Most of us get 100 to 300 discretionary calories per day, not per meal.
We’re in the prime season for food-inspired guilt. Fairs, carnivals, festivals and all sorts of fun events are in full swing at this time of the year. Foods entice us with their aroma, texture and flavour.
Here’s the good news: We all have room for some discretionary calories, which are the treats in our diet. Discretionary calories include foods such as cookies, brownies, soft drinks and tempting fair foods.
Discretionary calories are like discretionary dollars because they are available to “spend” as we please. Like discretionary dollars, most of us don’t have as many discretionary calories available as we would like.
Here’s the somewhat bad news: Most of us get 100 to 300 discretionary calories per day, not per meal.
As you enjoy portable treats, you might argue that you are burning off all the extra calories as you walk. Yes, walking is an excellent form of exercise. However, to burn the excess calories, you may need to walk more than you planned.
If you drink a 1,000-ml (32-ounce) regular soft drink, you will need to walk an additional 4.0 km (2.5 miles). Add a cotton candy and you can add another 2.4 km (1.5 miles).
To get some fruit, how about adding a caramel apple? They must be healthy because they’re apples, right? To burn the calories in one caramel apple, you would need to walk 4.8 km (3.0 miles).
You can enjoy some fair food, in moderation, with these tips:
Plan ahead for a calorie extravaganza by eating lighter during the day. Go heavy on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and other fibre-rich, filling foods during the day.
Curb your appetite with a bowl of soup or a serving of whole-grain cereal and some milk before you leave home for the activity.
Have water instead of soft drinks or other caloric beverages. Order smaller versions of your favourite treats whenever possible. Better yet, share a small order of your favourite treat with a friend.
Decide ahead of time what you really want to have. Spend your discretionary calories on that one item. Eat it slowly, savouring the taste.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.