Learn how to enjoy your favorite foods in healthy new ways

Getting fit, and staying fit, is about living a healthy lifestyle and making healthy choices — like politely refusing a slice of whipped-cream-topped pecan pie. But when you completely deprive yourself of the things you love, you're more likely to give in to a craving later on.

So indulge in a smart way. Before diving in, think about how hungry you are, what food it is you actually crave and how much of it will make you feel satisfied. If you do that, nothing is off limits: You can eat all your favorite foods, but only when you're hungry for them and only just enough to satisfy the craving. Here are eight irresistible comfort foods and strategies for enjoying them in moderation.

Pizza

Order pizza by the slice, not by the pie, and ask them to go light on the cheese. Plus, you'll feel fuller if you load your pizza with veggie toppings like broccoli, mushrooms or peppers. "Pepperoni, sausage and meatballs can more than double the calories on a slice," says Lauren Antonucci, a clinical nutritionist and certified sports dietician.

Mashed potatoes

It's not the potatoes that are inherently bad in this classic side dish, it's the high-fat, high-calorie butter and cream that often get added. Flavor your own recipe with salt, pepper and low-fat buttermilk, Antonucci recommends. "The buttermilk adds a lot of calcium and creaminess and you get to skip the butter." For an even healthier version, substitute mashed cauliflower for potatoes, or go half cauliflower, half potato.

Apple pie

Try this easy low-cal treat instead, no rolling pin required: Preheat oven to 350°. Wash and core a sweet apple, like Red Delicious. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and some chopped walnuts in a small bowl. Place the apple on an ovenproof baking dish and fill the core with the sugar mixture. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup. Add enough water to cover bottom of the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the apple is soft.

Ice cream

"Find a really high-quality, tasty brand," says Ellen Glovsky, a registered dietician and nutrition professor at Northeastern University in Boston, then skip the sugary toppings. The idea is to re-create the texture of ice cream, since tactile experience is all part of craving. If a milkshake is on your mind, make a quick fruit smoothie: throw nonfat vanilla yogurt, a splash of skim milk, a teaspoon of honey and the frozen fruit of your choice in a blender, then combine till smooth.

Cupcake

Don't fret ogling the perfect pastel confections lining your local boutique bakery's window. Cupcakes have built-in portion control and one should be enough to cancel out a craving. "The cupcake should look like the ones your mom made when you were a kid," Antonucci says. "If its size is equivalent to two or three of those, you may want to pass." And be wary of mountains of frosting; scrape some off to save on calories.

Chocolate

Sure, super-dark chocolate has health benefits, but the recommended four-ounce daily serving won't necessarily scratch a double-fudge-brownie itch. Pinpoint the item you're craving and eat that instead of a cheap stand-in. "You'll need less to be satisfied if it's the perfect kind of chocolate," Glovsky says.

Potato chips

Reach for a single-serving bag of the baked varieties. Or take a handful out of a larger bag and put it in a bowl — and stop there. "Soy crisps are a great substitute because you get to eat a whole bag and you get the same crunch." Apple chips also pack a sweet and satisfying crunch.

Mac and cheese

This homemade recipe beats anything out of the box — and it lets you control the calories: In a medium saucepan, melt a 1/4 cup of shredded low-fat extra-sharp cheddar into 1/4 cup cottage cheese and stir. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and then fold in the cooked whole-wheat pasta of your choice. Enjoy with a salad to fill up faster.