I’m talking about options like dark chocolate, baked goods made with whole grain or nut flours, ice cream made with plant based “milk” like coconut or almond, and desserts that incorporate antioxidant and nutrient-rich fruits, like cobbler. Yes, they contain calories, but you can prevent calorie overkill—and weight gain—by making room for occasional sweet treats within a nutritious meal.
For example, if you’re really craving an oatmeal-dark-chocolate-chip cookie, ditch the bread on a sandwich and opt for a garden salad topped with lean protein instead. Or, if you’re out to dinner and you want to split a dessert, forgo the bread basket and starchy side dish and order an entree of steamed or grilled veggies and lean protein. In my experience, this kind of give and take is not only doable socially and emotionally, it’s also balanced and sustainable, which results in successful long-term weight management.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, I say stick with good old H2O; and if you have a sweet tooth, manage it in savvy ways that involve enjoying real, natural foods. And remember that your weight is a side effect of your relationship with food. Finding balance and eating in ways that make you feel nourished, energized, and well are the real keys to a healthy body and a healthy weight.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.
This article originally appeared on Health.com.