Finding a happy medium: Healthy indulgences

asweatlife_Finding a happy medium Healthy indulgences

Sticking to a healthy diet makes you feel good on the inside and look good on the outside. However, from time to time most of us will “slip up” and indulge in an extra dessert, sugary latté or late-night pizza. While these calorie splurges often leave us feeling guilty, there are healthy ways to treat yourself without getting too carried away. After all, what’s life without pizza and ice cream?

Everything is OK in moderation, meaning the amount and the frequency of which you eat unhealthy foods is important to be aware of. It is safe to assume that eating out at restaurants means larger portions, but having the ability to eyeball an appropriate amount to actually consume can help keep a healthy diet in check.

Certain foods — such as cereal, bagels, cheese, ice cream and pasta — are easy to consume large amounts of without really being aware of how much you’re eating. Taking the extra step to measure out the recommended serving sizes allows you to eat what you want with control.

Certain foods are better at satisfying cravings than others. Check out this list of healthy indulgences for tips on keeping control of your diet and eating what you want.

1. Chocolate. When you’re craving something chocolately and sweet, go for the dark chocolate. Dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao contains healthy compounds called flavonols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to WebMD. Other health benefits associated with dark chocolate are lower blood sugar levels and improved cholesterol. However, it is important to note that dark chocolate usually still has a high sugar content and high calories, so keeping portion size in mind is important.

2. Wine. Although most doctors are wary of recommending alcohol consumption to their patients, many agree there is something in red wine that appears to help the heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants called polyphenols in red wine may help protect the lining of the heart’s blood vessels. Resveratrol is another ingredient in wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, in addition to reducing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and preventing blood clots. 

In general, alcohol has mostly negative effects on the body. Long-term heavy drinking has seriously dangerous effects on the liver in addition to other systems, which is why doctors are typically wary of recommending alcohol consumption to their patients. However, an occasional glass of wine is safe for most people, and drinking red may lend added health benefits.

3. Popcorn. Movie theater or prepackaged microwaveable popcorn is loaded with fat and is high in sodium. Other scary facts about microwaveable popcorn: Manufacturers coat the bags with a chemical that breaks down as it cooks into perfluorooctanoic or PFOA, a chemical the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a likely carcinogen. The chemical dyacetyl is used to give microwaveable popcorn its butter flavor, but it is also a known contributor to bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn worker’s lung.”

To avoid all of this, pick up a container of raw popcorn kernels and make it yourself. You can make the popcorn on the stove, adding olive oil, salt or other flavors to taste, or in a paper lunch bag in the microwave. With this method, you get the same satisfying taste in a much healthier way, and save money at the same time — a 32 oz. bag of kernels makes 27 servings and costs around $3.00.

4. Ice cream. Despite its popularity, eating frozen yogurt may not be a healthier choice than regular ice cream, especially at self-serve yogurt shops, where many customers tend to fill their cups with more yogurt than is recommended. Additionally, adding lots of candy toppings pretty much negates any benefit of opting for yogurt over ice cream.

Though ice cream is made with cream and has higher fat, it is often much more satisfying! If you need your dessert fix, consider picking up a pint of your favorite flavor to keep at home and measuring out an appropriate amount.

Another cold, satisfying treat is frozen fruit bars. Look for ones with natural ingredients and low sugar. You can even make your own following these delicious recipes.

5. Cereal. Cereal makes for a quick and easy meal or snack. However, it is important to check the nutrition label when making your selection at the grocery store. Cereal can be extremely high in carbohydrates, sugar and fat. Additionally, it is very easy to pour too much into the bowl, potentially leading you to consumer twice or three-times the recommended serving size.

When shopping for a new cereal, look those that are whole grain, low in carbs and high in protein and fiber. Cereals with these characteristics will keep you full and energized longer than the highly processed, sugar-coated options. Fitness magazine recommends Fiber One Nutty Clusters & Almonds, Post Grape-Nuts Fit Cranberry Vanilla, Three Sisters Multigrain Cinnamon, Health Valley Organic Oat Bran Flakes and Bear Naked Fit Autumn Blend, among several others.

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About Tamara Rosin

Tamara Rosin is a native Chicagoan but a Wisconsin Badger at heart with a degree in English literature and creative writing. In addition to her six years practicing yoga, Tamara loves biking, running outdoors and trying out different group workout classes. By day, Tamara is a writer/reporter for a healthcare publication. In her spare time, you can find her cooking, reading, or upside down in a headstand.