NEW JERSEY — Disco fries, deep-fried Italian hot dogs, cheesy breakfast sandwiches — New Jersey restaurants are home to foods we crave, even if they’re not the best choices for our bodies on a daily basis.

We wondered, when it comes nutrition, can you have your cheesecake and eat it, too?

Michele Smith, licensed mental health counselor, certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of The Runaway Fork in Westfield, thinks it’s possible.

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“What the research is finding now is that, for many people, feeling a sense of satisfaction in a meal actually decreases their yearnings for food at a later time,” Smith said. “So selecting a food that is the closest match to what you are really craving, no matter what it is, will leave you feeling the most satisfied and not on the prowl for food later.”

With that in mind, she offered some similarly satisfying alternatives to our New Jersey favorites:

Swap out a pork roll/Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich for a turkey bacon, egg and potato scramble.

Keep the flavor and lose the simple carbs and saturated fat when you switch out a bagel with lox and cream cheese for scrambled eggs with lox, instead.

Instead of a happy waitress (open-faced grilled cheese with bacon and tomato with a side of fries), opt for BLT on whole grain toast, skipping the mayo.

If a fried Italian hot dog sandwich loaded with deep-fried potatoes, onions and peppers is what you want, try an Italian sausage stir fry with potatoes, onion and peppers, instead.

If cheesesteak is your thing, treat yourself to strips of grilled steak with creamy tahini sauce.

Dying for disco fries, swimming in gravy and melted mozzarella? Put those toppings on a baked potato, instead.

Cheesecake tastes great, but you can get that creamy goodness and a lot less saturated fat from a dish of rice pudding, instead.

And if you really want that cheesecake or those fries? As long as you don’t have a medical reason to avoid these foods, don’t feel bad for enjoying them, Smith said.

“The research is clear that by taking foods off the ‘forbidden’ list and eating them regularly, without judgement, will not only prevent overeating, but is the key to making peace with food and finding pleasure in your meals again,” she said.

Eating mindfully and really listening to your body is key, Smith explained.

“By understanding the wisdom of the body and its amazing capacity to self-regulate,” she said, “you can learn to trust your inner signals for hunger, satiety and satisfying food choices to create a truly nourishing relationship with food, body, mind and soul.”

More on NJ Flavor:

7 Tricks for Making the Best Winter Soups

New Jersey Date Night: Get Comfortable at These Good Old-Fashioned Diners

Mocktails are the Key to Enjoying Dry January — Try Ginger ‘Mock-jito’ Recipe

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