It’s no secret that following a nutritious diet is key to good health. That’s why we try oh so hard to be friendly with foods like broccoli, kale, quinoa, and chia seeds. But let’s face it, there are some days when all we want is something dipped in leche condenseda. Is that too much to ask?
It turns out, the occasional yummy treat is just as important as all the other healthy stuff you’re supposed to be consuming every day.
"When it comes to weight loss, feeding your soul is just as important as feeding your body Jessica Cording, R.D.N., said in an interview with Shape. "Enjoying indulgent foods helps you do that."
Research shows our bodies are biologically programmed to crave sweets and fat, so depriving ourselves of them 100 percent of the time will end up working against you. “If you're never eating the foods you really enjoy or which give you pleasure, then that's going to result in feelings of deprivation,” said Chloe McLeod, a registered dietitian told Huffington Post. “If you have these feelings of deprivation, it can increase the chance of bingeing or overeating, and this can end up being quite an unhealthy cycle." Depriving yourself of certain foods may also lead to depression.
A healthy diet isn’t about eating as many vegetables as you can, it’s about maintaining balance. So while it’s important to get plenty of fruits, leafy greens, lean proteins, and whole grains, it’s also important to satisfy your cravings once in a while.
Treating yourself to special dishes adds diversity to your diet, and that, studies show, helps you stay slim. In fact, research conducted at Cornell University found that people who ate a wide variety of foods had a lower BMI than those who always ate the same foods. The study also found that because the experience of trying new things is pleasurable, you don’t feel the need to overeat.
So just how often can we enjoy our guilty pleasures? It depends. While some experts recommend “cheat days,” others note that working in small indulgences on a daily basis is more effective.
“When I counsel my patients, I actually don't talk about using cheat days,” nutritionist Maya Feller told ABC News. “I talk more about moderation, have one meal that is a little bit more decadent.”
So while you may not want to jump head-first into an entire caramel flan tonight, ending your day with a little slice wouldn’t be the end of the world. Just remember to balance it out with other healthy food choices and some exercise, too.