Whether it’s salt and vinegar crisps, jam on white toast, those jumbo cafe muffins or questionable late-night dinner choices like cereal – junky, nutrient-poor food tends to be readily available and it’s easy to succumb to it. Here are a couple of quick tips to help you beat junk food habits.
Eat real food, decent-sized meals, that satisfy you. It stops you compensating with crap later. If I pick up a salad on my lunch break and it looks a bit scrimpy, I also pick up a couple of boiled eggs and some crackers. When it comes to 3pm, I’m still charging rather than reaching for chocolate. Be sensible and realistic with your food choices. Ensure meals are a reasonable size for you and your energy expenditure, and don’t be scared to include quality carbohydrates like root vegetables (steamed or roasted is great), quinoa or some rice. Girls are especially bad with this! There’s no point doing a skinny green juice for brekky and sashimi at lunch if you get stressed mid-afternoon and smash a big piece of rocky road. Wouldn’t you rather eat a larger portion of healthy food than lash out on junk later?
And, make sure you’re consuming healthy fats. Another important aspect of your real food meals are your healthy fats including nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, tahini and butter. Fats keep you satiated for longer, slowing the digestion of your meal.
Embrace grocery shopping. Don’t self sabotage with empty cupboards. You are putting yourself in a much better position to eat well if you get some goodness into your cupboards. This works from a practical and a psychological perspective. If you open your fridge and see fresh produce in there, you will be much more motivated to put together something healthy (and obviously, in a much better position practically too, duh). Inspire yourself! Start with a small collection of ingredients that will last for a few days in the fridge, for something easy and fast (and nutritious) like a veggie omelette.
But don’t be afraid to buy some convenient foods. Just check the labels. Not everything has to involve cooking or complex assembly. There are plenty of simple options, especially when it comes to replacing rubbishy snacks – everyone’s downfall. Some examples of snacks or small meals include: (i) wholegrain rice cakes with cheese and sliced tomato; (ii) sliced banana topped with raw nuts and coconut flakes, (iii) carrot batons dipped in tahini, (iv) tinned tuna mashed with ½ an avocado, spread on good quality bread or buckwheat crackers, (v) cucumber rounds topped with nut butter and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Easy. When you’re buying anything packaged, just make sure to read over the label – look for a brand that carries no artificial ingredients or preservatives (avoid numbers!), and go organic where you can.
Think before you drink, especially on an empty stomach. There’s not much more to say about this one as I’m sure it’s quite obvious, but it’s good to stick in a little reminder. Alcohol – itself a source of empty calories – skews our judgment when it comes to food. Eat something before you go out for drinks so that it doesn’t affect you as quickly and then work on pacing yourself. Keep drinking water!
My final tip is one that’s mental, not physical. It’s maybe the hardest part to implement. Really, really, work on limiting the way you look at food as reward or punishment. If you cultivate an attitude where you see junk food as comfort and healthy food as a “should” (so un-fun!) then it’s going to be very difficult to change your habits. Experiment with healthy food and find things that you really love to eat, whether it’s grilled chicken, green smoothies or homemade banana bread. Don’t beat up on yourself for having a chocolate bar on a day you didn’t do a monster spin class and you didn’t “earn” it. Learn to listen to your body and your hunger signals, and if you’re upset, confused or worried about your eating habits, speak with someone you trust (whether that’s your bestie, or a nutrition professional, depending on the circumstances).
I’m not perfect and I most certainly need to remind myself of these basic principles every now and again, especially the last tip. It’s all about crowding in the good food and eating in a way that makes you feel great. How have you found success in breaking up with junk food habits?