We all know how cravings work—you have a hankering for something sweet that only chocolate can fix. Or, your cravings were at bay until you drove by Arby’s and now all you can think about is the smell of a large order of french fries. Junk food can easily trap consumers in a vicious cycle. Unsurprisingly, food companies actually work to keep us in our cravings. Researchers run tests to see which combinations of salty, and sweet, crispy, baked or fried gives consumers that euphoric happy feeling (the same feeling that causes people to dance when they’re eating). Just look at Arby’s nutrition values from their menu. Almost any combination within it produces chemicals released in our brain that mimics that of a drug high—which is why as soon as one craving is satisfied, another pops up.
Taking on an addiction to fatty fast food isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Take a look at your eating habits
Keep a food journal for a week, or simply look back at how you’ve eaten over the last few days. When do you typically eat fast food and why? Whether it’s due to emotional stress, boredom, cravings or simply because it’s on your drive home, analyze what is causing you to reach for a burger and fries. Once you’ve figured that out, move on to figure out how to avert the craving the next time it hits.
You’ve come to terms with why you eat fast food. It’s convenient, or you crave something salty. Counter that reason with a plan. Cook a large meal that will last a few days. Pack the leftovers into serving sized Tupperware, that can easily be popped into the microwave. Instead of ordering a large order of French fries, opt for crunchy carrots sticks dipped in garlicky tahini dressing, or slice an entire cucumber into a small bowl of vinegar with salt and pepper on top. Blend a healthy smoothie for the day to counter the inevitable sweet tooth. By replacing your go-to fatty meal items with healthy alternatives, you not only save calories and nourish your body the right way, but save yourself time.
Only shop the circle
Here’s a tip most supermarkets don’t want you to know: produce, dairy, meat and fish are all located on the outer perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where all of the whole, non-processed foods are kept that provide the real nourishment your body needs. The next time you go grocery shopping try to stick to the outside, avoiding the snacks and sauces aisle, canned good and baking aisles. This is important step in transitioning your body, and taste buds to whole foods. Here’s a mini shopping list:
- Low fat dairy products
- Fresh fish
- Lean protein (eg. Lean ground beef, turkey and chicken breast)
When in doubt, grab fruit
Fruit makes an excellent snack, dessert or meal supplement and here’s why: fruit has natural sugars and is packed with water and fiber—all which work to balance out your bodies sugar levels and keep you from crashing. If you’re struggling with giving up your favorite on-the-go dessert keep a juicy orange or handful of berries on hand. Want the creaminess of a shake without the high fat content? Slice two bananas and freeze them. Once frozen, throw them in a blender with half a cup of fat free milk and a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter. Thank me later!
Fast food doesn’t have to be a habit. Train your taste buds by substituting your cravings for a healthier alternative and before you know it, you’ll be craving fruits and vegetables over pizza and fries any day.