If you want to figure out how to stop junk food cravings for good, you have to break the belief that willpower is the answer.

 

Willpower, unfortunately, is not a good long-term strategy.

Since willpower constantly has to be restored after depletion, you run the potential of losing all self-control during times or low or depleted willpower.

The real answer is something that takes a lot more time and a lot more consistency:

Habits.

Yes, as unsexy as it sounds, the key to figuring out how to stop junk food cravings (especially when you’re not hungry) lies in your habits.

Because let’s face it—we all know on some level that what we eat directly affects how we feel and perform throughout the day.

Most of us are really good at tuning out all those overly emphasized health-related rules that we all know we should follow but never do, because we tend to choose instant gratification over struggle and sacrifice needed for future results.

Terribly strong cravings, in particular, are the worst for derailing your efforts—even if you are motivated and you’ve fully accepted the struggle and time it might take to improve your health.

Really bad cravings will make sure it won’t happen.

I was compelled to write this because last week my cravings were especially worse than usual.

I’ve also suffered from a few extremely bad episodes of binge eating disorder throughout my past thanks to prolonged periods of over-exercising and under-eating, so I know firsthand how hopeless it can seem when you feel like you’re losing your mind to food.

The fact that I felt some subtle cravings surfacing again for the first time in a long time last week was the signal I needed to start making some changes to fix them before they got worse.

On that note, let me state those two points I want to make very clear:

Giving in to food cravings doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you lack self-control.

It means that your brain is receiving the signal to ramp up its need for calories, macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, or other specific nutrients in response to stress.

 

Cravings are all inside your head, and they don’t have anything to do with the “below the neck” hunger you feel in your stomach.

 

You can control (or really neutralize) your cravings if you can figure out what’s triggering them.

Cravings are usually triggered by mental or physical stressors that either throw off your hormones or make you emotional (or both).

In my case, I was experiencing more anxiety with my work than usual and I was also exercising a lot—just the tipping point my stress hormones needed to create the perfect storm for a binge on anything crunchy, chocolatey, salty, or sweet that might be nearby.

I encourage you to take some time to think about what’s going on in your life that may be causing you to crave things that aren’t part of a normal appetite.

Your cravings could be caused by:

  • Too much exercise
  • Too little food calories
  • Nutrient deficiencies (protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and/or minerals)
  • Sleep deprivation or sleep cycle disruption
  • Stress at work or school
  • Stress at home, with your family/friends, or elsewhere in your personal life
  • Boredom
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Mental illness
  • Physical illness/conditions
  • Environmental factors

Using myself as an example, I knew that work, exercise, and calorie restriction (a combination of both mental and physical stressors) were causing my anxiety and cravings.

Since it wasn’t as severe as I’ve experienced in the past, I decided to take a three-day break on almost all of those things.

I didn’t work out, I ate as normal as I could without going totally overboard, and I straightened out what I needed to do with all stuff I piled on myself at once for work.

Figuring out what your own craving triggers might be is important if you want to get rid of them, and depending on how severe they are, you may need a longer recovery period and possibly even professional help.

In many cases, however, most people probably just need to find better ways to relax and rest up while they maintain as much control as they can over making proper food choices while the cravings are still there.

 

The more you give in to your cravings for sugar-filled, processed foods, the more your brain gets hooked and sends you the signal to eat more, which is why it’s best to work at breaking the cycle as soon as you recognize it.

 

So, how do you cope when you’re right in the moment, within arm’s reach of a bag of chips of box of cookies that your brain is just screaming for?

Well, if you place more value on how you want to feel in the future than how you want to feel in the present, then you’ll probably search for some type of distraction or healthier substitute.

Here’s a detailed list of my favourite “food hacks” that can help teach your mind and body to learn how to stop craving junk food.

 

How to stop craving junk food by following these top 10 food hacks

Food Hack #1: Have 1 to 2 squares of dark chocolate every day for a serious mood lifter and comforting effect.

 

I’m a hopelessly addicted chocoholic, so 90% of the time, my cravings drive me to grab a handful of chocolate chips, M&Ms, cookies, or anything else that has enough of that magical, delicious ingredient.

