How to stop eating junk food and start eating healthy

When someone is trying to lose weight, the advice they’ll usually get is, ‘Just stop eating junk food’. However, if you’ve lived on junk food all your life, you know that it’s actually not as easy to just cut out junk and start eating healthy.

How to stop eating junk food and start eating healthy

What they don’t tell you is exactly how to stop eating junk. Cleaning up your diet when you’ve lived on processed foods is hard.

You can’t just wake up one day and abruptly decide to stop eating junk food because a few days or weeks down the line, you’ll go back to your bad eating habits when the cravings hit.

If you want to eliminate junk food from your diet, start slow. Easing off ultra-processed foods promises a better shot at succeeding with clean eating.

This article delves into why people choose to eat junk food instead of healthy food and provides simple steps to follow if you want to give up eating junk food and start honoring your body with healthy whole foods. 

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Why do people choose to eat junk food instead of healthy food?

Why do people choose to eat junk food instead of healthy food

Lack of quality sleep

One of the main reasons that people crave junk food is a lack of quality sleep.

Several studies indicate that sleep deprivation causes hunger and a craving for highly processed foods.

A study in Korea found that less than 6 hours of sleep led to increased consumption of unhealthy foods. In contrast, a nationwide survey by the University of Arizona found that 60% of participants often indulged in late-night snacking. Two-thirds of them reported that lack of sleep led to increased cravings for junk food.

In Korea, over 100,000 girls and boys aged between 12 and 18 participated in a web-based survey to determine the association between sleep duration, quality, and food consumption [1].

The study found that participants getting less than 6 hours of sleep ate more unhealthy foods, such as confectioneries, fast foods, instant noodles, sugary drinks, and fewer vegetables and fruits.

In another study, the University of Arizona conducted a nationwide telephonic survey in which over 3000 adults participated [2].

The participants were asked if they regularly had late-night snacks, how many hours of sleep they had, and whether they had any health issues.

About 60% of the people surveyed revealed that they often indulged in late-night snacking. Two-thirds of the participants reported that lack of sleep made them crave more junk food.

This study also confirmed that sleep deprivation can lead to junk food cravings at night, which leads to increased unhealthy snacking at night, which then leads to weight gain.

Emotional Eating

While some people crave junk food because of a lack of sleep, others do so because they are emotional eaters.

Emotional eating doesn’t only involve eating when stressed, upset, or happy. Eating disorders like binge eating are also a form of emotional eating.

how to stop eating junk food and sugar

Types of emotional eating that may lead to an increased craving for junk food include the following:

  • Snacking when you aren’t really hungry
  • Using food as a reward or punishment
  • Seeking the pleasure of food
  • Eating when you are depressed or lonely
  • Eating out of boredom
  • Turning to food to numb your feelings

Related: How to stop emotional eating

How to stop eating junk food and start eating healthy

Now that we have identified what makes junk food so tempting, let’s dig into how to stop eating junk food.

1. Get enough sleep

The studies cited above show that a lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors and weight gain. Given this, the easiest and best way to stop eating junk food is to ensure that you are getting enough sleep.

how to stop eating junk food and start eating healthy

Experts recommend between 8 and 10 hours of sleep for teens and between 7 and 9 hours for adults [3].

A lack of sleep for two consecutive nights increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and reduces those of leptin, a hunger-suppressing hormone [4].

Studies also show that ghrelin levels increase the following afternoon and evening after a sleepless night [5].

If you did not get enough sleep the previous night, the hormone ghrelin will send signals to the brain that you are starving and need to eat high-calorie junk food.

How to sleep better at night

Make your bedroom more sleep-friendly by keeping it clutter-free, lighting a few aromatherapy candles, and using blackout curtains.

Keep a consistent sleeping schedule by going to bed around the same time every night.

Exercise regularly for better sleep. Keep in mind not to exercise vigorously a few hours before bedtime, as this may cause sleeping problems due to overstimulation.

If you drink caffeinated beverages, like coffee, tea, and sodas, gradually cut back on your consumption.

Screen time at night can affect your quality of sleep. Turn off your electronics between 30 minutes and 2 hours each night before bedtime.

2. Eat meals at regular times

One of the most effective ways to stop snacking at night and eating junk food is to eat regularly. That’s ridiculous, right?

Well, let me explain how you can stop eating junk food by eating regular meals.

how to stop eating fast food everyday

Planning your meals using a meal planner will help you stay consistent with your diet. Writing down your meals and snacks, no matter how small will give you an idea of just how much you are eating.

Make it a point to eat meals at regular times. Make sure that you are not skipping any meals. Eat at least three healthy, nourishing meals a day and two planned snacks.

Meal planning will help you build healthy eating habits and also establish just how much and how often you eat. It also helps you become more aware of how many calories you are consuming per meal or day.

If you lack self-control around food, planning and writing down your meals will put you in charge of what you are going to eat, at what times you will eat, and how much you will eat.

Think of meal planning as a tight budget—you plan and prepare your meals for the day or week, and anything not within your budget should not pass your lips.

TIP: Next time you are about to open the fridge door at night or the kitchen pantry, pause for 5 seconds and take a look at your food journal. Ask yourself how much you’ve eaten during the day. You’ll be surprised at how this tip will help stop your cravings for unhealthy foods.

