Junk food… What does that mean? In my book, junk food is high calorie, low nutritional content, manufactured and packaged food. Doritos, Pringles, and Reece’s Peanut Butter fall into this category, for instance.
These kinds of foods play on our biological impulses to eat things that are sweet, salty, and fatty.
They are all difficult to come by in the wild and are all flavor-indicators of a necessary nutritional component, meaning these flavors are signs that nutrition that we NEED is present.
Maybe with the exception of sweet, but salts contain electrolytes and fats are absolutely essential for all kinds of metabolic and hormonal functions as well as structural maintenance.
Manufacturers actually engineer junk foods to be as addictive as possible, finding the combination of salt, sweet and fat that will be the most irresistible. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us documents the deliberate history of this in the United States.
Within the past ten years, “healthy” junk food has appeared on the scene. Newman-O’s, Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Pirate’s Booty are a few examples that come to mind.
Is this still “junk food?” I think so, yes, because, while made with better ingredients, and often are less salt and sugar, they still are pretty devoid of nutritional content.
Here are some guidelines and tips to help you cut down on your junk food consumption.
10 Ways To Deal With Junk Food Temptation
1. Consider why you like to eat these foods. Are they filling the space of something else in your life? Sweetness of a different variety? Excitement? Purpose? Connection? Comfort? Pay attention to your emotions when you’re “indulging.”
2. Make sure you’ve eaten a decent meal before you reach for the junk. Nuff said.
3. Learn how to make your own. Like peanut butter cups? Make them. This will slow down the “immediacy” of the food experience.
4. If you MUST have some junk food now, make it the best possible rendition. Like chocolate? Get the highest quality chocolate you possibly can.Love ice cream? Get the organic milk variety. Potato chips are your thing? Go gourmet.
5. Are you craving a particular flavor? Study this. Sometimes this can be a sign that you are deficient in nutrients. Want something salty? This could be a sign that you’re low in vitamins and minerals. Crave sugar? Your body may not be getting the energy that it needs in the form of solid nutrition.Long for fat? Fat helps metabolize certain vitamins, and keeps your digestive system “moving.”
6. This is radical advice, but sometimes works—allow yourself to binge. I’ve done it myself with peanut butter. It worked. I read about this technique after-the-fact in one of Geneen Roth’s books. Eat all the fill-in-the-blank that you desire until you’ve had your fill. Indulge! Ride it out, until you get sick of that food. Maybe literally. Definitely figuratively.
7. Slow down. Breathe while you eat. Chew thoroughly. Find out if you can really, really taste what you’re eating. Does it taste as good as you thought it would?
8. I’m what I call a “curious eater.” I like to find out what things taste like—even junk! This doesn’t mean I want to eat a whole portion. If you want to just have a taste, then do that. Give the rest away, or share with a friend.
9. Eat sitting down, at a table—no snacking while walking or driving! No snacking while sitting in front of the T.V. or at the movie theatre. Be aware and present for every food experience.
10. Notice if you tend to eat junk alone. If you do, pledge to share your “guilty pleasure” with another. You may find that other people will not support your “habit!”
What are your biggest junk food temptations? Which of these tips and guidelines do you plan to try out first? Share in the comments below!
A version of this post originally appeared on Live Well 360.