Cocoa in its purest form (powder or bar), however, is incredibly healthy for your heart, brain, and blood pressure—so long as you consume it without the added sugar, starch, salt, oils, chemicals, and preservatives—you’re actually doing your body a favour.

 

Dark Chocolate Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Besides the fact that chocolate is simply great for satisfying your tastebuds, it’s also one of the most powerful mood-lifting foods for its naturally-occurring compounds that boost the production of “pleasure” hormones, including serotonin and dopamine.

In addition to that, you also get a nice release of feel-good endorphins too, triggered by the phenethylamine compound that contained in cocoa.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Go for bars of dark chocolate that are at least 70 percent cocoa.

Alternatively, get some pure cocoa in powder form and make a healthy cup of hot chocolate by adding a tablespoon to a mug, pouring boiled water over it, and stirring in a couple packets of Stevia sweetener.

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave chocolate (obviously)
  • Crave sweet stuff
  • Want emotional comfort
  • Need a mood-boosting pick-me-up

WARNING:

  • Avoid binging on chocolate if your craving for chocolate is strong.
  • Be mindful of calories in dark chocolate bars.
  • Cocoa is also an appetite suppressant, so eating or drinking too much can make you quite full.

Food Hack #2: Balance out cravings for sugary sweets with citrus fruits.

 

Citrus fruits—especially the sour kind like lemon, lime, and grapefruit—are my second secret weapon for battling a strong sweet tooth.

Orange Nutrition Facts

WHY IT WORKS:

When you regularly turn to citrus fruits instead of sweets, over time they’ll have a profound neutralizing effect on your sugar cravings.

It might sound counterintuitive to use something tangy, tart, or sour to battle sugar cravings , but sometimes the opposite of what you want is exactly what you need to offset it.

I’ve heard of real cases where people who consumed lemon juice instead of sweet stuff ended up killing their sugar cravings permanently in a matter of weeks.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Squeeze it into a cold glass of plain water or a hot cup of herbal tea.

Or add it to a fruit smoothie for an extra burst of citrusy flavour.

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Have an unshakeable desire to eat sweets
  • Want a more complete and natural source of vitamin C
  • Could stand to up your water intake

WARNING:

  • Citrus fruits are acidic, so be aware that if you’re digestive system is sensitive, consider sipping it through a straw to protect your tooth enamel.

Food Hack #3: Fill up on Greek yogurt when you’re feeling stressed.

 

The best thing about plain Greek yogurt is that it’s packed with protein, calcium, and probiotics—and there are so many different things you can do with it.

 

Greek Yogurt Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Greek yogurt is high in vitamin B12 — a natural energy booster and beneficial for brain function, too.

Calcium has also been linked to the regulation of cortisol (a stress hormone) and Greek yogurt is full of it.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

The most common way to enjoy Greek yogurt is with fruit, but you can add it to smoothies, mix it with your favourite protein powder, or even use it as a substitute for sour cream.

I personally love whipping up this super simple, super delicious Greek yogurt veggie dip recipe to serve with fresh veggies.

 

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave something creamy
  • Crave a bit of fat (go for the 2% plain Greek yogurt)
  • Could stand to up your protein intake
  • Need a healthy substitute that still tastes like dessert

WARNING:

  • Avoid flavoured types of Greek yogurt, which usually contain a ton of sugar.
  • Consider looking for lactose-free types if you’re sensitive to dairy products.

Food Hack #4: An apple a day keeps the sugar cravings away.

 

Have you ever bitten into a really ripe, fresh apple with such an incredible flavour and the perfect crispy texture that it just kind of took you by surprise and satisfied you in a way that refined sugar and corn syrup just can’t pull off?

If not, you need to start hunting around for better apples.

Might I suggest your local farmers’ market?

 

Apple Nutrition Facts

WHY IT WORKS:

Apples are full of water, full of soluble fibre, packed with naturally-occurring fructose, and they’re wonderfully crunchy.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Eat it raw and whole! Skin and everything.

Cut it up into sliced wedges if you’re not a fan of biting into the sides with your teeth.

It’s also delicious with a tablespoon of natural nut butter or some cottage cheese

 

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave something sweet
  • Crave something crunchy
  • Could stand to up your fruit and veggie intake

WARNING:

  • Apples are part of the “dirty dozen” group of fruits and veggies, so if you can afford it, aim to buy organic apples to avoid consuming pesticides.

