I usually grocery shop on Tuesdays. So last week when Matt and I made a list on Monday night, knowing that an impending storm was coming, he suggested I get some good snow-day food. “Good idea,” I said, “except I’m now on a healthy lifestyle.” I didn’t want to add a bunch of junk food to the list. And I’m pretty sure that is what good snow-day food is.

I added cider to the list for Matt and whole milk to the list for me so that I could make some good hot chocolate. I never drink whole milk except with hot chocolate, which I make from Dutch cocoa and sugar.

But then when I got the grocery store I kept seeing foods—dark chocolate covered marshmallows, cakes and pastries, cheesy quiches, scones, and breads—that would make good snow-day treats. Matt and I had already agreed that lunch would be grilled cheese with tomato and tomato soup. So there I was in the middle of the grocery store wanting all these good foods and being frustrated by my healthy lifestyle. Where is the balance? I wondered. And why did I have this idea that because it was a snow day I should be able to pig out on junk food?

My mom did tell me that our neighbors used to make homemade bread and a roast every snow day and that sometimes they’d invite us over. I remember my Grandpa making hot chocolate for us from scratch on the stove. He always topped it with mini-marshmallows—something I forgot to pick up at the store.

Standing beside the chocolate covered marshmallows and debating whether or not to get them, I had what I momentarily thought was a brilliant idea. “Okay, Maggie,” I said to myself, “make a new tradition. Why does junk food have to be the good snow-day food. Get something else that is healthy and make that the exciting snow-day food.” And then I thought, “Who am I kidding? I’m not excited to eat carrots and kale on a snow day. This is ridiculous. I want warm, gooey, sugary foods.”

Ultimately, I opted not to get any junk food. I figured if I didn’t have it in the house I wouldn’t eat it, and I’d just be happy with the chocolate milk, which I really was. Still in the grocery store, I think I realized what the dilemma is really all about. Besides the fact that we are animals and when it is cold we want to eat foods that will store fat, food is tradition. Food is a big part of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays because food is part of our cultural past and our heritage. We use food to celebrate something rare and special. A good snow storm is exciting and we want to make it extraordinary, and food is one way nearly everyone in the world does that.

The question is how does that fit into a healthy lifestyle? The obvious answer is with balance, but as I’m learning that’s a lot harder than it sounds. Yes and no are both easier answers for me than maybe. And I certainly prefer yes when it comes to food. But that preference is fleeting. Today, as I write this I’m glad I didn’t eat a bunch of junk food. I feel better today for it.