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How to Eat Smart Without Giving Up Your Favorite Foods

By Christopher Mohr, PhD, RD ; Updated July 28, 2017

You’ve proudly stuck to your diet -- until your co-worker brings in treats that are too hard to resist.

Don't stress -- if you slip a little on your diet, it's actually OK. The key to maintaining a healthy diet is eating in moderation. And the good news? With these tips, you can eat well without having to skip your favorite dessert.

What is Moderation?

It's all about balance. Moderation is the avoidance of excess, says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson.

“When it comes to non-nutrient rich foods, such as desserts, chips and [flavored] beverages, I encourage my clients to consume less than 150 calories per day.”

Will a Single Food Make or Break Your Diet?

No single food or ingredient -- including sugar or fat -- will make or break your diet. What’s eaten throughout the day and the week is more important than the individual foods or ingredients.

A well-balanced diet depends on the frequency of choosing a less nutritious food, such as eating a high-sugar dessert only occasionally.

It also depends on the portion. This includes opting to eat just one cookie versus five.

Occasional vs. Everyday Foods

When considering the term moderation and what it means from a food perspective, think about foods as “occasional” or “everyday.”

Occasional foods are higher in sugar, salt and fat and should be enjoyed only once in a while. These types of foods include cookies, pastries, pizza and more.

Everyday foods include vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats. These foods should be eaten on a daily basis.

Eating your daily intake of everyday foods gives you the flexibility to treat yourself to an occasional food here and there.

Balance That Meal

Balancing your plate means eating the proper amounts of everyday foods -- healthful produce, protein and carbohydrates -- in the right proportions.

You’ll want to make the produce the main part of your meal. This means that instead of appearing as a small side salad, the vegetables should take up about a half of your plate.

You’ll want to also incorporate protein onto your plate, but it shouldn’t overpower the produce. Aim for about a palm-size amount of protein.

Finally, you’ll want to complete your meal with a handful of carbohydrates, such as whole-grain pasta.

What do YOU Think?

Some forward-thinking companies such as Mars Foods are voluntarily labeling their foods as “occasional” or “everyday.” Would seeing this type of labeling better help you make purchasing decisions? How do you incorporate moderation into your diet?

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