How to Cheat Without Cheating

Wouldn't it be great if the cravings disappeared right along with the pounds? Unfortunately, that's not usually the case. For many people struggling to get healthy, one of their biggest weight loss challenges is sticking to their diet plans and steering clear of the inevitable temptations.
At SparkPeople, moderation, not deprivation, is integral in finding success, balance and, ultimately, happiness. Experts say that treating yourself to the occasional splurge can actually make it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan the rest of the time. The key is choosing smart indulgences that satisfy your sweet tooth without being unfaithful to your diet. These 10 pseudo-sinful treats can beat even your most intense craving:   
1. Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries: Satisfy your hankering for chocolate by dressing up your strawberries in a sweet coating. Melt half of a Hershey's chocolate bar in the microwave, then dip one end of several medium-sized strawberries. Place in the fridge until the chocolate has set, then enjoy.
2. Chocolate Frozen Bananas: Now you can enjoy a refreshing frozen treat without the guilt. Slice a banana into two halves and freeze them. Next, roll the frozen halves in melted chocolate. For a bit of crunch, roll them in the topping of your choice, like nuts or granola. Next time you're tempted to reach for the ice cream, this vitamin-packed confection will be waiting.
3. Smoothies: From breakfast to dessert, it's always a good time for a smoothie. Convenient, portable and delicious, they're the ultimate guilt-free treat. SparkPeople member Animal_Lover posted this refreshing recipe: "Blend one cup of unsweetened chocolate almond milk, one small frozen banana and a handful or so of frozen strawberries in your blender. It's a delicious frozen drink, like a Neapolitan shake, with only 150-200 calories. It's a great way to cool you down without indulging in ice cream!" Also check out our 10 super-berry smoothie recipes.
4. Lightened-Up Apple Crisp: With a fruit base and very little added sugar, this popular SparkRecipe is a smart way to satisfy a craving for sweets. It's also quick and easy to prepare.
5. Apple Slices with Almond Butter: Thanks to SparkPeople member ANASHEIKH for this yummy idea. She sometimes swaps the almond butter for unsalted, reduced-fat peanut butter or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
6. Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse: This low-fat treat satisfies your chocolate craving for a mere 150 calories.  
7. Chocolate Cherry Angel Food Cake: With this light but flavorful chocolate cherry treat, you can have your cake and eat it too—at just 105 calories per serving.
8. Homemade Trail Mix: As a healthy alternative to chips or bite-sized candies, mix up your own trail mix. The beauty of this salty snack is that you can include all the ingredients you love, from dried fruit to chocolate chips to whole-grain cereal. Browse our trail mix recipes for ideas.  
9. Cottage Cheese: Top it with strawberries, blueberries, nuts and/or almonds for a treat that's low in fat, yet high in protein, calcium and vitamins.
10. Air-popped Popcorn: It's filling and a good source of fiber—and when you add your favorite toppings, it becomes a delicious way to cheat without cheating. See our 23 ways to top your popcorn for under 150 calories.

5 Rules of Cheating

When indulging in a splurge, follow these guidelines to make the most of the experience:
  1. Make it last. If you're allowing yourself a slice of your favorite lemon meringue pie, take small bites and savor them. Chew slowly and pause between forkfuls to prolong the enjoyment.
  2. Plan your portions. If caramel popcorn is your treat of choice, don't eat from the bag. Measure out individual servings into baggies to prevent over-indulging. And if you know from experience that you're likely to go overboard with a certain "trigger food," don't add it to your cheat list.
  3. Cheat without distractions. Enjoy your treat in a quiet place where you can focus on the experience. When you mindlessly snack while on your laptop, watching TV or driving, you're more likely to overindulge.
  4. Make it real. When choosing your cheat treat, go for the real thing and not the sugar substitute. If you're craving ice cream, don't choose a low-fat, sugar-free version. The artificial sweeteners will only provide temporary satisfaction. Instead, splurge on a small cup of real ice cream made with whole ingredients.
  5. Shake off mistakes. If you slip up and overindulge, don't beat yourself up. Recognize the mistake, get back on track and don't look back.
What are your favorite ways to satisfy cravings without disrupting your diet plan?