This statement does make a broad generalisation, but in my own experience, myself and fellow dietitians are unapologetic when it comes to getting a helping of dessert, and at functions we are often the ones hovering around the food table.
But shouldn’t we be the ones avoiding the sweets and loading our plates with salad?
To explain this phenomenon, you must first understand the concept of diet quality. Simply put, life is all about balance. Yes, we eat cake, ice cream, hot chips etc., but this is a tiny portion of our whole diet.
If the majority of the time you meet your vegetable requirements (five serves per day), eat unprocessed foods, include wholegrains and unprocessed meats, limit intakes of saturated fat while having plenty of heart healthy unsaturated fat, drink mostly water and tea while limiting juice and sugary drinks, you will have a high-quality diet.
But eating this “clean” day in and out can get boring, and even the most health-conscious person with an iron resolve will succumb to cravings.
Therefore, we dietitians advocate for people to be kind to themselves, have a treat every once in a while to prevent yourself from falling off the wagon and binging on a whole packet of chocolate biscuits (we have all been there).
That small dose of refined sugar and fat will not undo all the good work you’ve laid down earlier in the day. Additionally, when you have a high-quality diet, in the long run, you will naturally want smaller portions of those “sometimes” foods because anything more can make your stomach feel uneasy. With a high-quality diet comes changes to your taste buds as well. Over time sweets taste too sweet, and processed foods and takeaway meals are way too salty.
Having balance, and treating yourself, does not mean dietitians are giving everyone permission to have a whole cheat day. Rather than over doing calories on one particular day, which will leave you feeling much regret, try giving yourself small daily treats.
This frequent positive reinforcement will provide you with a daily high point to remind yourself that you have been a good person without over doing the calroies, so have that scoop of ice-cream (after your vegetable laden dinner). This practice also allows you to mindfully enjoy the food you often harbor guilt over, which often ruins the experience of eating something sinful and delicious.
So next time you’re at a party or function enjoy yourself in moderation, because at the heart of our culture we celebrate with food. Birthday cake anyone?