Nine Ways to Quit Consuming Junk Food

Fast food, soda, candies, cookies, and salty snack foods are examples of highly processed meals and beverages that are sometimes referred to as junk food. The majority of people’s diets consist primarily of these foods. Indeed, according to certain research findings, junk food makes up almost half of the average American’s daily caloric intake.

Although there’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in the foods you love, such as chips, ice cream, and baked goods, junk food shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet because ingesting it too frequently can be detrimental to both your physical and emotional health.

For instance, a diet heavy in junk food is linked to diseases like heart disease, depression, obesity, fatty liver, high blood sugar, and several types of cancer.

There are a few successful strategies to attempt if you currently consume a lot of junk food and you want to break the habit permanently.

These 9 evidence-based suggestions will help you cut back on junk food consumption

1. Prepare More Food at Home

One of the greatest strategies to reduce your intake of junk food is to try cooking more meals at home. When consumers are pressed for time and don’t have access to other meal or snack options, they frequently choose convenience foods like donuts, sweetened coffee drinks, and fast food.

Increasing your home cooking activities, such as meal planning, can help you become less dependent on convenience foods and guarantee that you always have a nutritious meal or snack available. Numerous studies have revealed that individuals who cook more often have healthier diets, consuming more fruits and vegetables and consuming less fast food, as well as having lower obesity rates than those who eat out a lot. They also typically spend less on food.

Start out small if you’re not used to cooking at home. Make one or two meals a week at home, and then gradually increase the amount of meals you prepare there.

Increase Your Protein Intake

The most filling nutrient, protein can significantly influence how much and what you eat. According to studies, consuming more protein will help you avoid overindulging and minimize snacking, both of which can lead to a decrease in the amount of junk food you eat.

Reducing carbohydrates and switching to fat and protein sources instead of carbs may help lower overall calorie intake and food cravings. According to a small 2019 study with 19 participants, cravings for sweets and fast food were considerably reduced after four weeks of eating a higher protein, lower carb diet consisting of 14% carbs, 58% fat, and 28% protein.

Additionally, the researchers discovered that adhering to this diet enhanced dietary self-control while decreasing hunger and disinhibition—a condition in which one loses control over one’s eating habits and has a propensity to overindulge in extremely appetizing meals, such as junk food.

Frequently Fuel Your Body

Although it may seem like an efficient strategy to encourage weight loss or avoid junk food intake, depriving your body of calories or becoming extremely rigid with your food intake might really have the opposite impact.

While the exact relationship between calorie restriction and desires and intake remains unclear, some studies indicates that depriving your body of specific foods and missing meals may lead to an increase in cravings and snacking.

A 2020 study, for instance, discovered that therapies including the complete avoidance of particular foods led to a rise in cravings for those foods. Furthermore, some research indicates that missing meals—such as breakfast—may enhance appetites for items high in carbohydrates at night.

Although each person’s demands for calories and meal timing are unique, generally speaking, sticking to a meal plan consisting of frequent, high-protein, nutrient-dense meals and snacks could help you keep your calorie intake within a healthy range and lessen your cravings for junk food.

Consume More Hearty Foods

Learning more about how different meals affect your body and feelings of hunger can help you create a better eating plan and reduce your intake of junk food if you’re having trouble with your diet and food choices.

The majority of junk food items are poor in satiating elements like fiber, protein, and healthy fats but high in calories. Particularly crucial for satiety are protein and fiber, which make you feel fuller after eating.

Consider what your body requires and how a meal will affect your blood sugar, appetite, and mood before reaching for junk food on your way to work, such a donut and a sugary coffee drink. You’ll feel significantly fuller after eating a higher-protein, higher-fiber breakfast, like egg pieces and a side of fruit with an unsweetened coffee. This may help curb cravings for junk food later in the day.

Get Enough Rest

Health depends on getting enough sleep, and not getting enough sleep can have a bad effect on your eating habits and make you crave junk food more.

