How do you practice moderation when it comes to fatty or sugary foods?
July 13, 2009 9:06 AM   Subscribe

How do you practice moderation when it comes to fatty or sugary foods?

I'm learning to eat better by using the Canada Food Guide . It's a great tool to learn how to control portions, eat a balanced diet and choose healthy options but it doesn't really take into account "treats!"

I would be miserable without the occasional dessert and I think that moderation (rather than banning certain foods) is key to my success. However, I'm not sure how often/how much is appropriate.

How often do you indulge? What do you eat when you do? How do you ensure you stick to your limits?
posted by cranberrymonger to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
"Educating" your palate has a lot to do with it. If you stop eating fatty or sugary foods, you stop craving them, in my experience. Also small amounts of exquisite desserts beat large amounts of mediocre ones. Boost the quality of ingredients, so it becomes a real treat, but reduce the quantity. Take smaller bites. Savor.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:20 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I too have missed fats and sugars while eating well. Two ways I've bent the rules a bit:

1. Make it a reward. I've allowed myself two spoons of Ben and Jerry's after a workout.

2. Buy good cheese, a local cheese shop will cut to order ("i want $5 of X cheese") so you don't have to spend $14 on a bit of Stilton. Use this cheese as a snack, usually while making your healthy dinner.

From this I've learned to appreciate the quality of each food, more so than the quantity. One small Godiva chocolate beats a Hershey bar in taste and quality. One bite of excellent cheese beats a whole bag of Cheetos.
posted by limited slip at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2009

I lived in Sweden last year and honestly didn't like most of the candy there. I dreamed of Reeses cups and just stayed away from candy. A year later I'm back in the US and gong for those coveted Reeses...and blergh! I find I can't really stand most candy now and I suppose I'm better off for it. I guess the take home lesson is that if you commit to some deprivation, your taste buds will adjust.

At home I eat fruit for dessert. A delicious ripe peach? Exquisite and full of nutrients!

I still love other desserts though. My rule for them is that I can't eat them alone. If I make brownies, I have to invite people over. If I'm at a party I can have a slice of whatever. I never buy desserts unless I'm having a social thing. No boxed cookies, no ice cream pints, etc. unless there is a party plan. That keeps me from overindulging.
posted by melissam at 9:27 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are two basic approaches to moderation:

1) Allowing yourself a little treat every day: a couple of tablespoons of ice cream, a couple of 2 bite brownies, whatever
2) Skipping fatty and sugary stuff most of the week, but having a designated cheat or refeed day where you have one meal or item you really, really like

I'm in the latter camp. I'm trying to move off some stubborn pounds, so I just don't keep junky stuff around the house. When I'm out, I try to keep cheese, a banana or some nuts with me, because I have found out in the past that if I start grazing or snacking, it's really hard to stop. A designated day help me view this stuff as a special treat limited in both time and space. YMMV: you may find you need to have a tiny treat every day, but why not try out the single day approach first?

And as others have said, don't waste calories. Do you get a cone from the damn ice cream truck that parks right outside your door every night just because it's tempting and convenient, or do you walk to the local gelateria for what you REALLY want?

BTW, this Saturday is definitely a refeed and redrink day. We wouldn't want to break Kristy's heart, would we? :-)
posted by maudlin at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2009

This may be obvious but--don't keep your treats in the house! If you want it, you have to go to a store to get it. Keeps me from eating the whole pint of ice cream in two days.
posted by stray at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Making my own food, particularly, has helped me. It's one thing to read that a slice of a store-bought blueberry pie has x hundred calories, y grams of sugar, and z grams of fat. When you make it yourself, you realize that's an entire stick of butter going into the crust. It's one thing to read that two scoops of store-bought gourmet vanilla ice cream has fat and cream in it, but it's another to make it yoruself and realize that two entire containers of heavy cream are going into the batch.

