By Arianne Cohen
My sweet tooth has bite to it. And sometimes fur. And a voice. You know, Cookie Monster incarnate, who appears out of nowhere around 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. every day, looking to party. I usually try to sate him by munching on something healthy -- an apple and milk, sometimes yogurt. But diet pros and researchers say that avoiding the cookie is the wrong strategy. They bring good news: Indulge. Yes, you read that right. Rather than always avoiding a certain craving, sometimes it's OK to fulfill it. Here’s how to enjoy those treats without gaining an ounce.
Good: Indulge A Bit
“If you’re craving ice cream, I would recommend that you have ice cream,” says upwave diet and nutrition expert Caroline Kaufman MS, RDN, “because no matter how many celery sticks you have, you’re not going to satisfy your craving, and might end up eating many more calories of other foods.” Indeed, eating what you want often prevents further cravings.
The trick, of course, is portion control. Are you capable of eating just 100 to 300 calories' worth? “If you have a hard time controlling the portion size of your favorite foods, don’t keep the food in your house,” says Kaufman. “Instead, buy single servings -- go to the ice cream shop.”
Better: Work Out Just A Little Each Day
One study found that moderate exercisers who work out for around 30 minutes a day lose more weight than hard-core exercisers. Why? Because those exercising an hour or more a day tend to eat larger portions and snacks, and move less due to fatigue. So keep your fitness goals attainable. “Just enjoy your single-portion desserts and try to get 120 minutes of cardio in each week,” says Kaufman. Moderation wins the day yet again.
Best: Nosh On Homemade Frozen-Yogurt Treats (Or Just Go For Chocolate)
If you’re craving sweets in general (not a specific food), Kaufman suggests keeping a stash of homemade frozen-yogurt treats in the freezer. Simply put nickel-size dots of your favorite yogurt on wax paper and freeze. Or dip fruits like strawberries or pineapple into yogurt and freeze. When they’re solid, you’ll have delicious frozen delights.
Not near a freezer? Go for a square or two of dark chocolate, with its high antioxidant levels that reduce heart-disease risk and lower blood pressure. Try to limit yourself to three ounces, which is both a hefty calorie haul (up to 450) and the maximally beneficial serving. You may want to cut out calories in other areas, or exercise more on your "dark chocolate" days. Make sure you indulge on chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, as the higher the cacao, the more beneficial the treat will likely be. Yum.