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How a Small Daily Indulgence Might Help You Eat Healthier

How a Small Daily Indulgence Might Help You Eat Healthier

Whoever said “eat dessert first” was onto something.

Have you ever wished cookies and ice cream were considered “diet-friendly” foods? Well, if you order it first, science might be on your side. Recent evidence shows consuming a small, high-calorie dessert each day might motivate you to eat less overall.

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Researchers alternated between putting healthier sweet treats, such as fruit, and more indulgent desserts, such as cheesecake, at the beginning and end of cafeteria lines to see if choosing an indulgence over a healthy option would affect one’s caloric intake for that meal. They also wanted to find out if food placement affected healthy eating choices.

The study found that when the cheesecake and apples were placed at the beginning of the line, those who chose the indulgent dessert opted for smaller portions and lower-calorie options. However, when the sweet treats were placed at the end of the line, most diners didn’t order lower-calorie main dishes or sides.

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An interesting caveat, however, was participants who were under stress or distracted and chose the indulgent dessert at the beginning of the line were more likely to also choose higher-calorie main and side dish options. There are dozens of studies showing the importance of being present while you eat, whether that means putting away your phone, turning off your TV, or stepping away from your desk to enjoy your meal.

The researchers replicated this study several times to discover how participants would follow this concept via online ordering apps, such as UberEats and Grub Hub, and found the same results. When the order of desserts was listed before main dishes on an app simulation, participants were more prone to order lower-calorie meals if they first ordered a dessert.

Allowing yourself to enjoy a small treat each day instead of restricting unhealthy food as much as possible, might just prove more effective overall. Maintaining a healthy weight is all about finding balance and setting realistic goals for yourself to make healthy eating more of a lifestyle choice than a miserable diet.

While we don’t advise eating a big hunk of cheese cake every day, some of our favorite treat recipes, such as chocolate baby cakes and salted chocolate-topped shortbread, can be great ways to satisfy your sweet tooth during the week.

7 Delicious Dishes That Can Help You Sleep

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Are you sleeping well? If so, enjoy it while you can. A recent study found that 14 percent of participants who were sleeping just fine developed insomnia at some point during a five-year follow-up period. Almost 40 percent of those who reported sleeplessness in the first year of the study still had sleep issues after five years.

The problem with persistent sleeplessness isn’t just the dark circles under your eyes. People who don’t get enough sleep are likely to develop mental and physical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and can be more at risk for heart attack and stroke. Insomnia contributes to obesity and depression, as well.

8 Good-for-You Indulgences

Nibble before dinner
Having about 70 calories of healthy fat 20 minutes before you eat&mdashthat's six walnuts, 12 almonds or 20 peanuts&mdashcan trick you into thinking you're full faster. This works because good fats stimulate the production of a hormone that sends the signal to your brain that you've eaten enough.

Have pizza night
Pizza is often dismissed as unhealthy, but if you use whole-wheat crust and lowfat cheese, and pile on the veggies (skip the pepperoni and ground beef), it's one of the most nutritionally sound meals around.

Juice it up
So long to its reputation as a sugar and calorie bomb. New research has found that drinking fruit and vegetable juices can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease by 76 percent and help lower cholesterol. Just make sure you go for 100 percent juice (read labels carefully).

Put pasta on the menu
Choose multigrain varieties, says Jennifer Vimbor, R.D., a Chicago-based nutritionist. "They're loaded with fiber to help you get the recommended 25 grams per day."

Drink a fruity cocktail
Research shows that alcohol can increase the level of antioxidants in certain fruits, including strawberries and blackberries.

Express yourself
When people wrote affectionately about their close friends and family in three 20-minute sessions, their cholesterol levels dropped an average of 11 points.

Go shopping
Buying something as small as a lipstick can give your mood a lift, plus you can burn up to 160 extra calories walking around the mall (as always, be sure to choose a parking spot in the last row).