Food Hack #5: When you just want to eat a lot, gorge yourself on an assortment of fresh berries—without the guilt!

 

Honestly, I’d choose berries over regular candy any day and if that makes me lame or boring, I don’t even care because at least I’d be healthy.

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries—you name it, they’re all delicious.

And now that summer’s coming up and they’ll be in season, you’ll have no excuse not to stock up on those large, discounted packages of berries (or grab them locally grown from the farmers’ market while you can).

 

Strawberry Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Despite being sweet like real candy, berries are low on the glycemic index—making them the perfect go-to snack for satisfying a sweet tooth.

Like apples, berries are full of water and fibre—so you can gorge on them without making much of a dent in calories and you never have to worry about experiencing a sugar crash later on. 

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

My favourite way to eat berries is with plain Greek yogurt, or with oatmeal for breakfast.

You can even buy them frozen so you don’t have to worry about them spoiling, and then add them to your blender with some ice and other desired ingredients to make a smoothie.

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave something sweet, especially candy
  • Need to get more fruit in your diet
  • Need to keep your calories on the low end

WARNING:

  • Wash them really well or buy them organic to avoid consuming harmful pesticides.

 

Food Hack #6: Combat cravings for salty and crunchy foods with a handful of mixed nuts. 

 

Opposite to berries for sweetness and juiciness, nuts are great for satisfying any craving for saltiness or crunchiness.

They’re also portable and have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, so you can keep them in your cupboard for months and throw them in a small bag any time to take with you wherever you go.

 

Nuts Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Anyone who doesn’t get enough good fat in their diet will probably start to crave it, and nuts are a number one source where you can get it.

Popular types of nuts like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, and chestnuts nourish your body with all sorts of good stuff including calcium iron, selenium, magnesium, B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, vitamin E, vitamin C, and tons more nutrients.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Eat them raw, or even lightly salted.

Sometimes I like to add one tablespoon of semisweet chocolate chips for a sweet and salty snack, as long as I’m not eating 1,000 calories in a single serving.

Organic nut butters are another fabulous option.
 

 CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Aren’t getting much healthy fat in your diet
  • Crave crunchy, salty foods
  • Need a portable snack
  • Have a good amount of room for more calories

WARNING:

  • Since nuts are high in fat, they’re also high in calories, so mind your portions.
  • Avoid nut mixtures that contain tons of salt, tons of oil, dried fruit, or sugar-filled candy/chocolate pieces.

Food Hack #7: Go for high-quality cheeses when you really want to reach for the sweets.

 

Cheese!

I love cheese.

Who doesn’t love cheese?

Not you, I hope.

 

Mozerella Cheese Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Just like Greek yogurt, cheese is rich in calcium, protein, fat, and other nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Since you can get a variety of different kinds with all sorts of flavours from mild to strong, they do a great job at satisfying cravings for almost anything—especially sweet stuff.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Depending on what type of cheese you choose and what form it comes in, you can eat it with almost anything.

I personally love cottage cheese for being higher in protein—eaten with berries, apples, or a couple tablespoons of salsa.

I also love to sprinkle grated parmesan over pretty much everything (salad, chilli, pasta), and I often spread light Laughing Cow Cheese over rice crackers, celery, or toast as a cream cheese substitute.

 

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave sweetness, saltiness, or creaminess
  • Need more fat or protein in your diet
  • Need something with a strong, pungent flavour

WARNING:

  • Not all cheeses are equal, so be careful of types that are very high in fat, lack nutrients, and contain lots of mysterious ingredients or chemicals.

Food Hack #8: Have 1 to 2 servings of wild Pacific salmon per week to help combat stress and any fatty-acid deficiencies.

 

Are you craving more cheese (or fatty foods) than you should have?

If so, you could be deficient in essential fatty acids or tyramine.

Oily, cold water fish like wild sockeye salmon, mackerel, and trout are packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids that will benefit your body (and brain) more than you know.

Salmon Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in salmon help fight inflammation all throughout the body, making it especially good for you if you’re suffering from mental stress (like at work) or physical stress (like heavy weight lifting).

