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6 summer favorites you can eat and drink guilt-free

All foods can be enjoyed if you adjust your mindset and plan ahead.
by Madelyn Fernstrom / / Source: TODAY

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With summer coming, many of our favorite indulgent foods are back and so are some guilty feelings to go along with them! If that sounds like you, it’s time to readjust your thinking and get rid of food guilt once and for all. All foods can be enjoyed if you adjust your mindset and plan ahead.

You can teach yourself to eat guilt-free by following two simple concepts:

Pre-plan your eating: Identify the portion size and calories of your special food ahead of time. You can control your portions, feel good about your decision and enjoy every bite.

Make smart swaps for indulgent favorites: Barter one food for another, making room for what you’d really like to eat, and drop the foods that don’t have meaning to you. Think about your choice and choose what you will truly enjoy.

Check out our “Guilt-O-Meter” rating (1 represents the least guilt and 5 is the most guilt) for six summer favorites and learn how to both pre-plan and make smart swaps to lose the food-guilt connection for good!

Bloody Mary. Guilt-O-Meter Rating: 1

A summer cocktail can be a calorie (and sugar) bomb, but you can enjoy it guilt-free when you choose a Bloody Mary. At around 125 calories, it’s one of the smartest choices for a mixed drink; and with the tomato-juice base, it’s low in sugar compared to fruit juice. Remember: a serving of vodka is 1.5 ounces (a jigger). Because it’s a savory and not a sweet juice, you’re much less likely to chug it down quickly on a hot day. And you’ll get half of your vitamin C for the day!

Lower the Guilt-O-Meter:

• Cut the alcohol amount in half.

• Try an alcohol-free “Virgin Mary.”

Fried chicken breast. Guilt-O-Meter Rating: 2

Toss out the guilt over eating a fried food when you choose a single, medium size chicken breast. At around 275 calories, it’s a smart indulgence when you’re not looking for a skinless, grilled piece of chicken. Stick with one and round out your plate with colorful salads and vegetables. Ditch the wing and the batter-fried versions, and look for a crumb-coated breast cooked in a heart-healthy plant oil. While the fried breast does have more fat, it keeps you satisfied longer, along with the 28 grams of protein.

Lower the Guilt-O-Meter:

• Remove half the skin from the breast.

• Choose a fried chicken leg instead for half the calories.

Corn on the cob. Guilt-O-Meter Rating: 1

Corn is one of nature’s perfect starches. Satisfying and a good source of fiber, a large ear is just about 80 calories. Avoid slathering the corn in butter — its natural sweetness is brought out with a light sprinkle of salt and tastes great as is without added butter or margarine. Limit the fat to a “pat.” Fresh corn can also be eaten raw when scraped off the cob and used in salads for a sweet crunch.

Lower the Guilt-O-Meter:

• Skip the butter or margarine.

• Stick with a sprinkle of salt or herbs.

Blueberry pie a la mode. Guilt-O-Meter Rating: 5

Summer fruit pies are a treat, but that fruit comes with a lot of added sugars and fats from the crust. Paired with a scoop of ice cream, it’s nearly 550 calories. The double crust slice of pie alone has about 25 grams of sugar (about six teaspoons) and nearly 20 grams of fat. The ice cream weighs in at around 140 calories for one scoop, four added teaspoons of sugar and 8 grams of mostly saturated fat.

Lower the Guilt-O-Meter:

• Choose ice cream or pie, not both.

• Share your portion with another person and cut the calories in half.

• Try reduced-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt instead of full-fat ice cream.

• Skip the top crust.

• Cut out the crust altogether and spoon the blueberry filling on top of a scoop of frozen yogurt.

Soft serve vanilla ice cream cone. Guilt-O-Meter Rating: 2

Always a boardwalk favorite, a small cone (about 5 ounces) weighs in at around 170 calories. Because the softer the ice cream, the lower the artery-clogging saturated fat content, you can feel even better about this choice. Chocolate soft serve is similar in calories.

Lower the Guilt-O-Meter:

• Choose a cup instead of a cone.

• Skip the candy toppings and syrups.

• Top with fresh fruit for added sweetness.

Large slice of pepperoni pizza. Guilt –O-Meter Rating: 4

One of the primary sources of dairy intake for Americans is pizza because of all the cheese! But one large slice of pepperoni pizza has about 500 calories, so the calories in this standard combination of doughy crust, cheese, fatty meat and tomato sauce add up fast. It’s also true that you DO get a big boost of protein from both the cheese and pepperoni — more than 20 grams. But the key feature is to limit this to one slice and round out your meal with a salad, veggies or fruit.

Lower the Guilt-O-Meter:

• Swap out the pepperoni for vegetable toppings like peppers, onions and mushrooms.

• Try a thin crust pizza.

• Ask for “light on the cheese.”

• Share a large slice with a friend and order another leaner meal option to share (like a chef salad)

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D, is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor.

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