Plus, you get to control the quality of the ingredients, which helps with the choosing-quality-over-quantity that others have mentioned.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2009

Excellent question. Here's what I suggest, based on my own experience:

1. Keep problematic food out of the house. Out of sight, out of mind.

2. Don't make big meals, as that encourages you to eat larger portions. If the recipe ends up producing a big meal, wrap up portions and put them away as leftovers before you eat.

3. Drink a big-ass glass of water before any meal or snack. It's good for you, it will help you feel less foggy and sluggish, and it will fill you up.

4. Never eat right out of the container or bag. Prepare a plate or bowl and give yourself a small portion, telling yourself that it's ok and you can have more afterwards if you feel like it. Try to add some ultra-low calorie sides (pickles, etc) to slow you down. Then take your time. By the time you finish you will be at least partially satiated and you'll have more willpower to resist going back seconds.

5. Break positive associations with food. That is, don't eat while doing your favorite things (gaming, watching movies, reading MeFi, etc) as you'll develop a positive feedback loop that's hard to break. Me myself, I finally broke my habit of drinking beer and eating snacks while watching Netflix movies, which made me start wondering how I was going to enjoy my movies, which made me realize that it had gotten ridiculous, so I was able to cut way back on the beer. There's a lot to be said for eating at the dining table without other entertainment. The associations thing is one of the cornerstones of the shangri-la diet method, though I tried it only for 4 days so I can't vouch for it.
posted by crapmatic at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm not particularly overweight, but it's been moving up as I've been getting older, and I also eat more crap than I did when I was younger and poorer, too. My most recent strategy doesn't involve cutting anything out completely, but just manage portions -- when I'd normally have grabbed two cookies, I just eat one. Don't fill the bowl of ice cream to the top; just a couple scoops are enough. Instead of pop/soda all day long, I have it only with meals, and just water at my desk. Instead of two microwave TV dinners for a quick lunch, just one and add a half cup of vegetables instead. Yeah, that last one is probably a bigger key than cookies or pop, but if I just do it smaller I avoid the feeling of deprivation, changing "I can't have that" to "I'll have a small one a little later". It is easy enough to look at the size of the portion you want to take, and then cut it smaller.
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2009

Nthing the "enjoy the hell out of it" approach.

Whatever it is you love that's sweet and fatty, get the highest quality stuff. And then, when you eat it, do nothing except enjoy it. Make sure there isn't a single other distraction. Make sure you stop between bites to cleanse your palate so that the next bite is just as exquisite. As you're eating, think of nothing but just how amazingly delicious what you're eating is.

One good thing about doing this is that it requires you to enjoy your food. Another good thing about it is that it takes a lot of time. If you make yourself see every bite of dessert as something to savor deeply and which requires the entirety of your concentration, you end up feeling "finished" before you've actually gotten around to eating that much (you've had enough taste, you want to get on to doing other things, etc).
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:03 AM on July 13, 2009

If you use one of those "sensitive teeth" toothpastes, switch to a regular one for a few days.

You will quickly learn to see Oreos as the medieval torture devices they really are.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2009

I had gastric bypass surgery.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2009

Every week, I cut back the amount of sugar I was putting in a cup of coffee by the tiniest pinch. Over time, the amount of sugar dropped by 2/3 without me even noticing it.

If I drink 3 cups of coffee a day, this little change alone cut two teaspoons of sugar a day out of my diet.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2009

Best answer: Planning treats ahead of time and limiting trips to the grocery store works for us. My husband and I go grocery shopping only once a week. At that time, we purchase one bar of good quality dark chocolate to share. We each have one small square a day. You could mix it up and buy X calories worth of good dessert for the week. If you go crazy one day and eat it all, then promise to go without until the next shopping trip.
posted by pizzazz at 10:54 AM on July 13, 2009

Buy the natural or "less-processed" version. Buy baked goods from a good french bakery rather than Entennman's or ConAgra.

