Don't get too excited, guys and gals, I'm talking about cheating on your diet, not your significant other. After all, I'm a dietitian, not a private eye. The truth is that even if you're committed to a healthy lifestyle (you eat well, exercise regularly, rarely overindulge), temptation is still everywhere.
If you're not careful, one loving look from a juicy burger (with bacon, mayo and cheddar) across the room could be the end of you. An innocent night out for hot wings and beer may result in your being a "bad boy" (especially if somebody catches you in the act).
As a dietitian, I'm here to tell you it's okay to cheat on rare occasions. But if you're going to give in to fat and carbohydrate overload, why not choose foods that can actually serve you? I call these the "best" of the "worst"- the top 10 foods you can eat and still like you in the morning.
Before launching into the list, let's point out the obvious; some foods are better than others. Nutrient dense foods should comprise a majority of your diet. I'm not saying you should live a life of deprivation either. Sometimes splurging on something "bad" is good.
After you indulge, however, hop right back on the bandwagon. You wouldn't get a flat tire in your car and keep driving until all four are flat; you need to do the same thing with your diet.
If you splurge with one food, don't keep splurging until you resemble Fat Albert, snap right back into your normal strict diet for the next meal.
The Top 10 Best Of The Worst
Next time you're glued to reruns of Seinfeld, consider splurging on some of these foods - bad, but not so bad for you:
Baked Chips & Guacamole
Avocado is also a great source of heart healthy fats, to keep those lipids under wrap.
Squirrels aren't stupid; nuts are excellent sources of B-vitamins, which are important in maintaining energy levels. They're also great sources of vitamin E and low in saturated fat, making your heart happy.
Opt for meat-free; pepperoni and sausage offer little in the nutrient department. Instead add a veggie topping or order it plain. The tomato sauce in pizza offers a hefty dose of lycopene, an important nutrient for prostate health.
The added vegetables will add beta-carotene and vitamin C, among others, to fight free radicals, which promote aging.
You're out with the guys and they insist on stopping at the local BBQ joint. While this might sound appealing, give the plain hamburger a try. Have it without mayonnaise or butter.
Taste the burger for a change. It won't kill you. Literally!
This will keep the fat lower, and provide just as many muscle building nutrients like protein and iron.
Sweet Potato Fries
If you insist on fries, give the sweet potato fries a chance. Rather than solely adding fat to your diet, like normal fries, the orange shoe strings will at least provide a good dose of beta-carotene.
Forget about "tastes great" and "less filling." Preliminary studies show dark beer may offer more "free radical fighting" flavonoids than light beer, which may help fight blood clots.
If you need to be rolled out of the bar or peeled off the "porcelain king" you've negated any benefit. Drink in moderation, dude.
Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Dark chocolate is high in a compound called phenols, which may help prevent "bad cholesterol" from forming plaque in your arteries. (Hey, it's never too early or too late to protect your heart).
Add the benefit of strawberries, a great source of vitamins C and A, and dessert never sounded so good. Let's not leave out that most women find these foods
romantic, so your heart may not be the only thing that benefits.
Snickers Almond Bar
Quiz: It's the middle of the day; you're starving at your desk and can't concentrate. What do you do? Reach for a Snickers Almond Bar; the almonds provide some heart healthy fats and are high in B-vitamins.
This version is lower in total fat and saturated fat than the "regular" Snickers too. Even if you think you're king, don't go for King Size. That's a surefire way to find yourself as the court jester.
Unfortunately carrot cake doesn't count as a vegetable, so instead order berry pie for dessert.
Berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable and have even been shown to contain compounds that help prevent Alzheimers; the darker the berry, the higher dose of nutrients, so blueberry or blackberry pie would be great options.
Skip the a la mode and leave some crust behind; they're loaded with saturated fat.
You're alone on a Friday night; you're wife does all the cooking and she's out of town. Shortening is great if you want something quick and easy; spoon it right out of the container and you'll go immediately to saturated and trans-fat heaven, where your arteries are so clogged, Draino wouldn't do the trick.
Alright, I got carried away. Please don't eat shortening by the spoonful as it lacks anything that could be construed as healthy.
The Worst Of The Best
If these formerly questionable foods can be good for you, can "good foods" be not so healthy? You bet. Three, in particular, will pack weight on faster than prey fattens a bear preparing to hibernate. Avoid, if you can:
- Salad. By itself it's great. But loaded with bacon bits, cheese, butter soaked croutons and creamy dressing? Deadly. Instead, load it up with fresh veggies and low fat dressing and go crazy.
- Rice Cakes. Once a dieters dream, rice cakes have gone the way of the eight-track, since they offer zero nutrients and will blow your blood sugar through the roof. Besides they taste like cardboard and who wants to eat that?
- Low-Carb Hot Wings (yes, I have seen these advertised). Guess what, wings never had carbs, and they are a saturated fat nightmare. They are also loaded with calories, so skip them at all cost. Chew on your wife instead. Check out other low carb products.
Well, there you have it, the best of the worst, and the worst of the best. Follow these guidelines and nobody can ever call you a cheater again.