Can you cheat on your diet and still lose weight or maintain a healthy weight? Nutrition professionals say "yes," and we frequently cheat, ourselves.
One of the major less-than-healthy habits I've seen among overweight clients is an all-or-nothing diet mentality. They swear off certain foods and have lots of rules about what they can and can't eat. They don't allow room for error -- if they slip up, they give up!
In reality, we all love certain foods that aren't particularly healthy. I love Swedish Fish (yes, I just admitted that!), and given pretty much any chance to eat 'em, I will. However, I've found ways to fit in my sugary fish fix without derailing my diet: I buy a small amount on the weekends and eat them on weekends only.
Here's what 10 other top nutrition pros indulge on and how they fit these less-than-healthy treats in their diet, guilt-free!
Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, co-author of The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions:
What: "Skinny Cow Dreamy Clusters or Homemade Chocolate Pudding"
How Often: "Two to three times a week."
How It Fits: "I exercise every day and walk everywhere, but the Dreamy Cluster have only 120 calories per pouch and I make my chocolate pudding with skim milk, so I really don't have to do anything special to enjoy them."
Patricia Bannan, MS, RD, author of Eat Right when Time is Tight:
What: "My favorite cheat food is high-quality dark chocolate. When it comes to dessert, I will go for anything chocolate."
How Often: "I'll have a few pieces of dark chocolate (about half an ounce) a couple times a week and will share a chocolate dessert when eating out about once a month."
How it Fits: "I exercise a few times a week (boot camp, spinning and yoga), so I think it all balances out."
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson:
What: "Frozen yogurt."
How Often: "Once or twice a month."
How It Fits: "I go for a small size and I don't put topping on it. I do practice moderation and I avoid the idea of deprivation."
Regina Ragone, MS, RD, Food Director, Family Circle Magazine:
What: "Really great bread -- Italian, French or any kind of artisan raisin nut bread."
How Often: "I used to think that I didn't have to restrict bread, but I realized if I eat it too much, I gain weight. I indulge every few weeks and I don't really compensate. I feel like I watch myself most of the time so if I want to indulge I won't really "pay" for it."
How It Fits: "I try to walk as much as I can during the day and exercise regularly and I try to not overeat."
Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, lecturer/director, Didactic Program in Dietetics at Arizona State University; registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
What: "While I don't really have an absolute favorite treat, I do like my sweets! So, I would consider a gooey brownie or a cookie dough ice cream a favorite treat. However, I also sometimes really love something salty and crunchy, like flavored tortilla chips."
How Often? "I try to live by the 90:10 ratio -- that is, if about 90 percent of the foods I eat in a day are relatively healthy, I can "treat" myself with about 10 percent. I try to save my 10 percent for something I really enjoy."
How It Fits: "I like to maintain balance in my eating, so I tend to naturally veer back towards a healthier option at the next eating occasion, just to balance things out. I also make sure I stop and enjoy my food, especially when it is an indulgence -- that way, I am satisfied with much less, simply because I'm paying attention to how good it tastes."
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches:
What: "French fries, but I'm picky -- to be worth it, they have to be fresh, whole, hand-cut potatoes (preferably skin-on), cooked in peanut or olive oil."
How often: "Maybe once a month."
How It Fits: "Since French fries are basically starch and fat, I don't eat other starches or fat at the same meal. Instead I'll pair them with non-starchy veggies and lean protein to create some balance. This kind of combo leaves me feeling satisfied, but not stuffed or sluggish afterwards."
Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, registered dietitian and author:
What: "Burger and fries."
How Often: "I'll have this every couple of months."
How It Fits: "I don't eat a full order. Instead, I'll have half of the burger and half of the fries. I enjoy them guilt-free and make sure to scale back on fatty and salty foods for a day or two. For example, I'll eat Shredded Wheat for breakfast and have more fruits and veggies during the day."
Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes:
What: "Homemade, organic chocolate milkshake."
How Often: "Two times a month."
How It Fits: "I plan for it by wearing my pedometer and walking at least 10,000 steps specifically before I indulge."
Jessica Crandall, MS, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
What: "Ice cream."
How Often: "As long as it fits within my calorie budget, I have no reservations."
How It Fits: "I maintain a pretty intense exercise regime so it's easy for me to enjoy these types of healthy indulgences."
Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, author, The Small Change Diet:
What: "French fries."
How Often: "I eat them two to three times a month."
How It Fits: "I eat them for dinner with scrambled egg whites made with tomato and broccoli and I'll skip whole wheat toast."
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