3. Remove all junk food from your house

The easiest way to stop eating junk food is to get rid of all junk food from your house.

Late-night snacking is really about eating whatever you can find. It has nothing to do with satisfying hunger.

If your pantry makes it easy to access junk food, make it harder for yourself by removing the unhealthy food from the house.

how to stop eating junk food at night

One thing about junk food snacks like chips, chocolate, and cookies is that once they’re available somewhere in your home, you will keep thinking about them. Eventually, you will cave in and grab a bite.

If you really want to stop snacking at night or eating junk, don’t ever entertain the thought of storing your junk food in your home, even if it’s in a place that’s hard to reach.

Most people find it hard to exercise self-control when it comes to food. Even if the food is out of sight, as long as it’s in the house, you’ll find a way to get to it.

Purge the house of all the foods likely to trigger cravings for junk food.

4. Brush your teeth after meals

As silly as it may sound, brushing your teeth after dinner works well to curb your nighttime cravings for junk food.

Toothpaste’s minty flavor is well known to ‘ruin’ the taste of your favorite food. The unpleasant taste created by toothpaste will work in your favor to stop you from eating when you don’t really need to. It’ll also help you refrain from reaching for unhealthy foods that may lead to weight gain.

The fresh and clean feeling from toothpaste or mouthwash will stop the urge to eat when you are not actually hungry.

If later in the day or night you feel like snacking, drink a glass of water or pop a mint strip or sugar-free gum.

i want to lose weight but i can't stop eating junk food

5. Delete food delivery apps

In this digital age, you don’t have to get out of your house to gain access to junk food. The junk food is delivered right to your door.

However, you have the power to control what gets delivered to your door by getting rid of food-ordering apps on your phone.

You can also go a step further and delete your accounts on the food delivery apps.

6. Keep a stash of healthy snacks as a backup

Life happens, and at one point, your willpower might fail. If this ever happens, just make sure you have an emergency plan in the form of healthy snacks so that you don’t binge on junk food.

Healthy snacks to replace junk food

  • Homemade granola bars
  • Protein pancakes
  • Yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Cucumber
  • Whole wheat pita chips and salsa
  • Mashed sweet potato
  • Roasted nuts
  • Apple slices with nut butter
  • Oatmeal with dried cranberries and walnuts
  • Celery and hummus
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cottage cheese
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Edamame
  • Carrot sticks with hummus
  • Trail mix
  • Baked apples with cinnamon and honey
  • Avocado toast
  • Baked kale chips

healthy snacks to replace junk food

The best way to enjoy your healthy snacks

Out of your daily calorie allowance, set aside 200- 300 calories for healthy snacks rich in protein.

This way, you won’t be sabotaging your weight loss efforts as you’ll still be eating within your calories for the day.


12 insanely delicious high-protein snacks for weight loss

10 low calorie snacks for weight loss that are filling

7. Stop eating when you are bored

Most people crave junk food or unhealthy snacks when they’re bored.

If you want to avoid snacking when bored, find something to keep you busy.

If you suddenly get cravings while scrolling through social media or watching TV, fight it by doing this bedtime workout below. By the time you’re on your fifth crunch, you will appreciate your efforts enough not to ruin your diet with junk food.

Another way you can keep yourself busy is by finding an exciting hobby that requires the use of your hands.

Find something that will add joy to your life. Activities such as adult coloring, knotting, crocheting, scrapbooking, or doing the crossword puzzle can help you stop eating out boredom.

Do a mini workout before bed

night time exercises to lose weight to fight late night snacking

  • 20-second planks
  • 10 squats
  • 30-second wall sits
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 donkey kicks
  • 10 crunches
  • 10 burpees

Help! I can’t stop eating junk food and snacking at night!

8. Seek professional help if necessary

If you have tried all of these tips and are still struggling with eating junk or still powerless around food, then don’t feel ashamed or scared about seeking professional help.

Your physical and emotional health is more important than being afraid of people judging you.

Talk to someone you trust about your eating problems, and if they aren’t as understanding as you want, then join a support group.

Groups like Overeaters Anonymous are there for you and will help you stop eating compulsively.

how to stop eating junk food and lose weight



[1] Min, C., Kim, H. J., Park, I. S., Park, B., Kim, J. H., Sim, S., & Choi, H. G. (2018). The association between sleep duration, sleep quality, and food consumption in adolescents: A cross-sectional study using the Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey. BMJ open, 8(7), e022848.

[2]University of Arizona Health Sciences. (2018, June 1). Sleep loss linked to nighttime snacking, junk food cravings, obesity, diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 17, 2019 from

[3] How much sleep is enough? (no date) National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Available at: (Accessed: 25 January 2024).

[4] Schmid, S. M., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Born, J., & Schultes, B. (2008). A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. Journal of sleep research, 17(3), 331–334.

[5] Motivala, S. J., Tomiyama, A. J., Ziegler, M., Khandrika, S., & Irwin, M. R. (2009). Nocturnal levels of ghrelin and leptin and sleep in chronic insomnia. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(4), 540–545.


how to stop snacking at night and how to stop eating at night and lose weight


Learn how to stop snacking at night and lose weight

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