There’s no such thing as foods you shouldn’t eat, according to registered dietitian Amanda Baker Lemein. According to her, allowing yourself tiny indulgences throughout the week is a better way to lose and maintain weight than cutting out certain foods entirely. She calls the weight loss method the “Two Treat Rule.”
“The Two Treat Rule is sort of an overarching way for [people] to still enjoy their favorite foods but follow whatever plan we come up with and still have success following that plan,” says Lemein.
Whether it’s ice cream, french fries, pizza or cake, your two treats a week should be foods you simply can’t live without, according to Lemein.
You may consider these foods unhealthy and therefore detrimental to your weight loss goals. But as long as the bulk of your meals consist of mostly high-fiber, plant-based foods, Lemein says, two portion-controlled treats a week won’t hinder your progress.
“I think there’s room for nearly all foods in a healthy diet,” she explains.
What’s more, Lemein says the Two Treat Rule will give you self-control around the foods you love while turning healthy eating into a lifelong habit.
“If [people] give themselves permission to have some of these favorite foods, then they don’t become so forbidden, they don’t become so intriguing, because they know that they’ll have them again the next week if they choose,” Lemein explains.
Don’t bring it in your home
One caveat to the Two Treat Rule, according to Lemein, is that you should never keep treats in your home, because you might be tempted to eat them.
“For example, if ice cream is something [an] individual really loves, I don’t think they should keep a pint of ice cream in their freezer,” she says.
Get the better newsletter.
Instead, Lemein recommends using the Two Treat Rule as an excuse to get out of your house twice a week and do something fun with family or friends.
“You go out of the home, and it’s much more special when you leave home to do so anyway, and it’s sort of an event,” she explains.
Keep it to one serving size
While the Two Treat Rule can help you get healthy and still eat foods you love, it isn’t an excuse to overindulge, Lemein warns. To work, she advises limiting your portions to one serving size.
“I don’t really put a restriction on what [your treats] can be, but I do say it should be a single serving,” she says.
As long as your treats are kept to one serving, she explains, you can still eat the foods you love while learning to control yourself around them.
“Two small treats throughout the week compared to the entire week of eating really healthy and nutrient-dense [food] is really not going to make a dent in [your] progress as long as it is kept to those two portioned-controlled out-of-the-home foods,” Lemein explains.
When it comes to meals, focus on quality over quantity
While you are allowed your two treats a week, your regular meals should center around non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, according to the dietitian. She says your focus should be on the quality of the food you eat rather than the quantity. The higher the quality, the more of it you can eat, she explains.
One rule she recommends for both losing and maintaining weight is to always fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at both lunch and dinner.
“Minimum half of a plate [but] it can certainly be more,” Lemein says. “Small steps like that, I think, can really make a big impact.”
Give yourself power over the foods you love
When you use the Two Treat Rule effectively, you learn to have power over your favorite foods instead of them having power over you, according to the dietitian.
“It’s simply a way to demystify these favorite foods and take away some of their power by normalizing them a little bit,” says Lemein, “and also just making healthy eating much more sustainable and much more realistic.”
How to use the 2-treat rule
- Don’t bring it in your home: Keep high-calorie foods off your grocery list. Instead, use your two treats a week as an excuse to get out of the house and grab a bite with family and friends.
- Keep it to one serving size: Don’t use your two treats a week as an excuse to overindulge, especially if you are trying to lose weight. One serving is enough to temper your cravings and learn portion control in the process.
When it comes to meals, focus on quality over quantity: Your regular meals should center around non-starchy vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. One rule is to always fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at both lunch and dinner, but you can always include more
More Healthy Eating Advice
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.