1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Moderation: When Eating Something Bad is Actually Good


Updated February 16, 2014

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) supports the idea of eating certain foods in moderation - that it's okay to eat something that isn't good for you as long as you only eat a small amount and/or not very often. It's good. It's normal. It's non-stressful. The key to eating in moderation is to watch your portion sizes. As long as you get all the nutrients you need, and you stay close to your daily calorie target, its' okay to splurge on something fun, tasty and not perfectly good for you.

No Good Foods and No Bad Foods

Yeah - sure some foods have tons of health benefits and others don't (and when eaten to excess, can be bad for you). But that means you just have to avoid excess consumption of the bad ones. The AND says there's room for all types of foods in a healthy diet, and, in fact, categorizing specific foods or food groups as good or bad is too simplistic and could lead to unhealthy eating habits.

Lessons In Moderation

The right way to practice moderation: focus on eating lots of healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and seafood, low-fat dairy (or another calcium source), and lean meats and poultry. As long as you follow a healthfully balanced diet, it's okay to indulge in a piece of candy, a cookie, a serving of chips or your favorite dessert once a day.

This can take a little practice if your diet is out of shape. If you give into temptation to devour a whole banana split today, don't grieve at your dietary failure; just skip the treats for a few days. Next time, choose a smaller dessert.

The wrong way to practice moderation is to eat most of your meals at fast food places, with only an apple a day as a snack. If this is what your diet looks like right now, don't despair and fall for the latest fad diet. There's no need to overhaul your diet into a rigid regimen. Start by adding more fruits and vegetables, packing healthier lunches instead of going to fast food places, and if you do go, take a closer look at the menu and choose items that are lower in fat, sodium and calories. Get your fast food consumption down to one time per week or less.

What About Alcohol?

Enjoying an adult beverage or two in moderation is fine as long as you're not pregnant and don't have any health conditions that require you to abstain from drinking. If you think you might be drinking more than a moderate amount, you can get help: Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating." Accessed February 21, 2013. http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8356.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Nutrition
  4. Healthy Foods
  5. Moderation: When Eating Something Bad is Actually Good

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.