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This question, posed rhetorically, was raised by a client in their feedback form a couple of months ago. It's a brilliant question or point to raise, and something I want to discuss and look at in more detail. In this case, "nice" is referring to higher calorie, highly palatable foods - such as cheese or chocolate. 


The thing is, these foods themselves are not inherently fattening; that is, there is not something special or different about them which makes us gain weight or fat. It is how much of these foods we eat that makes them more "fattening". As they are more calorie dense (more calories per gram), it is far easier to overeat them. As we know, it is eating excess calories (creating a calorie surplus) which leads to weight gain, and as a result, fat gain. So, in order to enjoy these things more frequently, we need to learn to moderate them and learn how to fit them into our daily or weekly calorie allowance.


So what does ‘everything in moderation’ really mean?

By definition, it means that we avoid consuming excessive amounts of calories, a particular food or a particular nutrient. Now, it would be great if we all intuitively knew how to moderate all foods, but unfortunately it is not that simple. Moderation is a skill that takes time (and effort) in order to develop. It's all well and good telling someone to eat 'everything in moderation' but for most people this piece of advice alone is going to be pretty useless. The fact is, most of us are very poor at moderating certain foods (if not most foods)! This is because 'moderation' is going to be very different for each individual. Based on goals, level of self-discipline and daily calorie expenditure, moderation could be one cookie per day or one cookie per week (and everything in-between).


The amount of food or calories that each individual needs will vary based on age, gender, height, and activity level. Someone who works on his or her feet all day will have a higher calorie allowance than a sedentary office worker. Therefore, we unfortunately can’t give exact amounts of everything we should eat, as it will vary vastly from person to person.


The aim most coaches have for their clients is to get them to a point where they can moderate and include the foods they love, whilst still reaching their health and fitness goals.  A sustainable diet shouldn’t restrict you from eating the foods you love; a sustainable diet is a diet that you enjoy, that you can adhere to and that is beneficial to you achieving your goals.


However, as I previously stated, moderation takes time. Telling someone to moderate food is like telling someone to eat less and move more; the idea behind it is great (and in theory it works) but the execution itself is not that simple.  You need to educate yourself on nutrition, on what your own body needs, and essentially keep developing and practicing the skill.


So, whilst moderating foods is quite a complex matter and not as straightforward as we'd all like, here are a few tips that may help you start to develop the skill for your own benefit:


1) Stick to Portion Size guidelines!

My number one tip is to check how much 'one portion' is of any given food / foodstuff, and stick to it. When you get a pint of ice cream, unfortunately a portion size is not half the pint. In these situations, weigh out the correct portion size, put the food away and stick to one portion.


2) Read the nutrition labels. 

Many time, we just buy food and eat it without a second thought. If you spend some time looking at the nutrition label, though, you can actually see whether the food is high in calories, high in fat, high in protein etc. By doing this, you will be able to make a more informed choice about whether the food fits into your diet, compare it to similar products to see if there's a better option and ultimately decide whether it's a good idea for you to buy it or not. For example, I have seen yogurts with 10 grams of fat per 100grams and a similar tasting yogurt with 1 gram (of fat) per 100 grams. Opting for the lower fat option would save you 81 calories. Over the course of a week, this could add up to a significant amount. 


3) Moderate the frequency.

Sometimes more indulgent foods are hard to moderate when we have them. If this is you, then instead moderate the frequency that you have them. The simplest way to do this is to buy said food less frequently (if it's not in the house it's hard to eat it)! 


4) Buy single servings.

If you struggle to stop at one piece of chocolate, or just a few crisps, then try buying single serving foodstuffs. That way, there's a clear end-point for you to stop eating (when the packets empty), without you having consumed an excessive amount.


5) Plan Ahead.

If you are really craving something high calorie, why not plan it into your day first thing in the morning, and base the rest of your calories for the day around it? Say you want an ice-cream, for example, which is quite high in both fat and carbohydrates. A way to make this fit into your day would be to eat lean protein sources (turkey, white fish, tuna) and reduce the amount of carbs you eat at one meal. By doing this, you will have saved enough calories over the course of the day to 'make room' for the ice cream. The aim here is to incorporate this food without throwing off your energy balance.


6) Enjoyment matters. 

If we eat really boring, tasteless food in order to feel as though we are being 'healthy', then we are more likely to binge. You need to enjoy the food you are eating or you won’t adhere to your diet. This is why we always try and encourage our clients and educate them on how to incorporate foods they love into their weekly plan. This avoids any big binges at the end of the week, which in turn means they can maintain the calories Monday to Sunday (rather than just Monday to Friday).


7) Stick to and 80/20 Balance.

Finally, a good rule of thumb to focus on is eating 80% minimally processed whole, nutritious foods and 20% more palatable and processed foods. Using this percentage is a good rule of thumb to plan your weeks nutrition around. It will help you ensure that most of your diet is full of nutrient dense foods, but still allows room for small indulgences. However, once again the calories of the 80-20 % will vary based on each individual. 


If you have any further questions regarding this topic, feel free to get in touch at: coretrainingpt@gmail.com


Laura Dubler