TIME health

5 Things That Make You Overeat

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We eat solo about half of the time, according to a recent report. We dine alone 60% of the time at breakfast, 55% of the time at lunch, and up to 70% of the time when eating snacks. The solitary dining trend is due in part to on-the-go lifestyles, as well as the fact that nearly one third of households consist of just one person.

Whether you live alone or with your significant other or family, you may find yourself eating in a different way when you dine by yourself. Specifically, if you’re like many of my clients, you’re probably falling into some unhealthy eating traps. Here are five common dine-alone conundrums, along with practical ways to thwart them.

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Relying on processed convenience food

I’ve had numerous clients tell me that they don’t make meals from scratch when they dine alone, because they think, ‘why bother going to the trouble just for one person?’ As a result, they find themselves relying on frozen dinners or packaged products, and that quality difference can negatively affect your waistline. One recent study found that we burn about 50% more calories metabolizing whole foods versus processed foods. In other words, it’s not just about the total calories you consume; some prep and cooking time is a worthy investment, even for a solo meal. To keep it fresh, simple, and relatively fast, consider whipping up breakfast for dinner. You can sauté fresh veggies like tomatoes, onion, spinach, and mushrooms in low sodium organic veggie broth with garlic and herbs, and then pair it with either scrambled organic eggs or mashed white beans. Serve this over a small portion of healthy starch, such as quinoa or brown rice, and top with sliced avocado for healthy fat.

Health.com: 14 Ways to Cut Portions Without Feeling Hungry

Making too much

One of the biggest challenges many of my clients face when dining solo is making more than they need, which results in eating extra portions. I know it’s really a pain, or sometimes impossible, to make just a half cup of quinoa, for example. So if you cook more than you need for a single meal, keep a BPA-free storage container at the ready to stash your surplus in the fridge. And to check yourself, consider pulling out your measuring cups and spoons. Eating just 20% more than you need meal after meal can keep you about 20 pounds heavier–so while quality food rules, managing quantity is still key for weight control.

Eating while distracted

Eating alone often involves eating while doing something else–watching TV, checking email, reading, or surfing the web. And distracted eating is a major setup for overeating. When you aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to become disconnected from how much you’re eating, or how full you feel. And when you’re out of touch with the eating experience–not noticing the aromas, flavors, and textures because you’re multitasking–you’re more likely to feel unsatisfied, which can lead to post-meal snacking. I know it may feel awkward, but when dining alone, try to sit at a table and just eat. You may be surprised at how much more you enjoy your meal, and how much more satisfied you feel. In fact, many people have told me that establishing this habit resulted in getting excited about cooking again, so they could experiment with new recipes or seasonings.

Health.com: 10 Types of Hunger and How to Control Them

Gobbling too fast

Since dining alone isn’t social, you may be tempted to rush through a meal, in order to get onto your next task. But in addition to potentially triggering bloating and acid reflux, speed eating is a recipe for weight gain. One study of 3,000 people found that fast eaters were 84% more likely to be overweight. Set a goal to simply slow down; put your utensil or food down between bites, take a few breaths between forkfuls, and chew more thoroughly.

Mindless nibbling

Another common pitfall associated with eating solo is mindlessly nibbling, especially on snacks. One of my clients who often worked from home found herself grabbing whatever was within reach throughout the day, an apple from the fruit bowl, one of her son’s granola bars or hubby’s energy bars, a handful of jarred nuts…. If you’re in the same boat, the best remedy is to keep food out of your sightline, and schedule your meals and snacks. When this client began working from a desk rather than a kitchen stool, and set her cell phone alarm for a designated lunch and afternoon snack time, the extra noshing went away, and so did the excess pounds.

Health.com: A Slacker’s Guide to Losing Weight Without Trying

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME health

The Surprising Food Flavor That Can Help You Shed Pounds

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You’re probably familiar with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, but did you know there’s a fifth taste? It’s called umami, and a new study concludes that it has a unique effect on appetite.

