People often ask me if I live what I preach. Do I sneak chocolate once in a while or visit the junk food isle if I am shopping alone? What about my kids? Do I forbid them sugar and processed foods?

I strongly believe that over-controlling one’s diet is a serious no-no. Denying oneself (or one’s family members) occasional treats can lead to binge eating. It can also be discouraging and no fun at birthdays and special occasions.

I also believe that fad diets can be problematic. So, what’s the best long-term option? Here are some tips.

80 per cent Rule

I enjoy my treats. I like having honey in my morning tea, I enjoy the occasional indulgent dessert and I like eating bacon once in a while. I don’t feel deprived if I allow myself these treats, and I also don’t feel guilty, which is equally important.

Typically I allow myself one small treat per day, ensuring that 80 per cent of my food intake is wholesome, unprocessed, natural foods — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, good quality protein, legumes, nuts and seeds. This is the best diet plan you can follow, especially if a good portion of what you consume is grown locally.

Some people prefer to allow one day per week when they can eat what they like. I find this makes me feel nauseous and low-energy, but it may work for you.

Get in Touch With your Hunger and Fullness Cues

A lot of people diet often, lose weight, and then fall off the wagon, regaining lost weight, and sometimes more. These people may overeat, then under-eat to compensate, and as a result are no longer in tune with their normal hunger cues.

They cannot recognize when they are actually full or hungry and may mistake their hunger for something else such as thirst, or base their eating on their emotions, which can lead to binge eating.

Knowing when to stop eating based on what your body needs (not wants), and eating four to five small, nutritional meals on a daily basis is a huge step towards long-term healthy eating. It’s important to keep your metabolism going by eating frequent, smaller meals, instead of the typical “I’ll skip supper because I had a really big lunch.”

A good book to check out is Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It includes information on freeing yourself from guilty eating, coping with emotions without using food, and being in tune with your hunger cues. It’s a great book to help you find your own, long-term healthy diet rhythm.

Tips for Toddlers and Kids

In our family it’s only a special occasion when we have treats in the house. Until about age two, I didn’t feed my toddler any sugar and he didn’t ask for it because he didn’t know what it was. When he was old enough to realize what sugar was we started letting him have some. It was no longer a forbidden commodity but a rather a treat.

Now our son, almost four, understands what sugar does to our bodies when we eat too much, and he chooses eat it in moderation. This has been a great system for us.

The best thing you can do for your kids is to teach by example.

Amoree Briggs lives in the Yukon countryside with her family and has just completed her diploma in holistic nutrition.