The taste is exactly what I crave (umami/salty) and I guess it doesn't have lots of calories and isn't as unhealthy as crisps, cheese, whatever.
I found that this works especially well if I put some japanese seaweed in there. Strange, but satisfying and (I guess) quite healthy.

(You could always substitute with another kind of entirely saltless Taste)
posted by The Toad at 4:24 AM on November 11, 2008

Ha, Toad, I wasn't sure what to expect after the jump on this post-- somebody who couldn't stop loving food, or somebody who couldn't stop critiquing all the bad taste in design, fashion, decor, etc. around them.
posted by Rykey at 7:54 AM on November 11, 2008

i have this problem. i eat constantly even when i feel i am about to burst. i am also blessed with an unusually quick metabolism. snacking becomes worse when i cannot smoke (i am a smoker and cannot bear to chew gum). Here are some things I do:

1. drink water...lots of water. It lets your mouth feel like it is doing something. It also makes you feel full.

2. tea is good. it fills you up and you can make it a bajillion different ways.

3. snacking isn't bad!!!---as long as you do it right. Snack on nuts (you can get salty, sweet, plain, spicy...) just make sure you don't eat a pound per day. ALMONDS!!!
Nuts are good for you and fill you up and you can eat them rather slowly. You can also make trail mix that you can pick at (put in some sweet and savory things so you can have salty/sweet as you please.)

4. try to eat a good mix of food/flavors with every meal. having some a bit of sweet and salty with each meal tends to help me curb cravings after the meal for one or the other. (example-- make curry with soy sauce and coconut milk, after the meal you feel like you ate both sweet and salty.)
posted by slograffiti at 9:15 AM on November 11, 2008

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