The goal of great art is to put a mirror to what goes on in people’s lives—which could explain why so many TV shows devote entire episodes to eating. As a result of various food strategies, sometimes characters lose weight, and sometimes they lose their minds. Sure, we love to binge on these episodes, but should we follow their lead? We ran the plot-lines of some classic edible episodes by food and nutrition experts to find out.
2 of 6Courtesy E! Entertainment
Keeping Up With the Kardashians: The Daily Salad
As seen on TV: The famous K’s are always noshing on greens. Kim tweeted, "On KUWTK everyone asks where our salads & yellow drinks are from—it’s a place in Calabasas called Health Nut. Chef salad w mango iced tea."
Reality check: The sisters’ hearty salads are a diet do, confirms Megan Roosevelt, RDN, founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com. "Their salads seem to contain lots of veggies and protein, and I love the addition of avocado for healthy fat,” she notes. "Just be aware that while low-calorie may seem like a good choice, it can also mean you’ll be hungry again soon.” Starving five seconds after putting down your fork? "Add a serving of whole grains, such as quinoa, or more healthy fats and protein from almonds or pumpkin seeds," says Roosevelt.
3 of 6Courtesy ABC
Modern Family: Cam and Mitchell Do a Juice Fast
As seen on TV: Cam tries a juice cleanse, and Mitchell joins in. After a few days, both are struggling, but Mitchell turns into an emotional wreck and embarrasses them both at a boss’s fundraiser.
Reality check: Mitchell’s epic meltdown is not much of a stretch, says Roosevelt: "A longterm juice cleanse may deprive the body of essential nutrients, leaving a person feeling hangry and creating difficulty making decisions—which can make you feel like you’re going crazy." Not to mention that any water weight you lose comes right back. "The right way to naturally cleanse longterm would be to drink fresh juices in addition to eating whole foods, hydrating with water, and reducing your intake of added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol,” she says. "A plant-rich diet packs everything your body needs to thrive.”
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Scandal: Nightly Popcorn-and-Wine Wind-Downs
As seen on TV: After insane days at the office, Olivia Pope likes to relax with a big bowl of popcorn and a bigger glass of red wine.
Reality check: Actually, this is not the worst way to indulge, says Eliza Whetzel Savage, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition, a New York City wellness practice. Popcorn is a great whole grain munchie that’s full of fiber, and red wine has the antioxidant resveratrol, which may deliver disease fighting benefits. "While snacking isn’t the best form of stress relief—I’d suggest a bath or yoga—reaching for popcorn instead of cookies or cake is a win,” she says. Olivia’s pick is particularly smart if you’re watching your weight: Popcorn is a "volume food," explains Whetzel Savage, meaning you can eat lots of it for few calories (three cups can be under 100 calories). As for the wine, rethink Olivia’s oversize goblet. Whetzel Savage prefers a petite pour of four to five ounces.
5 of 6Courtesy ABC Family
Pretty Little Liars: Hanna Hunts for Crouton Land Mines
As seen on TV: Weight obsessed Hanna picks croutons out of her salad in a desperate attempt to control her weight.
Reality check: Simple carbs may be the modern enemy, but "obsessive eating can interfere with mindful eating and a healthy food-body relationship," warns Roosevelt. How can you tune in to what’s on your fork without becoming consumed by it? "Avoid the all-or-nothing mentality, which can lead to bingeing," she says. "Have treats in your routine so you see them as part of the plan—not a cheat or failure."
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How to binge–watch, not binge-eat
Snack strategies for that Netflix fest.
1. Satisfy your crunch craving: "Sugar snap peas are great," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color. "It’s not a Cheeto—but a cup is about 30 calories."
2. Find safe sweets: "I like frozen wild blueberries; they’re very sweet and only 80 calories per cup," says Largeman-Roth. "Watermelon is another good fruit, with only 46 cals per cup."
3. Embrace H2O: "A good way to keep your hands busy is to drink water," says Largeman-Roth. "And if you’re going to watch something for two or three hours, you’ll want to keep hydrated."