Need a break from clean eating? We’ve got 10 Tips for Healthy Cheat Meals so you can indulge without feeling guilty or deprived.
Did you know cheating your diet can be healthy? Although it seems counterproductive, enjoying a cheat meal can benefit your mind, body, and spirit. Indulging can satisfy cravings, boost long-term fat loss, increase insulin sensitivity, and support your sanity. In contrast, a zero-indulgence attitude creates restriction, pressure, and stress. And stress is a HUGE contributor to health issues. Instead, develop a more relaxed and healthier relationship with food. Ditch the old rigid mentality and connect with food in a new and nourishing way.
How to Cheat Your Diet
These tips are designed with your wellness AND well-being in mind. No one likes to miss out on their favorite foods or feel limited by what they can eat. Rather than suffer through holidays, parties, and other events, it’s time to take a more beneficial approach!
1. Plan Ahead
When it comes to healthy cheat meals, it’s best to strategize your splurges! Most people do well planning one to two cheat meals a week. Alternatively, you could plan an entire cheat day weekly and abide by a three-bite rule. A three-bite rule is excellent for parties with lots of delicious options for sampling a few bites of everything! Experiment and do what feels best. Whatever you decide, PLAN, so your cheats don’t consume your week.
2. Make it Matter
Which is more satisfying… a slice of chocolate cake with fresh vanilla bean ice cream at a romantic restaurant or a candy bar in front of the TV? Make your cheat meal matter by making it a memorable experience. Present your food like a pro! Set the table, light a candle, display fresh flowers, etc. Take your time creating a space that feels nourishing and relaxing. Practice blessing your food and eat mindfully. Savor and be grateful for EVERY bite.
3. Set Up for Success
Don’t skip beverages or meals to save room for your splurge. Make sure you hydrate before indulging. Fresh lemon/lime water hydrates you and jumpstarts the cleansing needed post cheat meal. Also, eating a nutritious snack or meal before indulging is best. For example, enjoy a fresh fruit salad before mimosas and syrupy french toast. Also, drinking a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea ahead of time can decrease the adverse effects of sugar and alcohol.
Select Quality Cheat Meal Ingredients
4. Choose Whole Foods
Although it’s a cheat meal, quality is still important. You deserve the BEST ingredients. Choose single-ingredient foods over processed products. And if you choose anything packaged, make sure it’s made from mostly whole ingredients. For example, make noodles using zucchini or try Banza chickpea pasta. Need something sweet? Try the raw dessert recipes below. Homemade cheat meals are ideal as they’re filled with LOVE and provide total transparency for what you’re eating.
5. Read Food Labels
Read food labels, starting with the ingredients. Select whole ingredients over refined, such as a Medjool date over brown rice syrup. Avoid labels that look like a chemistry experiment. The fewer ingredients, the better. Need smart swaps? View Healthier Alternatives to upgrade your diet with foods that are satisfying, nutritious, and supportive of your health!
6. Check Sugar Content
Next, focus on the sugar content. Again, selecting whole ingredients is easy to boost nutrients and reduce sugar intake. Processed products are sneaky and can contain over 40 types of refined and artificial sweeteners! Keep an eye out for hidden sugars; many end in “-ose,” such as dextrose. Choose unprocessed sugar, such as fresh/frozen/dried fruit, when available. Aim for less than 20 grams of sugar per serving.
7. Sweeten Smarter
Whether buying a product or making healthy cheat meals, it’s essential to sweeten smarter. Healthier sweeteners can reduce your sugar intake, lower the glycemic load of your sweets, and add nutrients. Choose smart sweeteners…
- Cinnamon — is excellent for balancing blood sugar levels
- Fruit (fresh/frozen/dried) — loaded with nutrients! Swap brown sugar for dates
- Honey (raw and local) — rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes
- Maple syrup (100% pure) — filled with antioxidants, manganese, zinc, iron, and calcium
- Stevia (fresh plant is best) — zero sugar sweetener that has zero effect on blood sugar
Healthier Cheat Meal Options
8. Increase Antioxidants
Cheat meals don’t have to be unhealthy. Increase antioxidants by favoring fruit, cacao, and nuts for dessert. Increase antioxidants…
- Wild blueberries — some of the most antioxidant-rich foods on Earth
- Cacao — packed full of antioxidant-rich polyphenols and flavonoids
- Berries — loaded with polyphenols and fiber that support fat loss
- Cherries — high in antioxidants, potassium, quercetin, and melatonin
- Pecans — are among the top 15 foods rich in antioxidants
9. Befriend Fruit
Add color to cheat meals with refreshing fruit. Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fruits are some of the best foods you can eat to support your health, lose weight, improve hydration, detoxify, boost immunity, decrease aging, and more. Read why having a “Fruit Fear” does NOT support your health. Favor the following fruits…
- Wild blueberries — are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, elevated biotics, and more! Try blueberries with pears and honey.
- Bananas — are packed with vitamins and minerals and are an excellent electrolyte food.
- Apples — are rich in nutrients that support detoxification, adrenal health, and digestion.
