Does the following scenario sound familiar?

You wake up each morning with every intention of having a “good” eating day.

You skip the drive thru on your way to work and refuse to eat fast food with co-workers at lunch. You boycott the vending machine in the mid-afternoon and you won’t even think about having dessert after dinner.

Then the urge to eat something unhealthy comes over you so strongly that you feel powerless and are left with no choice but to give in.  And not only do you give in, but you go overboard and eat way too much of it.

Then, when it’s over, you feel guilty that you set yourself up for further weight gain. You may be good again for another day or two until another irresistible craving comes over you…and on and on the cycle repeats.

Most of us have certain trigger foods that fuel our cravings and send our diets into a total tailspin. So the plan is to identify your trigger foods and to replace them with whole-food substitutions in order to break the cycle.

What’s a Trigger Food?

Trigger foods are those that when eaten make you crave and possibly eat more. These foods are generally eaten out of habit, not necessarily hunger. Your trigger food(s) is/(are) something you probably feel addicted to and is likely high-calorie, processed and filled with non-nutritional carbs.

How To Replace Your Trigger Foods

When you eliminate a trigger food from your diet, the craving you feel will become weaker and weaker within a week or two. Use the ideas below to replace common trigger foods with healthier, whole food options.

Trigger Food #1: Candy 
Due to the high concentration of refined sugar, candy is one of the most addictive trigger foods. If candy is a problem for you, start replacing it with unsweetened dried fruit. You’d be surprised how satisfying the natural sweetness of dried fruit can be. Try replacing with a healthy fruit or protein bar.  We like whole-food bars like Larabar, RXBAR, or our variety of Coach Bars from Designs for Health.

Trigger Food #2: Salty Snacks 
Salty snacks are nearly all processed, refined and packed with simple carbs. Basically, it’s the perfect storm for weight gain. Fight the urge to rip open a bag of chips and instead make a batch of Kale Chips or Sweet Potato Chips and enjoy!

Trigger Food #3: Sweet Drinks 
Sodas made with high fructose corn syrup or coffee drinks made with sweeteners have one thing in common: loads of sugar. If drinks like this are part of your daily life, then you know how addicting they can be. Start replacing high-calorie, high-sugar drinks with zero calorie iced teas. If needed, sweeten with Stevia or fruit slices.  Flavored seltzer waters with lime or orange wedges are another great replacement.

Trigger Food #4: Fried Foods 
It’s common to have a weakness for fried foods. There’s something about the texture, taste and fat content of fried foods that send people into an eating frenzy. Try making your own homemade versions of your favorite fried foods by baking and then turning on your oven’s high broil. For example, instead of commercially made French fries, cut a sweet potato into fries, toss with olive oil and seasoning, and bake until crispy. (Here’s a great recipe for you).  The baked versions of your favorite fried foods have considerably fewer calories and you’re less likely to stuff yourself with them.

Trigger Food #5: Baked Treats 
Cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins and brownies are serious trigger foods. We understand, these are hard to avoid since they are everywhere. Try making your own baked goods at home by finding recipes that use almond flours instead of all-purpose, and stevia instead of sugars. These ingredient substitutions will make your baking lower in carbs, healthier, and less addictive. However, baked goods are still a treat and should be eaten in moderation.

It’s really pretty simple…if you don’t eat junk food, you won’t crave junk food.  So replace your trigger foods with whole food substitutions and have a “good” day of eating every day.

Oh, just one more thing.  When you put energy into whole effort exercise, it makes it easier to eat healthy. And when you eat healthy it makes you more likely to exercise.

It’s the ripple effect. When you make positive strides in one area of your life, other areas will soon follow.

You can get that ripple effect started today with whole effort exercise and whole food nutrition at The Exercise Coach®. Find a location near you and begin the transformation!