Diet culture encourages a binary approach where people feel they are either “on” or “off” their regime. However, there are two components to a healthy diet – the nutrients you choose to eat and the treats you choose to eat.
Eating for nutrients is a non-negotiable – everybody needs them for physical health and emotional resilience. Whatever your goal, it’s essential to eat a variety of fresh produce and good quality protein.
Treat-eating is different. Treats are tasty foods with little to no nutritional value. We tend to bond over treats, whether in celebration or commiseration. Many people instinctively avoid what they think is a healthy eating regime because they fear exclusion from these bonding activities.
Top tip one is to choose treats wisely and enjoy them mindfully. Make a list of your pet treats that life would be no fun without, commit to continuing to enjoy these. Then make a list of treat foods you eat either mindlessly, for convenience or for emotional reasons. Make a goal to reduce these treats. Maybe you’d like to keep the wine and cheese you enjoy with your spouse on Friday nights but you could forego the chocolate bars you get at the petrol station.
Top tip two is to plan in advance. Often you’ll know when you’re likely to be enjoying a treat-filled occasion, for example if you’re going out for dinner with friends. On those days try to prioritize movement and hydration throughout the day to optimize your metabolic rate. Also avoid additional treats over the course of that day – it won’t impact your enjoyment of the evening, in fact the anticipation may help you enjoy it more.
A “good” diet is not one devoid of treats. It’s a diet where treats are chosen mindfully and enjoyed without guilt. If you’re a person whose body appearance is their livelihood or serious hobby then you’ll need to choose a lifestyle with very few treats. However, for most people this isn’t the case. If you want to be healthy but not super-lean to a competitive degree then you can afford to enjoy some treats.
The healthy habits of functional movement, hydration and sleep will improve metabolic rate. People with these habits can enjoy more treats with less impact on body fat. The best two people to assess whether your treat-eating is appropriate are you and your doctor. It’s possible to enjoy good health and fine food, you just need to be smart about it.
This article provides general health and wellbeing information. It is not intended to be medical or nutritional advice specific to you. Please consult an appropriate healthcare professional, such as your GP, a registered dietitian or nutritionist for any specific concerns.