Beating your takeaway food addiction

One of the most common questions we get is how to quit takeaway food especially during the workweek at lunch and dinner. Whether it's Chinese, McDonald's, or your local pizza joint, we often underestimate its addictive qualities. Addiction is a word usually reserved for drug use and cigarettes, but according to Dr Karl from the ABC, takeaway can be dangerous too:

“The closer the timing between the stimulus and the reward that it delivers to the brain the more addictive that stimulus can be."

Because takeaway is so fast and so convenient it is such an easy addiction to be stuck with. However, takeaway foods are often higher in fat, sugar and salt than home-made meals, which is bad for your waistline and can increase the risk of developing health problems. When you look closely, home-made meals can also be cheaper!

So how do you overcome it?

Make the alternative just as convenient by giving yourself healthier, cheaper food options that are just as tasty.

Firstly, identify your eating habits. Do you eat takeaway every day? Is it your routine at lunch? Do you order in for dinner most nights? Do you get cravings when you don't eat it? Even if you eat it because there are no other options the section below on home cooking is relevant to you.

Make a plan

Try picking one day this week where you have the time to cook a meal or prepare one for work the next day. Do this for a few weeks then add another day each week. Over time you'll be able to cook faster and make healthy eating part of your routine.

Write up the meals and snacks you plan to eat for the week ahead and stick to it. Include a takeaway meal or two especially if you have a few hectic days so you're not too tempted to break the plan.

Home cooking

This is the ultimate solution for a takeaway addiction. Cooking a meal might not be as quick as the 5 minutes it takes at McDonald's but by being smart and with a little bit of practice it will take far less time than you think. Here are our top tips:

  1. Learn a few recipes

    Do your research and experiment with different recipes for a few weeks and decide on a few that are tasty and easy to prepare. The internet is full of free ideas so use it to your advantage. Soon you'll be able to prepare meals faster and create your own recipes however useless you think you are in the kitchen.

  2. Do a big weekly shop

    This is a great way to save money and time. After a few weeks, it will be easy to predict what you need so write yourself a list before you go to the shops. You'll cut out a lot of time that would inevitably be spent wandering around looking for inspiration and falling victim to impulse buys.

  3. Make big meals

    Do this on a Sunday (or whenever is convenient) and you can enjoy home-cooked meals every night or at work every lunchtime. A big cooking session at the beginning of the week can cut out prep time later and by making a casserole or a curry in one big pot you won't have to spend much time washing up either.

  4. Get the right equipment

    Make the effort to invest in a quality knife, pan, pot and cutlery. It will make cooking an enjoyable even relaxing process which you can couple with good music or the news on TV. Don't forget some reusable containers so you can bring meals into work.

Losing an everyday addiction like takeaway food can be difficult but making a plan and giving yourself a proper alternative is the best way to approach it. It can be even harder if you're time-poor but after a few weeks, home-cooking will be quick and easy. You'll notice the health benefits - ask any nutritionist or try watching Super Size Me for motivation!

Also, remember that takeaway addiction can include soft drinks, which give us a lot of kilojoules but don’t fill us up or provide nutrients we need – and they can be just as addictive. See how much sugar you might be drinking with this calculator:

Written by Jack Rothery.

Read also an article about setting a goal here.

View more Healthy eating articles

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