Craving junk food can be a big hurdle when trying to eat healthy. While it may be hard, we’ve got 8 tips to help you stop craving junk food, so that you can develop healthier eating habits.
We asked registered dietician Chantelle van der Merwe for some top tips to help you stop craving junk food:
1. Understand the underlying cause
Why are you craving junk food? It could be because of the way you feel (emotional triggers), your habits, or responses to triggers (like the smell of hot chips). It’s essential to recognize the root cause of your cravings to address them properly.
2. Balance blood sugar levels
Balancing blood sugar levels will drastically reduce overall cravings. The goal is a diet with a variety of nutrient dense foods in the right balance. Here are some helpful tips on food choices. Focus on the right portions of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Monitor your blood sugar levels, and try to keep them relatively stable. If you can avoid large spikes and crashes, you’ll have fewer cravings.
3. Choose protein, fibre and healthy fats:
Protein, fibre and healthy fats have a big impact on satiety (feeling full). This can help control cravings. I like to compare protein, healthy fats and fibre-rich foods to quality long burning firewood: you have longer sustained energy release.
Choose lean protein like chicken, fish, tofu, legumes (beans and chickpeas), and dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt) in your meals and snacks to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Healthy fats, found in avocados, nuts, and seeds, can help you feel full and satisfied. They can also help to improve your mood and brain function.
Eating fibre-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, and fruits can help reduce cravings by promoting digestive health and stabilising blood sugar levels.
3. Stay hydrated
Dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger or cravings. Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. Try to drink around 6 to 8 glasses of water every day (tea and coffee don’t count!)
4. Plan your meals and snacks
Planning your meals and snacks in advance can help you make smart healthier choices and avoid impulsive snacking on junk food. Stock your pantry and fridge with things like chopped vegetables like carrot sticks, fresh fruits, yoghurt, boiled eggs, cold meat (without the fat), lean biltong, cottage cheese and wholegrain or seeded crackers, air popped popcorn and nuts. When hunger strikes, you’ll have healthier alternatives readily available.
5. Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating means paying attention to when you’re hungry and full, as well as enjoying the flavours, textures, and smells of your food. Slow down and take your time while eating. Switch off your phone or the TV. Concentrate on what you’re eating.
Allow yourself to enjoy small portions of your favourite treat foods sometimes. Moderation is key to having a balanced approach to healthy eating.
6. Manage stress levels
Stress can lead to emotional eating and cravings for comfort foods, including junk food. But then we feel worse after over indulging in typical “comfort foods”. Find healthy ways to manage stress, like regular exercise, meditation, or talking to a friend. Developing effective stress-management strategies can help reduce cravings triggered by emotional factors. Get professional help from a psychologist if you need it. (Here’s how to access a psychologist in public care.)
7. Get enough sleep
Not enough sleep has been linked to increased cravings for junk food and sugary foods. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night to support your overall well-being and help regulate your appetite and cravings.
8. Ask for help
Changing eating habits and overcoming cravings can be challenging. Ask for help from a registered dietitian, if that’s an option for you. Dieticians can offer personalized guidance and help you develop a tailored plan to manage your cravings effectively.
You can also reach out for help to our Facebook community: South Africans with Diabetes. We’re all in this together – we understand what it’s like.
What to read next?
What is TEEL? A simple way to manage your diabetes: Why we need TEEL? The goal with TEEL is to lay a foundation so that we all speak the same language.
What should people with diabetes eat?: The truth is that we are all different, so what works for one person might not work for another.
Free Healthy Food Guide – how to eat healthy with diabetes or to lose weight: This Healthy Food Guide shows you exactly which foods to choose (and which to avoid), as well as sharing which portions to eat.