We all know the negative effects of junk food on our health and lifestyle but quitting it is always a totally different story – and it’s not exactly a question of using willpower otherwise more people would have quit already.

“Junk food” is a slang word often used for foods with limited nutritional value. Every person has their own list of foods that they call “junk foods”. It usually includes foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat or energy and have a low nutrient content. Some of the major “junk foods” can include salted snack foods like crisps, sweets, chocolate bars, desserts, pies, fried fast foods and carbonated beverages.

No More Excuses – cutting back!

Quitting these foods doesn’t happen overnight. So plan well. Cut down slowly over time. For example, if you eat junk food more than once a week, cut down to once a week. Then cut down to twice a month and then limit to the occasional meal. Here are some tips on making smarter choices, while cutting back:

  • Make careful menu selections – pay attention to the descriptions on the menu. Dishes labelled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin or in cream sauce are usually higher in kilojoules, unhealthy fats or sodium.
  • Watch portion size. An average fast food meal can run to 4000 kilojoules or more, so choose a smaller portion size, order a side salad instead of fries, and don’t supersize anything.
  • “Undress” your food. When choosing items, be aware of kilojoule- and fat-packed salad dressings or sauces, cheeses and sour cream. For example, ask for a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayonnaise. You can ask for a packet of tomato sauce or mustard and add it yourself, controlling how much you put on your sandwich.
  • Drink water with your meal. Fizzy drinks are a huge source of hidden energy. One 500ml cola drink packs about 900 kilojoules and 10 teaspoons of sugar.

No More Excuses – forward planning!

Planning helps you pull your own fast-food act together. Here are tips to show you how – whether you’re at home, at work or on the road. Now it’s time to shop. Consider stocking these foods for easier access and smarter choices.

Shopping List for Quick Meals and Healthier Snacking

Pack in your kitchen cupboard, office drawer or car:

  • Low GI Muesli
  • Whole-wheat Pita breads
  • Wholegrain biscuits
  • Rye biscuits
  • Two minute noodles with ‘No added MSG’ – turf the ‘flavouring sachet’ and add a packet of tuna
  • Dried fruit bars
  • Peanuts and raisins
  • Tin of Baked beans
  • Tin of Soup
  • Tin of Tuna and pilchards

Pack in your fridge or cooler bag:

  • Low fat cheeses
  • Hummus
  • Packets of tuna
  • Peanut butter – try the sugar and salt free variety, you won’t be disappointed!
  • Low fat or fat-free Yoghurts
  • Fresh seasonal fruits
  • Crudité vegetables

Take the ‘fast’ out of fast food and eat your meal slowly. Enjoy what you’re eating and stop when your hunger is satisfied.