Research indicates that sleep deprivation and irregular sleep schedules can lead to an increase in total caloric intake, snacking, and cravings for high-fat and high-carbohydrate items, such junk food.

Regretfully, a single sleepless night might have an impact on your dietary decisions the following day. In a 2019 study with twenty-four women, it was discovered that when the women’s bedtime was cut by thirty-three percent, or two to three hours less than usual, the ladies complained of feeling more hungry and having cravings for food. A greater appetite for chocolate and larger portion sizes were also linked to the decrease in sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests that individuals obtain seven to nine hours of sleep per night to safeguard and enhance general health.

Control Your Anxiety

Your physical and mental well-being can be severely impacted by stress, which can also affect the foods you choose to eat. Even while it’s impossible to completely prevent stress, you may be able to reduce your consumption of junk food by adopting healthy stress management techniques.

It has been demonstrated that long-term stress affects hormones like cortisol, which control eating patterns and dietary preferences.

It’s interesting to note that you often experience hunger suppression when under acute or brief stress. On the other hand, research indicates that long-term stress typically increases the desire for and consumption of extremely appetizing items, including junk food.

In a 2021 study including 1,270 persons, it was discovered that those who were more stressed out also consumed more ultra-processed foods. According to the study, individuals with high levels of stress were almost twice as likely as those with low levels of stress to consume more ultra-processed foods.

Research-proven strategies for lowering stress include exercise, meditation, counseling, and spending more time outside.

Contemplate Remodeling Your Pantry

If junk food is a mainstay in your kitchen, you might want to think about replacing highly processed foods with healthier alternatives. Having very appetizing, easily consumed junk food in your kitchen might encourage excessive snacking and calorie consumption, both of which have detrimental effects on health.

According to research, the striatum—a region of the brain that controls desire and the pleasure derived from eating—can be stimulated simply by gazing at appetizing meals. This means that even when you’re not really hungry, having extremely appetizing things nearby, like candies, chips, and cookies, may encourage overeating and snacking.

Although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a sweet or salty treat once in a while, buying junk food is not the greatest way to reduce your intake; instead, stock your kitchen with nutrient-dense products. For instance, if you’re looking for a naturally sweet snack, consider loading up on fresh fruit instead of candy.

Avoid Initiating Strict Diets

Excessively restrictive diets can have a bad effect on your relationship with food and be detrimental to your general health. Adhering to extremely restrictive diets might result in yo-yo dieting, which is a dangerous cycle of weight loss and gain. Yo-yo dieting has been connected not just to a longer-term increase in weight gain, but also to an increased chance of developing health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.

Furthermore, the majority of fad diets are extremely stringent and impose rigid guidelines like cutting back significantly on carbohydrates or completely avoiding added sugar. Strictly avoiding some foods and labeling others as “off limits” might make people crave those items more, which can result in overindulgence and a negative connection with food overall.

Whether your goal is to shed extra pounds or just improve your diet, you usually don’t need to adhere to an extremely tight eating schedule. Try switching to a more nutrient-dense, well-rounded eating pattern that has been associated with favorable health outcomes, like a plant-centric or Mediterranean-style diet, rather than trying out the newest diet craze.

Frequently Shop for Grocery

Keeping your kitchen well-stocked might facilitate cooking more meals at home and reduce your intake of junk food.

Research indicates that individuals who shop for groceries on a regular basis have better-quality diets than those who don’t, with reduced consumption of highly processed foods.

Consider creating a grocery list if you have problems remaining on task or just don’t know what to buy when you go food shopping. Creating a grocery list will assist you in developing a generally healthier diet in addition to helping you avoid impulsive purchases like junk food. A varied selection of nutrient-dense foods, such as canned and dried beans, nuts and seeds, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and protein sources like tofu, fish, and poultry, should be included in a well-rounded shopping list.

Keeping wholesome foods on hand might encourage you to make nutritious meals and snacks for the coming week, which can reduce the amount of junk food you consume.