If you’re the kind of person who loves to cap off dinner with something sweet—say, some ice cream—but bans it whenever you’re trying to lose weight, you might be making a mistake. According to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, banning sugary foods could lead to overeating. One reason may be that removing access to sweet foods stimulates the release of a molecule in your brain called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), produced when you’re afraid, anxious or stressed, says Pietro Cottone, Ph.D., lead study author. And increased stress levels may lower your motivation to eat more nutritious foods, making it more likely that you’ll binge on junk food. Healthy eating isn’t about depriving yourself of everything you love—it’s just about eating fewer calories than you’re burning, a tactic that can be delicious and can most certainly include dessert. The key is making room for the calories by planning your snacks and meals to accommodate your favorite summer treats.
Healthy Tip: Ask for a cone. Licking ice cream is more satisfying than eating it with a spoon, says Kay McMath, a food technologist for New Zealand’s Massey University. “Flavor in ice cream is released when the fat—which carries the flavor—is warmed to at least body temperature,” McMath explains. When you lick ice cream it coats the tongue and fully warms the frozen treat. A spoon, on the other hand, insulates the ice cream. And then there’s the psychological aspect of savoring the treat more slowly: “You just cannot lick ice cream as fast as you can spoon it.” Find out what the best ice creams are nutritionally here.