‘I have decided to give up smoking on 19th March, this year’s No Smoking Day, but am worried about putting on weight. I have tried to quit several times before and my appetite has always increased. Is there anything you can recommend nutritionally that can help?’
Suzie Sawyer, Clinical Nutritionist, answers.
The main problem with giving up smoking, as you rightly say, is that appetite tends to increase and cravings for sweet or salty foods can become much more acute. So it’s important to keep blood sugar levels in balance, which means eating protein at every meal and reducing caffeine-based drinks. Indeed, if you associate having a cigarette with a cup of coffee, it makes sense to try to cut back on drinking coffee.
An egg-based breakfast is the best start to the day and lunch should always include protein such as chicken, fish, soya, lentils, or beans. Make sure you’ve got food with you, especially if you’re on the run or at work all day. Something simple such as beans on wholemeal toast, or a tuna wrap will help keep cravings at bay later in the day but also try to include plenty of colourful vegetables. Eating three good meals a day and avoiding high-calorie snacks is key.
It’s also important to avoid ‘fad’ diets in the early stages of trying to give up, as these can be hard to maintain and often cause blood sugar imbalances. For example, intermittent fasting and/or only eating between 12 pm and 8 pm are becoming quite popular at the moment. They can work for some of us, but the body has to adapt and they will definitely cause cravings until the body is used to the new regime.
Another piece of advice is to keep things simple and eat foods as near to nature intended. Hopefully, this will increase energy levels and reduce cravings. Always take one day at a time – think you can have a cigarette if you want to but for today you’re choosing not to. And just carry on that way. I wish you every success.