“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
-Charles M. Schulz
Interestingly, this simple question was the basis for a study by a psychologist named Paul Rozin. He found that Americans tended to answer this question with words like “guilt,” but the French tended to answer with words like “celebration.” This is intriguing on many levels, and says a lot about different societies’ relationships with food. So when it’s time to celebrate a milestone or an accomplishment of sorts, which is an admittingly great time for chocolate and champagne, how can we keep our indulgences “celebratory” and not let them affect our long term goals?
While there is no clear-cut answers (it really depends on your individual situation), there are definitely ways to indulge that won’t throw you completely off your goal of long term health. If you find yourself wanting to “cheat” this week, try one of the three ideas below to keep your indulgences sensible and guilt-free.
1. Bake your cravings
Unfortunately the ingredients of most baked goods at your popular coffee shops or bakeries are overloaded with sugar and trans fats.
These sweet treats most likely include genetically modified ingredients (GMO) and are probably oversized. The USDA calculates that the average large blueberry muffin has 521 calories of which 44 grams come from sugar. Yikes!!!
When you bake at home you have more control over your ingredients. You can pick healthier flours like spelt, barley and buckwheat, healthier oils like grass fed lard, grass fed butter or coconut oil, and you can use maple syrup, raw honey or spices like cinnamon to sweeten things up.
2. Share or re-arrange your dessert
When you’re out at a hip new restaurant and something on the dessert menu catches your eye, its often hard to resist ordering. The first tip is to not even look at the dessert menu in the first place, but if the clever server has found a way to present the options to you while telling you that the kitchen has just hired a renowned pastry Chef, then my next best advice is to share your order. The truth is that, on average, most restaurant meals have upwards of 1,000 calories – before you even get to dessert (and not the good kind of calories), so sharing helps you avoid those extra-extra calories.
If you’re in a situation where sharing a dessert may not be appropriate, then take some advice from the food writer Peter Kaminsky. In his must-read book for foodies, Culinary Intelligence, Kaminsky explains how to artfully and politely cut your dessert portion by at least half:
“…when I’m in a restaurant where I am known as a food writer, you can be sure that the chef will send out a flight – i.e., an assortment – of over-the-top desserts. I have learned to deal with this by not eating very much of any dessert while developing the art of rearranging things on the plate so that it looks as if I have eaten more than in fact I have.”
Rearranging your dessert is a great idea, as long as you have the willpower to not eat it all.
3. Go for the cheese and skip the sweet part
It’s common in France to receive a cheese course before the sweet dessert. I’d suggest doing this (then skipping the sweet dessert) because good quality European cheeses or locally made cheeses by small producers will be higher in omega 3’s, Vitamin D and calcium. Hopefully you’ve got a little wine left in your glass to wash it down with. It’ll help you absorb some of the calcium from the cheese – but don’t over do it!
4. Eat all the junk food you want – as long as you cook it yourself (and then see how much junk food you actually eat)
“I love French fries, and I also know if I ate French fries every day it would not be a good thing. One of our problems is that foods that are labor or money intensive have gotten very cheap and easy to procure. French fries are a great example. They are a tremendous pain to make. Wash the potatoes, fry potatoes, get rid of the oil, clean up the mess. If you made them yourself you’d have them about once a month, and that’s probably about right. The fact that labor has been removed from special occasion food has made us treat it as everyday food. One way to curb that and still enjoy those foods is to make them. Try to make your own Twinkie. I don’t even know if you can. I imagine it would be pretty difficult. How do you get the cream in there?”
I’m not suggesting that you never indulge, but it’s important that you learn to indulge responsibly. That way you’ll always leave a restaurant or a special occasion feeling like you’ve celebrated without the guilt.
…and always remember – healthy food and tasty food are not mutually exclusive.