How to enjoy treats in a healthy way


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Treats are everywhere we turn. You’ll be pleased to hear that cakes, biscuits and desserts can be part of a healthy and active lifestyle, as there’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods – it’s everything in moderation.

How to enjoy treats in a healthy way

Treats have the ability to totally tip our weekly balance in the wrong direction, so it’s important to be mindful when making your choices.


There are always times throughout the year that we fancy treating ourselves (think Christmas, birthdays and weekends, to name just a few), and there’s nothing wrong that, but the rest of the time it’s important to focus on eating balanced, nutritious meals. Start by getting this under control and you’ll feel much better about allowing yourself the occasional treat.

Eat the rainbow: Eating foods in a variety of different colours, shapes, sizes and flavours is a great way to ensure that you keep a healthy, balanced diet. The best way to achieve this is to try to include every colour of the rainbow

Game of thirds: Ensure that each meal contains one-third veg and fruit; one-third carbohydrates, and the final third split between protein and dairy. Lastly, foods high in sugar and/or salt should only be eaten occasionally – this is where treats fit in

Control cravings: The best way to help you choose veg and fruit over other treats is to make sure you have them within easy reach when you’re in need of a snack. Keeping a bowl of fresh fruit at home or in the office, or keeping a supply of dried fruit or nuts in a container nearby will help you to choose healthier options (just keep an eye on your portion control)


It can be easy to consume a large volume of calories with little nutritional value, so embrace healthier alternatives, where possible.

Upgrade the nutrition: Veg and fruit are delicious, perfectly packaged alternatives to other treats high in added sugars, fats and salt. They’re great for when you’re on the move, at home or as part of a packed lunch – and will help you reach your 5-a-day target

Embrace frozen berries: Another good alternative is to keep a supply of frozen berries in the freezer. Frozen berries work wonderfully with yoghurt – either in a bowl or blitzed up into frozen yoghurt

Handy homemade dips: whiz up homemade dips, such as skinny homemade houmous or pea & yoghurt dip to take your veg to the next level


When the healthier options just won’t cut it, by all means indulge in the traditional treats of cakes, biscuits and desserts. If you have a healthy diet, the occasional treat is nothing to worry about – just check these tips to make sure that you’re not overdoing it!

Check your portion sizes: Serve treats and desserts on small plates, and ice cream in a skinny glass or mug instead of a bowl

Make your own: Making your own treats is a great option, as that way you know exactly what’s gone into them (and you can choose their size). Why not invest in smaller kitchen equipment, such as mini-muffin tins or small ramekins, for bite-sized versions of your favourites?

Aim for 20% or less: Treats should only make up a small part of our daily calorie intake. The Government recommends around 20% (with breakfast making up 20% and the remaining 60% split equally between lunch and dinner)

Make it an occasion: Enjoy your treats! If you’re going to indulge, try to make an occasion of it, rather than snacking on the go or straight from the tin. This way, you’re more likely to be fully aware of what you’re eating

Be mindful: Take your time to enjoy your treats by putting down your fork or spoon between bites. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full – so waiting a while will help stop you going for that second serving.

As with anything in life, balance is key. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your favourite treat occasionally, so appreciate it for what it is and don’t feel guilty – just keep these tips in mind to help you enjoy a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Written by Eretia O'Kennedy

Eretia is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver, while Laura Matthews is away on maternity leave. She is passionate about educating people about food and showing them that eating healthily is easy. She was very sporty in school and her interest in nutrition arose when she realised that what we eat has an important role to play in physical performance. Her motto in life is "we are what we eat".

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