Giving up junk food doesn't have to be a long, painful process. Here are a few quick tips to help you transition away from junk food as painlessly as possible. Plus, click through to claim your FREE junk food replacement cheat sheet!

How to Painlessly Cut Junk Food Out of Your Diet


Giving up junk food doesn't have to be a long, painful process. Here are a few quick tips to help you transition away from junk food as painlessly as possible. Plus, click through to claim your FREE junk food replacement cheat sheet!This is part 2 of 4 in a new series of blog posts titled “Steps Toward Making a Clean Eating Meal Plan You Can Actually Stick To.” (part 1, part 3part 4) Every week I’ll put out a new post stuffed full of helpful tips to help you make your own personalized meal plan that you’ll actually be able to stick to. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of the series! (PLUS subscribers get access to my free resource library: can I get a heck yes?!)

One of the biggest struggles I see people having with switching to a clean eating meal plan is letting go of all their favorite junk food. Whether it’s the sugar cookie recipe their family has always made for Christmas, or their morning frappichino, everyone has a few junk foods in their life that they just can’t let go of to make room for healthier options. 

I’m here to show you how to painlessly let go of the junk food that is standing between you and a healthy lifestyle. If escaping from junk food is something you’re into, keep reading.

Don’t have time to read right now? Download a PDF version for later from my free resource library!

One Step at a Time

The one, biggest mistake people make when they try to cut out junk food is that they try to quit cold turkey. They try to just simply stop eating all junk food in one day, without easing themselves into it. While this can work for a small number of people, this strategy usually ends in disaster for the rest of us. One day you’ve cut out junk food, and maybe you keep up with it for a few days, but then you find yourself reaching for the chips from the vending machine again. 

A better way to approach this is to take things one step at a time. If you’ve been reading some of my other posts, you probably know my mantra is to take things slowly, making one replacement at a time and waiting until it becomes a habit before introducing new changes. 

This one-step-at-a-time method works to not only help you cut out junk food, it also works to help you introduce healthier food. Often, these can be the same step. For example, I cut out regular, sugary, peanut butter and replaced it with natural peanut butter, made only from peanuts. Not only did I cut out the junk food, I introduced a healthy food at the same time. Making replacements like this, one at a time, helps make the process as painless as possible.

Satisfying Replacements

The trick to weaning yourself off of junk food is to give yourself something healthier to eat instead. A lot of us eat junk food mindlessly because we want something to munch on, so giving yourself something healthy to reach for instead is key.

Now, I know right now everyone is expecting that I’m going to recommend munching on carrot sticks rather than chips. And while that works for some people, that never worked for me. When I want chips, carrot sticks just won’t satisfy me! So I’m going to share with you some junk food replacements that I find very satisfying and easy to switch to.

  1. A bowl of ice cream after dinner became a few pieces of homemade dark chocolate. This recipe is so easy to make, and adding the peppermint satisfies my craving for mint chocolate chip ice cream. The lower sugar content can take some getting used to, but now I barely notice it.
  2. My late afternoon salt craving has now been satisfied with home-popped popcorn. Just simply warm up some oil in a pot on medium heat (I use coconut), cover the bottom with popcorn kernels, and cover with a lid. In a few minutes popping will begin. Keep shaking intermittently until popping slows way down, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl and cover with butter or olive oil and salt. If you don’t have the time to make some at home, pre-popped popcorn is an option, as long as you choose the right brand. I recommend Boom-Chicka-Pop’s sea salt flavor, because it doesn’t have any added ingredients. Angie’s Popcorn – Sea Salt – 4.8 oz
  3. Nachos has become chips and guacamole. For lunch sometimes, I used to literally spread shredded cheese over some chips and microwave it. Now, I just make some awesome guacamole. Here’s a link to my absolute favorite recipe. 
  4. I’ve switched out my International Delight creamer for Silk vanilla almond milk creamer. It’s still not the best of the best in terms of creamer, but it’s so much better than the overloaded sugary ones most people buy.
  5. My morning bagel has become a slice of clean banana bread. It’s so much more filling, and it satisfies the morning sweet tooth I often have. 
  6. Replace flavored yogurt cups with plain greek yogurt and real fruit. Flavored yogurt contains a ton of unsavory ingredients and sugar (which makes it practically junk food) whereas plain greek yogurt is simply cultured milk. I often add raw walnuts and almonds to mine, or sliced strawberries.
  7. I’ve replaced soda with orange juice. Any fruit juice will do, but I find orange juice is the best at satisfying that soda craving.

