8 Tips to Help Fight Junk Food Cravings

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We’ve all been there. It’s that inevitable moment where you’re gazing at a donut or stack of cookies, dreaming about how great the sugary carbs will taste. It’s testing your willpower. Sometimes you just can’t help but opt for the junk food sitting in front of you — however, there are ways to prevent the sugary gorging. Things like staying hydrated and surrounding yourself with healthy snacks are easy ways to keep your body from craving sweets. Ready to fight off your junk food cravings? Here are eight tips to help.

1. Drink up

Dehydration is an easy way to end up munching on junk food. When your body is thirsty, it can end up confusing your thirst with hunger, writes Livestrong. Aim for eight glasses of water a day. If it’s hard for you to drink that much water, incorporate tea and fresh vegetables juices as well, recommends Livestrong.

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2. Only keep healthy snacks at home

It’s safe to say that if you have cookies on hand, it’s tempting to dig in and eat them. But, if you look in your cupboards and there aren’t any cookies or chips, you’ll have to opt for one of the healthy snacks you have on hand (read: fruits and vegetables.) In addition to produce, stock up on nuts, whole wheat crackers, and roasted soybeans, per Livestrong. These types of foods will help keep you full longer, making it less likely that a craving will sneak up on you.

Before you stock up on healthy snacks, go through your pantry and get rid of the junk food. If you don’t want to throw it away, donate any unopened food to a local food pantry, SFGate suggests. As for opened packages of junk food, just destroy them. You may even feel a sense of accomplishment for overcoming the sugary temptations.

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3. Don’t go crazy on special occasions

Altering the way you think about things can help prevent you from gobbling up three pieces of cake on your next birthday. It’s your birthday, so you should be able to treat yourself to a piece of cake — but don’t eat so much of it that you will regret it or feel too full later. According to Fitness, “The satisfaction you get from any one food often drops off with every bite, and research shows that small portions can be as satisfying as large ones. So if the situation merits a calorie-packed treat, try eating just a few forkfuls, and give them your full attention: Scientists at the University of Birmingham in England concluded that focusing on what you’re eating helps you consume fewer calories later on.” You’ll feel much better if you feel satisfied, not stuffed — that’s where portion control comes in.

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4. Distract yourself

If you become fixated on eating a brownie or cookie, it’s a craving, not hunger. A craving typically lasts 10 minutes, so find a way to divert your attention until the urge to chow down on junk food passes, says Reader’s Digest. Make a phone call, listen to music, exercise, run a few errands, practice yoga, or go for a walk. Find something to keep you mentally distracted until your mind has moved on to something other than cake.

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5. Don’t look at junk food as a reward

We’ve all done it. You’ve had a long day at work and all you want to do is go home, sit on the couch, and open that container of chocolate ice cream that’s sitting in the fridge. Indulging in chocolate does give you a quick pleasure fix, but research shows that its comforting effects only last three minutes, per Fitness. That means that once those three minutes have passed, you’ll still feel bad from your long day and guilty that you just ate a bunch of junk food. Instead of reaching for sweets to help comfort you, try talking about what’s making you feel bad.

Fitness suggests giving yourself “a few minutes to write about a problem in an email, then read what you’ve written and delete the draft; according to research published in Psychological Science, virtually throwing away your woes makes it easier to let them go in real life.” If that doesn’t do the trick, figure out another way to make yourself feel better (that doesn’t involve junk food.) Try going for a walk, snuggling with your four-legged friend, or go for an endorphin-boosting run.

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6. Brush your teeth

By brushing your teeth, gargling with mouthwash, and flossing, you’ll be less likely to want to ruin your minty fresh breath with sugar, per Reader’s Digest. Even if you have a craving, you’ll want to postpone munching on treats for a little bit. Hopefully by then, the craving will have passed entirely. “Wait a little while after you brush so you don’t ruin your clean mouth,” writes Steady Strength.

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7. Go to bed

Combat late night munchies by going to sleep earlier, according to Shape. Aza Raskin, Massive Health founder, told Shape that there is a 1.7 percent overall decrease in healthiness in what you’re eating as every hour of the day passes on. So you can start the day off with a solid, nutritional breakfast followed by a healthy lunch. But, then mid-afternoon hits and the way we think begins to change. What’s the harm in a few M&Ms? You then find yourself snacking on chips while you’re preparing dinner. By late evening, your body is telling you to plant it in front of the TV with a little dessert.

“Researchers note that willpower is a limited resource, and we might use all of ours up earlier in the day. Another cause may be that as the day goes on and we get increasingly tired, we look to junk food for a quick hit of energy. Or it may just be that we’ve put in a long, hard day and feel like we’ve earned a treat by golly! But now you know, and knowing is half the battle,” Shape says. So, what’s the easiest way to battle your late night cravings? Go to sleep earlier. It’s a great way to avoid those late junk food cravings and get more sleep (and it’s good for you!)

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8. Find healthier alternatives

Resisting junk food shouldn’t mean deprivation. Find healthier options that will satisfy you without causing any guilt afterward. Whatever your favorite food may be, find a healthy substitute for it, suggests Fit Sugar. Do you look forward to a little dessert each night? Try finding a low-calorie alternative to what you’re used to. For example, if you’re craving something cold and sweet (such as ice cream), instead try a frozen banana sandwich, which only requires three ingredients. Each bite is about 23 calories, meaning you could have six and it’s only 140 calories.

Try this Fit Sugar recipe to make your own frozen nutty banana nibblers.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 tablespoon all natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 ounces nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

Directions: Peel one banana and mash it with the peanut butter and yogurt. Set it aside. Peel the other four bananas. Slice into half-inch thick slices. Smear the banana, peanut butter, and yogurt mixture on half the banana slices and top with the other halves, making banana sandwiches. Place on a wooden cutting board or a plate and freeze for at least two hours.

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