Eat Empowered, Healthy Eating Tips

How Often You Should Have a Cheat Meal


I hate the concept of a cheat meal or cheat days. Yup, despise. OK, I know that sounds a little aggressive, but I’ve seen them (meals labeled cheat meals or days labeled cheat days) do so much more harm than good.  The whole premise of a cheat meal or cheat day is just so … negative.

So does this mean we should all stick to kale, salmon and blueberries and never indulge?

Absolutely not.

Do I like indulging?

You betcha. I never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like. And, I do feel that indulging is part of living a Nutritious Life.

Why I Don’t Believe in the ‘Cheat Meal’ Concept

First, the term alone makes it seem as if you’re doing something wrong. It’s all negative energy. We eat well to feel well, not to be made to feel bad.

Next, it kinda makes you want to, well, CHEAT! If you’re always feeling like  you’re waiting for your next cheat meal, then guess what, you’ll want that decadent French toast or curly fries with truffle oil a whole lot more. Chia seeds don’t walk themselves into your pantry. Kale doesn’t get chopped up by itself. You make lots of great choices and those choices shouldn’t feel like they need to be cheated on. The cheat meal concept completely diminishes the empowering good vibes you get from all the hard work and excellent choices you make most of the time.

Finally, what if Sunday is your “cheat day” and you wake up motivated to run a 10K and eat a three-veggie frittata with sprouted grain bread and a green juice? Should you cheat? I think not. I’ve had clients say, “I was actually in the mood for an egg veggie scramble but it was my ‘off’ day and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat pancakes for another week.”


When and How You Should Indulge

So should you indulge, ever? Absolutely! I love my cookies and cake as much as anyone, I promise. Instead of viewing them as cheat meals, I prefer to call eating them a “conscious indulgence.” A conscious indulgence should be a few things: Portion controlled, the most nutrient-dense option of what you’re truly craving, and, finally, eaten from an empowered place. In other words, not hiding in your cubicle or grabbing the remaining candy bar from the trash.

Dying for those Reese’s Pieces?? Well then perhaps an ounce of 70% dark chocolate with a teaspoon of natural peanut butter and a cup of green tea is even better. Fries? Try a baked sweet potato with sea salt instead. And, what if you just want the actual Reese’s Pieces or you don’t have the dark chocolate around? Eat a portion slowly (I’m not a calorie counter, but in this case, aiming for approximately 100-150 calories is a good way to control portion) with a cup of tea and move on.

The idea of cheating is negative. I like to be positive. A conscious indulgence is positive. It comes from a place of empowered eating, not a place of giving in or falling off the wagon.

How to Ditch the Cheat Meal Concept Altogether

When you look at every eating situation as an individual opportunity to eat well, there’s room for indulging a craving and getting right back to that salmon and kale at the next meal. You don’t feel like you’ve given in, you don’t feel like you’ve failed and you certainly don’t indulge just because it’s the day or time to do so . You indulge when you have a true food craving and want to indulge from a place of positive energy. You can indulge because you can drink a green juice, eat avocado toast and still make room for a cookie, or the frosting off the cupcake.

How often those indulgences occur is personal. It all depends on your health goals, your overall diet and your cravings. Generally, I recommend one to three a week depending upon all of the above.

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