Can You Eat ‘Treats’ and Still be Healthy?
You probably often hear that it’s okay to have treats ‘here and there’ or it’s all about ‘balance’ and ‘moderation.’
Well, this is very true, but how do you know exactly how often ‘here and there’ is? Or exactly how much chocolate is okay to eat in ‘moderation.’
We asked our resident nutritionist, Jazmyn if we can eat treat foods and still be healthy.
What is considered a ‘treat food’?
Firstly, I like to refer to these foods as ‘sometimes’ foods. I find the word ‘treat’ makes them seem more desirable and “off-limits” which can trigger the reward part of the brain to crave them more.
Instead, just look at ‘sometimes’ foods as something you only need sometimes.
‘Sometimes’ foods generally have low nutritional value and/or higher kilojoules (calories). They provide little or no health benefits and can actually be detrimental to your health in large quantities.
The reason being, these foods are generally highly processed, containing refined carbohydrates and added sugar, fat, salt and preservatives.
They include foods from takeaway outlets like burgers, pizza, BBQ chicken, fried chicken and Asian style, as well as store-bought items like bacon, pastries, cakes, chips, chocolate, ice-cream and some pre-packaged frozen meals.
How often is it okay to eat ‘sometimes’ foods?
The main point I want to make here is that we want to be filling our bodies with foods that are going to protect our health, make us strong, nourish our gut bacteria and produce those hormones that make us feel happy – yes food is so important for our mood!
As ‘sometimes’ foods do not provide us with these benefits, we would rather be filling ourselves up with foods that will!
Here are some of my top tips to manage your ‘here and there’ or ‘balanced’ eating regime:
✅ Eat nourishing whole foods at least 80% of the time and ‘sometimes’ foods no more than 20% of the time.
✅ Limit takeaways to one meal per week.
✅ Limit desserts like cake, pastries, puddings or chocolate to 2 serves per week (see serving sizes below).
✅ For the sweet tooths out there – if you are comfortable with portion control, have two squares of chocolate with a cup of tea in the evenings (dark chocolate is lower in sugar and easier to eat less of).
How much can I eat?
Added sugar, fat and salt can make ‘sometimes’ foods feel very more-ish. But, it’s important to stick to and enjoy a small portion.
Here are some examples of what a small portion or ‘moderation’ looks like:
- 2 small scoops of ice-cream (75g)
- 2 small biscuits/cookies
- 1/2 a doughnut
- 1 slice of cake, approx. two fingers thick
- 4 squares of chocolate
- 5-4 small lollies
- 12 hot chips
- ½ takeaway burger
- 2 slices takeaway pizza
As a nutritionist, how often do you eat ‘sometimes’ foods?
I am a big sweet tooth and absolutely love desserts and chocolate!
But I know I feel so much better when I’m filling my body mainly with nutritious foods – my energy levels are high, my skin is clear, I sleep better, my head isn’t foggy, my self-esteem is high and I know I’m keeping my immune system strong and body functioning well!
So I stick to a small sweet-treat a couple of times a week, enjoy them immensely (and guilt-free), feel satisfied and know that this small portion will not be detrimental to my health and wellbeing.
When it comes to meals – I enjoy a restaurant meal once a week, but cook for myself for the majority of the time filling up my meals with a variety of veggies and high fibre carbs – my favourite foods at the moment are chickpeas and beans because they are one of the most nourishing foods out there full of protein, fibre and antioxidants (see my recipe below).
Need Help with Portion Control?
Try Michaels Mindful Eating Meditation which is a good activity to help you control how much you eat.
Check out one of Jazmyn’s favourite regular recipes – it’s super speedy, super tasty and full of foods that will improve energy levels, mood and overall health.
Morrocan Chicken Tagine
Serves: 4 Time: 25mins Cost: $7.50 approx. ($1.80/serve)
- 400 – 500g chicken breast or thigh
- 400g pumpkin
- 1 can chickpeas
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 cup wholemeal cous cous
- 2 TBSP Moroccan seasoning
- 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
- extra virgin olive oil
- Dice chicken and pumpkin into 1.5 x 1.5cm pieces.
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat in a large pan or pot.
- Place chicken in pot, stir in Moroccan seasoning and cook for 5 mins.
- Remove chicken onto a plate or bowl, cover with foil and put aside.
- Add a drizzle more of olive oil to the pot, stir in pumpkin, add 1/4 cup water, cover pot and cook for 5 mins.
- Add cooked chicken, chickpeas and canned tomatoes to pot and let simmer for 10mins
- Add 1 cup of cous cous to a bowl then pour over 1 and 1/2 cups of boiling water. gently mix, cover with foil and let sit for 6 mins. Fluff with a fork before serving.
- Serve Morrocan chicken with cous cous and Greek yoghurt.
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