If you like ice cream, buy Haagen Dazs "Five" or a well-made gelato from the Whole Foods frozen section instead of the awful Breyer's or whatever national brand they have in the U.S.

The "French Paradox" is really not a paradox. They make food that's more wholesome- therefore you eat way less.
posted by Zambrano at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2009

Also, if you really like Oreos, buy the Italian version - which are more wholesome-- therefore you eat one or two and feel satisfied rather than the usual 10 or 15 American-made Oreos most people have to eat to feel satisfied.

Newman's also makes a good "Oreo".
posted by Zambrano at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2009

Best answer: An appropriate amount of "junk" calories for a healthy diet would be about 10% of your total caloric intake. So if you're eating 2000 calories a day, it wouldn't kill you if 200 of them came from Dunkin Donuts (or your junk peddler of choice). The other 1800 should be coming straight out of the ground, or straight out of an animal.

Put in different terms, you can eat one "junk" meal out of every ten meals. So if you're eating three meals a day, that's about 2 junk meals a week (e.g. pizza on Friday night, and vodka and birthday cake at 2 AM on Tuesday).
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 11:15 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd advise not only looking for top-quality treats, but also finding the most delicious healthy/everyday foods that you can. Figure out your favorite varieties of apples and oranges, try new veggies or new seasonings/dressings on your veggies, get actual deli meats instead of the bland prepackaged kind. If your everyday meals are satisfying, you'll find you crave the really indulgent stuff a little less often.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:23 AM on July 13, 2009

Repeating/remixing a few prior suggestions:

Intense or very high quality treats, easier to enjoy in smaller amounts.

Portioning out a serving. I was a calorie-counting dork during my big weight loss, so reading the portions on the package helped a lot. But also it's just harder to overindulge if you have to actually get up and get more.

Ditto with keeping treats out of the house.

Recognize those associations, and figure out how to handle them. I've learned that I really do prefer a bit of something sweet after a savory meal, so I try to plan for something small to head off going overboard later. Planning for treats in general works well for me, as I have trouble with spontaneous "mmmm, sugar..." moments.

One last thing: in experimenting with categories of sweets, I discovered that it's surprisingly easy for me to be moderate with ice-cream-based treats, and shockingly difficult with home-baked goods. (I stopped baking entirely for about 6 months.) Another friend can be cool with a homemade cookie, but has to keep away from stuff like Pop-Tarts at all costs. You may find that some things just satisfy more easily, but that will probably take some trial and error.

Good luck!
posted by epersonae at 11:42 AM on July 13, 2009

Upping the quality/purity of your food overall helps. Your palate will be amazed at the difference in taste of organic & heirloom produce & animal products (butter, eggs, milk, meat) versus their highly-modified counterparts.

I have a rule regarding dessert that if it's not homemade, I don't eat it. Now I can't eat the other stuff (boxed brownie mixes, dunkin donuts) -- it tastes like chemicals and plastic, not like real food. It even smells completely different (and off-putting), and none of that stuff tempts me now, even if I'm craving sweets.

And try to make your desserts in line with the seasons when you can -- there's nothing like a good strawberry or peach shortcake with in-season fruit. I can't wait to pick blueberries and make some good Blueberry Boy Bait this week....
posted by mdiskin at 11:50 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I use The Daily Plate to track my calories. I've got a set number of calories that I can eat per day, and TDP lets me know exactly how many I have left for the day.

If I eat a big chocolate chip cookie from the snack table at work, that's 210 less calories I have to work with for the day, so I'll maybe eat soup for dinner instead of a hamburger. Some days, I don't eat much during the day so I can have a big piece of pie for dessert.

Or whatever, you get the idea, just compensate by eating less calories to balance out eating more sometimes. That way I can eat literally whatever I want -- but sometimes I have to decide if it's worth it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:50 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

And sometimes... I just eat a whole lot of junk. I have days that I just give up tracking (usually holidays) and just decide I'm going to not worry about it. And then I move on.

