Low fat fruit yogurt, skim milk with your next coffee, fat free dressing on your salad for lunch, 100-calorie snack packs… All healthy decisions, right? Wrong.

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If you’re trying to eat healthier, think twice before you fall into the media trap. Think again before you give up some your favorite foods for “healthy” (often pre-packaged and processed) foods that are labelled “low-calorie” or “low fat”. Here’s what’s wrong with those labels: your body needs calories. Your body uses fats. However, your body doesn’t use ALL fats the same way.

The first thing to remember, is that health, like most things in life, is about quality, not quantity.

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Sure, if your only goal is to lose weight, switching to lower calorie options may do the trick. So before you tell me I’m wrong, and that you dropped 10 pounds by counting calories last fall, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not talking about weight loss. I’m talking about health. Because health is so much more than a numbers game. It’s about the nutrition in your food, balance in exercise, your overall happiness, and your general well-being.

More often than not, the lightened up, low fat, or lower calorie versions of classic foods are highly processed, stripped of whatever nutritional value they possessed to begin with, and are filled with lots of added sugars and additives to make up for the difference in taste (yes, even yogurts and skim milks!).

Simply put, they’re empty calories. They won’t help your body function the way it wants to, and they won’t leave you feeling satisfied and nourished by your food.

Instead, focus on switching to whole, natural foods made with real ingredients that are both delicious and nutritious. Delicious foods like:

  • Hummus,
  • Avocados,
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables,
  • Dates,
  • Nut butters, and
  • Whole grains

will become your new food best friends.

Yes, full-fat peanut butter with 100 calories per tablespoon is a healthy food.

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Remember, food is your friend, not your enemy. It is an experience to be enjoyed. If you love food, embrace it! (Read: I love food).

Food is fuel – fuel for your next workout, fuel for your exam tomorrow morning, fuel to simply live your life. If you don’t eat enough, how can you expect to power through your day as best you can? Healthy fats and complex carbs (from whole grains and potatoes to so many more) are what our brains and bodies run on. Feed your body correctly and it will return the favor. Fail to feed it well, or worse, fail to feed it enough at all, and it’ll scream out to you in protest. Don’t fight with your body—help it.

Say, for example, that you opt for low fat crisp-bread instead of that herb-and-oil grilled pita bread alongside your dip. You’ll more than likely find yourself either unsatisfied, unhappy or both after you’ve finished your meal. Instead, consider swapping half the amount of pita for some vegetable crudités and enjoy the heck out of that grilled bread in moderation.

Don’t get me wrong – if you hate pita bread and the crisp-bread is what floats your boat, then go for that one! The point is choosing to serve your body, not deprive it. Don’t make “healthy” changes that aren’t sustainable. Because being healthy is not a diet—it’s a way of life.

Understand your body, figure out what makes you feel good. There is no one-size-fits-all miracle formula. Just trust me on this: once you start eating well, you‘ll no longer feel those constant, nagging cravings for excessively sugary or greasy food. “Constant” is a key word here.

Here are a few of my favourite snacks/meals that are delicious and packed with nutrition, to give you energy and just make you feel good! 

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So next time you’re at the grocery store, question whether you want to opt for the 100-calorie pretzel snack pack or instead grab an apple and a squeeze pack of peanut butter (being cheeky and getting two is completely acceptable). Even though the apple and peanut butter is the more caloric option, it has lots of healthy fats and some natural sugars to help power your body through the day! Ask yourself whether the “healthy” decision you’re making is truly right for you.

Most importantly, being healthy is about balance, not perfection.

Tahini date cups aren’t always going to do the trick. Sometimes, you’re going to want a snack and you’re gonna grab a cookie. So what? Live a little. Treat yourself. Indulge in that fudgy chocolate cake. Heck, even put a large scoop of ice cream on it, drizzle on some hot fudge and throw on some sprinkles. Just not every night! Everything in moderation, friends.

Now I’ll see you all later, I’m off to grab a snack—it’s NUTS how strong my PB craving is right now!

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About The Author

Tanvi is a student at the University of Cambridge across the pond in the UK! Family, friends and food are her favorite things. She is obsessed with all things chocolate, strawberry and nut-butter and even has a food blog called Strawberry Chocolate Concoction. A black belt in karate and former competitive swimmer, Tanvi loves staying fit and encouraging others to do so as well. She’s happiest when surrounded by the people she loves - a sprinkling of yummy food and sunny weather wouldn’t hurt either!

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