Do the dishes
Increasing light physical activity&mdashsuch as washing dishes and ironing&mdashcan lower blood glucose levels and may reduce the risk of diabetes, according to research published in the journal Diabetes Care.

19 Small Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Health

You don't have to go vegan or sign up for boot camp to give your well-being a nice boost. This month, try one of these refreshingly easy feel-good tips from fellow Real Simple readers.

Sometimes big changes start with small shifts. Whether you&aposre trying to eat better, get more active or ward off germs, a healthier you doesn&apost have to mean a total lifestyle makeover. We asked our readers which small change has made the biggest impact on their health.

I gave my refrigerator a total makeover. First I placed fruits and veggies inside clear containers and put them, along with yogurt and salad fixings, on a shelf at eye level. Now when I open the door, those options grab my attention. I also threw out any takeout containers, because they only encouraged me to eat more takeout. As a result of this new system, I unconsciously make healthier choices, and it has helped to lower my blood pressure.

—Sharna Small, Borsellino Dedham, Massachusetts

About a year ago, instead of reading during my 15-minute break at work, I started taking brisk walks around my office-building complex. After a couple of months, I was so surprised at how my body shape had changed with that small amount of exercise. My midsection had slimmed down, and my legs were more toned. Now I feel more energetic throughout the day and sleep better at night.

—Karen Swanson, Taylor, Texas

My therapist suggested deep breathing as a tool to manage stress. I teach eighth-grade math, and my stress level is pretty high on some days. I breathe in to a slow count of five, hold for a slow count of five, then slowly release to a count of five. This instantly calms me down and keeps me centered. Think of it as a three-minute break that you can take anytime, anywhere.

�thy Morse, Forest City, North Carolina

There are tons of sweets and fatty snacks within arm&aposs reach at my office, so I fell into the habit of grabbing a bag of chips or cookies in the late morning and afternoon. Early this year, I began bringing healthy bites (like mandarin oranges, nuts, and granola) to work. Since I&aposve cut all those refined sugars and empty calories out of my diet, I no longer experience a late-afternoon slump.

—Katy Lange, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Weight lifting has improved my flexibility and made the aches and pains in my back, neck, and shoulders subside. I spent most of my life believing that cardio was the key to a lean, healthy body and that lifting would only make me appear bulkier. Yet now, at age 41, I look and feel better than ever.

𠅌hristi McCrary, Dallas, Texas

My family and I order all our groceries online. When shopping in the supermarket, I&aposm more likely to make impulse purchases. (Who can say no to "buy one, get one free" boxes of cookies? I certainly can&apost.) It&aposs much easier for me to resist temptations online. We eat healthier and spend less money to boot.

�ky Kenemuth, Washington, D.C.

I&aposve struggled with weight issues my whole life, so a few months ago I adopted my 10-year-old daughter&aposs daily exercise routine: 40 situps and 20 push-ups. While she does it at night for her gymnastics class, I do it within the first 10 minutes of waking up. Not only do I feel stronger but the activity also puts me in a better mood and encourages me to make good choices throughout the day.

—Jenny Kober, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

In the past, I would drink coffee while getting ready for work, yet I still felt tired. So my fitness instructor advised me to drink water in the morning before my usual cup of joe. He said that this would get my metabolism going and wake me up. Since I&aposve begun guzzling water and waiting until the midmorning slump to drink coffee, I&aposve felt refreshed and energized.

�ie Dunham, Redondo Beach, California

When I gobbled down decadent breakfasts in the morning, like an egg and cheese on a bagel, I felt lethargic at work. Daily tasks, like sending e-mails and preparing for meetings, required more effort. By eating lighter morning meals, like a dairy-free smoothie or oatmeal with fruit, I have more energy in the morning and that lasts all day.

—Katie Muilenberg, Rockville, Maryland

Establishing a sleep schedule and sticking to it has cured my bouts of insomnia. I go to bed and get up at the same time every day, and I sprinkle my bed with lavender and play soothing music to help me fall asleep. With a full night&aposs rest, I have fewer mood swings and my mind stays sharp.

