Junk food certainly has a prominent place in our society. I always have wondered, if junk food is so bad for you, why in the world is it so readily available? Why is junk food at the end of almost every grocery aisle? At every gas station kiosk, and vending machine? The answer is hidden in a disturbing array of corporate rhetoric that can leave your head spinning.
According to Kris Gunnars, BSc, in his article Junk Foods are Manipulated by Chemical Engineers to Make us Overeat, most junk food is “made palatable using artificial flavors and various processing techniques.” It’s all about creating food that tastes good so that we buy more, and more, and more, until finally we are habitual junk food junkies. Gunnars continues, “There are many ways to make foods taste good and give us pleasure. One of the best ways is to use a combination of sugar, salt and fat to maximize the impact these foods have on our taste receptors and reward pathways in the brain.”
The crunch, flavor, color, texture – it’s all manufactured to be appetizing. Corporations spend billions of dollars on research and development just to create foods that are enticing so that we can’t say no. We, in turn, spend our hard earned money on food that makes us sluggish, foggy, and, in some cases, a walking zombie. For some, it takes extreme will-power to avoid the junk food aisle. You don’t have to give in. Try these five ways to stop junk food cravings and become the healthy person you were meant to be…
1. Shop The Outer Rim
The ‘Outer Rim’ of most grocery stores is safe. That is where you will find fresh produce; fruits, vegetables, and natural foods. Avoid junk food cravings by not shopping in the junk food aisle, and stay away from junk food displays that are enticing. My grocery store usually has a silver bag of potato chips on display as you enter the store. Don’t be fooled by silvery-bags of nothingness. Instead, stay focused on the colorful fresh vegetables on the outer rim.
2. Avoid Emotional Eating
Emotions. They are the root of a lot of habits, including junk food cravings. It’s easy for me to write and propose to you to drop that candy bar after you have had a bad day at work or bad news. But, at the end of the day, the candy bar (or junk food) is not going to help solve your problems. In fact, eating the candy bar may lead to further cravings, further stress, and greater junk food addiction. Avoid responding to emotional triggers with food. If you are experiencing a stressful/emotional situation, find a quiet place, meditate and reflect. Grab an apple, fig, or other healthy snack to subside cravings.
3. Five Ingredient Rule
To help you in your journey to stop the madness of junk food cravings, make it a rule to purchase foods that contain no more than five ingredients. If a food has more than five ingredients, it is probably over processed and not a natural, wholesome option. The five ingredient rule is easy to remember and will help you avoid junk food cravings (because most junk foods have more than five ingredients).
4. Plan Ahead
Menu planning is key to stopping junk food cravings. If you have natural, wholesome food on hand, you will be less tempted to grab a bag of pretzels or a sugary snack. Yellow Delicious Apples are one of my favorite foods. I keep a bowl of apples on my kitchen counter. They add a lovely aesthetic to my kitchen, as well as a handy treat; sweet, juicy, crunchy. If I need to run an errand and no time for lunch, I put an apple in my purse for an easy lunch/snack. Be prepared. Stock your pantry and fridge with foods that are filling, satisfying and healthy. Choose foods that are calorie-dense (like brown rice), but not calorie-laden. Plan ahead.
5. Brush, Brush, Brush
Have you ever walked into a city street where the smell of fresh baked bread, aromatic deep-fried foods, and sugary snacks make you salivate? The smells are amazing. It can make even the savviest eater become weak in the knees. Or maybe you are at a party and the bowls of junk food abound, reeling you in, pushing all of your junk food buttons. Everyone else is indulging, why not you? Your mouth waters; it is an uncontrollable sensation. But, you have control. You stop and realize that these foods may be detrimental to your health. What to do? Grab your toothbrush. Brush your tongue and the inside of your cheeks where salivation occurs. Brushing will make your mouth feel fresh and clean, stopping junk food cravings in their tracks. Carry a portable toothbrush when you know you will be tempted.
Remember, just because it’s ‘low-fat, sugar-free, low-cal, etc.’ doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Over processed foods cause health issues that can be avoided. Stick with wholesome, natural foods. Statistics prove that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave. As with any addiction, you can reprogram your mind and use strategic measures to avoid junk food. You are what you eat, and you are not junk.