The Best Ways to Cheat

By | August 13, 2007

Christopher R. Mohr, PhD, RD
www.mealplans101.com

Don’t get too excited, guys and women, I’m talking about cheating on your diet, not your significant other. After all, I’m a dietitian, not a private eye. The truth is that even if you’re committed to a healthy lifestyle (you know, you eat well, exercise regularly, rarely overindulge), temptation is still everywhere. If you’re not careful, one loving look from a juicy burger (with bacon, mayo and cheddar) across the room could be the end of you. An innocent night out for hot wings and beer may result in your being a “bad boy” (especially if somebody catches you in the act).

As a dietitian, I’m here to tell you it’s okay to cheat on rare occasion (ladies, you didn’t hear it here). But if you’re gonna’ give in to fat and carbohydrate overload, why not choose foods that can actually serve you? I call these the “best” of the “worst”—the top 10 foods you can eat and still like yourself in the morning.

Before launching into the list, let’s point out the obvious; some foods are better than others. Nutrient dense foods should comprise a majority of your diet. But I’m not saying you should live a life of deprivation either. Sometimes splurging on something “bad” is good. After you indulge, however, hop right back on the bandwagon.

The Top 10 Best of the Worst

Next time you’re glued to Monday Night Football, consider splurging on some of these foods—bad, but not so bad for you, they can’t be good too:

Food
Baked chips and guacamole

Why
Avocado (the green in guacamole) is a loaded with antioxidants, such as vitamin E and glutathione, which are both good for the heart and immune system and lutein, which is important for the eyes. Avocado is also a great source of heart healthy fats, to keep those lipids under wrap.

Food
Mixed nuts

Why
Squirrels aren’t stupid; nuts are excellent sources of B-vitamins, which are important in maintaining energy levels. They’re also great sources of vitamin E and low in saturated fat, making your heart happy.

Food
Pizza

Why
Opt for meat-free; pepperoni and sausage offer little in the nutrient department. Instead add a veggie topping or order it plain. The tomato sauce in pizza offers a hefty dose of lycopene, an important nutrient for prostate health. The added vegetables will add beta-carotene and vitamin C, among others, to fight free radicals, which promote aging.

Food
Hamburger

Why
You’re out with the guys and they insist on stopping at the local BBQ joint. While this might sound appealing, give the plain hamburger a try. Have it without mayonnaise or butter. Taste the burger for a change. It won’t kill you. Literally! This will keep the fat lower, and provide just as many muscle building nutrients like protein and iron.

Food
Sweet potato fries

Why
If you insist on fries, give the sweet potato fries a chance. Rather than solely adding fat to your diet, like normal fries, the orange shoe strings will at least provide a good dose of beta-carotene.

Food
Dark beer

Why
Forget about “tastes great” and “less filling.” Preliminary studies show dark beer may offer more “free radical fighting” flavonoids than light beer, which may help fight blood clots. But if you need to be rolled out of the bar or peeled off the “porcelain king” you’ve negated any benefit. Drink in moderation, dude.

Food
Dark chocolate covered strawberries

Why
Dark chocolate is high in a compound called phenols, that may help prevent “bad cholesterol” from forming plaque in your arteries. (Hey, it’s never too early or too late to protect your heart). Add the benefit of strawberries, a great source of vitamins C and A, and dessert never sounded so good. Let’s not leave out that most women find these foods romantic, so your heart may not be the only thing that benefits.

Food
Snickers Almond Bar

Why
Quiz: It’s the middle of the day; you’re starving at your desk and can’t concentrate. What do you do? Reach for a Snickers Almond Bar; the almonds provide some heart healthy fats and are high in B-vitamins. This version is lower in total fat and saturated fat than the “regular” Snickers too. And even if you think you’re king, don’t go for King Size. That’s a surefire way to find yourself the court jester.

Food
Berry pie

Why
Unfortunately carrot cake doesn’t count as a vegetable, so instead order berry pie for dessert. Berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable and have even been shown to contain compounds that help prevent Alzheimers; the darker the berry, the higher dose of nutrients, so blueberry or blackberry pie would be great options. Skip the a la mode and leave some crust behind; they’re loaded with saturated fat.

Food
Shortening

Why
You’re alone on a Friday night; your wife does all the cooking and she’s out of town. Shortening is great if you want something quick and easy; spoon it right out of the container and you’ll go immediately to saturated and trans-fat heaven, where your arteries are so clogged, Draino wouldn’t do the trick. Alright, I got carried away. Please don’t eat shortening by the spoonful as it lacks anything that could be construed as healthy.

The Worst of the Best

If these formerly questionable foods can be good for you, can “good foods” be not so healthy? You bet. Three, in particular, will pack weight on faster than prey fattens a bear preparing to hibernate. Avoid, if you can:

Salad, which by itself is great. But loaded with bacon bits, cheese, butter soaked croutons and creamy dressing? Deadly. Instead, load it up with fresh veggies and lowfat dressing and go crazy.

Rice cakes. Once a dieters dream, rice cakes have gone the way of the eight-track, since they offer zero nutrients and will blow your blood sugar through the roof. Besides they taste like cardboard and who wants to eat that?

Low-carb hot wings (yes, I have seen these advertised). Guess what? Wings never had carbs, they’re a saturated fat nightmare. They’re also loaded with calories, so skip ‘em. Chew on your wife instead.

Well, there you have it. The best of the worst, and the worst of the best. Follow these guidelines and nobody can ever call you a cheater again.

About the Author:

Dr. Chris Mohr RD, PhD is a health nutrition consultant to a number of media outlets and corporations including Discovery Health Channel, Clif Bar, Waterfront Media, and Fit Fuel. He has authored and co-authored several textbooks and textbook chapters, including consulting with LL Cool J on “LL Cool J’s Platinum Workout” (Rodale Press, 2006). He is also co-creator of Meal Plans 101 nutrition software. For more information on how you can utilize Chris’s expertise go to www.mealplans101.com

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