With Valentine’s Day right around the corner you may wonder if you can you have your cake and eat it too when trying to lose or maintain weight? A recent study suggets that you can. Reduced calorie diets that are meant to lower body weight and fat percentage are often difficult to maintain because they eliminate certain foods from the diet such as chocolate and other treats. For many, this can lead to increased cravings, hunger, and thus limited compliance and success. The study, available in the September 2010 issue of Journal of the American Dietetic Association, followed 26 overweight, premenopausal women for eighteen weeks. All the women followed a reduced calorie diet and some were given a daily dark chocolate snack while the other women were given a daily non chocolate snack. At the end of the eighteen week period, both groups reported similar and significant decreases in body weight as well as sweet cravings. Bottom line, the incorporation of a small dark chocolate or non-dark chocolate snack each day does not inhibit positive changes in body weight or body fat percentage and may actually reduce cravings for additional sweets. So if you are trying to lose weight or just maintain weight, keep the following tips in mind to snack wisely.
- If it is chocolate you crave, opt for dark chocolate as it contains more antioxidants. You can also mix it up with a cup of hot cocoa with milk or chocolate covered almonds to incorporate a little protein in your treat. Try chocolate covered fruit such as strawberries or frozen bananas for a sweet treat that offers quality vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin C.
- If it is salty and crunchy you crave, try stove top popcorn with a dash of sea salt. This snack is high in fiber and will help you feel satisfied. You can also coat mozzarella string cheese with egg, flour, panko whole wheat bread crumbs, and desired seasonings such as salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning and bake it at 450 degrees for five minutes for a salty treat that offers both calcium and vitamin D.
- Plan your indulgences. For example, if you know you want dessert one night, cut back on the portions of other foods. This provides focus for your lifestyle changes by giving you something to look forward to.
- It is extremely important to remember that whichever snack you do choose, limit it to one serving!
- Consider having your treat earlier in the day. This provides plenty of opportunity for your body to use up those calories throughout the day.
- Most importantly, enjoy your treat without guilt. Part of leading a healthy lifestyle is balance. You must allow yourself to enjoy all types of food. Just keep portion size in check and indulge in less nutritious foods every now and then, not three times a day!
Research Assistance Provided by Sarah Volling 
Picture Source:http://blog.sweetique.com/2010/02/french-macaroons-with-chocolate.aspx