How To Enjoy Delicious Indulgences Without Killing Your Entire Diet

Have your cake and be healthy too.

How To Enjoy Delicious Indulgences Without Killing Your Entire Diet getty

We know eating a healthy diet is essential to having a healthy body. Eating lean meats, colorful veggies and fruits, whole grains and healthy fats are part of a balanced diet. But what happens when you want to eat a delicious, ooey, gooey dessert or munch on some crunchy, salty chips?

Most people view food as either good or bad, and they deny themselves treats because they fear of the calorie consequences and guilt. Deprivation is a powerful experience and denying yourself your favorite foods can have profound negative consequences for your self-esteem and body image in the long run.


Whether it's a food, a dress, or even air — once it's taken away, you want it and you want it bad. The more you forbid a food, the more appealing it becomes. So when you finally do eat the "forbidden" food, guilt arises and food binging usually follows.

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Sound familiar? Fear not. There is a way to eat your favorite indulgences without killing your diet or jeopardizing your health. In fact, it will make it easier for you to eat healthy and a heck of a lot more fun. 

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat your favorite foods. Yep, go ahead and eat that brownie, that cupcake, or those potato chips.


This principal of unconditional permission is part of the "Intuitive Eating Process": a method of making peace with food, rediscovering the pleasures of eating and never dieting again. This method is gaining attention and approval as more and more studies show the externally-controlled restriction based dieting model does not work.  

By giving yourself unconditional permission to eat these treats, you free yourself up to thoroughly enjoy the food and have a healthy diet. Rather than viewing these indulgences as “bad” junk food, view them as “play food.”

Think of it this way: you don’t work seven days a week because you know you would burn out and it’s not healthy for you; you need to play too. The same is true with your food intake.


Adopt the 80/20 rule. Eat healthy, nourishing foods most of the time (80 percent) and play foods some of the time (20 percent). Indulge in a little self-love and allow yourself to enjoy a delicious, healthy and satisfying way of eating.

Here are 7 steps to help you eat your favorite indulgences in a healthy way: 

1. Throw out the idea that certain foods are “good” and “bad.”

No one food has the power to make you fat or help you be thin. View food as neutral. Whether it's a leafy green salad or a double-fudge brownie, it's fuel for your body.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Diet (And Get Your Family Involved!)

2. When you're really hungry, eat what you really want.

If you force yourself to eat healthy when you're starving, you're only going to crave that "unhealthy" food later. Spare yourself the guilt and shame when you reach for some chips after you had that lean chicken breast. When you're too hungry to think, eat what you want. 


3. If you're gonna eat the cupcake, get the best cupcake.

Don't skimp on your indulgences and go for the easiest snacking option. If you're craving something sweet, get it from your local bakery instead of the gas station.

4. Give yourself permission to eat this food without consequences.

No more "I can eat this taco if I go for a walk tonight" or "I'll skip dinner to have waffles for breakfast." Unconditional permission means there are no consequences to your eating actions. 

5. Enjoy the indulgence.

Once you have the treat, sit down to eat it. Smell the aroma and look at the gorgeous frosting on that cupcake. Take a bite and savor the taste. Be in the moment and enjoy this indulgence. 

6. Check in with yourself.

​Does the food tastes as good as you imagined it would? If you find that you really like it, continue to give yourself permission to eat it and buy it again in the future. If you don't like it, stop eating and determine if there is something else you would like to eat. 


7. When you're full, stop eating.

When you freely choose the treats you want, your impulses to overeat it are diminished. By allowing yourself to savor, appreciate, and relish the yummy foods you want, you are embracing pleasure as one of the goals of healthy living. And isn't that more fun? 

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Lisa Stariha has more than 25 years experience as a registered dietitian working in the health and wellness industry. As a coach and speaker, she brings her expertise in nutrition, body image, and lifestyle into every client encounter.