How to Cheat (a Little) Healthier
Almost everyone needs to indulge once in a while, even people on a diet.

Here are some ways to limit the damage, nutritionists say:

Keep it occasional. There's nothing wrong with a little "cheating." Whether it's once a day or once a week depends on your weight, health, overall diet and activity level.

Eat the real stuff.

... If you crave ice cream, spoon out a half-cup of your favorite flavor and stick to brands with an ingredient list of just cream, sugar and milk. Avoid additives and realize that many low-fat options are high in sugar.

... and the good stuff. Get one reasonable-sized portion of what you really want to satisfy a craving. Choose the best-looking cookie, candy bar or slice of cake rather than a big bag of "ordinary" sweets.

Add healthy foods. Top ice cream with fruit or nuts, or mix candy such as M&Ms with pretzels and nuts. And eat a piece of fruit at the same time.

Mix salt with fat. Adding a little healthy fat - peanut butter, avocado or hummus are some - to snacks such as pretzels or tortilla chips will fill you up, slow digestion and (hopefully) help you stay in control.

Drink wisely, part 1. If you want an alcoholic beverage, try sipping one during or after a nutritious and filling meal (think of it as dessert). You're more likely to overindulge - and crave junk food - during happy hour.

Drink wisely, part 2. Sip water between bites of an indulgence, while chewing the food slowly.

Be smart about munchies. Pretzels and baked potato chips are examples of tasty snacks without artery-clogging trans fats, which are in regular chips, cheese curls and many crackers.

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(c) 2009, Daily Press ( Newport News, Va.).

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