It's movie night, and you know what that means: a whole lot of emotions, and buttery popcorn—just a small bowl, of course. But halfway through the most epic chick flick ever, tears streaming down your face, you look down only to realize that you've polished off the entire bag. Sound familiar?
Don't worry, though, you're not alone. In fact, so many people lose control while eating foods like chips, cookies, and popcorn that scientists have actually studied what makes them so addictive: Heavy processing, which reduces a food's natural fiber content; little protein; and crazy amounts of unhealthy fats and sugar.
With very little satiating fiber, protein, and healthy fats, these foods just don't fill you up as quickly as whole unprocessed foods; plus, research has shown that foods with high levels of both sugar and fat can activate the same parts of your brain as hard drugs—making them literally addictive. Even foods that aren't typically considered "junk," like peanut butter, can trigger overeating in response to stress if they conjure up comforting childhood memories.
But it's not just people who are "unhealthy" or "lack self control" who fall victim to these foods. Here, take a look at the 7 foods that make even the cleanest of eaters lose control:
Ever eaten peanut butter by the spoonful? There's just something about this creamy dreamy spread that keeps so many of us going back for more. Peanut butter often contains added sugar and salt, producing that addicting flavor combo that makes you want to overeat. Quell the urge—at least a little—buy going for an all-natural PB containing only peanuts.
Most chips are designed to overload your taste buds with flavor chemicals, fat, and salt, but very little fiber—food scientists really could not devise a more addictive food. Need a crunchy fix? Make your own chips from high-fiber kale, beets, or sweet potatoes, so you can control the quantity of oil and salt—and skip the store-bought stuff altogether.
It's all but impossible to stop once you get started, and before you know it, just a handful turns into eating enough for three people. Our advice: single-serve bags!
Maybe it's the salt, maybe it's the crunch, maybe it's the fact that they're soaked through with oil—whatever it is, this is one indulgence that's sure to you overdo it. Opt for the side salad instead, split fries with a friend, or reserve them as an at-home treat that can be made with healthier ingredients.
Chocolate or "yogurt"-covered pretzels
Yogurt is in quotes here because there's little actual yogurt involved—mostly just sugar and oil. This snack is sky-high on the glycemic index, making it more likely to cause blood sugar spikes that lead to subsequent cravings...thus making you want to eat even more. A less binge-inducing alternative: Dark chocolate with almonds. By choosing dark chocolate that's 70 to 85% cocoa, you can usually quell your sweet craving without the urge to overeat—and the almonds add a nice high-protein crunch.
Since crackers are another low-fiber food with virtually no protein, eating a whole box isn't hard to do. One simple fix: dunking them in hummus for a dose of filling protein and fiber.
We bet you've heard the good news: Nuts are incredibly good for you! That is, until you're sitting in front of the TV and suddenly realize you've eaten half the jar—which is incredibly easy if they're roasted and salted. (Learn what happens when you eat too many nuts.) Like popcorn, pre-portioned bags—either store-bought or ones you put together yourself—are key, as the serving for most nuts is surprisingly small (only about ¼ cup!).
Nuts, chocolate, little tiny sesame sticks—trail mix is just a way to cram a bunch of addictive foods into one snack. A handful or two is fine, but dozens? Not so much. Skipping store-bought trail mix, and opting to make your own pre-portioned bags of nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate, is a much better move.
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