I’m often asked about cheat days, cheat meals and indulging on desserts and wine.
Are they allowable in your diet?
Do you have to cut them out forever in order to reach your goals?
Well, it depends, but there’s definitely a way to indulge that won’t throw you completely off your goal of long term health. Here are 3 ways to indulge sensibly without impacting your overall health.
1. Bake your cravings
Unfortunately the ingredients of most cookies, muffins, apple strudels, pies, scones, cinnamon buns and cakes at coffee shops are overloaded with sugar, trans fats and poor quality salt.
These afternoon treats most likely include genetically modified ingredients (GMO) and are probably oversized. The USDA calculates that the average large blueberry muffin has 521 calories of which 44 grams come from sugar. Yikes!!!
When you bake at home you have more control over your ingredients. You can pick healthier flours like spelt and coconut, healthier oils like coconut oil or grass fed butter, and you can use maple syrup or spices like cinnamon to sweeten. Since cookies and muffins are the most common baked goods, I thought this oatmeal cookie recipe and this coconut flour muffin recipe could give you an idea of healthier baking ingredients.
2. Share or re-arrange your dessert
When you’re out at a hip new restaurant and something on the dessert menu catches your eye….what to do?! Well, one tip is to not even look at the dessert menu in the first place, but if the clever server has found a way to present your options to you, then my next best advice is to share. Most desserts are at least 300 calories (and not the good kind of calories) and having that on top of your main meal, will definitely affect your waistline.
[Scary statistic: Researchers at the University of Toronto found that the average meal at a restaurant added up to about 1,100 calories. Eleven hundred!! So that age-old question of “Do you have room for dessert?” should always be a resounding “NO!”]
If you’re in a situation where sharing a dessert may not be appropriate, then take some advice from the food writer Peter Kaminsky. In his must read book for foodies, Culinary Intelligence, Kaminsky explains how to artfully and politely cut your dessert portion by at least half:
“…when I’m in a restaurant where I am known as a food writer, you can be sure that the chef will send out a flight – i.e., an assortment – of over-the-top desserts. I have learned to deal with this by not eating very much of any dessert while developing the art of rearranging things on the plate so that it looks as if I have eaten more than in fact I have.”
Rearranging your dessert is a great idea, as long as you have the willpower to not eat it all. If not, then go revert back to my original advice and don’t even look at the dessert menu in the first place.
3. Eat all the junk food you want – as long as you cook it yourself (and then see how much junk food you actually eat).
“I love French fries, and I also know if I ate French fries every day it would not be a good thing. One of our problems is that foods that are labor or money intensive have gotten very cheap and easy to procure. French fries are a great example. They are a tremendous pain to make. Wash the potatoes, fry potatoes, get rid of the oil, clean up the mess. If you made them yourself you’d have them about once a month, and that’s probably about right. The fact that labor has been removed from special occasion food has made us treat it as everyday food. One way to curb that and still enjoy those foods is to make them. Try to make your own Twinkie. I don’t even know if you can. I imagine it would be pretty difficult. How do you get the cream in there?”
You’re going to find yourself out often at coffee shops, birthday parties and social gatherings where cake, dessert, and deep fried food will be on display. This unfortunately has become part of our society. Instead of completely blowing off your diet in those situations, think of your long-term health and the goals that you’re working so hard to achieve. Learn to indulge artfully and responsibly.
When you commit to a lifestyle change, some of those “foods” will stop becoming appetizing to you. That’s when you know you’ve made real progress.
Always remember – healthy food and tasty food are not mutually exclusive.