Junk food is the bane of our existence. It’s everywhere: fast-food drive thrus, sit-down restaurants, candy machines and supermarket aisles. This is an almost-impossible “food group” to escape. But if you wish to live a healthy lifestyle, it must be done. There are many perils associated with too much junk food consumption, but there are plenty of ways to avoid it, as well.
Health issues ranging from hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are among the most common ailments associated with excessive junk food consumption. Foods such as cakes, pastries, chips, sodas, donuts, candy, cookies and fast food wrought with trans fatty acids are full of calories, but offer little in the way of nutrient density. These are empty calories and what’s worse is that the high sugar content in many of these foods spikes insulin levels which promote fat storage and leave you craving more of those same types of foods. These calorie and simple sugar dense foods do not promote satiety and send you into a never-ending downward spiral of junk food consumption, followed by obesity and weight gain.
Ways to Avoid Junk Food and Sugary Drinks
The most obvious way to avoid these foods is to refrain from perusing the grocery aisles that contain such foods. Usually candies, cookies, chips and other junk foods are located close to one another in the store. Sometimes avoidance really is the best option. Instead, search for foods that will satisfy your cravings without all the sugar and simple carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth, choose sugar-free chocolates and puddings, as well as Jell-o and fruit-based gelatin and ice cream. If you prefer sour, try eating Olean chips with spinach or artichoke dip. And of course, these should be consumed in moderation.
On Sunday evening, or whenever you begin your workweek, prepare your meals ahead of time. Choose nutrient-dense foods like turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread, Cobb and Caeser salads, or even an occasional healthy frozen meal. This way, you have your food ready by morning to take to work and you don’t have to scramble to prepare something before you leave. The great thing about bringing your healthy lunch is it reduces the temptations of the company vending machine or the fast food place across the street.
For many, company and client lunches and dinners are a necessary part of a job. If it is impossible to avoid eating out, there are plenty of smart choices on menus. If you order a burger, get the smallest one and make sure it’s not loaded with sugary sauces. Have a salad in lieu of french fries. Chicken franchises often have grilled white meat options as well as healthy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower or carrots. Almost every restaurant chain offers a multitude of salads and order with light Italian, vinaigrette, dressing on the side or no dressing at all.
When there is a will there is a way! It is unnecessary to deny all tasty foods, but portion control and overall ratio of nutrient density to empty calories should be much greater for the former than the latter.