9 Tips for Eating in Moderation

9 Tips for Eating in Moderation | A Couple Cooks

This post is part of our Healthy & Whole series to inspire a lifelong passion for home cooking and a sustainably healthy lifestyle. See the entire series here.

Moderation is not a sexy concept. While eating in moderation is becoming an emerging trend, we Americans generally gravitate towards an “all in” mentality. We alternate between either binging on sweets and fatty foods, or cleanses and deprivation diets. But eating sensibly while occasionally enjoying a decadent treat? It’s countercultural.

Balance or moderation is key to our approach to food here at A Couple Cooks, and it’s in a large part what’s made healthy eating sustainable for us. To hear us discuss it in more depth, check out our latest podcast, Sweet as Honey. In the meantime, here are our top 9 tips for eating in moderation:

  1. Develop a guiding principle. Decide what moderation looks like to you. To us, it’s eating meat, sweets, and processed foods occasionally. In practice, this means we generally eat vegetables at home, but when going out to eat or being a guest in someone’s home, all bets are off. We have no quotas or rules, which makes it sustainable. This is what we’ve found works best for us. Before you start pursuing moderation, decide what works best for you and your lifestyle!
  2. Enjoy what’s meant to be enjoyed. Treats are just that: treats! And treats are meant to be enjoyed. While you savor your break from eating in moderation, try to avoid the typical guilty talk (“I know I shouldn’t be eating this”) and instead focus on the pleasure of the experience.
  3. Out of sight out of mind. Buying less of the food you’re trying to limit is key to a moderate approach. Alex and I limit our purchase of processed and sweet-filled foods since if we can see it in our kitchen, it’s difficult for us to avoid. Instead, stock up on healthy snack foods and desserts like nuts, veggies and hummus, berries and yogurt, small pieces of dark chocolate, etc.
  4. Allow time for your taste buds to change. It took a few months, but once we switched our diet to whole foods, the less we craved sugary and processed foods. If you’re working on this, don’t give up! It takes time for your tastes to change. I won’t say I don’t still love sugar, but my capacity for sugar has declined quite a bit.
  5. Engage in mindfulness. Eating mindfully is being fully aware of the food you are eating — including avoiding hand-to-mouth snacking or multitasking. This goes hand in hand with Number 2: enjoy your indulgences with a present mind. Practice that mental presence for everyday eating too; you may find it’s more enjoyable in the long run. For more, see Eating Mindfully.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. So you screwed up? It’s okay. We all do it (promise). Instead of being guilty, give yourself the grace to try again tomorrow. You’ll find that over time it’s more sustainable to try with a positive outlook than to beat yourself up with guilt complexes. (We know from experience.)
  7. Use portion size to your advantage. Try smaller portions of desserts or treat foods. We tend to make small desserts in our household so that we can end on a sweet treat instead of a sick stomach. Even just a few bites can fulfill a sugar urge.
  8. Strive for variety and balance. When our dinner is full of interesting flavors and textures with lots of variety in food groups, we don’t tend to crave after dinner snacks or treat foods to make up for a lousy dinner.
  9. Plan ahead. Like anything, eating in moderation involves planning ahead to make sure healthy foods are readily available and other foods are less so. Take a few moments to be intentional in your food planning and lifestyle patterns to support your guiding principle of moderation.

Some of our favorite healthier treats:

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    June 22, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this! You put so many insightful and encouraging things into one super helpful post!

  • Reply
    June 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I always hate giving up my favorite foods, but its amazing how much better they taste when only enjoyed once in awhile!

  • Reply
    June 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with this list. Thank you for the words of wisdom and encouragement!

  • Reply
    Katie @ 24 Carrot Life
    July 8, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    I love this list! I’m always trying to strive for a more intuitive and moderate eating pattern. These are great reminders.

  • Reply
    Griff Neilson
    August 11, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    I LOVED your comment, “We alternate between either binging on sweets and fatty foods, or cleanses and deprivation diets”. SO true! I personally believe that this is one of the most crippling mindsets that we host as a nation. I believe in a lifestyle that promotes moderation and for me it is living the 80/20 principle. If I can eat whole/natural foods 80% of the time, my body will therefore have the resources to indulge 20% of the time. Great post Sonja!

    • Reply
      November 9, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      We are all about the 80/20 principle as well — for eating vegetarian vs omnivore and nourishing vs indulging. It’s a great way to keep things sustainable! Thanks for the comment, Griff.

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