Junk food has its appeal because it’s quick to pickup at the drive thru or to prepare at home.

Lately, I’ve not had much of an appetite for anything. And because of that I was eating very little — and feeling the effects of that. I felt weak, had little energy and was finding it difficult to stay awake during the day but then being unable to sleep well at night.

So one day, at lunch time, my husband chastised me for not eating enough (but in a loving, “I’m worried about you” kind of way) and asked me what I felt like I would enjoy eating. And I said, “Right now, I’d love to have an order of chicken strips from Jack in the Box, but I know that’s not good for me, so I should eat something else.”

And he said, “You know what, you gotta eat, and that’s better than not eating at all.” And promptly drove out and brought me back a meal of chicken strips. (Yes, they were yummy, and kind of got me back on track with my healthier eating.)

For busy people who work outside the home, fast food and junk food you can buy at the grocery has been a godsend. They don’t necessarily have the time to worry about preparing meals while they are burning the midnight oil before deadlines, and so off to McDonalds they go.

Buying junk food at the drive thru has evolved into becoming a junk food habit at home, too. Especially during the pandemic when most of us are in lockdown and restaurant options are no longer readily available. You and your spouse or partner (or your kids) have a lot on your plate and at the end of the day you’re tired, so preparing a healthy meal feels out of the question. One of you suggests to the other to order take out.

While it is certainly okay to eat junk food on occasion (just like I did the other day), it should not be the main staple of your diet. It drags you down and packs on the pounds. Over time, it could lead to heart disease, and perhaps diabetes, which both could kill you. Not eating junk food is a challenge, because eating junk food is the easy way to fix a meal after a long working day. (Whether that’s in an office or at home.)

To reduce your junk food intake, consider preparing several meals on your day off. Place these meals in the freezer, and you can take them to work with you or have them readily available at home. Most work places have a microwave oven and I bet you have one at home, too, so it is simply a matter of putting the meal in the microwave and turning it on for a minute or two.

Of course, the meals you prepare should be as healthy as possible. People often think that anything they prepare at home is healthy. While this is possible, it’s not a given. If you are planning on bringing your meals into work frequently, you may want to consult with a qualified dietician or a health coach. Most people don’t know what is healthy and what is not. The average person does not know how to determine what is healthy. And if you’re gonna eat healthy, it also has to be food that tastes good and that you like!! (This is something I specialize in, helping you to discover what is the best way of eating for you. Let’s talk about it. No obligation, no arm-twisting. Let’s just talk.)

I’m not a big fan of calorie counting, but when it comes to junk food, it’s a good idea to have a look. Not just for calories but for fat, sodium and sugar content, too. You should be able to look up the calories and nutritional values of a Big Mac from McDonald’s, or any other fast food joint, online. And be sure to check the labels of any prepared foods you’re buying at the grocery store.

For junk food that isn’t standard (like the Big Mac), you may need to guess if no data is available. For instance, if you buy a hamburger at an unknown fast food restaurant, use the Big Mac as a baseline. How much bigger is the hamburger compared to the Big Mac, etc.

Bottom line is that junk food once in a while isn’t probably going to hurt you. But a steady diet of it — just like a steady diet of smoking and not exercising — is not a good habit in the long run.

And remember, you’re always going to have days that you don’t want to cook, and the idea of preparing anything to eat just feels too daunting, so keep some healthier food on hand at home that you will enjoy that requires no more prep than putting it in the microwave.