Umami, which means “pleasant savory taste,” has been described as a mouth-watering, brothy, meaty sensation with a long-lasting aftertaste that balances the total flavor of a dish. Some chefs refer to umami as a flavor synergizer and, in the form of the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), it acts as a flavor enhancer.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the addition of MSG to soup stimulated appetite during eating, but also boosted post-meal satiety, which resulted in eating less later in the day. As an additive, MSG is something to avoid: research in the ’60s revealed that large amounts fed to mice destroyed nerve cells in the brain. And people who are sensitive to large amounts of MSG may experience side effects ranging from headaches to trouble breathing. However, umami flavor also occurs naturally in several healthy foods.

Here are five nutrient-rich umami options that may help you eat less, along with easy breezy ways to enjoy them.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms provide just 20 calories per cup, and they’re the only plant source of vitamin D, a key nutrient linked to lower rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Studies also link low vitamin D intake to more total fat and belly fat, and recent research has found that adequate blood vitamin D levels improve muscle strength and help muscles work more efficiently by boosting energy from within cells.

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Mushrooms also contain unique antioxidants that fight aging and heart disease, and natural substances in mushrooms have been shown to protect against breast cancer by preventing levels of estrogen in the body from becoming excessive. Shiitake, Japan’s most popular mushroom, is particularly rich in umami flavor. Simply sauté some ‘shrooms in organic, low-sodium vegetable broth with a bit of garlic, and add them to almost anything, including omelets, salads, soups, or open-faced sandwiches.

Truffles

Truffles, one of the world’s greatest delicacies, contain three types of natural umami substances. This fungus, which has been referred to as “the diamond in the kitchen,” is quite expensive because it’s difficult to cultivate, but a tiny amount goes a long way. Just a thinly sliced or shaved bit of truffle adds robust flavor to any dish, but you can also use truffle oil to make a simple vinaigrette along with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs. Or drizzle truffle oil over cooked veggies, spaghetti squash, or a lean protein like organic eggs or fish.

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Green tea

The list of green tea’s benefits is impressive. Regular consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, blood pressure, cancer, and osteoporosis, as well as overall anti-aging benefits. In addition to using green tea as a beverage along with meals, I like to use both brewed tea and loose leaves in cooking. I whip loose tea leaves into smoothies or combine them with pepper and other herbs like thyme as a rub. Brewed tea makes a great base for a marinade or soup or a flavorful liquid for steaming veggies or whole grain rice.

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Seaweed

Seaweed’s benefits range from heart protection to weight loss. One recent research review concluded that some seaweed proteins work just like blood pressure meds, and in animal research, a component in brown seaweed was shown to help rats burn more body fat. In addition, seaweed’s star nutrient iodine helps regulate the thyroid, and its magnesium may help enhance mood and improve sleep. In addition to making a side of seaweed salad a staple in your sushi orders, you can add a dollop to many savory dishes, including scrambled eggs, stir frys, and soups.

Tomatoes

Levels of the umami provider glutamic acid increase as tomatoes ripen, and research shows that in the inner “guts” of a tomato are tied to a stronger umami aftertaste. To take advantage, add sliced ripe tomatoes to a garden salad, or roast or grill tomatoes to further intensify their flavor. Bonus: cooking tomatoes provide more lycopene (as much as a 164% boost!), an antioxidant linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, and cancer, as well as skin benefits, including preventing wrinkles. Mmmm, umami!

Health.com: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is 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.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

9 Sandwich Ingredients That Are Healthy—Or Super Bad For You

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When I talk to my clients about their favorite meals, many will say, “Well, I love a good sandwich.” I get it. There’s just something very satisfying about picking up your lunch with both hands and biting in. But from a nutritionist’s point of view, a sandwich can either be a well rounded combo of nutrient-rich ingredients, or a downright dietary disaster.

Here are nine of the best and worst fillings to consider, along with a few tips to prevent sandwich calorie overkill.

