We all know that junk food is bad for us – I mean, it’s called junk food. But in today’s culture you can’t escape it. The temptation is everywhere! It’s usually fast, easy, and tastes good. Some studies have even shown that junk food addiction is real, with pretty much the same symptoms as drug addiction.
So how can we fight it?
Well, quitting cold turkey on all junk food can be nearly impossible. Instead, we’ve created this 4 week challenge that eliminates different types and sources of junk food one week at a time, so you can actually change your eating habits for good.
By the end of the 4 weeks, you’ll have revamped your diet and be reaping all of the awesome benefits of healthy eating.
First of all, let’s go over all of the different benefits of eliminating and reducing junk food in your diet:
- Weight loss
- Improved mood
- Higher energy levels
- Clearer skin
- Decreased risk for heart disease
- Decreased risk for type 2 diabetes
- Belief in your ability to improve your diet and your health
So not only does quitting junk food help with the immediate reward of losing weight and looking better, but it can dramatically improve your overall quality of life.
Ready to get started and kick your junk food habit for good?
Don’t buy any junk food when you’re buying groceries.
Week one starts at the grocery store. Since one of the hardest things about changing habits is willpower, we’re going to start by focusing on what you buy at the grocery store. This only requires about one hour of willpower.
Here’s the deal:
Think about what you normally eat and what you normally buy, and swap out all junk food for healthier options. Do you normally buy a big bag of chips to snack on? Switch it for fresh cut veggies and hummus. Do you buy muffins for breakfast? Get whole wheat english muffins and natural peanut butter instead.
Make sure to actually find replacements for all of your normal junk food so that you don’t end up just eating out more or going to the vending machine more often. And the best snacks and meals combine healthy fats, lean protein, and good carbs to keep you satisfied and full.
Nuts are a great example of a healthy, filling snack. They’re one of my go-to’s, but just be careful not to overeat. Even with healthy foods, total calories are important.
Pro Tip: Most of your groceries should come from the outside edge of the grocery store – think fresh fruits and vegetables, the meat counter, eggs and dairy. Stay away from all those processed foods in the middle aisles.
Swap out refined carbs for whole wheat versions.
Week two starts again at the grocery store and then moves on to incorporate healthy choices throughout the week. On your weekly grocery run, swap out any refined carbs (white bread, pastas, bagels, rice, etc.) for the whole wheat version.
Pro Tip: Check the ingredient label! Sometimes labels will trick you and claim to be something they’re not, like “multi grain” bread where the first ingredient is white flour. Make sure whole wheat is the first ingredient on the list.
Then throughout the week, make the swap for any food outside of work as well. Grabbing a bagel with your coffee? Make it whole wheat. Out at lunch with a friend? Get your sandwich on wheat bread.
While you may not think of refined carbs as junk food, they can be one of the biggest sources of sugar in our diets and contribute to weight gain. This is because refined carbs have been stripped of all fiber and nutrients. They are digested very quickly, causing a rapid rise (and consequent decline) in blood sugar levels, which has been linked to overeating and weight gain.
Eliminate sugary drinks.
Sugary drinks have been repeatedly linked to obesity and weight gain. They add unnecessary sugar and calories to our diets, often without providing any nutritional value, and they usually don’t even make us feel full.
This week we’re cutting them out.
This means no:
- Diet soda
- Flavored lattes, coffees, frappuccinos, etc.
- Sweetened tea
- Gatorade or other sports drinks
- Fruit juices
This even means no sugar or cream in your coffee. If you really can’t drink it black, try using a little milk instead of cream and sugar, and ideally you will eventually be able to wean yourself off that as well.
What can you drink instead? Plain old water is our favorite, but here are some alternative ideas if you need some more flavor in your drink:
- Mineral water (check outthis article for all of the great health benefits of mineral water)
- Unsweetened tea
- Infused water (cut up fruit or veggies in water to give it a burst of flavor)
- Black coffee
Pro Tip: Drink at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day. It’s been proven to help with weight loss, muscle performance, and digestion, to name just a few of the benefits.
Eliminate all bad snacks.
By now you’re buying healthy food and making smart swaps when you’re eating out. You’ve replaced your morning latte with whipped cream with coffee and milk, and you’ve changed your afternoon Diet Coke to a cup of green tea.
The last step is to eliminate all of those other, lingering sources of junk food.
The office candy jar? Time to say no.
Friends ordering nachos as an appetizer? Start with a salad instead.
These are the situations that usually require the most willpower, which is why we’ve saved them for last. By now, you’ll hopefully have started to see some of the benefits of reducing junk food, like weight loss or increased energy.
Pro Tip: Try reaching for a piece of sugar-free chewing gum next time you’re faced with unexpected junk food temptation. Research from the University of Rhode Island showed that chewing gum can satisfy cravings and help people resist fattening treats.
Those early wins will make it easier to say no to all of the junk food that crosses your path every day. Remember how great you feel when you are eating healthy, and think about how proud of yourself you’ll feel for sticking to the challenge.
You did it!
That’s it – the whole four weeks.
If you follow this challenge, by the end of the four weeks you’ll be looking and feeling better. You’ll have reduced the amount of junk food you’ve been eating, and replaced it with high-quality, nutritious and filling foods.
Plus, you’ll know that you’re capable of resisting temptations and making healthy choices.
To recap, the four weeks are:
- Don’t buy any junk food when you’re buying groceries.
- Swap out refined carbs for whole wheat versions.
- Eliminate sugary drinks.
- Eliminate all bad snacks.
Interested? Want to try this challenge with a friend? Let us know in the comments, and send this to a friend to complete the challenge with you!