How to kick that junk food habit

According to a survey by marketing experts Mintel, 47 percent of Brits say taxing unhealthy food and drink to make it more expensive would encourage them to cut back. 

Younger people may be more likely to stay away from sugary, fatty foods, with 54 percent of 16-34-year-olds saying their eating habits would be affected by a junk food tax compared with 42 percent of people aged 45 and older. 

But if you’ve spent years cultivating a taste for burgers and biscuits, giving them up could be more difficult than you think. Some experts even believe foods that are high in fat and sugar may actually be physically addictive.

Would a junk food tax make you eat more healthily?

Thankfully there are a few things you can do that may help you break your habit – or at least make the transition from junk food to a healthy, balanced diet as smooth as possible:

Start slowly   Wean yourself off junk foods gradually. If you decide to stop suddenly there’s a good chance you’ll suffer from headaches or feel tired and down in the dumps. And that could lead you back to your unhealthy food habits.

Little and often   If you’re a die-hard fast food fan your blood sugar levels may be all over the place. Eating healthy snacks between meals may help keep sugar cravings at bay.

Find alternatives   There are healthy alternatives to the type of fat and sugar found in fast food, and they could help you kick the habit. For instance, if you need a sugar fix, get it from fruit. Or if you’re craving fatty foods, a drizzle of olive oil over your veggies may help make you feel more satisfied.

Avoid stress   If you tend to crave unhealthy comfort foods whenever you’re under pressure, avoiding stressful situations may be a good idea. And when it’s impossible to avoid stress altogether, try to learn other ways of coping (for instance, try a meditation app such as Headspace to pick up ways of staying calm). 

Work it off   If you miss the buzz you get from fast food, get active, as exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Go for a run, do some kettlebell swings or dance yourself dizzy – you’ll feel all the better for it. 

What else did the survey say?

The Mintel survey also unearthed a few other interesting findings about our attitudes to junk food, including the following:

• 56 percent of Brits say they’d cut down on junk foods if there were tighter restrictions on advertising them

• 52 percent actively look for foods with low amounts sugar 

• 45 percent of people search for foods that are low in fat

• More than six in 10 adults say they try to eat healthily all or most of the time

The bottom line: if unhealthy foods cost more, many of us might actually stop eating them (or at least we might just not eat so much of them). But if you struggle with giving up your favourite junk foods, there are ways to ease yourself off them gently.