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Cup or Cone? A closer look at our food choices!

MAC Nutrition - Thursday, July 20, 2017

July is National Ice Cream Month.

Wait a minute…am I telling you that you should eat ice cream? Not necessarily. But, National Ice Cream Month offers us the opportunity to have a conversation about food and its more social, cultural, and emotional aspects, as well as about treats, treating ourselves, and having treats in a mindful way.

It’s okay to indulge in a food you love. When we tell ourselves we can never have a treat, or cut our favorite foods out of our lives, it makes any “diet” extremely difficult to stick to. The minute we say “I am cutting ice cream out of my diet,” we quite often just want the ice cream more, and this declaration has the opposite effect that we intend.

There is no “on the wagon” or “off the wagon” when it comes to a healthy lifestyle and achieving our health and fitness goals. There is simply a road that breaks up into a series of forks, and at each fork, you have a series of decisions. Each diverging road is a food choice, such as eat the ice cream, don’t eat the ice cream, have one scoop, have three scoops, make your own, or go for a piece of fruit.

There is no “wrong” fork to choose in any given moment. The best we can do is to choose the fork that makes us feel our best.

It is important to define what your “best” means. Does feeling your best mean having a sweet creamy treat by the bowlful? Or does that feeling later get offset by a stomachache, or perhaps guilt or shame, and we no longer feel our best? Does feeling your best mean never having your favorite foods and longing for them? Or does your best look more like making healthy choices most of the time, going for the fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains most of the time, and every once in a while having that treat? Maybe your best means really savoring the ice cream, paying close attention to the taste and the texture and how it makes your tongue feel, and letting that mindfulness help you feel satisfied with that bit of a sweet treat without needing the whole container. No food should bring us shame or guilt, and no food is a successful placeholder for fulfillment in our lives. Food is food, and is sometimes pleasurable, and is sometimes simply fuel or a way to stop feeling hunger, and should always make us feel truly good, never bad.

Maybe your best means going out to get ice cream with your family this week, and next week it might mean making a satisfying dessert at home, such as our recipe of the month (a banana, peanut butter, and chocolate “ice cream” that is just as creamy as the real thing). Whatever your best means today, it might change by tomorrow. And that’s okay. Each new fork in the road is an opportunity to make another choice in favor of feeling your best.

Maybe feeling your best means reaching your fitness and health goals, and that dessert isn’t really worth it. But, whatever you do, it has to be sustainable, and cutting out dessert completely for most people is not sustainable—and not as much fun!—especially in the summer when there is much fun to be had with family, cookouts, and ice cream outings.

So, this National Ice Cream Month, the old adage applies: everything in moderation. Eat to feel good. For most of us, that means indulging in sweets sometimes, not too much, filling up on nutrient-rich foods, continuing to stay active and work towards our health and fitness goals, and enjoying a fun-filled summer. And perhaps, at the next fork, you’ll go for the spoon!

This month's recipe contribution comes from Louisa Paine, Registered Dietitian at The Mount Auburn Club.

Personalizing recipes is one of our specialties! Contact the MAC Nutrition team today.

The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your registered dietitian regarding any dietary modifications or nutrition-related questions.