It turns out, everything in moderation is more than just a cliche — it’s good health advice, at least when it comes to eating. Experts warn that depriving yourself of your favorite foods or restricting calories can backfire. You’re more likely to overeat or binge later.
But what happens if your favorite food is ice cream, and the reduced-fat stuff won’t cut it?
May 11 is National Eat What You Want Day, so we say go ahead and indulge in it. But we also want to help you make healthy choices without depriving yourself long-term. Let’s dig into tips for treating yourself. We’re also going to dish on foods and drinks that have an undeserved bad reputation.
Eat What You Want: How to “Cheat” and Treat Yourself
You’ve probably heard of “cheat days.” They’re days when you go off the grid and eat what you want, pretending fat, added sugar and calories don’t count. Thanksgiving is perhaps the ultimate cheat day. Cheat days work for some, but they’re somewhat controversial.
Some people claim it improves your metabolism, but there’s no scientific backing for this claim. However, scientists have found that people who eat 1.4 times their caloric needs were less likely to move the next day, only compounding issues like bloat, weight gain and other health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle like heart disease.
If you’re going to choose one cheat day per week, it’s best to:
- Stick to portion sizes. Check the label and portion out one serving size. Say you want fudge-brownie ice cream and one serving is a half of a cup. In that case, measure out that much, and place it in a small bowl. There is a big difference between “eat what you want” and “eat as much as you want”.
- Remember: It’s one day. It’s important to truly eat clean and healthy the other six days of the week. A doctor can help you figure out your caloric needs.
There’s another potentially more sustainable way to treat yourself and eat what you want, though. Instead of one cheat “day,” indulge a little throughout the week. Spacing it out can help mitigate side effects of an all-out cheat day, like fatigue and bloating. It can also help prevent overeating and cravings throughout the week. Here’s how to do it:
- Think about the numbers. Portion sizes still apply to these more regular treats. Check the label for the serving size, and stick to it. Also, make sure treats only make up 10 to 20 percent of your daily calories.
- Try individually wrapped treats. If you find it hard to “just have one” cookie, opt for ones that are individually wrapped. That way, you’re not sitting with the box in front of you.
Guilty Pleasures That Are Actually Good for You
Eating healthy doesn’t have to involve eating a grilled chicken sandwich for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That would be boring, quite frankly. While you perhaps can’t eat everything that you want, the truth is that some of your favorite treats may not be as bad for you as you might think. If these items are a part of your weekly menus, give yourself permission to indulge guilt-free.
Chocolate milk isn’t just for kids — it tastes good no matter how many candles were on your last birthday cake. It’s also nutritious for you. So, while we’re here talking about National Eat What You Want day, don’t forget that you can also drink what you want.
First, milk itself is full of Vitamin D and calcium, two things that help bones remain strong. But not everyone likes plain milk. If putting a little chocolate in it enables you to drink it and get these beneficial nutrients, that’s a win. What’s more, scientists say chocolate milk contains carbs, sugar and protein that helps athletes recover from workouts. To make this treat truly healthy, consider sticking to skim or reduced-fat milk and choosing a low-sugar chocolate powder to cut down on the added sweet stuff.
Every few years, it seems like we get a new recommendation on eggs. The truth is that, in moderation, eggs are not only okay for you, but actually quite good for you. They’re packed with protein and have choline, a nutrient that improves brain function. Eggs do have cholesterol, but the latest research indicates it doesn’t raise cholesterol in the blood. What’s more, it may increase good cholesterol. If you’re at risk for or have high cholesterol or heart issues, it’s still a good idea to discuss your diet with a doctor.
In news you can toast to, a little bit of red wine may actually do your body good. It’s full of antioxidants that studies show may help prevent cancer and reduce heart disease in women. Don’t go overboard, though. The CDC defines moderate drinking as one drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men.
When it comes to desserts, there are worse things than screaming for ice cream. This favorite frozen treat actually boasts protein and calcium, two things that support bone and muscle health. Make it healthier by topping with fresh fruit instead of sprinkles.
You may have heard that dark chocolate is good for you — it’s not an Internet rumor. Studies show dark chocolate can help mitigate sun-induced skin damage, keep your heart healthy and even boost your brain function. There are some downsides, though. Dark chocolate does have fat and added sugar, so it’s best to stick with the serving size.
Eat What You Want And Feel Good About It
Remember that living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to mean deprivation. Indulging in your favorite foods in moderation can actually help you from overeating — and feeling poor physically and emotionally — later. Sometimes, you just need to eat what you want. A few simple steps, such as checking the serving size on the label and portioning out food, can help keep indulgences in check.