I'll not mince words, junk food is addictive! Also known as "highly palatable foods," these are processed food products that contain levels of sugar, fat, and salt engineered to tap into our brain's pleasure centers and keep us coming back for more. These are tips if you're looking to bring your junk food consumption down from compulsory habit to occasional treat.
1. Start replacing some of those processed, simple carbs with complex carbs.
Once in your digestive tract, simple carbohydrates like chips, cereal, and cookies quickly break down into sugar, causing insulin levels, (and your mood, hunger & energy levels) to spike and drop erratically.
2. Eat breakfast, lunch & dinner around the same time each day.
This reduces cravings and the temptation to snack on junk food. At meals, focus on whole foods like complex carbs, good quality fats and proteins. Complex carbs (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains & legumes), contain nutrients & fiber that slow down digestion. This helps stabilize blood sugar levels and signal to your brain that you've had enough to eat.
3. Check out an herbal supplement called Gymnema.
In Hindi the name for Gymnema means "destroyer of sugar", and it's used to reduce sugar cravings and balance blood sugar.
4. Read Salt, Sugar, Fat
Learning about the intentionally addictive properties of many processed foods, and the role these food products play in the current health crisis in the US, will change your relationship to junk food.
5. Stop buying processed junk.
Sometimes the only way not to lose is to not play the game at all! Start by loading your cart with whole, less refined foods instead. Here's a few alternative snack ideas:
Dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cacao
Fresh fruit like apples, oranges, pineapple, berries or grapes
Dried fruit like dates, figs, mango or apple
Nuts & seeds like cashews, almonds, pepitas, or sunflower seeds. Buy them raw and unsalted and toast them yourself in your oven at 400 for 5-10 minutes.
Hummus & crudites (raw carrot, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, cucumber, snap peas, okra, etc.)
Apple and celery with nut butter or tahini
Plain, full-fat yogurt or kefir with fruit, nuts, honey or maple syrup
Plain goat, sheep, cashew or coconut yogurt or kefir (for those who don't digest cow milk well.)
String cheese, sharp cheddar, or goat cheese