12/08/2014 12:34 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2015

Healthful Eating: Get Off the Tightrope

"Can you imagine a world without French bread?" Food Network host and New York Times best-selling author, Ellie Krieger, asked at the 10th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 4.

She continued, "In our culture, we are pushed into thinking that 'delicious' and 'healthy' are not allowed to be used in the same sentence."

Krieger expressed that healthful eating can -- and should -- include foods considered taboo on many of today's popular weight-loss plans. She said, "There should be no such thing as, 'never' where food is involved" -- even French bread.

The Sweet Spot
Krieger advocates that women, "Enjoy food that is gratifying, delicious, and compelling that's also good for [their bodies]." She offered techniques for existing in what she describes as a "sweet spot" of regular healthful eating and occasional delicious indulgences -- a mix she strives for herself. That balance is the cornerstone of her message and her professional success.

Krieger, mother to a 12-year-old daughter, teaches women and men to strike this balance every day via her Food Network show, "Healthy Appetite," and her books, including the recently published, Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less.

She wrote the book, in part, for herself, "To solve some of [her] issues with the daily grind." She continued, "Weeknight Wonders is for women like me, trying to juggle many aspects of life and work, while wanting to eat delicious food."

Krieger connected with some of the 10,000 Massachusetts Conference for Women attendees in her discussion, "Small Changes, Big Results: Your Journey to Physical and Emotional Wellness."

Usually, Sometimes, and Rarely
Krieger says women should not think of food in extremes. At the conference, she explained that women can achieve healthful living by relishing the full spectrum of foods, in categories she describes as "usually," "sometimes," and "rarely."

Krieger recommends that foods in the "usually" category be the "backbone" of women's diets. These foods are the least processed, most nutritious items available, including whole grains and fruit, nuts, beans, seeds, healthy oils, and low-fat dairy products.

In the "sometimes," category, Krieger includes what she describes as "valuable" foods that add flavor, texture, and variety, like chicken thighs and honey.

French bread falls under the "rarely" category. Krieger advises women to consume foods in this category in small amounts, on occasion. Additional items include bacon and baked goods.

The Tightrope
Krieger illustrates the route many women take to healthful living as a tightrope. They believe they have to walk a perfectly straight, no "treats" allowed, line toward wellness. She said, "When you're walking on a tightrope, there are huge crevices on either side of you. If you fall off a little, you fall completely." Krieger explains that this stringent belief does not contribute to sustainable weight loss and health.

She advises that women eat -- and live -- in the sweet spot, and describes a few simple actions they can take today to improve their health in the long run:
  1. Eat mindfully, savoring every bite of food,
  2. Do not eat in front of the computer or TV, and
  3. Manage portions -- especially foods in the "rarely" category.