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12 Months to Better Health: How to Toss Junk Food From Your Diet

By Sara Butler

Your Body and Junk Food

Can you believe it’s August already? 2022 is zooming by, but hopefully, you’re still working on making small changes to make it the healthiest year yet.

This month the focus is on junk food. Sure, Twinkies and cupcakes and Funyuns are delicious sometimes, but these types of foods shouldn’t be a staple of your diet. If you’ve found yourself in a position where junk food is taking up more room than it should, try a few of these tips to help you go junk food-free starting today.

Here are a few simple ways you can limit junk food’s presence on your plate.

Junk Food: What Is It?

If you want to learn to avoid junk food, then the first step is to understand what junk food is. Essentially, junk food is food that’s high in calories but low in nutritional value. Another aspect of junk food is that it doesn’t satiate you. In other words, you don’t feel full after you eat, which then leads to overeating, which then leads to increased caloric intake … you get where this is going.

One of the biggest problems with junk food in a person’s diet is that it takes the place of other foods that are a lot more nutritious. If your go-to beverage is soda, then you’re probably not getting enough water or other healthful beverages to keep you going. And don’t even get me started on Mountain Dew Baja Blast.

The point is that most junk food falls into one of two categories: fast food or snack food. They may seem innocent enough but fit the definition of food with a lot of calories and little nutritional value that leaves you hungry for more.

Plan Your Snacks

To avoid the siren song of the vending machine in the middle of your workday -- or your kitchen pantry at night -- you must plan ahead. Shop for foods that you can take to work or have stocked at home that makes for good, nutritional snacks.

Some great examples of things to keep around include fruits such as apples, bananas, or pears. If your palate is a little more refined, maybe cheese and whole grain crackers could become your go-to. If you have an international flair, learn to love Greek yogurt with some nuts or fruit thrown in.

Think About Your Drinks

Soda may taste good, but It’s the poster child for empty calories. When you’re thirsty throughout the day, or even if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, water should be your starter. If plain water isn’t your thing, then try to jazz it up with some sparkling water or by adding a bit of fruit or mint to help give it a kick.

Focus on Protein

Your main meals should be focused on protein because it can help you to feel fuller for longer and reduce snacking between meals. You don’t have to go all out with the big three meats -- beef, chicken, and pork -- at each meal to make it satisfying. Try incorporating plant-based protein into your meals with legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, or kidney beans. You can also lean on nuts, eggs, cheese, dairy, and tofu to help you feel full.

Begin With Breakfast

To break your junk food habit, you may only need to learn to appropriately break your fast -- with a good breakfast! Starting off your day with a nutritious breakfast can reduce your cravings for unhealthy foods later in the day. Just make sure to hit a few of the major food groups with your breakfast by including whole grains such as oats, protein such as eggs or peanut butter, and healthy fat such as Greek yogurt.

Find the Right Replacement

Not ready to say goodbye to your favorite chips or cookies? Simply get creative and find a swap that is sure to satisfy your cravings. For example, you can replace chips with popcorn or sweets with fruit. There are all sorts of ways to get the crunch or the taste you crave with foods that actually have real nutritional value, it just takes some ingenuity! And keep in mind that the transformation doesn’t have to take place overnight -- work on it over the course of a month as part of your health journey.

Don’t Buy It

One of the most effective strategies for limiting junk food in your life is by not buying it. If you’re really craving something, purchase it in the snack size portion so you don’t go overboard. However, avoiding it in your grocery cart altogether is the most effective way not to eat it. If ice cream is your weakness, avoid that aisle in the store. You may be surprised how your cravings go down when you haven’t had your favorite candy bar in a while.

There are so many ways you can eat better and cut the junk from your life. The bottom line is that you must have more of the good stuff around that’s ready to eat. Making small changes like these can result in big rewards when it comes to your health and wellness, so endeavor to reduce the junk food in your life this month to continue making 2022 the best year ever!

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