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How To Avoid Junk Food: Quick Study

06/12/2012 04:36 EDT | Updated 06/12/2012 04:37 EDT
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The next time you feel like dozing off at work, you may wind up reaching for a piece of pizza instead.

A recent study has revealed we're more likely to indulge in junk food when we're tired -- so stop blaming your stomach for all of those midnight munchies and look to your brain instead.

The joint study, between St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York, found specific regions of the brain react differently to unhealthy food images when a person is sleep-deprived.

But it's not just pictures that get our cravings going: sometimes, even thinking of deep-fried French fries or chocolate-covered pretzels can get our stomachs rumbling. We talked to holistic nutritionist Marina Cortese of Nourish about common situations that cause people to give into junk food.

"When we don't have enough sleep, our body's stress hormones increase. This is when we start craving sugary foods," she says.

Cortese says peer pressure at the bar, being over-stressed at work or just being bored at home are all reasons we eat junk food for a quick energy rush. These situations also make it harder for you to say no, especially if you're attempting to stick to a diet.

If you want to limit your junk food intake, Cortese advises quitting sweets cold turkey. Eating healthier is about planning ahead and taking baby steps. "If you're going to make a poor food choice, go for something homemade instead. If you're prepared with healthy snacks in your purse, car or at work, you're less likely to crave bad foods all the time," she says.

Too many early morning meetings with a doughnut and coffee? Here are 8 situations you're most likely to say "yes" to junk food:

8 Situations When We Say 'Yes' To Junk Food

Is Twitter Saying No?

Lack Of Sleep

Missing those Zzzs? A recent study found sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to say 'yes' to junk food.

Under Stress

People under stress are more likely to eat unhealthy food and snacks for a quick energy fix, says holistic nutritionist Marina Cortese.

Bored

When there's nothing to do, chances are you're probably going to eat that cookie -- just for fun. Cortese says people tend kill time by eating junk.

When We're Beyond Hungry

This is beyond your stomach grumbling. If we've skipped meals or just didn't find the time to eat, we're more likely to opt for junk to fill us up.

Peer Pressure

"Come on, just have one!" Sound familiar? Peer pressure to eat junk food can happen at work or at the bar. Cortese says avoid having crappy foods by politely say no.

When We Drink

Long night? Drinking any type of alcohol often gives us an excuse to keep eating junk food.

A Dinner Party

If you're ever invited to someone's house for dinner, you're more likely to say 'yes' to junk food to avoid offending someone, Cortese says.

When We're Emotional

Grab that tub of ice cream and call it a night. Chocolate, alcohol and sweets are all go-to destinations when we're feeling down or happy Cortese says.