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Giving Up on Junk Food
You may have already lost count of the number of times you said, “Good lord, when will I stop being a junk food junkie?” We know it’s hard.
Giving up junk food isn’t easy. There are so many reasons you eat it.
Junk food appears to be cheaper and quicker than making your own food. Just compare the price of a bag of Fritos corn chips to a pound of broccoli.
Sadly, many people live on junk food and don’t even realize what they are doing to themselves… And here’s why:
Junk food marketers know how to grab your attention and trick you. They use buzzwords like the following:
They make their junk foods sound healthy and good for you. At the same time, they have hidden a lot of added sugars, sodium, and chemicals to make you crave them.
From plain yogurts and cereals to salads and trail mixes, many of these foods are much worse for you than they may appear.
There’s a silver lining, however. We have some excellent tips on how to stop being a junk food junkie, make better food choices, and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
But before that, let’s dive a little deeper into identifying exactly what junk food is.
What Is Junk Food?
Junk food can be defined as any food you consume that has zero to little nutritional value. It is typically processed food that’s been mass produced and has a very high calorie count.
This type of food is bad for your overall wellness and can increase your risks for many chronic diseases. According to a study, these can include heart disease, as well as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
Junk food can be found anywhere including convenience stores, restaurants, shopping malls, theaters, and sporting events.
You see and hear junk food advertised on TV, radio, billboards, and flyers. Every week, your mailbox is filled with coupons for special offers, tempting you with pretty pictures to eat out or grab a quick bite instead of making a meal for yourself.
It’s no wonder so many folks eat junk food without a second thought… But you can put a stop to it.
6 Tips on How to Stop Eating Junk Food
If you want to eliminate junk from your diet, here’s our first tip: Give the following RRR steps a try.
1. Make the RRRs a Habit
One of the best ways to eat less junk food is to stick to the RRRs:
Step 1: Recognize
Step 2: Record
Step 3: Replace
For the next three months, begin applying these RRRs every day. Take baby steps to keep moving forward, especially when you start to see and feel the results of changing your junk food consumption.
If you take the time to journal during this time, you will have a place to reflect on what you’ve discovered about yourself. This can be an invaluable gift.
Have fun, start slow, and be kind to yourself!
Step 1: Recognize
Starting today, practice mindfulness by looking at everything you are eating. If you haven’t checked a product label before, start doing that immediately.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much sugar is in it?
- How about the sodium level?
- What about the dietary fiber or carbohydrates?
- Can you see any vitamins and minerals?
Take a look through your cupboards, your pantry, and your countertops. Do you have junk food visible, handy, and tempting you to eat something quick and easy?
Open your refrigerator. Is there a pint of ice cream or creamy dessert telling you, “Hell yeah, come and get me!”?
How about in your car or on your desk at work? Are there any unhealthy snacks there?
Hmmm, what to do? Now you are aware of these things, the choice is yours.
It is up to you to decide what to do with these items. Do you keep them until they’re gone, throw them out, or hide them?
Listen to your body when you look at this food. If you want to eliminate junk food from your diet, you now have a place to start.
Step 2: Record
The best way—and only way—to really change something and end your junk food junkie life is to identify what it is you want to change and why.
I’m sure you agree that it’s hard to change something when you don’t know what that something is, right? This second step is where you will begin to identify the changes you want to make.
You can keep track of this in a journal, on your laptop, or personal device. You can even do it in your head (although we don’t recommend that, as most of us tend to forget things).
Take note of the following when you have junk food cravings:
- What time is it?
- When was the last time you ate?
- Where are you?
- What are you doing?
- What are you craving: sweet, sour, salty, hot, cold, crunchy, or creamy?
- How much are you spending on food and where are you spending?
For the last question, break the answer down into the following:
- Convenience stores
- Fast food restaurants, ordering in, or eating out
- Grocery stores
- Farmer’s market or health food grocer
If you log this information once a week, by the end of the three weeks, you should notice a difference in your awareness level and possibly even in your consumption. Recording daily is even better as you will notice your habits sooner.
Step 3: Replace
As you discover what you are eating, as well as where, when, and why, it’s time to start swapping things out. It’s totally up to you where you want to start, but the sooner you do, the better.
After reviewing your notes, you will be able to determine where you want to begin and the steps you wish to take. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Commit to Eating at Least One Healthy Meal a Day
Pick the one you find challenging, but not as overwhelming, as your first task. The sooner you notice a win, the better.
