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Eight ways to cut the junk food

Having a treat from time to time is part of a balanced approach to eating and living well. Follow these tips to cut junk food from your day and save it as a treat – you will actually enjoy these foods more and your body will love you for it!

Junk foods like chips, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, lollies and sugary drinks are highly processed, high in energy and low in nutrients. Unfortunately, these foods and drinks don’t add any value, just lots of added sugar, saturated fat and salt

Despite being enjoyable to eat, it can be easy to overeat when you snack on foods and have sugary drinks that don’t satisfy. You may notice the more you have, the more you crave them. Although the research is unclear, some studies have suggested that junk foods (particularly sugary foods) are as addictive as alcohol and drugs.

Ditching junk food will save you money and help you to feel energised, happier, and motivated to be healthier.  

Here are eight ways to get you started.

1. Plan your snacks

Having a piece of fruit, yoghurt, nuts or some crackers and cheese in your bag or the fridge (at home or work) will stop you from grabbing something less healthy on the run.

healthy snack ideas

2. Think before you drink.

Carry a water bottle, keep it filled and when you’re thirsty, drink water instead of soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks or energy drinks. If you don’t like water from the tap then try it chilled, sparkling or add lemon and mint to give some flavour.

Glass of water

3. Base meals around protein

Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans, baked beans, lentils etc), nuts, tofu, lean meat, chicken, eggs, fish, cheese, yoghurt and milk help you to feel full for longer and less likely to want to snack on junk between meals.

base meals around protein

4. Start your day on the right foot

A nutritious breakfast will set you up and stop you craving unhealthy foods for the rest of the day. Go for porridge, an omelette, baked beans, a smoothie, peanut butter on wholegrain toast or yoghurt and fruit to keep you satisfied. If you’re in a hurry, a banana or piece of wholegrain toast are easy to eat on the go.

healthy breakfast

5. Make healthier swaps

The less processed the better and fresh is best. Cutting out junk doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food. In fact, there are plenty of swaps to healthier foods that taste just as good.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Swap a chocolate bar to a nut bar or handful of nuts.
  • Swap a bag of chips to a bag of unbuttered popcorn (even better if homemade).
  • Swap biscuits to making your own with real fruit, oats and less sugar.
  • Swap lollies to frozen blueberries or a handful of grapes.
  • Swap savoury snacks to wholegrain crackers with cheese or hummus.

Popcorn snack

6. Practise mindful eating

Avoid snacking on junk food in front of the TV, while driving or being on your phone. To avoid filling up on less healthy foods and overeating, try to eat your meals at the table and turn off your screen e.g. TV, phone, iPad. This will help you to pay attention to what, when and how much you’re eating. If you do have a treat, focus on the delicious taste – you’ll enjoy it more and be less likely to overeat.

mindful eating

7. Buy less junk food

It’s easy to get tempted by bargains at the supermarket like big bags of chips or king-sized chocolate bars – but you just end up eating more. Buy junk food in ‘snack-sized’ packets only when you really crave it instead of featuring it in the weekly shopping.

Food in trolley

8. Save takeaways as a treat

 Although there are lots of healthier fast food options these days, most takeaways tempt us with soft drinks, up-sizing and extras like cookies and desserts. An easy way to cut down the junk food is to save takeaways as a treat and take your lunch to work. 

Takeaway food and salad

As you can see there are plenty of ways to eat a heart healthy diet. All foods can be included – it’s just about having more of the stuff that’s good for your body and less of the refined and processed junk food. The more whole, less-processed foods you eat on a regular basis like vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds – the better!

Get more nutrition facts

Lily Henderson, NZRD

Lily Henderson, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

I am passionate about improving the health of all Kiwis from young through to old. I have enjoyed working in nutrition in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.