I usually take off any weight I put on within a week. This past 4th of July weekend, I ate almost constantly all weekend. My scale tells me I put on 3 pounds. By the end of the week (I was back to tracking calories on Monday morning) I had lost everything I'd gained plus another two pounds!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2009

I would be miserable without the occasional dessert

Do you get more pleasure out of cooking or eating? For me, answering this question was where I began my journey to a healthier diet, because I realized that I like preparing the food more than actually consuming it.

Over the course of the last few years, I had started to learn to cook healthy, awesome meals that made a huge mess in the kitchen, drew sweat to my brow, and took a few hours to make. But then when I was the only one enjoying it, it grew less and less appealing.

So I decided to make it social. I shared that food with whoever I could. I made Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of people and it was a multi-day experience - but I didn't actually eat all of the five pork tenderloins and half-kilo of apple crisp myself. When you're planning for a crowd, you don't plan five portions for yourself and one for everyone else. I had potlucks and dinner parties often, sending home leftovers with guests.

I also didn't buy dessert at all. I made zucchini-spice bread in the winter and took it to work to enjoy with a cup of tea, but I brought it to share. I got a few slices over a few days and so did everyone else, and that was fine: it's not like I can never make it again! I indulged in flavorsome teas and spicy sauces and made extremely savory lunches to take to work and was still feeling full hours and hours after I'd eaten - and part of that, I think, was that I was eating with other people, and seeing my creations made me feel more satisfied both mentally and physically. When other people are looking at your awesome roast chicken, salad, and rice pilaf that you made last night and are still enjoying - and they will actually say, "Oh my God! That looks delicious!" - it IS, in fact, more delicious.

So I'd say that there's a huge social factor that affects the way we eat, and making food with others and eating together leads, at least in my experience, to a healthier diet.
posted by mdonley at 12:53 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Similar to jamaro's response above you may want to look at The No 'S' Diet -- Good luck.
posted by dirm at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2009

One really easy way is to pick a "bad" ingredient that you're not eating. This can change over time, doesn't matter. If you say "I'm not eating sugar, but I can eat anything else I want," you will be amazed at how much bad stuff that cuts out while still leaving a huge world of food for your enjoyment. And then next month you can have all the sugar you want, but no white flour, or no dairy. And so forth.
posted by HotToddy at 10:35 PM on July 13, 2009

My vice is definitely sweet lattes. I use joes goals to track days without one. I allow one every 30 days, and do my best to not break the chain. For everything else that is a problem I just don't buy it. It can be a problem when I am at someone else's place, but not the end of the world.

Someone told me pickles and olives are good for fighting cravings. Seems to work for me.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:25 PM on July 14, 2009

(rather than banning certain foods)

That was key for me. Somewhere along the line I started to view some food as "bad" and the rest "good", which left me feeling deprived. Punished even. It didn't help that I have The Great Saboteur living under the same roof who would bring home all the junk when I could easily avoid it at the grocery store. Many an argument over that ...

I've done two things. One was I lifted the taboo on certain foods and, instead said, nothing is off limits. The other was trying something I never had before every month. It could be anything, but mostly it meant spending more time in the imported food section and, the time figuring out what to make with what I bought. I discovered I love cooking spicy food, the smells and colour. I love (LOVE) Indian and Thai food with all their competing tastes and textures.

Because of the massive changes to my diet, indulgences these days are odd things like jam on nicely toasted sprouted grain bread, imli (tamarind) chutney with indian food, candied ginger. Thinking about it, indulgence has been pretty much incorporated into the meals I make.

If your everyday meals are satisfying, you'll find you crave the really indulgent stuff a little less often.

So true.

And, nth'ing no seconds, no picking (big deal for me) whilst cooking and, making your own sweets.
posted by squeak at 8:03 AM on July 26, 2009

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