As you move through this process, you will find your own set of satisfying replacements for your guilty pleasures. If you’re having trouble finding yummy replacements, you can download my FREE junk food replacements cheat sheet from my resource library by clicking on the photo below! It’s full of my favorite go-to healthy snacks, with instructions on how to put them together.

Giving up junk food doesn't have to be a long, painful process. Here are a few quick tips to help you transition away from junk food as painlessly as possible. Plus, click through to claim your FREE junk food replacement cheat sheet!

Sometimes It’s About More Than Just Food

Emotional Eating

We all eat junk food for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because it tastes good, or maybe it’s because it’s convenient, but a lot of times it’s because junk food is a comfort. 

Indulging in junk foods, especially sweet ones, is often how we deal with emotional stress. We all know the stereotypical story of a girl eating an entire tub of ice cream after a breakup, and this story is stereotypical for a reason: people often use junk food as a replacement for an emotional connection.

I recently read this article about how to cut sugar out of your diet, and Megan makes some good points about how seeking human interaction can help cut down on junk food indulgences. So if you find yourself reaching for a chocolate bar when you need to make yourself feel better, be aware that maybe it’s not the chocolate you’re craving. Try giving a friend a call, sitting down with your favorite book, or giving someone a hug. I know hugs always help me feel better. Find those things that make you happy that don’t involve food, and use these as substitutions when you feel like grabbing unhealthy foods. 

Nutrient Deficiencies

In addition to emotional eating, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes we crave junk food because we have nutrient deficiencies. There is a wonderful article by Catherine Rudolph about which cravings correspond to which nutrient deficiencies, as well as how to remedy these cravings by getting the nutrients you need. 

If you think you have a nutrient deficiency, I highly recommend reading her article.

It’s Ok to Indulge in Junk Food Occasionally

Now, all that being said, it’s impossible to abstain from junk food perfectly for all time. We’re all human, and we all need to eat grandma’s cookies every now and then. The trick is to keep these things to a minimum, while allowing ourselves the flexibility to indulge occasionally without guilt. 

As I said above, the biggest mistake people make is trying to suddenly cut all junk food out of their diet. The second biggest mistake is believing that every time they eat even a little junk food they have to feel guilty and/or go on a detox diet. And that just isn’t true. You can still live a very healthy lifestyle while allowing yourself to have a donut on national donut day, and you don’t have to chug a detox drink directly after. 

Again, the trick is to keep these things at a minimum while allowing yourself an occasional indulgence. Because life is too short to deprive yourself of chocolate. 😉 And after awhile, you’ll start to find you want to reach for it less and less. The longer you stick to it, the easier it becomes, I promise you. 

Don’t forget to download my FREE junk food replacement cheat sheet from my resource library by clicking here. It’s full of my absolute favorite healthy snacks that are so good I think they’re better than junk food!

So what’s holding you back from cutting out junk food? And what replacements do you think will be the most useful? Let me know in the comments, I love learning from you guys. 

This has part 2 of 4 in a new series of blog posts titled “Steps Toward Making a Clean Eating Meal Plan You Can Actually Stick To.” (Click here for part 1) Every week I’ll put out a new post stuffed full of helpful tips to help you make your own personalized meal plan that you’ll actually be able to stick to. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of the series! (PLUS subscribers get access to my free resource library: can I get a heck yes?!) Come back next week for part 3, where I share planning tips to help you stay on track with clean eating.


About Rachel

Rachel is a blogger and Biophysics Lab Manager who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl.

When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to swing dance and teach group fitness classes.