2. Make Your Own
The internet is filled with healthy, nutritious, and easy-to-make recipes. You can make your own cookies, pudding, trail mixes, gluten-free muffins, and even dark chocolates—whatever your heart (and taste buds) desire. (While it’s healthier to make from scratch, we do recommend keeping sugar and refined grains to a minimum.)
The beauty of making your own treats is you know exactly what is in them. You can add or replace the ingredients as you please.
You can also make your own soups, salads, salad dressings, and sauces. There really is no limit to what you can make for yourself given the time and commitment you want to put into it.
3. Eat at Home
Instead of going out to a meal with friends, have a dinner party, or host a potluck with a healthy theme. Not only will it be easier on your pockets, but you will find it much more relaxing.
There will be no loud conversations or music to distract you. There will be no more hidden calories and chemicals in your food.
Even better, consider organic cooking. Then pair your meals with a healthy drink.
4. Exchange Eating with Other Activities
Idle minds and hands can be your greatest enemies when you want to stop being a junk food junkie. Replace them with other worthwhile activities.
For instance, don’t sit, but walk around, during breaks. Stop and smell the flowers when you’re feeling down instead of grabbing a tub of ice cream.
Your eating habits have been formed over many, many years, so keep in mind that changing them takes time. Don’t get discouraged and stay consistent. Consistency is key when reversing and establishing new habits. By continuing to recognize, record, and replace, you’ll be wondering why you ever thought eating junk was good for you. You may even find your wallet and bank accounts are growing healthy along with you.
2. Consider Eating Healthy Junk Food
While the term “healthy junk food” is confusing, in practice it’s simply opting for eating healthier foods as a snack. Here are a few examples:
- Burger patties on lettuce instead of a Big Mac
- Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
- Sweet potato fries instead of the regular French fries
There are even products called vegan junk food. A good option is a bag of kale chips over a tube of Pringles.
These healthy snack options can still have a good amount of sodium and even carbs. However, they’re less likely to have additives, preservatives, and artificial sugars.
3. Try the No Junk Food Challenge
If you want to stop eating junk food cold turkey, you can join the no-junk-food challenge. The concept is simple: avoid anything junk for 21 to 30 days.
This can include the following:
- Pastries and cookies
- White bread
- Fast food
- Donuts and muffins
- Commercial peanut butter, spreads, dressings, and sauces
- Ice cream
- Sodas and alcohols
- Fried foods
You don’t have to worry about overeating if you eat healthy while snacking. You can even avoid counting calories.
Instead, focus all your energy on trying to eliminate these types of junk food from your life. Before you know it, you’ll realize you don’t miss them.
You can even sweeten the deal. Grab a pottery jar or any container and put all the money in it you would have spent on junk food. This helps to act as an incentive as you can take that money after the challenge and put it to better use, or in the least, it helps bring awareness to just how much you were spending on junk food.
4. Make Healthy Foods Accessible
One of the reasons why people love to eat junk food is that it’s easy to get. How about you apply the same idea to healthier, whole food options such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds? Here are a few ways to make health foods more easily accessible.
- You can create your own organic garden in your yard. If you don’t have space, try container gardening.
- Fill that basket on your countertop with low-glycemic fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, and pears instead of bread. Place some good snacks, like dried fruit, nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamia), and seaweed in your desk drawer.
- Cook your own lunch. If you are a generally busy person, prep your meals during the weekends.
- Stock your pantry and the fridge with healthy essentials:
- Green leafy veggies
- Healthy meats such as grass-fed beef
- Seeds and nuts
- Dark chocolates
- Beans and legumes
- Avocados and other healthy fats
Invest in alkalizing greens as well. They come in handy when you want to make your drinks and food nutritious in an instant.
5. Treat Yourself Once in a While
Junk food is bad, that’s a fact. It doesn’t mean you cannot ever have some of the good stuff, though.
You are less likely to binge on these bad foods if you indulge once in a while. If you’re feeling a slice of carrot cake is better than baked carrot sticks, just give into that sugar craving.
The most important thing is that you commit yourself to healthy eating as often as you can.
6. Train Your Kids to Eat Well
The chances of quitting junk food are less if you don’t have the support of your other household members.
For example, teach your kids healthy habits at an early age. It doesn’t have to be drastic.
For instance, you can substitute sugary foods like cereal with a bowl of oatmeal topped with berries and almonds. Or, usemaple syrup instead of fructose syrup for their pancakes.
It may not happen overnight, but you can learn how to stop eating junk food. Like everything you want in life, it requires commitment, perseverance, and patience.
It also demands a proper mindset. As long as you stick to these tips, you can get past being a junk food junkie.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 23, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy most recently on April 9, 2021.