- Dates — are a perfect sweet-tooth-satisfying pick-me-up food for energy and brain function. Ideal post-workout, dates help improve endurance, agility, and stamina.
Indulge with Mindfulness
10. “Pig Out” Out
If you tend to go overboard with indulgences, plan your cheat meals outside your home. Cheating your diet while dining out costs more and increases your awareness of what you’re consuming, which helps keep your diet in check. However, don’t bring a doggie bag home. Keep temptations out of sight, out of mind.
Common Cheat Meal Questions
What are the healthiest cheat meals?
When it comes to indulging, whole foods are best. Sure, a slice of pizza or cheeseburger and fries are tempting, but those greasy, processed foods leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. On the other hand, whole foods are packed with fiber and nutrients that keep you full and energized. So upgrade your indulgences. For example, choose a cauliflower crust pizza or a lettuce-wrapped burger with avocado and sweet potato fries. Make homemade variations of your favorite dishes, and view the dessert recipes below!
What is an ideal cheat meal?
An ideal cheat meal includes whole food ingredients that are colorful, delicious, and nutritious. While it’s An ideal cheat meal includes whole food ingredients that are colorful, delicious, and nutritious. While indulging in an unhealthy meal now and then is OK, a perfect cheat meal provides your body with the nutrients it needs while satisfying your cravings. When choosing healthier cheat meals, focus on whole ingredients high in antioxidants and fiber. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats. You can enjoy the foods you love without sacrificing your health or waistline by cheating on your diet with healthy choices.
Is having a cheat meal good for weight loss?
Yes, it can be! The best cheat meals for weight loss are fruit-focused and fat-free. Why? Fruit, especially It can be! The best cheat meals for weight loss are fruit-focused and fat-free. Why? Fruit, especially without fat, is super cleansing for the body. Weight gain often results when the body stores toxins and suppressed emotions. In addition, the body tends to retain fluid to create a protective barrier. Eating hydrating foods like fruit will naturally shed fat, cleanse your body, and feel more supported on your healing journey.
What are some healthy cheat meal examples?
Below are some sweet and savory healthy cheat meal examples…
- Ice cream made from bananas; add fresh blueberries and vanilla
- Pasta made from chickpeas (Banza); enjoy with tomato sauce, mushrooms, and olives
- Cookies made from almond flour, such as coconut sugar cookies
- Gluten-free baked goods; try raw and vegan options
- Pizza crust made from cauliflower; add cashew cheese and toppings
- Stove-top organic popcorn with coconut oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon
- Dark chocolate chunks with almond butter and frozen banana slices
- Sweet potato fries with guacamole dip
- Coconut milk milkshake with cacao and dark cherries
- Jovial bread with cashew butter and banana
BONUS: Delicious No-Bake Desserts
Want to satisfy a sweet tooth while benefiting your body? Try these healthy desserts to satisfy a sweet tooth without gaining weight. Unlike typical desserts, these raw treats are naturally sweet and packed with nutrients. Each recipe is vegetarian, Paleo-friendly, and free of dairy, gluten, eggs, corn, and soy.
Vanilla Shortbread Cookies
Satisfy your senses with this ideal indulgence that highlights sweet and salty flavors.
Yields 30 cookies
- 2 cups raw walnuts
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup (or more) raw honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- In a food processor, process all ingredients for 1 minute or until a thick paste forms.
- Transfer to a large bowl.
- Use your hands to create 30 mini cookies.
- Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before enjoying.
- Enjoy and keep leftover cookies in the fridge.
- Or store in the freezer and thaw for 10 minutes before enjoying.
Cacao Cashew Cookies
Attention chocolate lovers, this no-bake dessert is a cheat meal favorite!
Yields 30 cookies
- 2 cups unsalted raw cashews
- 8 large Medjool dates, pitted
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed to a liquid)
- 2 tablespoons cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon each: vanilla extract & cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon or more sea salt
Instructions: same as vanilla shortbread cookies listed above
Dark Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate lovers rejoice in this ideal indulgence!
- 12 Medjool dates pitted
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts
- 1 cup uncooked gluten-free rolled oats
- 1/2 cup each: raw cacao powder & raw almond butter
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- sea salt, to taste
- In a food processor, process all ingredients until a dough forms, about 1-2 minutes.
- Use your hands to spread the dough into an even layer in an 8-inch square dish.
- Place the dish in the freezer for 12-24 hours.
- Remove and cut the treats into 12 even-size pieces.
- Store in an airtight container in the freezer. Allow the treats to come to room temperature for a few minutes before enjoying them.
Note: option to soak dates in a cup of water for 6 hours before use to help soften. Drain before use. The leftover date water makes a delicious addition to smoothies or tea.
Fig Walton Bars
Reminiscent of Fig Newton cookies, this dessert recipe satisfies your childhood nostalgia too!
- 1 1/2 cups dried Black Mission figs
- 2 1/2 cups raw walnuts
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Instructions: same as brownies listed above
Note: Soak the figs in a cup of water for 4 hours to soften them. Drain the figs before use. The leftover fig water can be used as a sweet addition to smoothies.