Think of your favorite treat. Maybe it’s velvety ice cream glistening in a bowl. Or peanut butter cookies fresh from the oven. Perhaps it’s a slice of moist chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce. Sounds delicious, right?
Now imagine someone telling you that you can never eat your favorite treat ever again. Chances are you’d suddenly start craving that dessert right away!
That kind of all-or-nothing rule is the enemy of any healthy eating plan. When we feel deprived, we tend to fall off the wagon — hard. Treats are a normal and important part of healthy eating! It just means you need realistic limits that support your goals.
Our experts have some helpful tips to help you strike a balance.
The Three Bites Rule
Savor the taste of your favorite foods within the safety of a set portion: three bites.The first bite is the most flavorful one. The second bite is also good, but not quite as good as the first. By the third bite, the food will never taste any better than it already has, so you might as well stop. Beyond the third bite, you are chasing a memory.
Share, Savor, and Save for Later
Take the shame out of the dessert game. Savor each bite and enjoy it slowly. Stop eating when you feel the first signs of fullness — you never have to clean your plate. Share your treat with a friend or save the leftovers for tomorrow. And don’t beat yourself up if you overindulge. It may take practice to moderate your portions. Be patient with yourself.
Safe Places, Safe Portions
If you have a hard time eating certain foods in small amounts when you’re home alone, practice eating single servings in a comfortable setting outside your home. Instead of buying a carton of ice cream, have a scoop with a friend at an ice cream shop. Instead of buying a large bag of chips for a night on the couch, order chips on the side next time you go out for lunch. Instead of making a full batch of cookies, enjoy one from your favorite café or pastry shop. This gives you more control over the moment — and helps you connect with the world around you.
Make a Date With Dessert
If you’re going to go for it, go for it! Not with how much you eat, but how you eat it. Plan a date with your treat and set aside time to relish every second. Eat sitting down, free of distractions and totally focused on the experience. If it’s worth the calories, it’s worth paying attention. Make it feel more special by putting your pastry on a real plate with silverware, your candy in a bowl, or your festive cocktail in a fancy glass.
Give Planned Permission
It’s common for our inner rebel to rise up when we feel deprived. But permission can give you a sense of freedom and empowerment. So give yourself the go-ahead to enjoy a treat with a plan. If you have sweets at home, tell yourself it’s okay to enjoy a small portion! Giving yourself the all-clear can help you avoid sweets earlier that day, like politely saying no when your friends offer you a treat at lunch. Tell yourself, “I don’t need this treat right now because I’ve got one at home with my name on it.”
- Note: If you have diabetes, make sure you are checking your blood sugar before and after indulging in a treat. This will help you make safe choices.
Use these tips to remind yourself that it's okay to enjoy treats once in a while. We all do! By making wise, informed choices, you can stay in the driver’s seat on your healthy journey.