To meet the daily nutritional requirements and energy intake, an individual generally needs around 2000 cal/day. However, it is only a symbolic number and may differ as per age, gender and weight management goals. Sometimes merely counting calories does not work. You can get the right amount of calories from the wrong foods. For example, if you wonder what 2000 calories would look like on a plate with junk food? Then, imagine yourselves having two samosas (Indian potato snacks) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each. A total of six samosas adds up to 2000 calories.
Similarly, every other snack that you have is highly rich in calories. Beverages like coffee, latte, milkshakes, cakes, and other culinary or desserts are high in calories. However, these are foods that everyone consumes daily. Therefore, it often becomes hard to avoid them all the time. Also, no one only has junk food. Meal and junk food can double or triple your daily calorie intake. A small piece of chocolate or an innocent-looking doughnut can derail you from your weight loss path.
When these junk snacks become a part of your daily routine, they slowly bring their negatives to your body. Increased weight, PCOS/PCOD, hormonal imbalance, lack of confidence, mental instability, and lack of energy are the most common and severe side effects of eating junk food for longer durations.
The 21st-century lifestyle is progressing towards unhealthy ways of living. Before it turns into an alarming situation, it is always better to take preventive measures. Amidst the everyday stressful surroundings, it is your responsibility to look after your physique. This way, one can thrive better and perform more reasonably in all situations.
Reasons You are Experiencing Junk Food Cravings
Unless you are a fitness freak or on a spiritual journey, you’ll crave junk food now and then. From lack of self-control to eating disorders, there are different reasons why you might be experiencing these cravings. Listed below are some of the most prevalent causes of junk food cravings:
1. Skipping Breakfast or Meals
Have you ever been in a situation where you thought about skipping a meal or two to lose weight? Unfortunately, in most cases, you eventually eat more unhealthy stuff. But, don’t worry! Everyone goes through this cycle at some point in their life. But the bottom line remains the same. Do not skip meals to lose weight. Skipping meals causes disturbances in the regular energy demands of the body. As a result, it triggers your brain to release signals to feed on every other snack you might see throughout the day.
2. Anxiety or Other Nervous Disorder
Depression and disturbed mental health can disrupt your eating habits significantly. Many people are prone to continuous subconscious eating patterns when angry, anxious, or depressed. If you are suffering from such food cravings, you should talk to your physician and seek help.
3. Peer Pressure and Lack of Self-control
No amount of workout would fetch you a perfect body unless you control your mind. Unfortunately, the human mind and its thoughts are a summation of several triggers and emotions. That leads to cravings and hunger cues. Therefore, it becomes excruciatingly difficult to take control of them.
Studies reveal that people who consume healthy foods daily are more fit and tend to lose weight quickly. Thus, avoid falling under peer pressure and feeding unconsciously unhealthy foods.
4. Sleep Deprivation
Insomnia is a severe disorder that could trigger different abnormalities in a person. For example, frequent cravings for eating junk food are one of the side effects of sleep deprivation. Thus, sound sleep is equally important to prevent unhealthy eating habits.
Insanely Sane Practices to Beat Junk Food Cravings
Controlling the urge to eat fried, oily, and packed food can be daunting. Yet these 14 insanely simple practices can help you tackle this issue. If you add at least 5 of these methods into your routine, you can be sure that your junk food cravings will soon halt.
1. Drink a Glass of Water
Water makes up 70% of your body. It is a mystical liquid that holds most of the deepest secrets to human health. The way you drink your fluids shows the maximum status of your health condition. For example, both coke and coconut water contains water. But, one is toxic, and the other is a boon to your health. Thus, it is crucial to select healthier fluids for better health. However, sometimes your mind might confuse thirst with hunger. Ultimately, you will end up feeding on some calorie-rich snack unintentionally. Therefore, next time you crave an evening snack or a random calling from your stomach, try drinking a glass of water. You will note that your craving will be gone.
2. The Bulking Mechanism
The bulking mechanism is simply a method to consume foods and beverages that keep you full for long. Instead, you should finish your required water intake in the form of fruits and vegetables to gain more health benefits. Fruits belonging to the melon family (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe), oranges, pineapples, and peaches are abundant in water content.
