What is a Trigger Food?

Sheri Cyprus

A trigger food is one that is related to overeating. Either a person consuming this food can't exert proper portion control or that particular food sets off a yearning for other foods. While such triggers are often junk foods, they don't necessarily have to be. Most trigger food is high in sugar, fat and/or salt though.

Potato chips are a common trigger food.
Potato chips are a common trigger food.

Specific eating triggers vary from person to person. Not everyone has trigger foods, although many people do. Chocolate and potato chips are common triggers for overeating. Some people find trigger feelings toward cheeseburgers, pizza, French fries, ice cream or candy, while others are able to control their portions and eat these foods in moderation. For those who can't consume trigger foods in a healthy amount, they often have to avoid eating them to maintain good health and a proper body weight.

French fries are a trigger food for many people.
French fries are a trigger food for many people.

People who engage in binge eating, which is consuming large quantities of food at one time, are the most likely to have at least one trigger food. A food craving, which is strong enough to act as a trigger, typically begins a cycle of binging. People who binge eat tend to consume the same types of foods when binging, so these can be considered as overeating triggers.

Pizza can be a trigger food for some people.
Pizza can be a trigger food for some people.

Those who aren't regular binge eaters may still occasionally overeat a food that triggers out-of-control eating. This often occurs when so called comfort foods are eaten. Comfort foods vary among individuals, but what they have in common is the pleasant feelings they invoke in the eater. The foods could be those that the person associates with warm family memories such as home baked pies or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. If the gravy is the main trigger food, the person may overeat French fries or other foods by topping them with the gravy.

Trigger food is high in sugar.
Trigger food is high in sugar.

For other people, their comfort foods may be associated with trigger environments or situations. For instance, watching television commercials for fattening junk food may signal a time to snack mindlessly. Some people also overeat when they are feeling stressed or upset about something. Trigger food binging can generally be considered as emotional eating since physical hunger alone would end after some of the item was consumed rather than a lot of it. In cases where eating one food triggers overeating other foods, a person might eat a piece of cake but that leads to overeating a bag of candy too.

Trigger foods are typically high in sugar.
Trigger foods are typically high in sugar.
Cheeseburgers are a common trigger food for people that can lead to overeating.
Cheeseburgers are a common trigger food for people that can lead to overeating.
The addictive ingredients in junk food encourage binge eating and overindulgence.
The addictive ingredients in junk food encourage binge eating and overindulgence.
Chocolate might be used as a trigger food.
Chocolate might be used as a trigger food.
Popcorn can be a trigger food for some people.
Popcorn can be a trigger food for some people.

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