June 1, 2016

What does healthy eating mean? I’m often surprised – though given the frequency you’d think it would no longer be a shock – at the number of healthy-food-healthy-lifestyle sites and organisations that lure people with images of delicious-looking sweet treats.

If these sites were honestly aiming to help people improve their health and wellness, they’d be helping them to overcome their need for sweet. Recipes and images would be for delicious meals made of combinations of meat, vegetables, herbs and spices. Accompaniments would be salads, fermented vegies like sauerkraut, and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.

But those sorts of images don’t catch the eye when you’re scrolling through Facebook, or selecting a foodie magazine at the newsagent.

Let’s face it: most people visiting sites for healthy recipes are trying hard to improve their health and wellness. Most are also trying to lose weight.

Maintaining an appetite for sweet treats does little for long term weight control and good health. Instead, healthy recipe sites make people believe their sweets are healthy versions. All recipes on the site are given a health halo.

This is a huge mistake.

Don’t be mistaken: a long-term, sustainable approach is necessary for continuing a healthy eating pattern. Deprivation is often the very thing that undoes positive gains. Eating sweet treats too frequently just means that positive gains are unlikely to occur.

It doesn’t matter what sweetener is used. We’ve heard all sorts of justifications: “I use honey instead of sugar”, “Coconut sugar is good, right?”, “Dr Oz said to, so I use agave syrup.”, “Splenda has no calories.”

Unless the desire for sweet treats is overcome, the temptation will always be there and healthy eating patterns will always be a struggle.

For some people, even the taste of something sweet is enough to set them back down the path to old habits, healthy choices a distant memory.

For others, eating “healthy” most of the time gives them permission to eat treats. What does “most of the time” mean? Is it most meals of the day, the week, or the month? How often can a person indulge without undoing their efforts?

Of course it’s different for everyone, but the bottom line is that if healthy eating is a priority, you’ll make every effort to avoid sweet treats until your new eating patterns are fully established. Then, with habits in place, the occasional sweet treat can be enjoyed without negative consequences.