In order to reach your fitness goals, you have to stick to your rigid dietary plan 24/7, right?
In fact, cheat meals have proven(1) benefits to help reach your weight loss target.
Sounds too good to be true, I know.
But science shows that those who deviate from their nutritional plan once a week have higher success rates in reaching their ideal weight.
In general, the 90/10 rule is a great guideline.
Aim to maintain your dietary plan 90% of the time and let yourself mildly “indulge” the other 10%.
By allowing yourself to consume those “forbidden foods” on occasion, you can reap some major benefits:
It Helps You Keep Focused
Cravings are real! Even the most hard-core fitness guru will admit it.
Allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods from time to time may help you stay on track for the rest of the week and will keep you motivated.
Regulate Your Hormones and Boost Metabolism
When your body goes through extended periods of caloric restriction, as it does when you are dieting or sticking to a training-style meal plan, your metabolism begins to slow drastically.
This results in weight-loss “plateaus” where you may find it difficult to drop those extra few pounds.
When you consume one meal a week that is higher in calories, carbohydrates and fats – you can increase the hormones associated with increasing/maintaining metabolism in the body, resulting in a metabolic reactivation.
“It’s important to remember that this is a cheat meal, not a cheat day!”
You can't expect to go on periodic daily bingers and expect your body to respond positively.
When thinking about how to “successfully cheat” you want to keep three key factors in mind:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
When you plan for your cheat meal, you are making sure that it is even more enjoyable when the time comes.
Instead of mindlessly devouring the bag of Doritos sitting in your cabinet, think about a meal that you can look forward to. This will also give you something to look forward to all week.
2. Don't Neglect Nutrients
I know it’s a cheat meal, but use the combination of fats, protein and carbohydrates to your advantage.
You're much better off consuming a pasta dish with protein and a glass of wine than you are opting for a slushy and sleeve of cookies.
Choose your nutrients over sugar-filled treats.
Your body can use the extra calories and protein as fuel throughout the day.
3. Avoid Your Weaknesses
“Trigger foods” can be harder to control.
If nachos are your favorite food, try not to use these as your go-to cheat meal as it will be a lot more difficult to control your consumption.
This can easily lead to over indulging and make you call the entire day a flop.
here are 8 HEALTHY CHEAT MEAL IDEAS TO TRY
1. Homemade Pizza – Loaded
By cooking meals at home, even cheat meals, you know exactly what is going into your recipe.
This helps assure that you are not consuming ingredients you aren't accounting for.
Pizza crust is very simple to make, just a few common ingredients and a little time, and you'll have a chewy, delicious base. Here's a tried and true recipe:
1 Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Cup Warm Water
2 1/3 Cups Bread Flour (you can use white or wheat)
2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
1 Tsp. Sugar
- Heat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and entire package of yeast in warm water.
- Let sit for approximately 10 – 15 minutes until the texture looks creamy.
- Stir in salt, EVOO and flour and mix until smooth.
- Let sit for 10 minutes and lay dough onto floured surface (so it doesn't stick).
- Roll out flat and transfer to a greased pizza pan.
- Top with your favorite toppings and bake for 18 – 20 minutes.
Here are some suggested toppings for a nutrient-packed pizza:
- Cheeses: Fresh Mozzarella, Goat Cheese, Feta Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, Gorgonzola.
- Sauce: Chunky Tomato Sauce, Pesto, Garlic Paste, Olive Tamponade.
- Proteins: Grilled Chicken, Ham, Ground Beef, Chicken Sausage, Beans, Tofu.
- Veggies: Artichoke Hearts, Spinach, Mushrooms, Broccoli, Peppers, Onions, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Olives.
2. Taco Bowls
Look at how beautiful this meal is.
Along with being both colorful and delicious, this recipe is easy to make and customizable to what ingredients you have on hand.
Since it's your cheat meal, don’t be afraid to top it off with some shredded cheese or serve with some tortilla chips to help ease some Mexican cravings.
Some possible modifications:
- Substitute chicken for beef or seafood.
- Top with shredded Mexican blend cheese.
- Substitute quinoa for rice.
3. Cheeseburger with Baked Fries
When making your burgers at home, opt for grass-fed beef if possible.
You can also use ground bison if you prefer!
Keep your seasonings reasonable and try to stay away from loading your patty up with sodium.
Some great seasoning options:
- Granulated Garlic
- Onion Powder
- Webber “Salt Free Burger Seasoning”
- Ground Mustard
- Cayenne Pepper
- Dried Basil
When it comes time to dress your burger, don’t be afraid to load it up!
Veggies and some cheese are excellent ways to add flavor and vitamins to your meal.
According to Metabolic Edge, the goal of a cheat meal is to increase leptin levels and stimulate a metabolic response.
Carbohydrates are effective for insulin stimulation, and in a sensitive environment favors leptin production.
So, unless there is an allergy restriction, don’t be afraid to have a bun!
Making homemade french-fries is a breeze, too.
Decide your potato of choice – I like sweet potatoes, but white potatoes work just as good.
1 – 2 Potatoes
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp. Paprika
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp. Onion Powder
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Clean potato and cut into wedges.
- Toss in seasonings and olive oil.
- Place onto baking sheet and cook for about 35 – 45 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.
4. Baked Brown Sugar Chicken Wings with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce
Do I need to explain this one?
Go look at this recipe from Damn Delicious and tell me that if by just reading it makes your mouth water.
Good for your heart and loaded with your necessary Omegas – sushi is a great cheat meal choice.
Since it is high in protein and relatively low in calories and fat (depending on the roll of course), sushi can help boost the body's ability to metabolize energy, create new cells and help overall body functionality.
If going for a few rolls however, try and keep in mind what's inside.
Most specialty rolls are loaded with mayo-based sauces, tempura flakes and other calorie-dense sauces.
So just be aware that some options can bring you up to 500 calories per piece!
Sashimi and classic versions are your best options.
6. Shrimp Scampi with Whole Wheat Pasta
Here is my go-to recipe by Taste of Home. When I make this dish, I make a few minor tweaks to make it a little healthier:
- Sub the angel hair pasta for whole wheat pasta.
- Add 1 cup of baby spinach.
- Nix the breadcrumbs.
7. Baked Buffalo Chicken Fingers
Men's Fitness has a great recipe for a healthier buffalo chicken.
The chicken is baked and not fried and you're able to control exactly what is going into your sauce.
This dish is a lot lower in fat and calories than its deep fried cousin.
When making these, I serve over a bed of greens or as a lettuce wrap to add some color to my meal.
8. Zoodle Pad Thai
This recipe from White on Rice Couple puts a healthier twist on the traditional grease-filled Pad Thai dish we all shamefully love.
By using zucchini noodles, subbing out regular sugar with coconut sugar and adding some fat-burning chili peppers, this dish is one that allows for some cheating without all of the guilt.
GIVE THEM A TRY! 🙂