I regularly get questions like this:
“Can I have bread, pasta, biscuits, crisps, alcohol etc?”
“Can I have regular milk in coffee or should I have almond milk?”
“I’ve seen these ready meals, they look okay. Am I ‘allowed’ them?”
My answer is always the same..
“Yes! As long as you can stay within your calorie target and hit your macros”.
There are two main issues here:
Convenience foods, especially ready meals, often contain a lot more calories for a lot less food, which can make it harder to stay within your calorie limit.
But if you can integrate them into your diet and still hit your calories and macros, without being hungry and fed up, then go for it!
Hyper-palatability basically means they taste amazing!! They are moreish! You can’t stop yourself! These food usually come in the form of carbs!!
So it’s not cutting out the carbs themselves that makes a difference, it is going from calorie-dense carbs to low-calorie vegetables that help you to (1) not to go mad with the taste of them and have seconds, thirds and finish off what’s in the pan, and (2) reduce the calories in the meals you do you have by switching from a big pile of carbs to a big pile of veg.
So…if you can have one biscuit, or one slice of pizza, or a small packet of crisps without going into a Tasmanian Devil frenzy and eating your own body-weight in junk food then by all means go for it!! I can’t so I abstain until I fancy a bit of a binge!
But remember that, usually, the more palatable something is, the more calorie-dense it is, so that links back to number 1! Calorie-dense + hyper-palatable = massive dietary f*ck up!
So, the same rules apply here…if you can integrate them into your diet and still hit your calories and macros, without being hungry and fed up, then go for it!
Summary and caution
The reason I recommend that the majority of your diet should be made up of meat, veg and some fruit is that you get a lot more bang for your buck and won’t go hungry whilst maintaining a consistent calorie deficit.
However, if you want to and are able to integrate some convenience and junk food into your diet then as long as it meets the following two criteria then I’m absolutely fine with it.
A: You can still hit your calories and macros consistently.
B: Using your calories in this way doesn’t make you hungry and affect long-term sustainability.
The only word of caution I would offer is to be aware that extra calories from ready meals and ‘junk’ are calories that are not then available for healthy but calorie-dense options like oily fish and avocado. Be sensible! 😉
This is how you get to have your cake and eat it!