Junk food cravings can be the worst, right? Whether they strike when you're a little stressed after a long day or during certain activities (i.e. watching TV), they happen to the best of us. We've all waged war in our heads about whether or not to give in: “Just this once!... A little won't hurt.” The next time a craving for unhealthy foods hits, you'll be prepared. Try these 10 strategies to stop your junk food habit, outsmart your cravings, and make healthier choices instead.
If you've ever had to play devil's advocate and talk yourself out of giving into a junk food craving, you know the chances of succeeding are higher when off-limits foods are further out of reach. So, a good rule-of-thumb is to keep undesirables out of your home. If you have to go through the motions of leaving and driving to a store to satisfy a craving, you're much more likely to be able to best it.
Junk food is loaded with addictive ingredients like sugar, salt, and artificial flavors. Just like with any addictive substance, you can curb cravings by cleansing your system of the culprit. If you're regularly overcome by junk food cravings, consider completing a sugar (and all processed foods) detox for a week to two weeks to totally cut sugar out of your diet. The less junk food you eat, the less you'll crave.
While you're detoxing from sugary and salty snacks, be sure you have plenty of nutritious food available. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and high-fiber proteins like legumes. Having healthier substitutes for some of your favorite meals and snacks can satisfy the desire without the guilt. For example, you might prepare a pizza with a veggie crust or bake kale chips to enjoy during your favorite show instead of processed chips or crackers.
Making a few tweaks to your eating routine can also help reduce junk food cravings. Waiting too long in between meals, for example, can cause your blood sugar to drop significantly, and lead to cravings. Eating every three to four hours can help keep your blood sugar steady. It's also important to keep things interesting, as a boring menu can make unhealthy foods seem more desirable. Cook with a wide range of fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices and try recipes from different cultures and cuisines to satisfy your palate. Get delicious plant-based recipes here.
Did you know that dehydration can present like typical hunger pangs? You may think you want junk food, but your body really needs water. Down eight ounces when cravings strike to dull the urge. Plus, be sure to get at least 64 ounces throughout each day. Keeping hydrated can also help fight bloating.
Junk food cravings can be especially intense when you've been eating processed foods. Once you cut these foods out, support your body’s ability to fight cravings with natural supplements. Chromium helps stabilize blood sugar, while good options for busting cravings include glutamine, tyrosine, and 5-HTP. Also, be sure to get plenty of Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids through diet or supplementation.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, it's common to crave a food that you unknowingly are allergic to, such as sugar, dairy, and gluten. If junk food cravings seem unstoppable, visit your doctor to get evaluated for food sensitivities.
That chocolate bar could be calling your name because in the past you've reached for junk food when stressed. Instead, try to incorporate more nurturing and relaxing activities into your day— even if you only have 10 minutes. This will help you stop craving junk food while stressed. Good examples include reading a book, doing yoga, taking a warm bath, or calling a friend to take your mind off things.
Squash your junk food cravings with physical activity. Try setting a timer and doing a few sets of bodyweight exercises, like pushups, squats, and jumping jacks. Or, go outside and walk around your neighborhood. Getting physical will take your mind off the craving. Exercise also boosts your mood and relieves stress, which can offer a one-two punch if your cravings are brought on by stress. Additionally, continued physical exercise can help you lose some weight.
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