—Mare Hare, Marinette, Wisconsin

As part of my goal of getting fit for my wedding, over two years ago I started tracking what I eat on an app called MyFitnessPal. I quickly learned how the calories from my snacking added up, and I also saw how much exercise can make up for those extra calories. I still use the app, despite being a married woman now, as it has proven to be great motivation for eating well and exercising.

—Laura VanderLaan, Atlanta, Georgia

While I understand that fitness is important, I get embarrassed at the gym, and I won&apost go for a run unless a bear is chasing me. However, gardening is a surprisingly great alternative to traditional exercise and relieves tension at the same time. Shoveling, tearing out weeds, and stomping on a pitchfork to loosen dirt definitely get my heart rate up.

—Merricka Breuer, Sunderland, Massachusetts

I am amazed by how paying closer attention to how food affects my body and then adjusting my diet accordingly has affected my overall health. For instance, after discovering that a lack of fat in my meals caused an upset stomach and bloating, I started eating more healthy fats. I have dropped 15 pounds and am experiencing less joint and muscle soreness.

—Jill L. Lindsey, Lebanon, Ohio

Since I think it&aposs more often the things we touch that make us sick as opposed to the air we breathe, I press upon my two boys the importance of washing our hands frequently. We have been an illness-free home for the last year, and I take much pride in that. No one has missed a day of school or work in the longest time. Either we are really lucky or we simply wash our hands.

—Pamela Jean Grady, Kalispell, Montana

After researching the potential sources of my back problems and fatigue, I learned that poor posture can cause these symptoms. So to help me sit up straight, I swapped out my office chair for a stability ball. My back issues have vastly improved, and I&aposm more alert, not to mention confident, at work.

�licia Goldsmith, Davis, California

Sugar has always been my biggest vice. I used to eat dessert after lunch, and I would start thinking about my nighttime dessert even before dinner. Now I refrain from having multiple desserts a day and satisfy my sweet tooth with a piece of dark chocolate or a handful of raspberries instead of ice cream. Besides not having to deal with the constant crashes and the cravings, I enjoy the sweets that I do eat more than before.

�y Pfeiffer, Portland, Oregon

I used to think that stretching was a total waste of time, but after being told to stretch daily after a painful knee injury, I discovered what a difference it makes. When I stretch after a workout, my body is much less sore and achy. My legs used to feel really tight all the time, but as long as I stretch in the morning and at night, they&aposre pain-free.

—Teresa Tobat, Burke, Virginia

Thanks to our new practice of reading nutrition labels, my kids and I are able to look at a product and know whether it will make us feel good or not. If a food doesn&apost pass our criteria (no hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup, a small amount of sugar, and at least two grams of fiber per serving), we don&apost buy it. We love knowing exactly what we&aposre putting into our bodies.

𠅎rica Privitelli, Los Angeles, California

About five years ago, when I returned to work after being a stay-at-home mom, I realized that waking up at the same time as my daughter and husband made me cranky. I felt overwhelmed having to immediately prepare breakfast and get everyone ready for the day. So now I wake up 30 minutes before the rest of the household. I enjoy a cup of coffee and read or watch a funny TV show. This daily ritual helps me feel more awake and relaxed and puts me in a better state of mind.

Holiday Food Indulgences: 3 Ways to Eat Better & Be Healthier During the 2020 Holiday Season by Susan Bowerman

The upcoming holidays likely feel a lot different to all of us, but one thing that likely won’t change this year: holiday indulgence. Herbalife Nutrition recently surveyed 2,000 Americans and found that 61 percent feel they deserve to indulge more this year than years past because of the stress of 2020. Additionally, 53 percent have found themselves making more unhealthy food choices in an effort to feel better about how different the holidays will be this year.

