When is it worth it to splurge on unhealthy food?

Eating perfectly 100% of the time isn't a reasonable, nor is it healthy. Splurges on totally unhealthy, but absolutely delicious foods are one of life's great pleasures. The key is knowing when a splurge is worth it, so you can make decisions on values, not deprivation. 

A few weeks ago, I had a first appointment with a new client, lets call her Susie. She had recently returned from a trip out west with her family. Excitedly, I asked her about her trip (because I'm that weirdo who wants to hear every detail), but when she responded, it was clear she didn't have a great time.

"It was really nice."

Sallie told me how she made the decision to get her health and weight under control about a month before her vacation. Even knowing she had her yearly weeklong vacation, she was damned and determined to stick with her diet.

And you know what? She really did stick to it. She turned down ice cream from the local shop, even after her kids declared it to be "The best ice cream ever!".  She ordered light salads or soup for meals, often ending up tired and hangry a few hours later. She lost a few pounds that week, but wondered at what cost.

While I was impressed with Susie's willpower, it made me sad to hear her diet prevented her from living life to it's fullest.


Susie's not alone. Most dieters have an all or nothing approach, either completely forgoing anything remotely "unhealthy," or gorging incessantly.

By learning to cook delicious meals at home and training your taste buds away from the heavily processed, Standard American Diet, you'll find yourself truly loving foods like cauliflower and kale and avocado. But you know what? Gooey brownies and fried chicken and your grandma's famous macaroni and cheese will still be delicious too.

In my opinion, the experience of savoring ice cream with your family (in a sprinkle cone, obviously) or digging into a big bowl of pasta on vacation are more important than a few pounds.

But it doesn't have to be one or the other. You can lose weight and be healthy while indulging in delicious, not so nutritious foods on occasion. To find balance, I encourage you to consider the concept of worth it splurges.

Worth it splurges are foods that may not be healthy, but the joy they bring to your life makes them totally worth it. Only you can decide when it's worth it to splurge on a food, when delicious trumps health. Each person weighs various foods and experiences differently, so I urge you to consider what values are important to you.

Although my standards and ideals may be different than yours, here's a look at what I consider when deciding if a splurge is worth it.

Am I traveling?  Food is a huge part of the travel experience for me. Trying new foods and local specialties allows me to better appreciate a culture. If I'm traveling, I don't purposely order the most decadent item on the menu, but I rarely consider health when making food decisions on vacation. Since my diet is plant-centered, I tend to gravitate towards more nutritious, plant-centered dishes, but I order it because I want it, not because it's healthy.

Is it a unique eating experience? I love to try new foods, so if presented with an opportunity to expand my tastebuds, I'm going to take it! Whether it's a food festival or a new restaurant, I want to indulge in things I couldn't make at home.

Is it a special occasion? The thought of Thanksgiving without dressing or Christmas without our traditional lobster drenched in garlic butter is kind of heart wrenching. There are certain dishes that make the holiday, and I wouldn't dream of skipping out on. That said, there are certain holidays where food plays a less important role - I could care less about barbecue on July 4th or ham on Easter. I'd be just as happy celebrating the fourth with a tofu burger or sticking to the yummy vegetable sides on Easter. Decide for yourself if a celebratory food is truly special, or just a habit.

Remember, it's up to you to decide when a food is a worth it splurge, or just a waste. Consider your values and you'll finally be able to get control of your eating habits and rediscover the joy of eating.

What foods or occasions are worth the splurge for you?