9 Ways You Can Beat Junk Food Cravings

Cravings for junk foods can seem to come out of nowhere. One minute you feel satisfied and the next you feel like your whole body is begging for a peanut butter cup or bowl of ice cream.

Of course, it’s ideal when you might crave apples, blueberries, or green beans because they’re low in calories and packed with nutrients. The issue arises when you feel like you need something sweet, salty, or high in fat in order to be satisfied. At times, you might even crave all three at once.

You can either fight junk food cravings or indulge. It's perfectly OK to allow yourself a treat every now and then, especially when you choose small portions that allow you to stay within your calorie requirement for the day. But when junk food cravings turn into binges, you run the risk of weight gain and you're overindulging in foods that just aren’t very good for you. Here are some helpful tips to help curb your cravings for junk food.


Deal With Your Trigger Foods


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It’s much easier to give in to temptation when the food you crave is within easy reach. So don’t keep unhealthy foods you tend to crave in your kitchen or at your desk at work. This doesn't mean you can’t keep any treats in the house, but select goodies that are easier for you to manage. Don’t stock up on chocolate chip cookies if you can’t seem to walk by without eating the whole package.


Don't Skip Meals

Loving couple in the kitchen eating breakfast
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When your stomach isn't growling it can make it a lot easier to ward off any cravings, so don't skip your regular meals. Start with a healthy breakfast and follow up with a nutritious lunch and dinner. And it’s OK to include some snacks as long as they’re good for you and you're still within your calorie count.


Consider Whether It's Craving or Hunger

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There’s a difference between having the physical feelings of hunger and the mental and emotional feelings of craving something. If you’re hungry and it’s not close to mealtime, you should probably eat something. If you’re not really hungry, then try some crave-busting distraction techniques, coming up next.​


Drink Water or a Low Calorie Beverage

Woman drinking water
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Drinking a tall glass of water might serve as a distraction or help you to remain adequately hydrated. When you are dehydrated, it is possible to feel hungrier than usual. Making sure you get at least 8 cups of water a day may help to keep cravings at bay. If plain water sounds boring, add a slice or two of lemon, lime, or cucumber.


Go for a Walk

mature couple walking with dog

Here’s another distraction that has health benefits. Stave off your cravings with a little exercise and go outside for a walk. If you can’t or don’t want to go outside, do a few minutes of calisthenics. Besides serving as a distraction, physical activity might help reduce the stress that could be contributing to your cravings.


Get Enough Sleep

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Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep daily. It's easier to fight cravings when you have adequate sleep. In fact, evidence shows that not getting enough sleep can lead to increased cravings for junk food and weight gain. If you can't get enough sleep during the evening, a nap may be helpful during the day as long as it doesn't disrupt your next night's sleep.


Manage Your Stress

woman stressed

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High stress levels can lead to many problems, including cravings for junk food. Consider seeing a therapist or finding outlets to help you manage your stress. If stress leads to junk food and overconsumption of calories, then seeking a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be helpful as well.


Phone a Friend

Attractive overweight woman at home lying on couch, holding smart phone, texting.
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Call or text a friend or family member who you can talk to about your craving. You may also want to have a registered dietitian on-board, especially if you're trying to lose weight. It’s always nice to have someone in your corner who can support your efforts to improve your health.


Choose the Most Nutritious Snack Options

Wooden container with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
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There are plenty of nutrient-dense, whole foods that can satisfy a craving for something sweet or salty. Fresh berries, a fruit smoothie, peanut butter on a celery stick, or one slice of whole grain toast with almond butter can help conquer cravings for junk food and add important nutritional value. 

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.