Here are three ways to indulge healthfully over the holidays:

  1. Hydrate as much as you eat. Water is essential for nutrient absorption and helps with overall digestion and provides a natural way for your body to detox. Remember that fluids other than water can hydrate you, too, like coffee and tea – just make sure to limit your caffeine intake.
  2. Fill up on protein and veggies. One way to resist unhealthy eating is to incorporate more protein and veggies into every meal while cutting back on carbs and fat. Protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and legumes are filling, and also supply vitamin B, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. To get more veggies in, skip the starchy sides and double up on the greens. The extra fiber will help fill you up faster.
  3. Select your sweets carefully. In the holiday eating survey, 43 percent of respondents admitted to eating more than one dessert during a meal. Many sweets can have a very high-calorie cost, which is counterproductive to maintaining a healthy weight, so try limiting yourself to small servings of those special treats that you only eat at holiday time and try to avoid the "everyday" sweets that are less special. Another way to rethink the way you prepare dessert for your family is cooking or baking with fruit, or for a healthier ice-cream-like treat, try peeling some bananas, wrap them in waxed paper and freeze them. You can slice them and eat them or throw them in a blender.

The content on is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.

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20 Healthy Yet Indulgent Snacks and Meals

Sure, most of us could eat celery sticks and lean fish protein and consider ourselves healthy, but what kind of existence would that be? Sometimes you need a little indulgence to keep you going. These 20 recipes represent a nice balance between tasty-enough-to-keep-your-interest and just-healthy-enough-to-keep-you-from-crashing.

George Foreman 4-Serving Removable Plate Grill and Panini Press, $35.49 on Amazon

Get grilling for a healthier 2019!

Dark-meat turkey lends juiciness and flavor, and keeps these tasty burgers lower in fat than even regular lean-beef burgers. The guacamole keeps things extra-luxurious. Get our Guacamole Turkey Burgers recipe.

A cheesy chorizo breakfast burrito can drop enough calories on you to put you in the red. This one, with beans and roasted poblanos, is rich and satisfying and won’t blow your diet. Get our Vegetarian Black Bean Burritos recipe.

Lighter than oatmeal, quinoa cooks with dried figs, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg to yield a breakfast you can feel good about. Milk and a sprinkling of chopped, toasted pecans and halved figs complete this nourishing breakfast. Get our Quinoa Breakfast Porridge with Figs recipe.

Everybody loves Caesar salad, especially when it’s coated in rich, yolky dressing enriched with a ton of Parm. Thos one, with mustard greens instead of romaine, keeps overindulgence in check. Get our Mustard Greens Caesar recipe.

Baked instead of fried and coated in whole-wheat cracker crumbs, these tender chicken strips are a much healthier alternative to fast food or frozen chicken nuggets. Serve them hot out of the oven. Get our Baked Chicken Fingers recipe.

Lower in fat than beef chili, more satisfying than veggie chili, this recipe calling for ground turkey is spiked with hili powder, cayenne, cumin, and little bit of cinnamon. Get our Spicy Turkey Chili recipe.

Thick Greek yogurt provides tangy goodness and a soft-serve texture without excessive butterfat. A swirl of blackberries adds plenty of sweetness, no extra-calorie toppings necessary. Get our Blackberry Frozen Yogurt recipe.

A minimum of olive oil and some carrot shavings are essentially all you need to make beautiful, crisp, and satisfying munchies that won’t leave you kicking yourself for over-indulging. Get our Carrot Chips recipe.

Healthy quinoa, vegetables, and feta cheese stand in for the cream and seafood in this vegetarian soup that’s perfect for lunch or a light dinner. Get our Quinoa Chowder with Spinach and Feta recipe.

Fish tacos can be filled with either fried fish (not healthy!) or grilled fish (healthy!). Here’s the healthy version, with a citrus marinade and tangy cabbage slaw. Get our Grilled Fish Tacos recipe.

