How I Manage my Junk Food Cravings with Nutritionist Winnie Long
I love ice cream, cookies, donuts and brownies. If I could choose my last meal on earth, it would be an ice cream cookie sandwich drizzled with chocolate sauce and brownie bits. I get lots of random cravings for junk food and sometimes it gets hard to fight it!
Yes, we all know that junk food is unhealthy and should be limited. We know that health problems arise every time when we consume too many of these junk foods. However, if you’re like me and 99% of the world, we have many random cravings when we’re trying to create healthier habits. It is completely normal, so don’t be hard on yourself.
I do believe in moderation and balance. I don’t believe in eliminating or restricting on foods you truly enjoy. When we develop healthier eating habits, we may no longer crave foods we used to depend on. I used to love drinking soda but I don’t crave it anymore. I prefer drinking water, coffee, tea or kombucha instead! However, if there are still some foods you still really enjoy eating, moderation is KEY. For example, I love chips, fries, chocolate, donuts, cookies and many other “unhealthy” treats. I don’t have these everyday, but I do have 2-3 of them weekly. I find it helps prevent strong cravings that will cause me to binge.
First of all, junk food is addicting because that’s what food manufacturers intended for. The additives in the foods make it difficult to stop eating and you crave for more when you’re done. This is why heavily processed junk food with additives, salts and sugars are addicting. The taste, texture and smell are all deeply considered when the food item is prepared. We can’t change this problem so we will look at the perspective of what we CAN do.
1. Drink water
There were many times I was actually thirsty and not hungry. Other times, I’m not hungry but just want to munch on food. Anything like chips, crackers or chewing on some candy is satisfying. However, before grabbing for a bag of chips, I’ll drink a cup of water and walk around to allow myself to listen to my body instead of cravings. If I’m hungry, I’ll grab a piece of fruit or a light snack. I like to develop this habit of LISTENING to my body rather than just mindlessly eat.
2. Eat nutritionally dense meals at regular times
I make sure my meals are wholesome and consist of a good portion of grains, lean protein and healthy fats. If I have a nutritious, filling meal, I will be satisfied and less likely to crave junk foods. I recommend at least half your grains be whole grains because they will keep you full for longer. Eating at regular times everyday will allow your body to adjust to your eating schedule. I eat breakfast at 8-9am, lunch at 1pm and dinner at 7-8pm. I have snacks between my meals everyday. I try my best to stick to this because if I get off my eating schedule, my body gets confused and I feel off, leading to cravings.
3. Buy healthy foods and you’ll eat healthy foods
Instead of throwing a bunch of cookies, chips and snacks into your grocery cart, choose healthier options. Limit frozen or boxed meals. Choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pick lean protein and whole grains. Going back to my previous point, buying healthy foods will allow you to prepare and eat nutritionally dense meals. I recommend writing up a grocery list before heading to the store.
4. Have fun cooking and discover new recipes
Pinterest is my favorite place to find new recipes! Instead of eating the same things every week, I look up easy, simple recipes to put together during the weekend or mid-week. I love to experiment with different spices and methods of cooking. I didn’t start cooking this much until only a year ago. We all start somewhere! I use the words “easy”, “clean” or “healthy” often so I can get more simple recipes. I usually tweak a lot of recipes according to what ingredients I have which turns into a super fun experiment in my kitchen!
You can also find loads of new recipes on the Plate Up app! With over 330+ recipes (including some of my recipes!) and new ones added all the time, the app is great for meal inspiration and trying out new recipes. A monthly subscription is just £1.99 and you can get a 14-day free trial to try it out. To download the app and start your free trial, click here.
5. Keep healthy snacks on hand
If you know me well, you know I never leave the house without a snack in my bag. I always have snacks in my car. It’s like my little emergency snack stash! I’m someone who gets in a bad mood when I’m hungry so I try to prevent that from happening. When I get in that “hanger” mode, I tend to crave more junk foods such as chips and sweets. I bake lots of breads and muffins as snacks to keep on hand. Some other snacks I have often are whole grain crackers or pita bread with hummus, fresh fruit or mixed nuts. Snacking throughout the day helps prevent me from reaching for junk foods. Keep that tummy satisfied!
6. Don’t restrict or eliminate
The more I restrict on food I enjoy eating, the stronger the craving. Instead of saying no, I allow it in moderation. I love donuts/cookies so I eat them 2-3 times a week. I’ll eat 1-2 cookies from a bag at a time, not the entire bag. I eat 1-2 pieces of chocolate almost everyday to satisfy my cravings. Basically, don’t restrict! Portion it out, put the rest away and then enjoy what you have.
If I start off my day with some exercise, I have a tendency to eat healthier. Getting in some exercise will boost my energy levels and take some stress off my shoulders. I also experience that “post-workout” high which makes me a lot happier if I’m feeling down.
8. Get enough sleep and stress management
I’m someone who needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. When I’m tired, I tend to stress eat and want junk foods. I crave more salty, sweet and high-carbohydrate foods. My body feels fatigued and the last thing I want to do is to make myself a healthy meal. I always make sure I’m well rested and don’t deprive myself of sleep. I also don’t like to dive into things but rather plan and schedule my days. This helps with my stress levels! Sleep and stress management is very important to me and I keep it a priority!
9. Emotion check
At times, I find myself craving junk food because it’s a response to a certain emotion. I crave more junk foods when I feel sad or bored. Instead of letting my emotions overpower me, I try to understand where the craving is coming from. I’ll go on a walk, read a book or even drive myself to the gym. After I do something to distract me, I realize the craving goes away!
As a reminder, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while! It’s not possible to stick to a diet that is clean 100% of the time so be more lenient with yourself and balance it out. Sometimes, you’ll need to give in to your cravings. Remember, moderation and not in excess. If you do end up eating an entire bag of chips or pint of ice cream, don’t hate yourself for it. We’ve all gone through moments like that so you aren’t alone! Remember, change takes time and patience. Managing your junk food cravings will take time but as long as you incorporate some of these habits and don’t give up, you’ll be on your way to a healthier you!