Salmon is also rich in B vitamins and protein, so you get a punch of nutrients plus the extra added bonus of feeling fuller for longer.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

I love getting frozen salmon filets, defrosting them overnight in the fridge, and then baking them in the oven at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes (optionally wrapping them up in foil).

For seasoning, I brush them with olive oil and then sprinkle a bit of garlic powder, low-sodium salmon seasoning, and sometimes dried chives or parsley.

I also love making salmon patties with the canned stuff.
 

CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave cheese or fatty foods
  • Need a brain boost
  • Are suffering from stress
  • Need to fill up on protein to feel full

WARNING:

  • Avoid farmed salmon (typically from the Atlantic) since it doesn’t offer nearly anywhere near the same nutritional benefits of wild-caught, Pacific salmon.

Food Hack #9: Neutralize stronger cravings for high-carb grains like bread and pasta with half an avocado.

 

If you’re following a low-carb kind of diet, then you probably know how hard it can be to try to resist all those delicious bagels, sandwiches, wraps, pastries, and pasta dishes.

Cravings for carbs might be especially strong in the evening or when you’re tired.

Avocados might not seem like an obvious answer to this problem, but trust me—you might be surprised!

Avocado Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fat, are packed with fiber, are low in sugar, and contain more potassium than bananas.

They’re simply nutritional powerhouses that can act as a buffer when trying to resist high-carb foods.

Believe it or not, research has actually shown that replacing high-carb foods with avocados can increase satiety.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Chop up some avocado and throw them in a salad or your smoothie.

Make guacamole out of it and serve with fresh veggies.

You can even whip up healthier desserts with avocados—like chocolate mousse, cookies, and brownies.

 CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Crave carbs like bread and pasta
  • Are trying to stick to a low-carb diet
  • Could use more fiber in your diet

WARNING:

  • Avocados are high in calories, so if you’re watching your overall calorie intake, consider having as much as half an avocado per day.

Food Hack #10: Eat your beans if you constantly feel famished.

 

You have the option to gorge yourself on berries when you can’t get enough food, but if it’s a regular feeling throughout the day (and every day), then chances are you aren’t getting enough protein.

Beans are a solution.

Now before I go on, I understand that lots of trend diets today like keto, paleo, and Whole30 have you avoid beans and legumes altogether.

I’m not going to argue with those guidelines, and I’m not going to tell you what to do, but what I will say is that I think beans (and legumes in general) are generally more beneficial for good health than deterimental.

 

Edamame Nutrition Facts

 

WHY IT WORKS:

Beans are one of the best vegan sources of protein and are extremely high in fiber—two components you need to feel fuller for longer.

It turns out that plant-based protein from beans/legumes might even be more satiating than animal-based protein.

One study showed that appetite, hunger, prospective food consumption, and fullness were lower when study participants consumed more legumes than animal protein.

HOW TO PREPARE IT:

Eat a good variety—including kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame beans and any other type of bean that tickles your fancy.

In the summer, I like to throw them in my salads.

In the winter, I love adding them to soups, stews, and of course chilis.

 CONSUME IT WHEN YOU:

  • Can’t seem to eat enough food
  • Have some wiggle room with your carb intake
  • Need digestive support (yay fiber!)

WARNING:

  • Beans and legumes are known to cause inflammation in some people, so your best bet is to try adding them gradually into your diet and tracking how you feel.

Cheesy roasted chickpeas to snack on at workThe Best Cheesy Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

Want to try a seriously amazing way to enjoy more beans? Check out my Cheesy Roasted Chickpea Recipe if you want some crunch! This is the perfect snack for when you’re close to grabbing a bag of chips.

Combine these top 10 food hacks with stress relieving methods to figure out how to stop craving junk food… maybe for good!

 

When it comes to figuring out exactly how to stop craving junk food, diet is key—but so is stress management.

The more stressed you are, the more your body will cry out for high-fat, high-carb comfort foods.

Remember that stress comes in all sorts of different forms—from sleep deprivation, to work overload, to nutrient deficiencies, to over training with your workouts.

It’s up to you to identify where the stress is too much, and then do what you need to do to minimize.

If you’re looking for some general stress management advice, make sure to check out my 5-Step Quick Method for Instant Stress Relief.

If you have a good tip for resisting the temptation of junk food, leave a comment!

I’d love to hear what works for you.

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