By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
I generally practice what I preach: My diet is high in fruits and vegetables, pretty much all my grains are whole, fish is my primary high-protein food… you get the picture. Fortunately, I like these healthy foods, so none of this is a sacrifice, but I also like some very fattening and/or unhealthy foods—and I’m not willing to give them up.
How can you have your cake and stay trim, too? Here’s how I do it. Feel free to use these tricks or tweak them so that you can come up with your own creative ways to enjoy less-than-stellar fare without packing on pounds.
Just remember one ground rule: Your diet should be nutritious and you should stick to at a calorie level that keeps you at a healthy weight. (Of course, getting regular exercise helps a lot.) Once you’ve nailed that—at least most of the time—you should be able to use my indulging tips!
- Don’t be in calorie denial. Know just how many calories are in your favorite treats, or in that extra slice of pepperoni pizza, or whatever it is you’re indulging in.
- Keep a daily splurge budget. For example, most people trying to lose weight can get away with a daily 150-calorie treat. So, if you blow 300 calories one day, skip your treat the next day.
- Have a calorie cut-off. Mine is 600 calories—I pretty much never go beyond that point. That covers my biggest splurge: double-layer chocolate cake (1/8 of an 8- to 9-inch diameter cake, to be exact). But the 1,000-calorie Johnny Rocket’s Peanut Butter Shake? I won’t even slow down in front of the restaurant unless I have someone to split it with.
- Keep most splurges to 300 calories or less. Don’t always hit your max or it will start to show up on your belly. Treats that are 300 calories very satisfying—that’s a large-ish (2.3-ounce) chocolate chip cookie and a decent sized (2.6-ounce) brownie.
- View white bread and butter as a treat. No, it’s not cheesecake, but white bread lacks fiber and butter raises blood cholesterol. If you have more than one slice of bread and one pat of butter, then start counting it toward your treat calories!
- Add alcohol to the treat category, too. Although red wine may have some cardiovascular benefits, it also has calories (127 per 5-ounce serving). Sugary mixed drinks can surge way past 300 calories!
- Plan your treats. Instead of just letting it happen, make a conscious decision. Say that on Wednesday and Saturday, you’ll have a cookie, a beer, or another specific item. Write it down on your calendar—this simple act probably means you’ll be able to resist just fine the rest of the week.
What are your strategies for indulging without overdoing it?