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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Is it OK to eat "Cheat" foods?

We all know someone (maybe ourselves?) whom, on occasion, says, “I’ve been eating so good lately that its ok if I eat this *Enter some unhealthy Food here*. I can cheat on my diet once in awhile!” But, is it really ok to have those not-so-healthy foods and ruin our streak of eating healthy?

I always recommend that everyone eat a nutrient dense, whole foods diet and cut out as many, if not all, processed foods as possible. Our bodies are made to break down and extract the nutrients present in whole foods and these are the forms of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are the most bio-available. When we bombard them with processed foods, we are presenting them with nutrients that are altered and in synthetic forms. We have a lot more trouble breaking them down which leads to trouble with absorption, meaning we don’t get the benefits that we should be from the food we eat.

But what about foods made from whole food ingredients that might not fit into our particular style of eating. For example, if you eat Paleo, is it okay to have a slice of non-paleo banana bread once in a while? Or how about eating a piece of cake at your nephew’s birthday party if you follow a low sugar diet?

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the 80-20 rule, but it’s a rule that I adhere to and I think is beneficial for everyone. Basically, you eat a healthy, nutrient dense, whole foods diet 80% of the time and the other 20% gives you grace to have foods outside of your chosen diet. For me, that means I have a serving of my son’s favorite Annie’s brand organic mac and cheese when I make it twice a month. Or, if I attend a barbecue with friends I allow myself a homemade chocolate chip cookie that my best friend baked. It’s a way to encourage you to eat healthy foods the majority of time without feeling deprived of those foods that you love. Maybe for you it’s your mom’s famous lasagna when you go home to visit, or your grandma’s snicker doodle cookies that she sends you home with at Christmastime. Whatever it may be, as long as you are choosing it consciously and not on a regular basis, don’t feel guilty about it.

I look at it this way- I choose healthy foods to nourish my body. I know which foods are beneficial to me and I know which ones are not. By consciously choosing healthy foods on a regular basis, I am ensuring that my body gets the nutrients it needs. But, by not completely depriving myself of foods I enjoy that might not be as nourishing, I’m ensuring that my mental and emotional health is being supported as well. Feelings of deprivation cause undue stress on our bodies, and when it comes to health, we need to focus on more than just nutrition- the big picture is more important. Your emotional well-being is just as important, and if one chocolate chip cookie once a month is what it takes to keep that healthy balance, then is it really that bad? Again, the 80-20 rule means that we aren’t choosing these foods often, but on occasion, and we choose them consciously, enjoy them thoroughly, then return to our healthy way of eating again.

Is there a food that you feel falls into your 20%? How often do you indulge in it? Do you feel that it helps your emotional well-being to include certain things in your diet on occasion?

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