Regular hummus isn’t a diet breaker, but the amount of oil-rich tahini it contains can keep you from pigging out. This healthier version with cannellini beans and frozen edamame relies on a mere ¼ teaspoon of sesame oil for richness. Get our White Bean and Edamame Hummus recipe.

Ground dark-meat turkey is a juicy stand-in for beef (or veal, or pork) in this American classic with a spicy, smoky kick. Get our Turkey Chipotle Meatloaf recipe.

Okay, so nobody would consider vegetarian pâté a close second to traditional meat charcuterie, but this version—made from dried red lentils, cremini mushrooms, and white wine, flavored with smoked paprika—is a genuinely luxurious spread for crackers or veggie chips. Get our Red Lentil Pâté recipe.

Shrimp cocktails with Louie dressing are delicious but, from a diet perspective, deadly. This romesco sauce alternative provides all the luxurious texture and depth of flavor with much less fat. Get our Roasted Shrimp with Romesco Sauce recipe.

Coats your upper lip and gives you a brain freeze just like a full-fat shake, but with none of the butterfat heaviness. Mango sorbet, fresh raspberries, soy milk, and toasted coconut are all you need. Get our Mango-Raspberry Vegan Shake recipe.

The simple margherita (tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil) is already an exercise in restraint. Giving it a whole-wheat crust inches up its nutritional rating. Get our Whole Wheat Margarita Pizza recipe.

The Mexican torta is a thing of heft and diverse textures. Here, marinated and grilled tofu (first marinated in hot sauce) is a healthy stand-in for meat. Get our Grilled Tofu Torta recipe.

Ground chicken makes meatloaf lighter and more delicate than the one Mom used t make. A bit of shredded aged Gouda cheese gives it just enough complex flavor. Get our Easy Chicken Meatloaf recipe.

Ah, the beef stroganoffs of childhood: rich, beefy, creamy, and caloric. This vegetarian version swaps out cremini mushrooms and kale for the meat, and it’s enriched with just enough sour cream to keep it close to the original. Get our Kale and Mushroom Stroganoff recipe.

An indulgent-textured sauce of walnuts blended with coconut milk gives this comfort dish plenty of, well, comfort, while the addition of roasted cauliflower and broccoli florets give it a ton of nutrients and fiber. Get our Vegan Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

For more tips, tricks, and recipes, check out our healthy eating page.

Related Video: 87 Healthy Casseroles

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Healthy Mint “Shamrock” Milkshake Recipe! (Sugar-Free)

Every March as St. Patty’s Day approaches, the Shamrock Shake attracts throngs of hungry diners to the Golden Arches. In all its corn-syrup filled glory, a small McDonald’s Shamrock Shake packs a whopping 86 grams of carbohydrates (73g of sugar) and 530 calories!

Fortunately, I was able to come up with a Healthy Indulgences version that clocks in at 8 grams of carbohydrates, no sugar, and 420 calories worth of protein and nourishing fats. It’s basically a meal in the form of a thick, creamy, sweet milkshake. What could be better than that?


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I Tried Eating 6 Meals A Day, And Here's What Happened

I grew up with a less is more mentality, as in the less often you eat, the less you'll weigh. As a body-conscious teenager, that translated into me ignoring my hunger pangs until well past lunchtime. When I finally caved to the call of my angry stomach, I'd end up practically shoveling food into my mouth. I may have been eating only one meal a day, but that meal was a giant one.

Fortunately, I grew up. I went through therapy, went vegetarian, and became a mom. I started eating breakfast with my daughter before I put her on the school bus, had lunch at my desk, and ate dinner with my family. I thought I had gotten into a pretty good rhythm, but recently I noticed a shift. As I'd gotten swamped by deadlines and found myself working longer and longer hours, I was once again forgetting to eat until my stomach starting screaming at me to eat something&mdashanything!&mdashnow. (If you eat plenty but always feel starving, these 4 things could explain your hunger.)

