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Eat What You Love: 3 Simple Guidelines for Healthy Trade-Offs

December 5, 2012 | Roberta Jenero

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Are you feeling like the only way to stick to a healthy diet is to avoid your favorite restaurants and fast-food joints? Although this may be mostly true, you can still enjoy an occasional indulgence if it's part of a game plan. Like in any sport (or any endeavor, for that matter), having a plan of attack is a prerequisite for success. Keep up your commitment to a healthy diet, but add these three healthy trade-offs, which allow you to eat what you love without sacrificing good nutrition. (Sweet tooth? Check out UNREAL: A Candy That's Good For You. Really.)

Know Your Nutritional Needs

This is key to making healthy trade-offs easier. Remembering that you're the sum total of the foods you consume and the activities you participate in will help you make the best food choices.

Game Plan: Sharing is caring when it comes to your health. One of my teenage clients went to an ice cream parlor with friends. While normally she'd have eaten a frozen dessert all by herself, after consulting her nutritional guide and identifying the nutrient content of the item, she made the strategic trade-off to share one with a friend. This cut the fat, sugar and calories in half, making it fit into her food plan and avoiding exceeding her nutritional needs for the day.

Look for Healthy Ingredients in "Treat Food"

To reach your full growth potential during adolescence, you must meet your body's calcium needs with the equivalent of four glasses of milk a day. But you can get some of that calcium with a "treat food," like a milkshake. Remember that not all junk food is 100% junk. Depending on its size, a milkshake delivers the calcium content of one to two cups of milk. It's the sugar and fat content that throws it off the charts.

Game Plan: Get in the habit of ordering the small size, and ask if fresh fruit can be added. At home, make a smoothie with one or two cups of white or chocolate milk, yogurt, or soy or almond milk fortified with calcium. Combine it with a cup of berries, a small banana or nut butter and some ice cubes—for a healthy, frothy treat. This smoothie looks and tastes like a milkshake, but it has nutritional benefits like dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the fresh fruit.

Portion Control

This is a trade-off worth the effort. All foods can fit within the context of a healthy food plan, but portion size makes all the difference in terms of weight and health management. We all know that restaurant servings are often way beyond normal size. To not exceed your nutritional needs for the day, use a discerning eye on the size of your burger and fries.

Game Plan: Eat slowly to avoid eating more than you need, and learn to listen to your body. If you are full, save the other half of your sandwich for later. Feel free to ask questions of the server. Most of us don't need more than 1/4 to 1/3-pound of meat at a meal. Fill your energy needs with a salad and a side of vegetables. If you must have fries, go for the small order (all you need if you have the bun or bread with your burger or sandwich).

Fuel for thought

Our fat cells have the capacity to swell to a thousand times their original size. Carrying excessive weight increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and more. You make the choice. Keep blindly pumping food in without understanding your nutritional needs, or know your needs and fuel your body for optimal health and weight management. The healthy trade-offs that will benefit your body are up to you.

Photo: chinatownicecreamfactory.com

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