May 16, 2012 @ 3:27 PM

 

As you all know, I am an avid health nut.  I exercise regularly, eat only nutrient dense foods, and make sure that I get to bed early.  I definitely practice what I preach.  However, temptation is everywhere and there are times of course when everyone, including myself, feels like splurging a little with their diet.  So if you are committed to a healthy lifestyle on a regular basis, then I am here to tell you that it is ok to indulge on rare occasions.  I in fact discourage a life of deprivation.  That being said, if you are going to give into grease and carb overload, you may as well choose the ones with the most health benefits.  So without further ado, here is my list of the top 5 best of the worst cheat foods that will surely hit the spot and leave you feeling less guilty.

1. Pizza

Who can resist the smell and the look of golden colored melted cheese on pizza?  There are ways however to turn this commercial junk food into a healthier treat by making a few simple substitutions.  Instead of pepperoni and sausage toppings, which offer little nutrients and are loaded with nitrites, preservatives, by-products, etc., top it with plenty of colourful vegetables and olives to get a good dose of beta-carotene and vitamin C, amongst other anti-oxidants and phytonutrients.

If possible, ask for whole wheat crust and opt for thin crust to limit the amount of refined carbs.  Also ask them to sprinkle it with half the amount of cheese to reduce the amount of calories consumed.  You can also make your own homemade pizza or try my quick & healthy homemade pizza alternative.

2. Hamburger

Fast food burgers may taste great, but it’s important to know the source of your food. The meats come from corn-fed cows that are raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) and given antibiotics as a result.  This is a far cry from being raised in pastures, eating the foods they naturally eat like grass and hay.  Just as it is not healthy for cattle to eat corn, it is not healthy for us to eat corn-fed cattle. 

So instead, buy organic grass-fed beef, which has a better ratio of good and bad fats, and make your own burgers at home.  Avoid the mayo and load it with veggies like tomatoes, lettuce, onions and pickles.  This way you’ll get less of the bad fats and more of the muscle building nutrients like protein, iron and zinc.

3. Chocolate

Yes, chocolate made the list; dark chocolate that is.  So if you’re absolutely craving a bar of chocolate, make sure it has at least 70% or more cocoa and does not have partially hydrogenated oils or sweeteners in the list of ingredients.  An even healthier alternative is to eat raw cacao nibs, which can be added to your own trail mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.  Raw cacao contain phenols that can reduce the bad cholesterol, lower high blood pressure and enhance your mood by increasing serotonin and endorphins in your brain, amongst other health benefits. 

You can also make your own dark chocolate covered cranberry and almond snacks by mixing them with melted chocolate and dropping spoonfuls out to dry.  I’ll be sure to share my recipe soon.

4. Chips & Dip

No, not the baked chips that you find in the supermarkets, but your own baked whole wheat pita chips.  You can make a guacamole dip or a tomato salsa dip instead of the processed cheese dips or other creamy kinds that have no nutritional value.  The avocados in guacamole offer lots of antioxidants; vitamins E and glutathione, which are both good for the heart and immune system, and lutein, which is important for the eyes.

You can also make a dip out of fresh herbs and yogurt or even dip them in hummus.  The possibilities are endless – just get creative.

5. Berry Pie

Sorry, but carrot cake doesn’t count as a vegetable.  Instead, choose a dark berry pie for dessert.  Berries contain the highest amounts of antioxidants than any other fruit or vegetable; and the darker the berry the better, so blueberry or blackberry pies are great options.  Just make sure that you leave some pie crust behind and better yet, don’t eat it at all since it’s a saturated fat nightmare.

So there you have it!  A healthy lifestyle can include the occasional indulgence because after all sometimes being bad can be good!

 

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