I was recently interviewed by MindBodyGreen for a story about so-called “healthy” foods nutrition experts won’t go near. I love these types of articles because it’s fascinating to see where other people draw the line and why.

But what about some of the less healthy foods we love? One thing I work on with patients and clients is making room for those indulgences that may not fall under the #cleaneating umbrella but that they don’t want to banish from their life. Shocker: dietitians have foods like that too. Mine is bacon. I’d rather give up other things so I can enjoy it once in a while without lying awake worrying that the food police are coming for me.



The Food Police


I thought it would be fun to share what some of my fellow RDs favorite in-moderation foods are and how they make room for them.


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Bread & Butter

“I make room for…(drum roll please!) crusty bread and pastries! After studying abroad in Europe, I learned to appreciate real food ingredients used in portion-controlled servings. I normally eat bread from the bakery section without added preservatives and occasionally on weekends, fresh croissants made with real butter, not hydrogenated or palm oils. After returning to Europe for our honeymoon years later, my husband and I were both surprised we didn’t gain any weight!”

Therese Bonanni MS, RDN 


“Butter and what it goes on—good crusty French bread! Not just any butter–Irish Butter. (Kerry Gold) Being half Irish, it’s nice to have one food from the homeland! My husband is French and of course there’s lot’s of French chocolate in the house too that I indulge in occasionally. My motto is get the best and enjoy a square here and there. We once did a family blind taste test for Irish, French and American butter. Irish won.”

-Bridget Swinney MS, RD Author and founder of EatRightMama


“Challah Bread, especially from one particular bakery on the UWS (Silver Moon) that only bakes it on Thursday/Friday/Saturday. Crunchy, crusty outside and soft, eggy, inside. I will reschedule/reroute my entire day if I feel like getting a loaf (usually once every month or two). I lived a block from the bakery when I was pregnant and had a loaf almost every week! Now my daughter (almost 10 years later) asks for it constantly as well…from womb to life? haha. Sometimes I surprise her with a loaf when I pick her up from school and the two of us eat half of it on the 20 minute subway trip home.”

-Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN, Registered Dietitian, Chef, and owner of Culinary Nutrition Cuisine


Really good croissants! It’s not something I have often because it HAS to be high quality and there aren’t too many bakeries near me that so it right. But when I walk into a place with fresh, flaky croissants, I enjoy every bite. And if there’s an egg and cheese involved…that’s absolute heaven.”

– Tina Gowin Carlucci, RD 


Red Meat

Not necessarily unhealthy but I love filet mignon even though I don’t each much red meat. I consider it a splurge on occasion when I have it—so good!”

– Janet Brancato, MS, RD owner www.mynutopia.com

Dietary Fat

“The traditional Mediterranean diet. Don’t have a post but happy to share concept. DGA Guidelines state calories from fat on daily basis equal to or below 35% from fat. The traditional Mediterranean diet clocks in 35 to 40% calories from fat and sometimes even higher. So I’m happy to say being a California girls at heart that I’ve always chosen an “unhealthy” dietary pattern.”

-Culinary Nutritionist Linn Steward of Gourmet Matters

Mac & Cheese

“Macaroni and cheese! It’s always been my favorite ever since I can remember. While I know it can be generous in calories, I always make sure to throw in a vegetable and a protein. My favorite is broccoli and chicken sausage. It’s also good to have it as a side dish instead of a main meal. That way, you’ll have your Mac and cheese but also have healthy vegetables and lean protein as well!”

– Kristen Peterson MPH, RDN, LDN creator of KP Creations


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“Pizza!!! There is something about that cheese and sauce covered goodness that is impossible to turn down. Living in Jersey, we have amazing pizzerias, so we avoid the chain delivery pizza places in favor of going somewhere local. Once or twice a month we’ll get pizza to enjoy on a lazy Friday night. Since I mastered making my own pizza, I prefer to do that instead and make it margarita-style with fresh mozzarella and basil so it’s less greasy than” take-out.

-Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, creator of the couples nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials 


“One “unhealthy” food I refuse to toss is pizza! Most of the time, I’ll make my own homemade pizza with a multigrain or whole grain crust and low sodium sauce, topped with veggies or finished with a fantastic, thin-sliced pepperoni and cheese! Each time I serve it with a great mixed salad and fresh fruit. I make room for pizza by having a variety of other high-fiber foods at the meal, being in control of the recipe itself to avoid over-cheesing and too many pepperonis and limiting processed meats throughout the rest of the week. Every few months we’ll go out for a pizza, too, and again I order a nice salad or side of veggies to split.”

Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, LD 



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French fries!The way I enjoy them is that I limit my enjoyment to once a week and then watch portion size. That depends on how active I’ve been over the last week or so – workouts, overall activity – but that usually corresponds to my hunger levels, too.”

-Dietitian Angela Lemond  


For me it’s French Fries, the salty, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside of a good French Fry. Having celiac disease it’s hard to eat them at restaurants, so when a restaurant has a dedicated fryer, you better believe I’m ordering some!”

– Jenny S Manseau, RD, CC of The Creative RD 


Carne Asada Fries! California Burritos (a Carne Asada Burrito with French Fries) were one of my only cravings when I was pregnant with my daughter. Now that I follow a gluten free diet, I’ve ditched the flour tortilla & go straight for the fries topped with carne asada, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa fresca. I try and indulge my craving once a month, and enjoy every single bite!”