BEST: Avocado

In addition to heart-healthy fats, which have been shown to slash “bad” LDL cholesterol and up “good” HDL levels, avocados provide anti-aging, disease fighting antioxidants and nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals, which is likely why one recent study found that avocado eaters have higher intakes of fiber, vitamins E and K, magnesium and potassium. And here’s the surprising part—regular avocado eaters weigh less and have smaller waists, even without eating fewer calories. Bonus: adding avocado to a sandwich with veggies will boost the absorption of antioxidants by up to 13 times.

Health.com: A Guide to Choosing Healthy Fats

BEST: Hummus

Using two tablespoons of hummus rather than one of mayo as your sandwich spread provides the same number of calories for double the portion, along with bonus nutrients, including plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. To add even more flavor and color to your meal, reach for hummus prepped with veggie add-ins like roasted red peppers, or sundried tomatoes.

BEST: Basil

In addition to being aromatic and delicious, fresh basil has potent anti-inflammatory effects, a boon for health since inflammation is a known trigger of premature aging and chronic diseases, including obesity. It’s also rich in immune-supporting vitamin A, and its natural anti-bacterial properties have been shown to fight Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.

Health.com: 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

BEST: Onions

In addition to fighting inflammation, onions help fight heart disease by protecting blood vessels and reducing cholesterol. Natural compounds in onions have also been shown to boost bone density, bolster immune defenses, balance blood sugar, and ward off chronic diseases, including cancer. Fresh red and sautéed yellow onions are my favorite sandwich additions, but choose any type you like to reap the benefits.

BEST: Vinegar

This lip-puckering condiment is low in calories (usually no more than 15 per tablespoon), packs antioxidants, and its main component, acetic acid, has been shown in research to help control blood pressure and blood-sugar levels while curbing fat accumulation. Sprinkling it on a sandwich may also be a savvy weight-control strategy. One study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that adding vinegar to meals can help naturally curb calorie intake for the remainder of the day. The effect shaved off 200 to 275 calories, the amount burned in a 30-minute elliptical session. Go for balsamic, red wine, champagne—any type you like to add a nutritious layer of flavor.

Health.com: 12 Foods That Control Your Appetite

WORST: White bread

A recent Spanish study that tracked the eating habits and weights of more than 9,000 people found that those who ate only white bread and downed two or more portions a day were 40% more likely to become overweight or obese over a five-year period, compared to those who ate less than one portion of white bread a week. This study backs other research to support the notion that if you eat bread, consuming a 100% whole-grain version is the best choice for curbing obesity risk, and fending off a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Make the switch, or opt for a breadless sandwich instead (see below).

WORST: Processed meat

Processed meats like pastrami, salami, and pepperoni, are meats that aren’t simply cuts of an animal’s muscle (such as chicken breast), but rather meats processed with additives and preservatives. These items are generally higher in calories, fat, and sodium—for example, 3 ounces of fresh cooked chicken breast contains about 90 calories, 1 gram of fat, 50 mg of sodium, and 20 grams of protein. One ounce of pepperoni, on the other hand, has 130 calories, 11 grams of fat, 480 mg of sodium, and 6 grams of protein. In addition, in a large scale study which involved 10 countries and almost half a million men and women, European researchers concluded that there is a solid link between the consumption of processed meats and heart disease as well as cancer. In addition, the risk of death from all causes rose along with the intake of processed meats.

WORST: Ranch Dressing

In addition to less than stellar ingredients like sugar, artificial color, and preservatives, a two-tablespoon portion of this popular sandwich dressing packs 130 calories and nearly 400 mg of sodium (of the recommended daily cap of 1,500 to 2,300 mg). If you love the texture and tanginess, whip up a cleaner version made with nonfat organic plain yogurt, seasoned with a touch of Dijon, lemon juice, minced garlic, black pepper, and Italian herbs.

WORST: Imitation cheese

Perhaps the name gives it away, but imitation cheese is on my “yikes!” list. A quick scan of the ingredient list will likely reveal additives such as corn syrup, sugar, salt, and preservatives, and a two tablespoon portion packs about 100 calories and 500 mg of sodium (one tablespoon is about the size of your thumb, from where it bends to the tip). If you really need some cheese, keep it all natural, or opt for a creamy plant-based alternative instead like guacamole.

