How to Avoid Junk Food and Eat Healthy Instead?
Can you resist mouth-watering delicacies such as samosas, oil fritters, and pani puri? Well, most of us cannot. They are not only tempting but addictive as well. Hunger pangs can strike at any time and it’s easy to give in to cravings for junk food such as pizzas, burgers, or French fries during those moments.
However, excessive consumption of these foods might lead to issues like digestive disorders, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. If you know of these facts and still struggle to avoid junk foods, read on to find out how to stick to healthier alternatives instead.
What is junk food?
Junk foods are dishes that are loaded with excess calories but have little to no nutritional value. Usually, these foods are high in saturated and trans fats. Consistent consumption of these foods increases the intake of unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates, which potentially raises the risk of chronic medical issues. By eating junk foods constantly, you might also end up getting habituated to them. As a result, you may not be too keen to consume healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and mixed greens, among others, resulting in a lack of nourishment.
Also read: Cheat Meals: A Fitness Friend Or Foe?
Here are a few tips on how to stop eating junk food.
Tips to stay away from junk food
1. Plan your meals
Planning your meals ahead of time might help you avoid junk food. It is a skill that helps you choose, purchase, and prepare nutritious meals and snacks regularly. This may also increase the frequency of homemade foods in your daily diet. There are lesser chances of craving junk food when you plan and prepare your meals.
Moreover, you can control the amount of oil, sugar, and salt you add to the food by preparing it yourself. Using portion control can also help you prepare a well-balanced meal.
2. Shop wisely
Mindful shopping is one of the ways to avoid junk food. Here, the first rule is to prepare a grocery shopping list and food budget before making a purchase. You can divide this list into four to five sections like fruits and vegetables, cereals and pulses, dairy and poultry, nuts and oilseeds, and meat and fish. This might help you in switching from junk foods to healthy alternatives.
Lastly, remember to read the food labels before shopping and refrain from buying any item that has an excessive quantity of hydrogenated fats, trans fats, corn starch syrup, and fructose.
3. Consume protein-rich foods and good fats
These are healthy options for junk food. Protein can make you feel full for a longer period and enhance your satiety. It also aids in improving your metabolism. Consuming protein-rich foods like legumes and pulses, milk and milk products, eggs, nuts and oilseeds, meat, and fish can contribute to reducing your temptation for junk foods.
Apart from these items, eat foods rich in healthy fats like avocado, nuts and oilseeds, peanut butter, almond butter, olive oil, and canola oil to make your meals flavorful and nutritious.
Here are a couple of recipes to incorporate healthy fats and proteins into your diet:
|Black bean wraps (Protein: 14g; Fat: 6g)||1. One tortilla|
2. One tablespoon guacamole, prepared from avocados, garlic, and herbs
3. Half-a-cup of boiled black beans
4. Half-a-cup of vegetable spices of your choice
|Mixed vegetable rice and lentil preparation (Protein: 17g; Fat: 10g)||1. Half a cup of rice |
2. One-fourth cup of lentils, which comprises 8g-9g of protein
3. Half a cup of vegetables with half a tablespoon of canola oil
4. One tablespoon of peanuts
4. Choose fruits and vegetables as snacks
Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fibers. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water. The fibers in these items can slow down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and control sugar crashes as well as food cravings. Additionally, these items are low in calories. So, they can help you maintain your weight. Here are some snacking options that you can consider:
- Fruit salad
- Baked carrot sticks with hummus
- Stir-fried herbed vegetables
5. Eat at home before you go out
In most cases, one resorts to junk food when outdoors. You can avoid this by eating well at home before leaving. By eliminating uncertainty and spontaneity in your choice of foods, you can control the intake of unhealthy items.
6. Get sufficient sleep, exercise, and stay stress-free
Apart from nutrition, other factors like stress and insufficient or poor sleep might affect your eating habits. Stress can decrease the levels of serotonin, a brain chemical, which when reduced can increase hunger pangs and lead to emotional eating or stress-eating behavior. So, it is necessary to get enough sleep, exercise well, and practice mindfulness to reduce mental and physical stress. You can consider doing yoga, going for brisk walks, and playing your favorite sport.
7. Make nutritious replacements
It is difficult to completely stop eating fast foods. But it’s possible to opt for healthier versions of these dishes. For instance, if you relish pizza, consider replacing the base with nutritious options, such as wheat tortilla base, quinoa base, or any other whole-grain base.
Alternatives to junk food
You may be wondering what are the healthy alternatives to junk food. Here’s a healthy swap list.
1. Roasted chickpeas and fox nuts for potato chips
Roasted chickpeas are rich in protein, iron, and vitamin B complex. Fox nuts (makhana) consist of magnesium, potassium, and calcium. They are also low in sodium. So, they are healthier and nutritious munching items compared to fried and oily potato chips.
2. Baked vegetable chips for baked cakes and cookies
Vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can prepare baked vegetable chips from kale, carrot, plantains, and beetroot. Sprinkling some sesame or sunflower seeds powder to these chips can help add amazing taste and texture.
3. Dried fruit and nuts for chocolate bars
Chocolate bars are high in simple carbohydrates. You can substitute them with a mix of dried fruit and nutritious nuts to give you a sweet taste while adding the crunchiness from the nut. Grab some walnuts, dates, and cashew and blend these ingredients in a mixture jar. You can mold this mixture into balls or bars. Add a small amount of dark chocolate to the mixture for the taste.
4. Dates, dried figs, and fresh fruits for sugar
Dates and figs contain large amounts of iron, protein, and vitamins. At the same time, they are sweet. So, consider substituting refined sugar with these natural sweetening agents. Additionally, include stevia, a low-calorie sweetener to sweeten desserts, such as kheer, custard, and ice cream.
Sometimes, hunger is mistaken for thirst. Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated and drink a glass of water whenever you get a sudden craving. In case drinking water does not help, you can eat a healthy snack.
Replacing oily snacks with wholesome soy, barley, or oat flakes might make you feel full for a longer period. Lastly, eating mindfully can help you reduce the intake of junk food, and take a step towards sustainable and healthy eating habits.
1. Oginsky MF, Goforth PB, Nobile CW, Lopez-Santiago LF, Ferrario CR. Eating ‘Junk-Food’ Produces Rapid and Long-Lasting Increases in NAc CP-AMPA Receptors: Implications for Enhanced Cue-Induced Motivation and Food Addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016; published online Dec. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101548/
2. Azemati B;Kelishadi R;Ahadi Z;Shafiee G;Taheri M;Ziaodini H;Qorbani M;Heshmat R; Association between junk food consumption and cardiometabolic risk factors in a national sample of Iranian children and adolescents population: the CASPIAN-V study. Eating and weight disorders : EWD. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30311074/
3. Borraccino A, Lemma P, Berchialla P, et al. Unhealthy food consumption in adolescence: role of sedentary behaviours and modifiers in 11-, 13- and 15-year-old Italians. European journal of public health. 2016; published online Aug. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5885947/