Wellness Tips

How to Stop Eating Junk Food: 10 Tips to Control Your Cravings

Plan ahead

There’s no better way to handle cravings than planning your meals and snacks ahead of time. If you have a healthy meal and snacks packed and ready for you at lunchtime and in the afternoon, you’re far less likely to grab a leftover piece of pizza, order French fries, or eat the sweets someone brought in to the office.

Try to plan out each week’s meals on Sunday, or the day before your workweek starts. Grocery shop for what you need. Then prepare large batches of easy foods like brown rice, beans, stir-fried or roasted vegetables, or cold salads. Use food storage containers, mason jars, or foil to pack up serving sizes that you can grab in the morning on your way out the door. Fruits like apples, bananas, and oranges travel well and can be kept on your desk, making them easy afternoon snacks.

Shop the perimeter

The perimeter of the grocery store typically includes the produce, dairy, meat, and fish sections. This is where you’ll find real foods, rather than highly processed food products. This is a key step in transitioning your diet to whole foods.

fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, proteins

You’ll be getting all the nutrients you need from these healthy foods, so your cravings for the fake stuff will start to diminish. It may take a few weeks, but eventually it won’t even taste good to you!

Eat healthy fats

One of the most common nutrition myths is that fat makes you fat. In fact, your body needs fat! However, you should avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats, but heart-healthy fats like nuts and avocado will help you feel full and reduce cravings.

Have a handful of mixed nuts as an afternoon snack or a homemade salad dressing with olive oil and vinegar. Adding fresh guacamole or a fatty fish like salmon to your day is also a great way to incorporate healthy, filling fats.

Eat enough protein

Protein makes you feel full, often more so than other macronutrients like carbs. Fill your diet with healthy sources of protein including:

  • Fish
  • beans
  • vegetables
  • nuts

Try fruit

Fruit has sugar, but it has a lot of vitamins, antioxidants, and water, too. It also contains fiber, which slows and balances out the effects on your blood sugar. This prevents the sugar crash. Once you wean yourself off of manufactured sugar, fruit will taste a lot sweeter and more satisfying to you. Grab a bowl of berries or a piece of watermelon if you’re craving something sweet.

Taste the rainbow

Add some new and different foods to your routine. The more varied your diet, the less likely you will get bored or crave junk food. For example, add a new green to your salad or try a new type of fish this week like tuna.

Bonus: Eating diverse foods of many colors boosts your overall health and helps with disease prevention, too. Examples include purple potatoes, red beets, orange carrots, and green kale.

Think about junk food differently

A study showed that when people were trained to look at and interpret one of their most-craved junk foods in a negative light, desire for it lessened. Participants were asked to view the craved food as if:

they were already feeling very full, they just saw the food item sneezed on, they could save the item for later, they were told about negative consequences of eating the food (stomachache, weight gain)

Focus on adding healthy foods

A study showed that focusing on the positive side of healthy eating is more effective than focusing on the need to remove junk food.

The more healthy food you add in, the easier it will be to crowd out the unhealthy ones. Stay positive!

Work on stress management

There’s almost always an emotional component behind cravings. Sure, you really need the brownie because you like the flavor. Or your blood sugar is low and you need an energy boost. You’re more likely to grab the Cheetos or leftover cookies when you’re upset or stressed by something.

Consider how you may be eating (or drinking) as a way to stuff feelings, distract yourself, or procrastinate. Try to be compassionate to yourself and do some gentle exploration. Practice redirecting yourself when you feel the urge to reach for food instead of doing what needs to be done, or saying what needs to be said.

Healthy stress management tools include:

Taking a walk or run, Yoga, Meditate for a few minutes, Take some deep breaths, Talk to a trusted friend or family member, Do something creative like painting, Journaling

Get more sleep

Most people don’t get nearly enough sleep. And while you’re probably aware of the effects on your mood or energy level, you may not know that lack of sleep is also thought to play a big role in junk food cravings. A recent study in Sleep showed that sleep restriction resulted in more hunger and less ability to control intake of “palatable snacks.”

So make the effort to turn in a little bit earlier every night. You might also want to stop eating a few hours before you intend to go to bed. A full stomach can cause indigestion and interfere with your ability to fall or stay asleep.

Source: U.S.News - How to Stop Eating Junk Food: 10 Tips to Control Your Cravings