Health.com: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

The more tips for preventing sandwich calorie overkill:

  1. Go open-faced: a smart way to immediately slash carbs in half without giving up the heartiness of bread.
  1. Opt for veggies instead: if you’re not a huge bread fan, wrap your sandwich fillings in outer Romaine leaves instead (so great if you have a “crunch” tooth!).
  1. Swap your starchy sides: if you do include bread, trade more carb-laden accompaniments (like chips, pretzels, crackers) for a side salad, or something like chopped or shredded veggies dressed in balsamic vinaigrette.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is 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.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Fasting Can Cause Weight Gain and Poor Sleep

Given my 15-plus years in private practice I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and weight loss. What works for one person may not work—or feel good—for another. That’s why I believe it’s so critical to listen to your body to determine what feels best and is sustainable for you, despite how popular an approach may be— from juice cleanses and detoxes to “caveman” versus vegan diets.

Regarding one strategy that’s currently trending, intermittent fasting, I’ve seen very mixed results. Many men, particularly those who struggle with excess weight and conditions like diabetes or metabolic syndrome, have reported positive results with this semi-fasting approach. But for many women I’ve counseled, any type of fasting—whether it be overnight for 16 hours every night, or capping calories at 500 two days a week—has seriously backfired. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, here are four potential unwanted effects to consider.

Rebound overeating

Limiting food intake to just eight hours each day or severely restricting calories a few days a week are two popular fasting approaches. I’ve seen both lead to intense cravings, preoccupation with food, and rebound binge eating, particularly for women. Some who attempted to cut off eating after 4pm (with the intention of eating again at 8am) have told me that after hours of lingering thoughts about food, or watching other family members eat, they just couldn’t take it anymore, and wound up raiding the kitchen and eating far more than they would have on a typical night. Others, who attempt to eat no more than 500 calories a day two non-consecutive days each week, often begin daydreaming on fasting days about what they can eat on nonfasting days, and end up eating decadent goodies more often, like baked goods, pizza, chips, and ice cream. The lesson: even if this tactic has worked miracles for a friend, co-worker, or family member, if it leaves you in a food frenzy, it’s not the best approach for you.

Poor sleep

I’ve tried intermittent fasting myself, and like clients and others I’ve talked to, it interfered with my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This effect can not only wreak havoc with daytime energy, but a plethora of studies have shown that sleep length and quality are strongly associated with weight control. Too little sleep has been shown to increase hunger, up cravings for sweet and fatty foods, reduce the desire to eat healthy foods like veggies, and trigger excessive eating overall and weight gain. For these reasons, I don’t believe that fasting is an optimal strategy for many people. In fact, some clients have told me they got out of bed at 3am after waking up, and you guessed it, wound up either eating, drinking alcohol, or both, in order to fall asleep—not a good recipe for weight loss or wellness.

Fewer nutrients

As a nutritionist, one of my biggest pet peeves with fasting is that I’ve seen it compromise overall nutrition by limiting the intake of veggies, fruit, even lean protein and healthy fats, which are strongly tied to keeping metabolism revved, boosting satiety, and reducing inflammation—all critical for weight control. I think this is especially the case when people become focused on calorie counts rather than food quality. If you do decide to try intermittent fasting, or even a modified version, make every morsel count by sticking with naturally nutrient rich whole and fresh foods rather than processed “diet” products.

Muscle loss

Unfortunately, fasting doesn’t trigger your body to break down only your fat reserves. While that would make weight loss so much easier, metabolism is a bit more complex. Your body burns a combination of fat and carbohydrate and after about six hours or so, when carbohydrates aren’t being consumed and your body’s “back up” stores in your liver have been depleted, you begin to convert some lean tissue into carbohydrate. The ratio of how much fat to muscle you lose may vary depending on your body composition, protein intake, and activity level, but again, this is where I’ve seen women and men experience different results. Research shows that in postmenopausal women, a higher protein intake is needed in order to lose less muscle mass (not offset the effect completely), but many women tell me that when they fast they crave carbs, which may lead to a loss of muscle while maintaining body fat—the opposite of their intended goal. Bottom line: again, think through what feels good and in sync with your body’s needs, and remember, sustainability is key.