-EA Stewart, MBA, RD of The Spicy RD 


“Curly fries are my fav! If I see them on the menu, you know I am getting it. Since I don’t eat out a whole lot, I enjoy fries only on certain occasion and will enjoy it to the fullest with extra ketchup. At home, I stick with the baked chips version which are good but they are not curly fries.”

– Dixya Bhattarai, MS, RDN of Food, Pleasure, and Health 


One food I could never give up is a good ol’ fashioned poutine. Being Canadian – this is arguably one our best and well known traditional dishes. It is made from crisp french fries, topped with cheese curds smothered with a light brown gravy, and let me tell you it is absolutely amazing. I have made countless “healthier” versions of this classic, but from time-to-time I give in and enjoy the classic Canadian poutine in all of its glory. I strongly believe in not being overly restrictive with any food. As long as I eat healthy 80% of the time, the other 20% allows me to enjoy some of my favorite not-so-healthy foods.”

– Charlene Pors, RD of Euphoria Nutrition 


Movie Popcorn


“While it’s not often that I go to the movies, I thoroughly enjoy myself with some good ‘ol theatre popcorn. While air popped popcorn is the way to go at home, I love sharing some popcorn with the gals and enjoying a few great kernels.”

Nikki Nies MS, RD 


Chips & Salsa

“This Texas girl has no plans to give up tortilla chips and salsa or guac anytime soon, or ever! When my husband and I go to our favorite Tex Mex restaurants, I try to slow down and enjoy the conversation and our time together rather than on the food, and I enjoy them mindfully. And then I say ‘no’ when the waiter asks we’d like another basket!”

– Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN of LivelyTable


Caesar Dressing

“Oh no, please don’t shun me…it’s Caesar dressing. It takes the healthy right out of the salad, but it is so good. I eat a Caesar salad at least once a week and I enjoy every bite, croutons, parmesan and all. It’s an indulgence I account for when balancing out my meals for the day.” -Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, LDN owner of Salubrious RD 


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Ice Cream & Fro-Yo

Ice cream! Growing up, I had it every single night. I don’t eat it that much any more, but I do have a pint of ice cream in my fridge right now. When I really want ice cream, I don’t usually eat it out of the container. I measure out half a cup and savor it.”

-Paula Wesson, RDN of The Junk Food Nutritionist 


“I usually avoid most processed foods and those with crazy ingredient lists, but I could never give up the deliciousness of frozen yogurt! Even if it is freezing out I will still enjoy it!”

– Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN of LNZNutrition  


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Chocolate. Yes, I know dark chocolate is “good” for you in moderate amounts but 1) I don’t eat dark chocolate because it’s not sweet enough ; ))

and 2) I fail at moderation when it comes to chocolate. I eat chocolate every day, and I have no plans to give it up!”

– Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD of Better is the New Perfect 


I have such a sweet tooth and I love my chocolate! I always eat it in moderation and don’t go overboard. I will often eat a square or two of chocolate…most days! We do know that dark chocolate does have some benefits and less sugar than milk chocolate but should of course, still be consumed in moderation. I don’t see anything wrong with having a little sweet treat during the day and it helps to to not feel deprived!

– Andrea Ovard of The Baking Dietitian 


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“I refuse to give up real sugar. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. I am 110% for eating more fruit and finding more natural ways to satisfy sweet cravings, but if I have been craving something like a chocolate chip cookie for a while, I want a real, unadulterated chocolate chip cookie. Not one with artificial sweeteners, or pureed dried fruit, or sweet potato, or whatever else. There’s a place for that, but I also think there’s a place for traditional treats with sugar from time-to-time, too.” – Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, LDN, CLC of NutritiontoFit.com

Baked Goods

“Chocolate chip cookies! I have a big sweet tooth and a weakness for baked goods. They’re my favorite!”

Jenna Gorham, RD 

Mine is Red Velvet Cake made from scratch. Something about the labor of love it takes to make the cake, from achieving the color via beet juice to the decadent French buttercream frosting, transforms it into a comforting treat. I’m all about balancing occasional foods without feeling guilty and this is definitely one of those foods. I make this cake maybe 4 times per year and enjoy every bite (even while doing a recipe analysis in my head) haha!”

Stefanie Dove, RDN School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator, Loudoun County Schools

Diet Soda

Mine is Diet Dr. Pepper. I love the carbonation and I don’t drink enough of it to ever be concerned about the artificial sweetener. I save it for hot days after a long run, or when we’re eating out in a restaurant that happens to have it.”

-Cara Harbstreet, MS RD LD of Street Smart Nutrition 

“Coke Zero! Whenever friends see me drinking one, they say, “aren’t you a dietitian?!” I usually drink water, but a Coke Zero once or twice a week is just so good!”

Meredith Harper, MS, RDN


Canned Vegetables

“Canned vegetables. We know these are healthy but lots of people think they are “processed” and don’t count as veggies. I always have a variety of canned veggies and beans in my cupboard.”

-Sharon Palmer, RDN of  The Plant-Powered Dietitian


What “in moderation” foods do you make room for? 

This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.

**This post may contain affiliate links.

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