4 Tips on Balancing a Nutritious Diet with a Side of Indulgence

We might want to believe that we can cleanse our way to a healthy diet with just a juice shot. But while there’s no magical potion to undo a night of indulgence, we do have expert advice on how best to balance a healthy diet with the occasional treat.

Living in British Columbia has blessed us with breathtaking nature and several outdoor activities all year round. From hiking trails to yoga studios, it’s no surprise that we’re often associated with a health-conscious lifestyle, sometimes mockingly so. However, nestled among the lush greenery and mountain vistas are some of the finest donut shops, ice cream parlours, and boba spots, not to mention, an extremely diverse culinary scene. For many of us, B.C.’s food scene is just as enticing as exploring the great outdoors. So, how do we strike a balance between these indulgences and maintaining a nutritious diet? Registered Dietician, Elaine Zhang shares her expert tips to help us navigate this delicious dilemma.


1. Reframe your thoughts on indulgence

Zhang emphasizes the importance of reframing our mindset towards indulgence. Rather than viewing indulgences as something to be compensated for later, she advocates for a balanced approach and advises to aim for a nutritious diet as the foundation first. 

“The majority of time, you should be aiming for the overall nutritious healthy diet. It means that the person getting an X amount of calories in one day, not too high, not too low. And also getting different nutrients including vitamins and minerals or macronutrients for example, protein.“

When a birthday comes around or a dinner with friends, eating out won’t have to be something to reconsider because you’re already doing pretty well throughout the week. 


2. Find the root cause for snacking

Before reaching for healthier alternatives, Zhang suggests delving into the root causes of our indulgences. Are you stressed? Sad? Angry? Understanding the triggers behind our cravings allow us to address them more effectively. For example, the sweet-toothed might have to think twice about reaching out for that hidden stash of chocolates under their desks.

“We need to find out the reason behind the snacking, because sometimes sugary food make us feel good and then if I continue to indulge in sugary food, it means that when I’m sad I’m more likely to return back to sugary food for comfort.”

Figuring out the cause can help you find alternative ways to soothe yourself, such as going on a walk, talking to friends, and other self-care methods. Whether it’s stress management techniques or simply recognizing genuine hunger cues, finding healthier coping mechanisms is key.


3. Frequency and planning

Zhang emphasizes the importance of planning indulgences and being mindful of their frequency. It’s normal to indulge on social occasions or holidays. 

“We’re humans, we’re social beings and it’s allowed that we eat sometimes based on our social reasons.”

However, maintaining balance throughout the week is crucial. By planning cheat days or indulgent meals strategically, we can avoid overindulgence and stay on track with our health goals. 

“Planning those cheat days depend on how frequently it happens. If it happens quite frequently then that becomes problematic.”

Occasional treats should complement, not overshadow your overall healthy eating habits. 


4. Avoid labelling food as good or bad to build a resilient mindset

Zhang cautions against labeling food as “good” or “bad” as this can trigger negative emotions and cause a cycle of unhealthy eating habits. It also creates emotional eating where we start to judge ourselves based on the food choices we make. 

There is no bad fruit nor is sugar inherently bad, as long as one practices portion control. Opting for fruit, nuts, yogurt, or dairy products can also satisfy cravings while still providing valuable nutrients.

 “We want to build resilient thoughts around food choices,” Zhang explains. Instead of berating ourselves for indulging, she encourages a more compassionate approach. 

“If it happens that we do decide to get a piece of chocolate or some sugary drinks then hopefully people have a resilient mindset instead of the other way where there’s guilt, shame, blaming themselves.”

Recognize that it’s okay to enjoy treats in moderation. If we do indulge, we can always reset and choose nutritious options again the next day. By avoiding this vicious cycle, we can maintain a positive relationship with food and prioritize our well-being.

Balancing a nutritious diet with indulgence is all about moderation, mindfulness, and reframing our mindset. By prioritizing nutritious meals, understanding our triggers, and embracing occasional indulgences without guilt, we can still find pleasure in our eating habits.

So go ahead, savour that decadent treat, knowing that it’s just one part of your overall balanced approach to nutrition.