More from Health.com

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, sports nutrition consultant to the NHL’s New York Rangers and the MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

3 Ways to Kick Your White-Bread Habit

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There are many strategies for avoiding white bread Angela Wyant—Getty Images

Some of my clients wouldn’t touch white bread, rice, or pasta with a 10-foot pole, while others just can’t seem to make the switch to whole-grain alternatives. For the latter group, it’s either because they’re so accustomed to the flavor or texture of refined grains, or because they’ve had a bad experience with healthier options.

For example, one of my pro athlete clients recently told me that whole-grain pasta tastes like sticky cardboard mixed with glue, a pretty vivid and unappetizing description! But it turns out, the pasta he tried was way overcooked and unseasoned. If, like him, you’re reluctant to try again, I encourage you to give it another go, because racking up more nutrients isn’t the only benefit.

Health.com:16 Whole Grains You Need to Try

A recent Spanish study that tracked the eating habits and weights of more than 9,000 people found that those who ate only white bread and downed two or more portions a day were 40% more likely to become overweight or obese over a five-year period, compared to those who ate less than one portion of white bread a week. While the study didn’t include rice or pasta, other research backs the notion that consuming whole-grain versions curbs obesity risk, and protects against a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.

Try these three tricks to reap the benefits of whole grains without feeling like you’re choking down cardboard. You may never crave the pale stuff again!

Health.com:The 20 Healthiest Breakfast Foods

Spruce up with spreads

A hearty whole-grain bread can overpower the flavor of sandwich fillings. To balance it out, slather on a plant-based spread or two, including hummus, olive tapenade, pesto (like sun-dried tomato, roasted red pepper, artichoke, or eggplant), tahini, ripe avocado, or guacamole. In addition to being delicious, these spreads add heart-healthy fat and boost your antioxidant intake. To prevent carb overkill (and an overly grainy texture), opt for an open-faced sandwich, or use crisp Romaine leaves as the top layer so you can still pick it up with both hands and bite in.

Become season-savvy

Nearly everyone who’s told me they don’t like brown rice or other cooked whole grains like quinoa tried them plain—and a little seasoning can make a huge difference. One of the simplest ways to add both flavor and moisture is to quickly sauté cooked grains in organic low sodium vegetable broth along with herbs and spices. There are dozen of options, but some of my favorite combos include: minced garlic with fresh grated ginger and crushed red pepper; garlic with fresh cilantro and fresh squeezed lime juice; or garlic with fresh squeezed lemon juice, black pepper, and Italian herb seasoning. In addition to serving them hot, seasoned whole grains can also be chilled. Either way, try tossing them with chopped or shredded veggies, lean protein, and a good-for-you fat, like extra virgin olive oil, chopped nuts, or minced avocado.

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Think al dente

These days there are a wide variety of whole-grain pasta options, including whole wheat, or gluten-free choices, like brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, and noodles made from black beans and buckwheat. But when it’s overcooked, any pasta can lose its appeal. Whole-grain versions do take a little bit longer to cook than white pasta, but the difference is generally only a few minutes, much less than most people think. So start checking it right away, and turn off the heat when the pasta is still firm to best preserve the texture.

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Like bread and rice, whole grain or white pasta alternatives taste best when paired with robust sauces, so let your culinary creativity run wild. Try healthy add-ins with bold flavors like Kalamata olives, capers, wild mushrooms, and caramelized onions, or stir in a little balsamic vinegar or harissa seasoning. Or forgo pasta sauce in favor of a dollop of one of the spreads I mentioned above, like sun-dried tomato or eggplant pesto. Hot or chilled, the right combination may just win you over!

