UAB Medicine News


UAB Dietitians Reveal Their ‘Guilty Pleasures’


In America, our relationship with food tends to be complicated.

We are surrounded by diet fads (think Paleo, Keto, and Whole 30) and news stories about conflicting research on what we thought we knew to be healthy (oatmeal: superfood or sludge?). The Pew Research Center reports that 66% of Americans read or hear news daily about the health impact of food, yet 58% feel that they don’t measure up and should be eating healthier.

This tension between what we think we know about food and how we think we should be eating led us to ask the experts – UAB Medicine dietitians – to share their “guilty pleasures,” along with some advice about food temptations. Here’s what they had to say:

Erica Chen, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian, UAB Weight Loss Medicine

Guilty Pleasures: “I think of these as two kinds of treats. One type fits more readily into my daily diet and I eat frequently. The other type I save for special occasions. My daily indulgences tend to be air-popped popcorn with truffle salt, dark chocolate chips with walnuts, and frozen cherries. My special occasion treat is always, always going to be some sort of ice cream or my mom’s oatmeal cookies!”

Advice: “First, move away from thinking of foods as good versus bad. Ascribing a moral quality to foods can stand in the way of smart eating and actually can lead to weight gain and an unhealthy relationship with food. However, it is important to try to eat healthy foods most of the time and leave the true treats – often highly processed, higher sugar, higher fat foods – as ‘once-in-awhile’ foods. Enjoy those mindfully and only on occasion.”


Karin Crowell, MS, RD, LD, CDE

Registered Dietitian, UAB Weight Loss Medicine

Guilty Pleasures: “I try to consume healthy foods as much as possible. Healthy foods are those that provide me with solid nutrition and energy from a variety of food groups. Most importantly, I try to eat foods that are healthy and that I actually like. For example, a vanilla Greek yogurt topped with strawberries, blueberries, and a handful of nuts can feel like an indulgence.

“I also try to incorporate a small amount of a treat fairly regularly to avoid overeating that food at a later time. For example, I typically have a small amount of dark chocolate almost every evening. If I’m eating a higher calorie treat, I try to only buy a small quantity or a single serving, eliminating the worry of overeating.”

Advice: “I try not to label foods as good or bad. The labeling of foods often leads to labeling of one’s self if eating these foods. I always say that the only bad foods are those that are spoiled or those you are allergic to. We should regularly eat healthy foods that we enjoy. By doing so, we establish a sustainable plan that fits our lifestyles. But if there is a certain high-calorie food that you keep craving or thinking about, it may be best to go ahead and have it, enjoy it, and move on. Don’t waste your time on fat-free or reduced-calorie versions of these foods. Go for the real thing! Most importantly, resume your regular eating plan at the next meal. One meal or splurge will not break you.”


Leigh Ann Pritchett, MS, RD, LD 

Registered Dietitian, UAB Weight Loss Medicine

Guilty Pleasures: “I don’t like to say, guilty pleasures. There’s really room for all food groups in everyone’s diet, but moderation is key. Most dietitians eat food from all food groups. We’re just like everybody else. I splurge and have a burger and fries or a cookie. If I have that splurge, I might go for an extra run, or for my next meal I might have a salad to help balance it out.”

Advice: I advise all my patients that, if it's a birthday or a special occasion, approach it sensibly. Rather than have two or three cups of ice cream, have a half-cup. Be practical about it and watch the portions. Don’t have it every day.”


Cammy Lovoy, MS, RD, LD

Clinical Dietitian, UAB Food and Nutrition Services

Guilty Pleasures: “My favorite dessert is a warm brownie with vanilla ice cream. If I were to deny myself this dessert at a time when I wanted it, then I would crave it even more. I might reach for something that is considered healthier but end up eating more in an attempt to satisfy the craving. If I simply eat the brownie and ice cream, I stop at one serving because my craving has been met.”

Advice: “I don’t like to use the terms good and bad to describe food. I studied nutrition and dietetics in college after struggling with disordered eating habits, so to me, food is just food. It is made to fuel us.”


Margaret Peoples, MS, RD, LD

Clinical Dietitian, UAB Medicine Trauma and Burn Service

Guilty Pleasures: “I do try to eat healthy the majority of the time. By that I mean eating fresh fruits and vegetables often, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats, and whole grains. I try to avoid sweets and fried foods, including most fast foods. My guilty pleasures are probably dark chocolate and an occasional fried item, like fried fish or fried chicken.

“Finding healthier versions of my favorite foods has helped. I've discovered some roasted vegetables and grilled fish or chicken that are delicious and help satisfy my hunger, without all the added fat and sauces. Experimenting with herbs and spices is helpful and adds flavor without the added saturated fats.”

Advice: “I think eating unhealthy foods is okay occasionally, just as long as occasionally is not every two or three days. If you are attempting to follow a healthy diet for weight loss or just to be healthier, those cravings can derail your plans. Working in a small serving of one of the foods once every week or two might help satisfy the craving and help prevent eating a half-gallon of ice cream or half a fried chicken.”


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