That "anything" rarely turned out to be a healthy salad or veggie burger. Instead, I'd grab whatever was handy, and eat a lot more of it than I would have if I was just mildly hungry. The result: I gained 10 pounds, and I felt as sluggish as I had back when I had a newborn (11 years ago!) keeping me up at all hours.

(Got 10 minutes? Try Prevention's new 10-minute workouts and 10-minute meals to lose weight and feel your healthiest ever. Get Fit in 10: Slim and Strong for Life now!)

With spring on the horizon, I decided it was time to force myself to get healthy. Some studies have found eating as often as six times a day helps to reduce hunger, which certainly makes sense. Research has also suggested that eating regular meals at the same time each day can boost your metabolism.

I decided I'd try eating six small meals a day&mdasheach about ¼ of the size of a traditional breakfast or lunch&mdashand space them out by 2-2½ hours so I'd never be going too long without food. My hope was that if I wasn't waiting until I was ravenous, I'd make healthier choices and stop eating when I felt myself hitting the "full point" rather than eating well past it. I resolved to test my theory for a month. Here's what I learned.

I started out with the best of intentions, thinking that I'd prepare fresh, homemade mini-meals as I needed them throughout the day. It was a noble plan, but I soon realized that even small homemade meals take time to prep, and the reason I'd fallen into such bad eating habits was precisely because I don't have a lot of spare time right now. I work at home, which makes a run to my kitchen more feasible than it is for most. Still, the 10 minutes it took to cook an egg or throw together a salad was time away from work.

I quickly realized that I had to start making more of my food ahead of time, whether it was early in the morning or the night before. If I didn't pre-plan, I found myself grabbing a frozen pizza or raiding the candy jar&mdashanything I could make and eat with little fuss.

When I started this experiment, I thought I'd still eat traditional meals&mdashjust in much smaller sizes. But that wasn't working out too well. I was often too tired at night to prep for the next day, and sometimes I'd oversleep and not have time in the morning, either. I quickly realized I'd be better off thinking about my mini-meals as snacks, provided they were healthy ones. I hit the grocery store for items that could easily be eaten over a computer keyboard, like pretzels dipped in hummus, slices of cheese, and bowls of grapes. (Curb cravings with these 12 easy-to-make snacks that nutritionists love.)

My rules for what I bought were simple: Can I eat it and continue to work? Will I feel good about having eaten it half an hour later? If the answer to both questions was yes, it went in my cart.

I expected that I'd experience fewer hunger pangs, since I was no longer letting my stomach get totally empty. It took about a week for me to notice the difference, but when I did it was pretty major. In fact, I sometimes woke up feeling too full for breakfast, which presented me with a conflict: Forcing myself to eat didn't seem like a good idea, but if I didn't have something early it would be hard to fit in six mini-meals without having my last one right at bedtime.

Determined to stick to my plan, I initially forced myself to eat a few bites, but it made me feel over-stuffed and seemed to defeat the point of a healthier eating regimen. If I wasn't trusting my own body, what was I doing?

So after a few days of not feeling it at breakfast time, I decided to loosen up the rules. If I I had an "I'm not hungry" morning, I simply waited until my stomach told me it was ready to go. On those days, I cut back to eating five meals rather than six. The good news: Even with one less "meal" per day, I still avoided feeling ravenous.

Before this experiment, I hadn't really exercised in months. I'd never been the kind of person who could jump out of bed and hit the gym, and when I was ending my work day starving I wasn't exactly in the mood to get moving then, either.

But about a week into my six-meals-a-day regime, I started to feel better. I made a point to carve out 15 minutes or so between work and dinner to do something physical, whether it was kicking a soccer ball around the yard with my daughter or doing a quick yoga video. (Get started with this 10-minute gentle yoga routine.)

I'm still not doing more than 15 to 20 minutes every few days, but I'm not rushing to the kitchen to make dinner because I can't stand another minute without something to eat. I'm forcing myself to move, and it feels good! I've lost 2 pounds, and my pants are fitting better.