Consuming foods and veggies rich in water helps reduce high blood pressure and prevents the risk of severe cancer and cardiac diseases. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are best to combat untimely cravings for food. Since these fruits and veggies are rich in fibre and water content, they promote the bulking mechanism. The bulking mechanism makes us feel fuller. Therefore, it becomes easy to swap junk food cravings with healthier eating options.
3. Planned-Out Bedtime Routine
Good and sound sleep has several proven benefits, some of which are:
- Enhanced immunity levels
- Good skin condition
- Reduced symptoms of hyperacidity
- Regulated blood pressure
- Fewer stress levels
The main benefit of a planned-out sleep schedule, which holds importance in this context, is that it allows you to control your appetite. A night of adequate sleep helps you to get rid of the fatigue. As a result, you feel energised the following day. Thus, you will not feel the urge to gobble up food constantly.
4. Eat a Balanced Diet
The importance of a balanced diet is no secret. But, do we follow the same? Unfortunately, many of us don’t! A balanced diet is a proportion of meals that provides all the necessary nutrients in appropriate quantities that a human body requires. If you keep yourselves well hydrated and eat a balanced diet, you won’t feel the need to snack on junk food.
Studies reveal that people who take a balanced diet have better immunity to combat and prevent diseases and infections. Furthermore, when you eat clean food, the fibre content in the food will make you feel full. As a result, you won’t get the urge to eat junk food.
5. Combat Stress With Meditation
Stress, anxiety, and depression are silent killers. These emotions hamper your health and may ultimately engulf your well-being and make you feel miserable. Research shows that every time you discern chronic periods of anxiety and depression, the hypothalamus region of your brain releases cortisol. This hormone marks the urge to eat sweet desserts and other oily foods. It may feel satisfying for that short time frame, but unfortunately, it makes you gain weight and add to depression and stress.
Meditation is one of the best remedies to practise if you want to combat stress and depression. Meditation soothes your brain and slows down your breathing pattern. It allows you to focus on your problems more precisely and act wisely. Once you know how to handle yourselves, you will be able to master all of your cravings and unhealthy choices.
An average person can burn around 100-200 calories in a regular 30-min HIIT workout session. Dedicating a minimum of 1 hour of your routine to physical activity or movement also gives you the same results. In addition, it will make your body sore and prevent you from eating unhealthy stuff. The moment you start working out or witness a change in your physique, you won’t eat anything that will hinder your progress. Thus, exercising can be a simple trick to your mind into not eating junk foods.
7. Distract Yourself from Junk Foods
Everyone knows for sure that excess junk food is harmful to the body. This subtle reason is enough for you to stay away from it. The moment you feel you can’t resist your hunger and you are about to fall prey to a plate of desserts or fried junk, snap yourself out of it. Try breathing exercises, talk to someone about a different topic, play games on your mobile phone, or equip yourself with your work. A simple distraction of 5-10 mins is enough to end your cravings. Try to control yourself for 10 mins, and your urge to eat will vanish.
8. Try Different Types of Tea
Ginger tea, chamomile tea, green tea, and peppermint tea are some fresh and fragrant alternatives to beat junk food cravings. The next time you see yourself standing in front of a plate full of unhealthy food, snap yourself from that place right into your kitchen and brew a hot cup of tea for yourself.
Peppermint tea is an excellent option to help you cut down on your cravings. That is because it will make you feel full and prevent you from eating junk foods. Similarly, ginger tea and green tea will speed up your metabolic process and make you feel energised rather than hungry. Finally, chamomile tea helps to induce sleep and thus, is perfect for beating cases of insomnia and eating disorders.
9. Mindfulness is the Key
If you consistently fall under peer pressure and fail to control your urge to eat, practice mindful eating. Consume healthy foods with the correct proportion of minerals and vitamins, and know your portion size. It will make you feel more energised. So, be grateful for your food and say no to unhealthy stuff.
