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How to Banish Your Junk-food Cravings

This summer, create new healthy-eating habits with these 7 realistic strategies.

Have you developed a bit of a junk-food habit? It can happen to the best of us, says dietitian Jackie Mills, RD, author of “1,000 Diabetes Recipes.”

That’s because sweet, salty and fatty junk food lights up your brain’s reward center so the more you eat, the more you want. “All those things we crave are what the food companies put in processed food to make our brains release dopamine, and that’s why we keep eating it,” Mills explains.

Are you ready to get the junk out of your diet? Try these tips to jump-start better eating habits.

  • Know what you really crave. It may not be the food itself that you want, but a certain quality. Is it crunchy, salty, sweet or creamy? If you’re “addicted” to soft drinks, for example, is it the carbonation you’re after? If so, flavored mineral water may do the trick. Identifying what you really want can help you find healthful ways to satisfy that craving.
  • Banish junk food. Willpower alone isn’t enough to make you ignore the siren song of potato chips. Clear junk food out of your kitchen—and your classroom drawer. If it isn’t around, you’re less likely to eat it.
  • Make one change a week. The first week you might say “no” to fried foods. The next week, you’ll skip prepackaged desserts. “Add a new rule each week and pretty soon you’ll be eating a lot less of the processed stuff,” Mills says.
  • Make healthier choices accessible and appealing. Keep healthy options, like fresh fruit and veggies, easily accessible. And make sure it’s cleaned and cut up so you can grab it on the go.
  • Change your routine. Bad habits are mindless routines, and consciously changing things up will help you establish new, better habits. Pay attention to things in your routine and environment that trigger the urge to eat. “If driving past Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to work makes you crave donuts, change your route so you don’t even see that temptation,” says Mills.
  • Track of what you eat. Nothing helps you eat mindfully like documenting every bite. Use your camera phone to snap a picture of every meal or snack. Keeping a visual record will make you think twice about eating the Snickers’ bar. Or try an online option like MyFitnessPal or Lose It!
  • Plan ahead. Unplanned meals and snacks invite temptation. So prepare yourself with better choices. Try these recipes to satisfy when a snack attack hits.

Edamame Dip
Edamame—green soybeans—are rich in protein and fiber, so they’re really satisfying. Make a batch of this creamy dip to have on hand for a quick snack with cut-up vegetables or baked tortilla chips.

  • 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup raw shelled frozen edamame, thawed
  • 1 cup loosely-packed baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely-chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛  teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Dash of cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Refrigerate for up to 3 days (press a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the dip to prevent browning).

Yields: about 1 cup.

Adapted from The Blender Girl: 100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes by Tess Masters (Ten Speed Press).

Dukkah
Dukkah is a crunchy, salty spice blend made with nuts, coriander, cumin and sesame seeds. It sounds exotic, but it’s easy to make at home. Pair it with a hard-boiled egg as a satisfying afternoon snack. Or brush triangles of pita bread with olive oil, sprinkle them with dukkah and toast them in the oven for a healthy spin on chips.

  • ½ cup toasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios or pine nuts)
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons toasted coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped and combined (don’t let it become paste). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Yields: about ¾ cup.

This article was published in NEAchieve!, our monthly e-newsletter. Sign up to receive helpful tips and information delivered to your email inbox.

Any medical information provided on NEAMB.com, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on NEAMB.com (“Health Content”), is for informational purposes only. More information.

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