By Sarah Combes, Oklahoma Sports & Fitness
Walking into your air conditioned home after an intense workout is possibly one of the best feelings in the world. Endorphins are going strong, a large item on the to-do list has been checked of, and you can quite possibly conquer the world. Stay consistent, and you know there will be big payoffs emotionally, physically, and mentally. However, this fitness plan—those workouts and that heavy-handed nutrition plan—doesn’t quite have everything you "like" in it.
Let's face it. There are foods that have no business being anywhere near a fitness plan. I realize that. But what about my dreams to squeeze my favorites into my fitness plan? What if I found a way to fit, say, five (or seven) of those foods into the fitness plan?
I’ve figured up my top five "must keep foods," and they are mostly comfort foods that can be "justified" to fit my lifestyle.
Corn Seed Is A Vegetable (and Butter Lubricates My Soul)
Number one? I’ll start small with popcorn. Whether it’s movie night at home or off to the cinema with friends, or just kitchen boredom on a Tuesday evening, popcorn is a staple for moviegoers (and goers in general) everywhere.
Now, there are lots of ways to eat popcorn, and every single one of them affects the nutritional value. Do you like butter? What about those extra flavors you can pour on top? I’ve seen people dump M&Ms or chocolate chips or potato chips or marshmallow into a bag or bucket of popcorn. Every single one of these factors just raises the fat, sodium, carb, and calorie content of this snack. Not to mention that even the “small” popcorns at the theater are often way over the traditional serving size, so it’s all the bad things, but doubled (and that’s just the small).
There’s no reason to avoid these things completely, though. Justification is a wonderful thing (after all, I only go to the movies once a month with friends!) Popcorn once a month? How could that possibly be a bad thing? Enjoy.
The Amazing All-Inclusive Therapy In A Bowl. Who Knew?
Number two? It's what we're all thinking, so we can jump to ice cream. This one is necessary for many people. A bad week, a bad day, or even a bad milli-second may result in a pint of ice cream in the freezer calling your name. I know, I hear it calling so often.
Listen to me. The only person who is going to judge you for caving in to this temptation is yourself. And in reality, if you give in too often, you will beat yourself up.
But like popcorn, giving yourself one or two (or four) days a month that you can have these cave-ins is very important. Tell yourself, "I can allow two bowls (or cones) of ice cream a month" ( just don't have more than two bad, crummy weeks!) That one sentence gives you two very important things: an allowance and a stipulation.
Ice cream is by no means healthy, even though some options are much better than others. The fat content from the cream and sugar spikes depending on the flavor you choose, and if you like to eat a sundae or a shake, there are extra toppings or milk to consider. A nutritional upside to ice cream is all that calcium, which helps to develop strong bones—always a plus for the athletic lifestyle! That is what I will keep telling myself.
Monstering: No Wonder That Fluffy Blue Guy Has Issues
Third, and this is the hardest to justify... cookies. Parties, family events, and most social settings, are almost guaranteed to have a plate of cookies of some sort.
I'll say it: besides the sugar content that is through the roof, cookies are usually made with fatty ingredients that don’t have any nutritional value.
For me, cookies are particularly hard to stay away from, because they are so cute and little. You grab one and don't feel so bad. You grab two, and you still feel like a normal person (I mean, they're so flat and tiny). You grab three and you feel a little more like you have to be sneaky. You grab number 18 and you're tapping your friend on the shoulder saying, "I might need to talk."
But, if they come along on a shiny plate at a social function once or twice a month (instead of your grocery cart), you can do this -- just smile and actively avoid grabbing handfuls.
It's America's Favorite Side For Crying Out Loud!
So far, we’ve only covered little snacks or desserts, which, in moderation, won’t make a tremendous dent on the fitness plan.
So, what’s number four? French fries.
Let’s be honest, everyone likes fries. If you go out to eat and don’t order them, how likely are you to take “just one” from your friend or significant other’s plate? French fries are one of the worst foods to crave because it is almost impossible to stick to that “just one” policy.
Truth: restaurant fries are soaked in grease and all things terrible. However, if you must have them with a meal, cooking them at home can be somewhat simple and "reasonably" healthy. Okay, kinda healthy.
The potatoes aren’t going to change, but if you make your own, you can choose the number of fries that you cook, and you can bake them instead of frying them. These little changes are simple, but they can make a world of difference in the nutritional value. You can add your own spices (or if you're feeling nuts, top them with kale, spinach, or any other leafy green that adds good nutrition while they bake.)
Unfortunately, there’s something missing from this list. Popcorn, ice cream, cookies, and fries are all great snacks and comfort foods, but there is one that tops almost every favorite food list...
Pizza: A Heavenly Version of the Food Pyramid
I love pizza. Let's put it this way: even when I am in the middle of eating pizza, I really wish I was eating pizza.
Like the cookies, it is easy to get carried away with pizza. Those little slices can be so cute and triangle-ish, and so bubbling with cheese, and mounted high with meaty toppings, and covered with.... let's stop.
The great thing about pizza -- everything is up to you and how willing you are to fundamentally change this food to make it a healthier option. For example, you can start with flatbread instead of traditional pizza dough. Once you’ve settled on the crust, it’s a matter of deciding what sauce to use, the kind of cheese (if any), and especially - the toppings!
Grilled chicken and spinach is a good go-to combination if you don’t want anything extremely fancy. However, adding peppers or other veggies can always kick it up a notch in both taste and nutritional value.
See? Justifying pizza isn’t that hard.