10. Go Out in Nature
Did you know that walking 1 km helps reduce the number of calories equivalent to 2 tbsp of sugar? 2 tbsp of sugar is more than the total amount of sugar that a healthy individual consumes in a day. However, you get similar calories from your favourite junk foods like cold drinks, desserts, burgers etc. So, imagine the number of calories you can burn every time you take a walk.
Walking is a healthy habit. Plus, when you walk in the woods, you’ll witness your breath turning into a calm pace, making you feel relaxed. Soon your food cravings, too, shall vanish.
11. Visualise a Healthy You
Visualisation is a powerful imaginative tool that can create wonders. Once you start to imagine yourself as a powerful, disciplined and dedicated individual, your body will automatically replicate your thoughts into action. And someone correctly said, ‘once you realise your potential, you become unstoppable’.
12. Carry Healthy Snacks With You
Justifying unhealthy eating habits for silly reasons is the worst you could do with yourselves. No amount of peer pressure or environmental factors should ever force you to opt for unhealthy eating habits. However, sometimes you may be hungry out of tiredness or other reasons. In those times, try replacing your pizza, burgers, and chips with dark chocolates, peanuts, nuts and seeds, homemade protein bars, fruits, plain yoghurt or hummus with veggies sticks, etc. and protein bars. There are dozens of healthy snack options that you can choose from. Always keep a healthy fruit or a healthy snack handy in your bag.
13. Walk Away from Junk Food
Do not rely on others to stop you from eating junk foods. No one will pull you apart from a plate full of desserts. You will have to take charge and pull yourselves out of it every time. The moment you feel like you are drifting towards junk food, walk away from the place and be busy with other things.
Healthy Alternatives to Swap Junk Foods
You do not need unhealthy foods to satisfy your hunger cravings. Instead, you can recreate tasty smoothies, nutritious milkshakes, and appetising detox waters when your stomach growls!
Below are a few recipes that are worth a try!
Lemon Mint Cucumber-infused Detox Water
Preparation Time: 1-2 hours
- Mint leaves: 10-15 leaves
- Cucumber slices: thin slices of 1- 2 cucumber
- Lemon Juice: 1 tbsp
- Water: 1 ltr
Method of Preparation:
- Fill a bottle with 1 litre of water.
- Add mint leaves, cucumber slices, and lemon juice.
- Keep the bottle in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for a couple of hours. This way, the essential nutrients of mint leaves and cucumber slices seep into the water.
- Drink this water throughout the day.
Strawberry Banana Oats Smoothie
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Frozen strawberries: 1 cup
- Rolled oats: 1 cup
- Frozen banana: 1 cup
- Soy milk: 1 cup
- Vanilla essence: 1 tsp
Method of Preparation:
- Add all the ingredients into a blender and blend it until the consistency is smooth and frothy.
- Garnish with toppings like strawberries, mint leaves, dark chocolate shavings, etc., and serve.
Overnight Chocolate Oats
Preparation Time: 7-8 hours (Overnight)
- Oats: 1 cup
- Greek yoghurt: 1 cup
- Milk: ½ cup
- Cocoa powder: 2 tbsp
- Date Puree: 2 tbsp
- Vanilla essence: 1 tbsp
- Salt: 1 pinch
Method of Preparation:
- Add all the ingredients and mix well in an airtight jar
- Keep the jar overnight and allow the oats and other ingredients to combine well.
- Have it in the morning as breakfast.
Benefits of Avoiding Junk Food
Avoiding junk food or bringing down its consumption to a bare minimum is fruitful in several ways. Some essential benefits of avoiding junk food are:
- Increased resistance to diseases
- Reduction in acne and skin problems
- Fewer levels of cortisol
- Reduced chances of infections
- Maintains adequate blood pressure
- Maintains blood glucose levels
- Boosts collagen levels
- Increased life expectancy rate
Managing family and work-life together, college presentations and exams are among the most common stress causes. In most cases, people tend to crave junk foods when stressed. In addition, not getting enough time to cook food is another factor that makes people rely on junk foods. Some common occurrences are going out with friends and eating unhealthy food, watching a movie, snacking on some junk, or eating because simply bored.