PMS tends to throw my eating habits a curveball, as I can go from 0 to ravenous in 60 seconds. My stomach gurgles. I get light-headed. And no matter what I eat or how much, I spend a day or two feeling like I need to eat more.

Apparently this is pretty standard for some women. When researchers from the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology studied the eating habits of 30 women between the ages of 18 and 45 a few years back, they found their calorie intake could spike by nearly 500 calories around ovulation and again before their periods. I've never counted, but I'm sure I've blown past that a time or two. Ever eaten half a pizza in one sitting? (Raises hand.)

Eating six times a day managed to curb that insatiable hormone-driven hunger. Sure, I still had cravings for sweets&mdashand I confess I caved a few times&mdashbut for the first time in a very long time, I got through both my ovulatory and premenstrual periods without binge eating. I even managed to eat two chocolate Kisses instead of half the bag on the worst day of PMS symptoms.

Now that the month is over, I won't be eating six meals a day anymore. It's just a bit too much for me, but I'm not going back to my old ways: Four seems to be my sweet spot. I've gotten in the habit of eating breakfast, a late morning healthy snack, a late afternoon healthy snack, and dinner. But when PMS is rearing its ugly head, I have a feeling I'll go back up to five or even six meals a day, just to keep the hunger at bay.

Overall, I consider my experiment a success. While six might not be my magic number, this month was really about finding a healthy plan that worked for my body, and I think I did just that.

Five steps to make favorite recipes healthier

Substituting cream for butter is not going to make your meal healthier.

The season of food indulgence is upon us. It&rsquos a time of year when people gather with family and friends, which seems to always involve food &ndash lots of food. In my family, as in most families, we have recipes that are traditional favorites. They are recipes that are prepared especially for this special time of year. A tradition I have taken on is preparing the Christmas Eve meal. During my childhood, I recall always having mushroom soup with this meal, and I don&rsquot mean from the can, I mean from scratch.

I have put my own twist on the mushroom soup recipe my mother gave me when I took on the challenge of preparing this special, annual meal. Changes include that I don&rsquot use heavy cream, I use fat-free half-and-half and I replaced the beef broth with a low sodium version. I have also added more flavors by adding some cayenne into the mix. These are small changes. The soup still tastes pretty close to my mom&rsquos, but with a kick and it&rsquos also little healthier.

Michigan State University Extension suggests substituting one ingredient for another. This will help you to keep the wholesome goodness of a traditional recipe, while making it healthier for everyone around the table. Julia Child said, &ldquoIf you're afraid of butter, use cream.&rdquo This, however, is not what I mean by substitution.

Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt

  • Reduce the amount of fat, replacing it with applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree in baked goods. Sweetness can be boosted with spices or flavors like cinnamon or vanilla extract. Reduce or eliminate salt and consider low-sodium items.

Make a healthy substitution

  • Substitute whole grains when available. Use low-fat or fat-free dairy items. Replace part of a meat portion with vegetables.

Cut back on some ingredients

  • Consider eliminating or using a smaller amount of toppings like frosting, cut condiments such as olives or syrup, or use a half-cup of cheese instead of one cup.

Change cooking and prep techniques

  • Use healthier methods like broiling, grilling or steaming. Instead of basting items in drippings or oil, opt for a small amount of wine or vegetable broth. Using a non-stick pan with non-stick spray can reduce the amount of added calories and fat.

Downsize the portion size

  • Use a smaller plate or making sure that none of your food touches on the plate can help to reduce your portion size. Be sure to eat slowly and enjoy your food and give your body about 20 minutes before you decide to go back to make another selection.

The changes you make to traditional recipes do not have to have a huge impact of the flavor or taste. Changing the amount of calories by making an ingredient substitution or using a different cooking technique will not take away from the amount of thought and love the food was prepared with, but it may add to it. Be willing to put your own twist on a family favorite this year.

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