Planning Your Cheat Meal

Written By Evonne Varady

Welcome November! This month I usually try to focus you on tea with all the temptations coming up, but not this year! I’m giving you full permission to cheat. Yes you heard that right—it’s called a cheat meal. Now don’t stop here, there are rules. Anyone who’s adhered to a healthy-eating plan knows that it can be a mind-bending challenge sometimes, but by allowing yourself an occasional indulgent, or a cheat meal, one can make it much more palatable.

There’s also a physiological benefit to temporarily tumbling off the nutritional wagon. A blast of high-fat, high-carb foods can spike your metabolism and replace depleted stores of glycogen, which refuels muscle. Simply put, cheat meals can help you meet your goals, provided you don’t use them as an excuse to go all crazy. Here’s how to cheat without feeling guilty.

Plan to Cheat
Having a strategy is a key part of a cheat meal. Plan when and what you’re going to eat. Most experts agree that one shift at the trough per week is sufficient. It’s a good idea to line up that cheat meal on a weekend or social occasion. By planning your cheat meal, you know what you’ll be eating and can cut a few extra calories earlier in the day. This also allows you to really pick a favorite food instead of wasting calories on something you didn’t enjoy. I like to cheat at the end of the day. If I start with a breakfast cheat, it’s hard to keep on track the rest of the day.

Don’t Pig Out  
Wait, what? Isn’t the whole idea of this to stuff yourself silly and make all the sacrifice worth it? Actually, no. The cheat meal is an opportunity to eat what you like, not a mandate to eat what you can. There are two ways you can stop yourself from gorging. First, set time restraints. Remember it’s a cheat meal, not a cheat day! Don’t go overboard and have a whole day of eating a lot of extra calories or eating a lot of junk food. So for example, eat two to three pieces of pizza, not a whole extra large.

Drink Plenty of Water
Just like portion control, drinking lots of water between slices of pizza or handfuls of buffalo wings will slow your feeding frenzy, help you digest the nutrients within your cheat foods more ably, and end your hunger sooner.

Take your Time
Savor and enjoy. You’ve been looking forward to this all week, so appreciate the taste of your favorite foods and extend the fun. Slowing down your spoonfuls will help you recognize when you’re full. That’ll help prevent overeating.

Even a Cheat Meal Should be Nutrient Rich
Pick a meal that still has nutritional value instead of something with empty calories. If you’re choosing between a pretzel and a beer in one hand, and a fully loaded cheeseburger, fries, and a beer in the other, choose the burger. Take advantage of protein, fat and carbs, even if that’s higher in calories than foods that are processed, artificially flavored, or full of ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Get Back on Track
Everyone is entitled to a cheat meal, but no one is entitled to a cheat week. Enjoy your meal and resume your healthy plan as soon as possible. This will keep you moving in the right direction and won’t allow for any permanent setbacks.  Also, don’t forget to purge the leftovers. You have worked too hard.

Dragging in the gym? Treat yourself!
This tip might seem like the most counterintuitive of all, but if you’ve had three or four low energy workouts in a row, it may be that your body is glycogen depleted or in need of other nutrients. Cheat your face off, and see what happens. You might find that a plate of fettuccine Alfredo will improve your morale and get you back in your groove. Just don’t treat every gym plateau with this scenario. It’s much healthier to try listening to a new playlist first.

There you have it. Permission to cheat this turkey dinner. Remember the scale will reflect these extra calories, but no worries it will come back down.

Live Life Fitter this turkey day!

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