Viewing more foods makes us crave more. As a solution, following healthy food images and influencers might make you stay true to the path of eating healthy. On the other hand, glossy food images may cause unhealthy triggers, and you may crave junk food. By not getting influenced by junk food images, you will be able to link your body to the rhythm of healthy living. Having junk food cravings is normal, but not getting swayed by it is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle. You are aware of your mistakes linked with your unhealthy cravings. However, if you are unaware of it, find your trigger.
If you just cannot control your junk cravings, pick up one healthy habit at a time, starting with simply walking for 1 hour each day. Walking for 1 hour each day will naturally increase the demand for water or eating foods rich in water like watermelon, cucumber, or oranges. Coping up with dehydration or deficiencies and making lifestyle corrections is an excellent way to beat cravings. Not losing determination, some lifestyle changes, and making a promise to yourself can aid in evolving healthier eating habits.
“When you make a promise to yourself, you must keep it. Usually, the promises we make to ourselves are the ones that will fill the gap between where we are and where we want to be.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Why am I craving junk food?
A. There are enormous reasons why you might be craving junk food. Whether you are sleep deprived or high on cortisol levels, depression, stress, peer pressure or skipping your meals might lead to junk food cravings.
Q. What deficiency causes junk food cravings?
A. No pieces of evidence or studies prove that deficiency from a particular nutrient causes or increases the cravings for unhealthy foods. Some surveys were conducted to confirm the controversy of whether or not junk food cravings arise from a specific nutrient; however, the evidence and reports are poor. Instead, junk food cravings occur due to a lack of self-control, habit, stress, skipping meals, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Q. How do I stop craving junk food?
A. Frequent healthy snacks or bite-size snacks can help curb junk food cravings. In addition, you can include healthy alternatives and exercise to live a healthy life. Try to be mindful while eating and follow portion control. Eat fresh fruits and soothing drinks like peppermint tea to beat the hunger. A large glass of water before any meal helps avoid overconsumption of foods.
Q. Why can’t I stop eating junk food?
A. There must be a reason you are subconsciously feeding yourself junk food. Hunger, stress, or something bothering the mental peace, often results in fast food or junk food consumption. Factors like stress or hunger usually calm down when you introduce some new flavour, releasing dopamine hormone. This hormone affects the reward and pleasure centre in our midbrain, making it hard to stop eating junk foods.
Q. Why do I crave food when I’m not hungry?
A. Lack of self-control, rest/quality sleep, and bad eating habits are responsible for this phenomenon. Lack of rest leads to increased levels of ghrelin hormone (hunger hormone) and decreases the levels of leptin hormone(satiety hormone). Therefore, you experience constant food cravings.
Q. What does my body need if I’m craving sugar?
A. If your body is craving sugar, it is a sign that you are high on cortisol levels. Health experts suggest drinking a glass of water curbs sugar cravings. However, if the craving persists, try to eat dark chocolate as it helps reduce stress levels.
Q. Why am I craving carbs all of a sudden?
A. Cravings of any kind are mostly hormonal. For example, every time you are sad, stressed, anxious, or depressed. You will crave carbs and sweets. Because eating these foods releases happy hormones (dopamine) within you.
Q. Why do I crave something sweet after I eat?
A. The habit of eating a dessert after a meal and lack of a balanced diet are a few reasons to crave sweets just after eating something heavy. Another primary reason is that the blood circulation is directed more towards the stomach when you are hungry. Therefore, the moment you eat your meal, the entire energy is utilised to digest the food. During this process, the body might feel the need for an instant energy supply from a glucose source. Most Indians take a pinch of fennel seeds after every meal to beat sugar cravings.
Q. How do I detox after eating junk food?
A. Drinking a glass of lemonade without sugar or a cup of ginger tea or lemon with honey will help you detoxify your body. Infused water, cucumber mint detox water, chamomile tea, green tea, and coconut water are a few good beverages taken for detoxification.
Q. How long does it take for junk food to leave your system?
A. Foods passing through the digestive tract or the entire digestive process takes 24-36 hours. Therefore, it is the same for junk foods. However, excessive consumption of junk foods increases insulin resistance, promoting fat storage and the fat remaining in the system.