It's my party and I'll fry if I want to….

Tracy Lee Karner

A calorie-light lunch made from leftover fried catfish.

I’ve given myself permission to love what I love, without guilt.

I love fried food more than any other treat. MMMMM, french fries, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, cheese curds, beer-battered mushrooms. Do I indulge in what I love?

You bet, with moderation. Treats make life a whole lot more fun; and fun is essential for a good life.

Of course I know that too much of anything wrecks our health and deprives others of their share. I’ve course I’m against gluttony and self-indulgence.

We know the long-term consequence of too much fried food is weight gain, possibly obesity, with its many related health problems. But when the consequences are only “potential,” it’s difficult to deny ourselves the pleasure of the present moment.

I don’t deny myself–I moderate myself. Self-control isn’t an instinctive behavior, but it’s learnable. One of the ways I control my desire, is to promise myself I can have more of the same, later.

Yesterday, we went out for lunch and the special was fried catfish. I couldn’t resist. I ordered it with vegetables (turnip greens and salad), ate all of the vegetables and 1/2 of  the 5-ounce filet of catfish. I brought the other half home, looking forward to the catfish tac0 salad.

Tracy Lee Karner

A potato peeler makes quick work of shredding carrots and cheese for a meal for one–zip, zip, zip–no grater to wash.

Well, tomorrow is here. And here’s the one-two-three of how I whipped up my quick, low-cal, delicious lunch. By delaying gratification, enjoyed my treat twice, in varied and relatively healthy ways.

Fish Taco Salad (approximately 300 calories)

2-3 ounces leftover fried catfish filet, fork shredded

3 taco chips, crunched up a bit

1/2 ounce co-jack or cheddar cheese (Using a potato peeler, I cut 5 narrow strips from a block) 

1 cup of mixed chopped raw salad veggies (I used romaine, shaved carrot, chopped green pepper and onion)

a dollop of low-fat yogurt or sour cream

a sprinkle of salt, pepper and chipotle Tabasco sauce

  1. Spread the chips and fish in the bottom of a baking dish; top with cheese.
  2. Turn the oven on to 425 and pop the baking dish into the oven (no need to preheat). Heat for about 12 minutes (you can use a microwave, but I prefer the crunchiness of oven-baking).
  3. Top the fish/chips with salad and yogurt, sprinkle with seasonings. Enjoy!

I have taken a little time to educate myself about nutrition, so I always have a fair idea of how many calories I’m eating, and what percentage of my intake is coming from fat, protein and carbohydrate. There are a lot of ways to learn about healthful, balanced eating–Sparkpeople is one way (and it’s free).

Looking at my taco-salad, I know it’s a little more than I need in fat, a little less than I need in protein and carbs, so I’ll add a dollop of low-fat yogurt and drink a glass of skim milk (skim milk contains carbs and protein).

The raw veggies supply  nutrients and fiber, but not enough for the whole day. Therefore, my breakfast incorporated whole grains in the form of home-baked nutrition-packed bread, and some vitamin-rich carb/fiber in the form of dried apricots. Tonight I’ll choose a low-fat legume or bean-based dinner, and a couple of vegetables. My snack today will be a small handful of almonds and raisins, and a small stalk of celery with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter. The day’s nutrition will be balanced.

My dietary awareness does not focus what I shouldn’t eat. I’m always conscious of what I should eat (milk and yogurt for lean protein and calcium, greens, legumes and beans, whole grains, a moderate amount of nuts and olive oil, whole fruits and vegetables, and I try to eat some raw food every day). After eating the wholesome foods I need, I don’t have a lot of appetite leftover for the stuff that some people call “bad-for-you.”

But I don’t think of cranberry fools, bread pudding, or cherry-berry pie as “bad.” I think of all food as astonishingly, amazingly good–a blessing to be enjoyed. Some of it, however, should be enjoyed responsibly, in reasonable amounts.

I order up something fried once or twice a month. It’s not “naughty” or “wicked” to pleasure my taste buds now and then. It elevates my spirit to eat something as delightfully homey as fried catfish. It makes me grateful to be alive and tasting goodness.

I find that depriving myself of what I crave, leads to frustration. And when people feel deprived long and hard enough, deprivation inevitably brings on desperate actions, like hoarding, binging, and ceasing to care–about consequences, about ourselves, about others, about living.

Starvation and dour, martyr-like self-deprevation are not the path to healthy living. A healthy lifestyle includes plenty (but not too much) celebration–parties, treats, and saying, Yes!

So this weekend, it’s my party and I’ll fry if I want to.

What’s your favorite treat? Do you have any tricks you use to prevent yourself from over-indulging?