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor. Frequently seen on national TV, she privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. She’s also 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. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Nutrition

Read This Before Grocery Shopping

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“I sat in the parking lot, ripped open the bag of M&M’s and gobbled them as fast as I could,” one of my clients recently told me. She had gone to the supermarket right after she left work, upset about an e-mail a colleague had sent, and drowned her despair in candy.

No matter what kind of day you’re having, though, the truth is that every time you walk into a food store, you’re toting emotional baggage with you. Add to that the sights and smells of tempting foods and the allure of free samples and calculated displays, and you’re SUI: shopping under the influence.

But there are proven ways to prevent stress, anxiety and fatigue from taking over. This is what to do the next time you’re behind the wheels of a grocery cart.

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The situation: You’re Having a Fat Day

You saw an unflattering picture of yourself on Facebook (thank you, “friend,” for tagging me in that puffy-coat photo). And now, even if you haven’t gained an ounce, you’re feeling down about your body. That can kill your motivation to avoid fattening foods, because you figure you might as well eat whatever you want.

Your in-store strategy

One of my favorite snap-out-of-it tactics is to give your healthy body props. That may sound dippy, but it forces you to take stock of all the great things it lets you do—dance, push through a workout, hug the people you love. Focusing on positive, active stuff reminds you why you want to eat right in the first place. Distraction can also do the trick. Some clients pop in earbuds and listen to a feel-good song when the fat talk starts.

The situation: Post-Exercise Entitlement

You walk past the sweets section and see a frosted brownie with your name written all over it. You think, I worked out three times this week—I deserve it!

Your in-store strategy

When you’re about to claim your reward at the bakery counter, stop in your tracks and visualize all that energy and sweat you put into spin class. Tell yourself, I just worked off hundreds of calories—do I want to blow it all on a brownie? It’s good to have a tool like the MyFitnessPal app, where you can track the number of calories you burn daily. Stick with my 50 percent rule: Allow yourself up to half the number of calories you burned as a treat, and only on the days you’ve worked out. So if the treadmill shows you burned 350 calories, go for a goodie that’s no more than 175 calories, like three individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate.

Health.com:25 Fattening Foods You Should Never Eat

The situation: Mom Guilt

You’ve been putting in late nights for work or side projects. As you whiz through the supermarket aisles, you spy your kids’ all-time favorite sandwich cookies. It will make them so happy if you surprise them, so you grab a package. Then you toss in the sugary cereal. And the potato chips. Later in the week, you’re digging into the bags yourself.

Your in-store strategy

It’s impossible to rule out food as a token of affection—there’s a reason boxed chocolates were invented. So show your family (and your waistline) the love with just one favorite nosh. Maybe this week it’s the sugary cereal and next week it’s all about the cheese puffs. Just be sure to balance it out by picking up healthier favorites, like grapes or pre-portioned hummus packs.

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The situation: You’re Reeling From a Bad Day

Whatever happened—your car broke down, you found out your house needs a new roof—you’re frazzled. You fill your cart with ingredients for some comforting standby, like your mom’s mac and cheese, cheese, cheese.

Your in-store strategy

Promise yourself a chill-out treat for when you get home, like a new book for your Kindle or a DIY facial. You want to soothe yourself without resorting to caloric comfort (an excellent food strategy in general). Having something to look forward to can propel you past temptation. If you’re really on the verge, head to the prepared-food section, where you’ll find healthy choices such as precooked salmon or kale salad. You can always grab what you need for that night and do a bigger shopping trip later, when your willpower is stronger.

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The situation: You’re in a Rut

Let’s face it: Sometimes life feels boring and your only chance to get your thrills is your weekly trip to the grocery store (Italian deli meat! Imported beer! Macaroons!). While trying different foods is a great way to spice things up, it may not do your diet any favors.

Your in-store strategy

Have fun with healthier exotic fare. You’ve probably walked by rambutan (a spiny Malaysian fruit with a sweet, tangy inside) and sumac (a fragrant Middle Eastern spice) dozens of times without noticing them. Also look for cashew butter to spread on dates or dried figs, or interesting grains like red quinoa. They’ll add flavor to your life—the kind that won’t pack on pounds.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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.

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