I’ll admit, one of the things that always turned me off to certain diets or eating plans is the fact that I LOVE food. And I have a bunch of guilty pleasure foods that I know are bad for me, but still taste so good! For example, these french fries:My mouth is watering just thinking about them! And while I realize that french fries are doing my body absolutely no good, they make my heart happy. So what’s the balance here?
Just like when it comes to defining clean eating, you’ll find different schools of thought regarding guilty pleasure items like this. Some will tell you never to indulge. Others will tell you to schedule a “cheat day” for yourself where you can enjoy anything you want. But I am happiest with the concept of moderation. I hate blowing my clean eating lifestyle with an entire calorie-and-junk laden day (plus, I usually feel yucky afterwards) but I still enjoy my french fries if we go out to a restaurant that serves really delicious ones. My strategy is to balance it out with a clean main dish. The fries above are from one of my favorite burger places near our house – so instead of eating a huge, greasy burger with my fries, I choose the grilled chicken sandwich without condiments or cheese on a whole wheat bun. I also like to load it up with extra nutrient-dense veggies like fresh spinach or avocado if I can (usually this only works if we bring it home, because fast food vegetable options are limited!). Likewise, if you go out to a restaurant and really want a big, juicy steak – then get the steak! But instead of piling up mashed potatoes or mac ‘n cheese on the side, choose a double serving of steamed vegetables. Or if you know you want a chocolate milkshake for dessert, make your meal ultra nutritious with lean protein and lots of vegetables.
One quick note about this: I think it’s important to understand the reasoning behind this approach, and keep a healthy mindset. I do NOT like the idea of “saving up calories” for a treat, or “punishing” yourself for an unhealthy choice by eating extremely restricted for other meals. You should be able to eat the things you enjoy without any guilt or extra stress! Instead look at it like this: if you know you want a treat that is not going to nourish your body, make sure you’re giving it the nourishment it needs with the rest of your meals. Don’t keep things from your body, give it the things that it needs! If I want french fries, I’m going to have french fries – but I’m also going to make sure that my body is getting vitamin-rich vegetables, healthy grains and enriching protein as well.
And keep moderation in mind. If you want a slice of cake, do you need to eat a giant slice as big as your head? Probably not – and you probably won’t even enjoy it afterwards, because you’ll be so full you’ll feel sick. Nor do I get the jumbo size fries to go with my grilled chicken sandwich. Eat the things that you love, but don’t overeat them. Again, balance!
Guilty pleasures don’t need to be guilty. You can live a clean eating lifestyle, and still enjoy the not-so-clean treats that you really love. This is the benefit of looking at clean eating as a lifestyle rather than a “diet” – you are focused on the big picture of your health and wellness, versus getting bogged down in the tiny details. Enjoy!
Do you have a guilty pleasure? How do you like to keep your balance so you can enjoy the treats you love while eating clean?