What’s the Deal with Cheat Meals?

Ice Cream Cheat Meals

Disclaimer: Speaking with a dietitian or other health professional is recommended if you have questions about nutrition and its connection to weight. 

Sticking to a nutrition plan on the journey with weight and health can be tough, especially when you have specific goals in mind. However, the amount of nutrition education surrounding us these days can be confusing, and it’s sometimes difficult to know what type of plan you should be following — as well as how strictly.

Defining Cheat Meals

If you’re following a specific nutrition plan with food and nutrient recommendations, being 100 percent committed all of the time can be tough. For some individuals, cheat days are designated days of the week/month where the typical “rules” of your diet or nutrition plan can be broken within moderation.

For example, if you’re on a low-carb, high-protein diet that eliminates sugars and other processed foods, a cheat day for you may be one weekend afternoon where you’re permitted to have a serving of french fries or indulge your sweet tooth. Typically, the purpose behind cheat meals is to relieve diet-related stress, strengthen willpower and break weight plateaus.

Are Cheat Meals Okay to Have?

The answer to this question depends on you, your goals and your own specific weight management journey. Speaking with a dietitian or other health professional is recommended if you have questions about nutrition and its connection to weight.

Before deciding what your nutrition plan should look like, first ask yourself:

  • Are there any foods that are completely “off limits” for specific health reasons? (diabetes, cholesterol, etc.)
  • Am I emotionally triggered by certain foods?
  • Do I struggle with moderation?
  • Do I struggle with willpower?
  • Can I benefit mentally from a “day off” my diet?

For some, eliminating certain foods cold-turkey may be the only way they know how to prevent themselves from stumbling into old habits. For others, cheat days relieve mental anxiety associated with their diet and help them stay committed to their goals. So, no — despite what all the “evidence” may tell you, there’s no true answer to this question!

A Couple Things to Keep in Mind

If you’ve allowed cheat days to be a part of your nutrition plan, pay attention to how your body reacts when eating specific foods. Does your stomach get upset? Do you become lethargic or experience spikes in energy? Practice mindfulness and record your experiences in a food journal. Your body will send you a message about how it’s feeling in response to your behavior.

Additionally, always remember that moderation is key. If you’re giving yourself the opportunity to go out for ice cream with a close group of friends for example, you may not want to order the largest or sweetest item on the menu. Perhaps you could make-do with a small to medium-sized ice cream cone or a bowl with 1-3 small scoops. Pay attending to serving sizes, and always remember to listen to your body throughout the day.

Not Sure What Kind of Nutrition Plan is Right for You?

One-on-one sessions with a trusted dietitian may help. CLICK HERE to see if a Registered Dietitian may be right for your weight management goals.


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