By Renee Rogers RD, LDN
Junk food seems to be a modern way of life. Chips, ice cream, and packaged foods are often more common than crisp vegetables, whole grains, and succulent fruits. The word itself tells us exactly what it is, junk! Yet we find these nutrient deficient foods bombarding our stores, consuming our minds, and entering our homes and work places. So what do we do in this real life version of candy land? Is it possible to satisfy your taste buds while benefiting your health?
Yes! The best way to navigate through the overwhelming prevalence of nutrient void food is to learn how to curb your cravings and avoid junk food. Here’s how:
- Fill up on Nutrient-Dense Foods
- Give Your Pantry a Healthy Makeover
Filling up on nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help curb junk food cravings. The body needs both nutrients and calories to work properly. Junk food, however, provides the body with calories but very little to no nutrients. Consuming these foods causing an imbalance in the body since the essential nutrients are missing. This imbalance can lead to cravings in the body’s hope of receiving the missing nutrients. Hence, why the more junk food a person eats the more they often crave it.
The solution? Fill up on nutrient-dense foods. Foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, are conveniently packaged with nutrients and calories together. This way the body is happily balanced and cravings are often reduced. Try sticking to food as close to its natural state as possible since processing often strips the food of its precious nutrients.
Eating satisfying portions of low-energy-dense foods can help to enhance satiety and control hunger while restricting energy intake for weight management.
The simple fact is you won’t be able to indulge in junk food if it isn’t lying around your house, car, or work place. So give your pantries a healthy makeover and swap all your favorite junk food with just as delicious but healthy alternatives. This way you will feel satisfied without the guilt. Here are some simple swaps:
- Swap gummy candy with dried or fresh fruit
- Swap potato chips with baked chips, whole grain crackers, or air-popped popcorn
- Swap chips and dip with veggies and hummus or baked chips and salsa
- Swap chocolate candy with bite size pieces of a good quality dark chocolate
- Swap candy bars with a less processed snack bar such as Larabar
- Swap ice cream with 0% fat free Greek yogurt flavored with fresh fruit and honey
Keeping a food journal and writing down everything you eat is a great way to change unhealthy behaviors. People often have a distorted view of what they are actually eating. Food journals help bring awareness to your eating habits so you can pinpoint and avoid any junk food pitfalls.
For example, you might notice that on most afternoons you grab a few pieces of candy from the candy bowl to get you through your afternoon slump. Once you are able to identify an unhealthy behavior you can successfully change it. You might decide to start making afternoon tea or going for a quick afternoon walk to keep your energy up without the junk. Food journals may also help you lose weight. Research shows that people who keep food journals are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.