A common question that I get asked is if I believe a healthy diet can include sweets?
My short answer would be a resounding YES!!
I truly believe there’s room for pleasure foods (foods that taste yum but that don’t have much nutritional value) in a diet filled with power foods (nutrient-rich foods that fuel you and help you reach your health goals).
That being said, there are a few practical tips I suggest for enjoying pleasure foods intentionally, while still meeting your health goals.
Below are my top 5 advice, along with an action step you can follow to make this easier to implement.
1. Choose better ingredients
When enjoying sweets or the pleasure food of your choice, opt for the choice that has better quality ingredients.
If you want some chocolate, skip the Mars bar in the vending machine and enjoy a few squares of a quality dark chocolate instead.
Or bake some chocolate chip cookies at home. At least you know what you’re putting it in, and can swaps flours and use unrefined sugars to sweeten it.
If you want a croissant, go get it from a local bakery that makes it fresh instead of the stale ones you find in grocery markets.
Make it worth it!
Create a list of 3 pleasure foods you enjoy and think of how you can improve the quality of it.
2. Respect your body when it says it’s full
This sounds obvious, but avoid eating pleasure foods when you are already full.
Overeating will leave you feeling heavy, bloated, and possibly promote weight gain.
Instead, plan in advance when you’ll be enjoying a pleasure food, and reduce the portion size of your meal preceding it.
If you’re enjoying some sweets right after a meal, take a 15-minute break to give you the time to see if you actually have space in your stomach.
3. Be present and savor it
What’s the point of eating a piece of cake if you’re not actually tasting it?
Put away the phone, shut off the TV, and sit down to eat.
Take the first bite slowly, focusing on the texture, and how it tastes. Continue to eat slowly to let the flavors out.
You may realize you feel satisfied after 2-3 bites because you actually paid attention to your food, instead of eating it distracted. If you’ve had enough and are satisfied, stop.
4. Create a menu for the day to accommodate the pleasure food
If you know in advance you’ll be having pleasure foods (ex. family gatherings, eating out, etc),
Adjust the other meals in your day to balance out your macronutrients and make them nutrient-rich.
Ex. If your supper is going to be heavier on carbs and fats, have a protein-rich breakfast lower in carbs and veggie-centric lunch combined with a source of lean protein.
5.Your body will tell you how often it can handle pleasure foods
How much pleasure food you can enjoy depends on your specific goals.
Go with what your body tells you.
If you’re able to maintain your ideal weight with a chocolate croissant once a week, go ahead and have it! If you break out with acne or eczema when you eat out too often, you need to re-evaluate the frequency of your pleasure foods.
Your body will always tell you when it’s out of balance. Listen to it.
Keep a journal of what you eat in a day. Once a week, evaluate how your body feels and look at your journal to see if there’s a correlation between the meals you had and your current results.
By the way, having a food journal isn’t to count calories or evaluate if you’ve been “good” or “bad” this week! You simply want to have objective data that you can refer to.
As a recap, I want to remind you that YES, you have your cake, and eat it too (without guilt!)… and these 5 tips will help you do this in a way that still allows you to reach your personal health goals.
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