With empty calories galore and loads of sugar, fast food can be found on almost every street corner in the nation. In fact, according to IBISWorld industry research, there are 204,555 fast food restaurant businesses in the U.S. as of 2022, an increase of 1.3% from 2021. McDonald’s golden arches, Wendy’s loaded “Baconator,” or Taco Bell’s juicy crunch wrap supremes are almost too good to put down, until you read the nutritional information. Junk food has little nutritional value and contains many empty calories, and these foods include a lot of added sugar, trans fat, salt, and preservatives. So, what does it all mean? Why is fast and junk food considered unhealthy, and what effects does it have on your body?
Routinely eating fast and junk food leads to an increase in calories, cholesterol, and sugar levels, all of which are harmful to the cardiovascular system, not to mention an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.
So now we know why junk food is unhealthy… and – like most people – you’re probably wondering how to quit desiring junk food. After all, it’s tough to turn down a mouthwatering burger complete with deep-fried French fries and a tall glass of Coke. Mentioned below are some tips to help you avoid munching another bag of chips and junk food while on the go.
1. Make a meal plan.
Planning what to have for the week ahead might help you control your cravings. For example, if you prepare a nutritious lunch for the day, you will be less likely to eat at a fast-food restaurant or visit a convenience shop to purchase unhealthy snacks.
You might also carry a packed lunch to work to avoid eating out, or cook in batches so you have enough food for the entire week. There are lots of recipes available online to spark your culinary creativity and grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and others have recipes listed online. Cooking and bringing your own meals also saves money!
Meal subscription services also help tremendously with healthy eating. Whether it’s meal prepping for an entire week or checking the ingredients list for preservatives, transparent food delivery companies ensure your new habits don’t go to waste. Proper Good 90-second meals are healthy & convenient for people who work long or unusual hours such as busy parents, college students, campers, and anyone who is home-bound. See this 20% discount for nurses and truck drivers. Their packaging (which is also recyclable!) allows consumers to keep their unopened meals at room temperature (no fridge or freezer needed), which means they can store at a nurse’s station, break room, in a backpack, or right with them on the road.
2. Change your mindset.
According to research studies, concentrating on the positive aspects of healthy eating is far more beneficial than focusing on the need to eliminate junk food. Focusing on the positive attributes – like how much better you feel after a meal – makes it much easier to start swapping out healthy food for harmful ones. Over time it becomes easier to make the switch, so don’t be deterred if it doesn’t come naturally right away. Maintain an optimistic attitude!
3. Drink lots of water.
Drinking enough water also helps reduce cravings. If you catch yourself craving chips, candies, or a sugary beverage late at night, replace it with a glass of water. We recommend drinking a minimum of 8 glasses of water – or 2 liters – every day. Consuming water helps wash away your desires for junk food.
4. Prioritize stress management.
Cravings are usually accompanied by an emotional component. Your brain tells you that you deserve brownies because you got through a tough work day or because you’ve eaten healthy earlier in the day. Or perhaps your blood glucose is low, and you need an energy boost. When you’re angry or nervous, you’re more likely to go for some junk food.
Consider how you could be eating (or drinking) to numb sensations, distract yourself, or delay. Try to be patient with yourself and perform some gentle exploring when you sense the impulse to use food to self-soothe. Stop, breathe and try to figure out the root driver of your anxiety. Talk it over with a friend or family member, talk a walk, and overall practice refocusing yourself on your end goal to love your body by feeding it healthy food.
5. Get your sleep.
Sleep deprivation can sometimes result in intense cravings. Lack of sleep offsets the hormonal balance that controls our appetites, which leads a person to feel hungry despite having eaten or crave comfort foods to relax. This is why it’s critical to go to bed early and get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
To achieve a better and long-lasting sleep, put your phone on do-not-disturb mode. The blue light from your phone’s screen blocks the melatonin that makes you sleepy so it’s important to avoid checking your phone after you’ve gone to bed. And steer clear of caffeinated beverages and large meals. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can take up to 10 hours for caffeine to wear off which can greatly affect your body’s “internal alarm clock.” And – although large meals make you feel tired right after consumption – they actually prolong digestion and negatively interfere with your sleep schedule.
6. Make healthier substitutions.
The less processed, the better, and the fresher, the better. Cutting away junk food does not exclude you from enjoying food. In today’s world, there is a wide range of healthy eating alternatives that taste just as wonderful.
Here are a few ways to make healthier substitutions. Substitute a chocolate bar for a nut bar or a handful of nuts. Substitute a bag of chips with a bag of unbuttered popcorn (even better if homemade). Make your homemade biscuits or cookies with real fruit and oats, and use natural sugars instead of buying them. Exchange lollipops with frozen blueberries or a handful of grapes. Or snack on whole-grain crackers with cheese or hummus, instead of savory treats. The list goes on, but it’s most important to continue finding healthy substitutes that satisfy you.
While following these ideas will undoubtedly be beneficial, remember to take things slowly. When you’re battling to control your urges, be kind to yourself. Set yourself up for the future by developing healthy habits and gradually reducing your junk food intake. Before you know it, avoiding junk food will be second nature to you.