Breaking habits can be even harder than starting new habits, wouldn't you agree? Especially when those habits are related to food and health. If you tend to gravitate toward unhealthy junk foods, it can be a struggle to change your eating habits and incorporate healthier items.
Junk food is addictive by design and quitting cold turkey can be tough. But don’t worry! There are several tricks you can implement to ditch the junk food habit and start incorporating healthy, whole foods.
Go gradually with your cutbacks
Junk food is loaded with sugar which is an extremely addictive substance! And don’t be fooled - sugar doesn’t have to be sweet. Starchy foods or simple carbohydrates like processed grains and white potato all turn into sugar when you ingest them, so these are included in the sugary foods category. Start by reducing the amounts of these junk foods that are currently in your diet. You’ll get less of a high from them, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your healthy eating goals. Swap the sugar in your coffee for stevia or monk fruit, or switch out your junky snacks each day with a snack that’s protein, healthy fat, or veggie based. Whatever small step you choose, stick with it until you're comfortable with your new healthy habit, then move on to your next one. It works like a charm!
Avoid buying foods with more than five ingredients
In the supermarket, you should mainly roam the fresh aisles where the produce and unprocessed foods are. However, there are still staples you’ll need from the inner aisles. Read those labels when you find items in those inner aisles, and try to find the healthiest option possible of what you're shopping for. The fewer ingredients and the more you can pronounce those ingredients, the better.
Add more colors and textures to your plate
A salad isn’t exactly appealing or satisfying if you just throw soggy lettuce in a bowl. Instead, make it a rainbow of colors and a playground of textures. Add tomatoes, colorful peppers, crunchy nuts, and even a bit of quinoa to please your palate. Make your own dressing or choose one like Bragg’s Ginger & Sesame Dressing (my personal fave) that contains extra virgin olive oil to ramp up the flavor and add healthy fats so you can absorb those fat-soluble vitamins in your veggies.
Break your bad habit cycles & Create New Rituals
If you always ventured to the vending machine at work in the mid-afternoon, break the association with that by starting a healthier habit and creating a new, pleasurable ritual for yourself . Take a walk that keeps you away from that vending machine, for example and if possible, get outside into the fresh air for a brisk walk. I also like to make a cup of herbal tea with just a few drops of stevia to satisfy afternoon sweets cravings. It will only take a few weeks to replace that old bad habit with a good one, and you'll be feeling so good about your swapped habit that you'll be ready to tackle your next habit swap.
Make healthy foods more accessible
You’re more likely to eat right when you’ve got a healthy snack ready to go. Bag up portions of mixed nuts, make your own trail mix, and keep cut up veggies (slice this up when you’re already making a meal) with hummus or guacamole around and you’ll always have a healthy go-to snack.
Don’t keep junk in the house
To make the switch complete, keeping those junky items out of your house is key. That way if you get a craving at midnight, you won’t be likely to run out and get it. You’ll train yourself to save sweets and treats for special occasions instead of for late night snacks.
Allow yourself to be disgusted
A great way to make the change to eating less processed foods is to really learn what’s in them. Go ahead, pull those packaged foods out and research the labels. Look up all the ingredients you can’t pronounce. They sound much less delicious now, don’t they?
Be patient and kind with yourself, too. Your inner voice needs your nurturing to make this change for the better. When we beat ourselves up or engage in negative self-talk, it creates more stress and anxiety which fuels those cravings and leaves you wanting to self-soothe. Be kind to yourself and remember that you’re only ever 1 meal away from being back on track!