Here's how to kick back without falling off the wagon entirely.

Krissy Brady
November 21, 2019

Recipe pictured above: Roasted Salmon with Smoky Chickpeas & Greens

The weekends are all about taking a breather from the grind and adding some much-needed flexibility to your schedule, but this newfound freedom can be a double-edged sword—especially when it comes to your eating habits.

Even if you've been eating healthy all week, it's like the second your brain switches off on Friday night, your momentum goes with it. Sure, you want to indulge because you deserve to, but you don't want to go completely off the rails and head back to work Monday nursing a junk food hangover. In case you did overindulge—learn which foods can help your body recover and get back on track.

To keep this from happening, we got in touch with several dietitians to find out exactly how they make room for their favorite indulgences on the weekends (you know, without getting carried away). Behold:

1. Make a Healthy Breakfast

Recipe pictured above: Egg, Hash Brown & Bacon Breakfast Skillet

"Starting the day with a meal I truly enjoy, like a homemade hash and eggs, allows me to set myself up for success for the rest of the day," says registered dietitian Dana Peters, RD. "I'm not constantly searching for a snack or using my next meal to fill a craving." And because there's more time on weekend mornings, Peters usually cooks her breakfast at home, which means she knows all of the ingredients that are going into it, making it as healthy and nourishing as possible.

2. Bust Out the Crock Pot

When you want to keep your weekend cooking as fuss-free as possible, busting out your crock pot is where it's at. "Making crock pot meals is a great way to enjoy comfort foods that are super-filling and healthy," says Montana-based registered dietitian Heidi Moretti, RD. "I make a big pot of chili or shredded grass-fed beef that I can serve on tacos—or any dish—almost every weekend." Bonus: These protein-rich meals help keep you full longer than ones that are just carb-based, which also means fewer mindless snacking binges during R&R.

Related: Try Our Healthy Slow-Cooker and Crock Pot Recipes

3. Eat Before Eating Out

"If I'm dining out, I'll eat something before I leave the house, like a piece of fruit, a handful of unsalted nuts or even cheese and crackers to stimulate my gut hormones," says Rebecca Stib, RD, registered dietitian and co-founder of Nutritious Gifts. "That way, the feelings of satiety will start to kick in just as I'm indulging in my not-so-healthy meal at dinner." This gives her the chance to kick back and enjoy without going overboard.

4. Turn Indulging Into an Experience

Recipe pictured above: Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Instead of looking for healthier substitutes for her favorite treats, Rachel Caine, RD, a registered dietitian at Baze, takes time out to truly enjoy the "real" version of her favorite treats. "If I want ice cream, for example, I always plan ahead and decide when I want to enjoy the creamiest, richest, fullest-fat ice cream. Then I go to my neighborhood ice cream shop for the treat," she says. "It helps to not have it at my house—otherwise, I'll likely eat it quickly and maybe at a time when I don't even really want it, and therefore won't enjoy it as much." The more satisfied you feel following the treat, the less likely you are to mindlessly indulge later.

Read more: Why If You're Craving a Food You Should Just Eat It

5. Plan to Cut Loose

"Personally, I set aside Friday and Saturday evening, and then either Sunday breakfast, brunch or lunch, for 'fun' meals," says Samantha Coogan, RD, director of the didactic program in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "During the day on Friday and Saturday, I'll stick to my usual regimen, but come dinnertime, anything goes."

Her philosophy for these meals is if she's going to do it, she's going to do it right. "I never shoot for the 'lighter' option or try to make substitutions or ask for any sauces to be on the side," she says. "I'm also not going to obsess over every calorie or macronutrient or the amount of sugar in my margarita. I can fully let go and enjoy the moment, atmosphere and experience."

Letting yourself do this every once in a while means you won't feel the need to do it every day. "Honestly, by the end of the weekend, even with those few indulgences, I feel ready to get back to my usual, healthier eating habits for the week," she says. "Just like anything, you can also burn out on junk food, so this still allows you to get a taste for it without overdoing it."

Related: Forget About Calorie Counting—Here Are 7 Ways to Eat Healthier Instead

6. Indulge Only in What You Love

Recipe pictured above: Jalapeño Popper Burgers

"I only indulge in foods I really like and don't eat things just because they're there," says Long Island-based registered dietitian Shoshana Pritzker, RD. "This helps me feel good about my choices rather than regretting the cookie I just ate because it really wasn't very good or isn't my favorite flavor." If she's going to have a burger and fries, for example, it's not going to be fast food—it's going to be from somewhere that does burgers and fries really well.

7. Don't Bring Home Leftovers

And when Pritzker does indulge, she doesn't bring home leftovers. "I enjoy the food in the moment, and then I move on," she says. "Bringing it home only perpetuates the desire to indulge. It was good while I had it, and now I'm satisfied until the next time an opportunity presents itself and it's right for me."

8. Start Each Morning with a Workout

For Arizona-based registered dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb, RD, starting off her weekend mornings with a workout sets her up for success, as it helps her balance the scales knowing she's more likely to eat out or enjoy a glass of wine on weekends.

"You burn calories not only when you're working out, but also after your workout while your body's busy repairing muscle," she says. "Revving up calorie burn through exercise doesn't mean I can eat whatever I want, but it does help account for the small amount of additional calories I consume on the weekends."

Related: Trying to Lose Weight? Here's Why Strength Training Is as Important as Cardio

9. Look for Other Ways to Indulge

"I counsel my clients to think through ways to indulge that aren't so food focused, and I take this approach myself," says nutrition and wellness expert Samantha Cassetty, RD. "One of the ways I stay healthy on the weekends but still indulge myself is to take a night off from cooking dinner." She and her family will either order a healthier takeout option (such as chicken kebobs with brown rice and an Israeli salad), or she'll pick up an organic rotisserie chicken and some healthy sides, like roasted Brussels sprouts, from the supermarket.

"I also suggest this mindset shift when eating out," she adds. "You can enjoy deliciously prepared, healthful food when dining out, and it's still a splurge because someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning."

Related: Here's Exactly What Nutritionists Order at Fast-Food Restaurants

10. Treat Weekdays and Weekends the Same

"I try not to think about weekdays versus weekends," says Caine. "All days have equal opportunities to indulge. The more we think about something in terms of 'I only allow myself the opportunity to eat this when X, Y, or Z happens,' the more likely we are to overdo it when we get that opportunity." It really just comes down to acknowledging that a healthy diet includes enjoying treats too. Learn how intuitive eating can help you treat foods as neutral and binge less.

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