At the beginning of February, we started a brand new 6-week Fuel Your Body Nutrition Challenge.
If you missed it, you can read about it here. We’re about to start Week 5, but if you’re new to this challenge, no worries! Jump in next week when we are rewarding ourselves with dessert (this is where the 80/20 rule comes in!).
To get the most out of this nutrition challenge, make sure to join our private Facebook group where you can share your experience and get in touch with fellow members of the 12 Minute Athlete Community.
Being a part of the community will not only help you to stay accountable with your own goals, but also see how others are doing, find support, share your successes and struggles, and of course, get some great, new meal ideas.
Every week during this challenge, we are focusing on one thing that helps us to improve our diet and keeps us on a healthy eating track. The focus of the Week 1 was to eat a protein-packed breakfast. On Week 2, we talked about the importance of healthy snacks. Week 3 was all about veggies, the nutritional powerhouse, and Week 4 we focused on having a nutritious post workout meal. After meal prepping in Week 5, we are ready to start off the last week of the Nutrition Challenge. Are you ready?
In Week 6 of the Fuel Your Body Nutrition Challenge we’ll celebrate the last five successful weeks with healthy desserts!
Nutrition Challenge Week 6: Celebrate with Dessert
Oh, all the sweet things… why do they have to be so good? Is it really true that all the good things in life are illegal, immoral or fattening, as the old saying goes? And because sweets are fattening, should you really not be having them at all?
Have Your Treats and Still Stay Lean
You don’t have to give up sweets to stay lean and keep crushing your workouts. As the matter of fact, if you have a sweet tooth (and you better!), actually allowing yourself to eat sweets can actually help you stay fit. Even if it sounds counterintuitive, let me explain:
What happens to a kid when you tell them not to do something? Whatever it was, that’s exactly what they want to do, and the more you say no, the more they will do it.
Us adults are the same: the more we deprive ourselves from something that we really want, the more we crave it. And the more we deny ourselves, the worse the craving gets. All of a sudden, sugar becomes the only thing you can think of.
So it’s important to allow yourself to have your favorite treats here and there. As a recovered binge eater, I know that constant depriving will lead to constant bingeing.
Allowing yourself treats and indulgences here and there—both healthy and unhealthy—is perfectly okay and should be part of any healthy diet. Even the fittest athletes in the world have their treats, believe me.
So how do you keep it from getting out of hand? It’s fairly simple: make smart choices, and keep your portion sizes reasonable (at least most of the time).
Make Smart Choices
One way of making better choices is to make your own treats. You can make your homemade desserts, cakes, cookies, and other sweet treats way healthier than their store bought counterparts by using better ingredients.
Here are some tips:
- Use a ton of fruits and berries. Yes, it’s not the same as chocolate, but you can make a compromise: drizzle a bowl of berries with melted dark chocolate. You skip a ton of calories, but get great things from both worlds (plus, it’s delicious!).
- Use better sweeteners. Most store bought treats have high fructose corn syrup in them. Obviously, you are not going to use that at home, but you can sweeten your desserts with honey, coconut sugar, or agave syrup (in moderation, though–it’s still sugar!). Dates, bananas and other fruits and berries can be an option too. Also, it’s not a bad idea to get used to less of a sweet taste altogether–not all desserts have to be super sugary.
- If you can’t or don’t want to do dairy: If you can’t or want to do dairy, coconut milk and nut milks like cashew or almond milk are good for substituting milk products and they can easily be used in baking and making other sweet treats.
- If you want to avoid wheat (or gluten): You don’t need to use wheat flour for baking. Sometimes it’s possible to replace it with coconut or almond flour. Follow the recipe carefully though, because most of the time, you can’t replace those ingredients one to one.
- Amp up protein: You can add protein powder into your desserts to add a bit of satiety and flavor. Remember though that protein powder is a supplement, not a real food, so be moderate with it.
Keep the Portion Sizes Under Control
Another extremely important thing is keeping your portion sizes under control.
This is a struggle for so many of us.
What do you mean I can only have one cookie if I have a whole sheet in front of me?
Just like practicing pull ups, there’s same key in practicing moderation, and it’s called… practice.
Here are some tips to help keep your dessert sizes reasonable:
Have a full meal before dessert. That way you simply won’t have room for too many treats. By eating a full meal first, you also assure that you get in your greens, proteins and other awesome vitamins and nutrients.
Don’t “diet”. I can’t stress this one enough. How many times have you tried to keep a “proper diet” by having barely 500 calories throughout the day, only to come home after work and eat all the sugary stuff in sight? If that’s something that has happened to you more than you’d like to admit, it’s a clear sign that you should eat more real foods throughout the day.
And here are some tips for when you are having a dessert:
Don’t bake an entire sheet of cookies if you know that you can’t keep your fingers off of them. Bake the amount that you are going to eat or share with others. It may sound ridiculous, but what’s worse, baking a tiny batch or eating 20 cookies in one sitting?
Share. When you have a big family, this should be pretty easy–put three cookies to the side to enjoy for yourself and leave the rest to others. If you don’t have a family, give some away to your friends or co-workers.
Eat really slow. That, again, comes with practice. Enjoy every single bite, instead of chugging the food down quickly without even noticing how it tasted!
Have less distractions around you. I know that it feels good to eat ice cream while watching a good movie. But have you noticed that the full bag of cookies “magically” disappeared when doing so? You may be surprised to realize that it’s all gone, because you can’t actually remember having that many. But the empty box tells the truth…
Try to eliminate distractions while enjoying your dessert. That helps you to stay mindful.
Treats Should Still Stay Treats
Even though eating treats once in a while is absolutely normal, treats should still stay treats, not become a staple in your diet. It’s your veggies and proteins that you should have in every meal, not a donut 🙂
Every dessert, even if it’s homemade, made out of superfoods only or follows the guidelines of vegan, Paleo or any other diet that you may currently be following, is still a dessert. It still contains a fair amount of sugar, fats and other ingredients that should be consumed sparingly.
But whenever you have a dessert, be sure to keep your portion size in check and then, go ahead and enjoy it fully. No regrets!
Join Us for the Nutrition Challenge Week 6!
Get ready to make some healthy desserts next week! Join the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook Group, chime in with your pictures of your tasty treats and recipes, and share your thoughts, comments, struggles and successes.
Let’s do this!
Kersten Kimura is a NASM PT, kettlebell enthusiast and a fan of HIIT workouts. After relocating from chilly Estonia to California, she has taken full advantage of the area and works out outdoors whenever possible. You can find her throwing around her sandbag or swinging kettlebells at local parks, or sprinting along the gorgeous Bay Trail.
Find out more about Kersten here and sign up for her newsletter to get her one week equipment free workout plan and seven simple dinner recipes.