Cheat or Treat?


Now that we’ve explored how to eat right and plan for nutritious meals, let’s have a look at indulgences or I as call them treat meals. In most literature for fitness and nutrition, you may hear the words cheat meal or cheat day, but I prefer to think of them as treats and treat meals. Saying that I’m cheating puts a bit of a negative spin on an experience that should be enjoyed and savored, and it makes me feel guilty. If you’re eating a well balanced clean diet, then enjoying a meal that’s a bit more decadent than usual can be good for your mind and soul. It’s hard to eat right, especially with all of advertisements right in front of us that really push for fast food or pre-packaged store bought franken-foods, and it’s a good thing to acknowledge that. It takes a lot of will power and discipline to turn them down, so take a moment to appreciate that and understand why you’re choosing to eat well and take good care of yourself.

There are several different ways that you can go about enjoying a treat, and they really depend on your goals and level of comfort. If for example your goal is to build muscle or to maintain your weight and you’re working out and eating clean, then consider 1 meal each week that is really rich and decadent. Go ahead and have a couple slices of pizza and piece of dessert, or cheeseburger with fries, or have some pasta in a cream sauce with a glass of wine. The key here is to have one indulgent meal each week, note I said meal and not day; a full day will wreck all of your hard work and make you feel like garbage, it’s basically binging and it takes a lot to bounce back from a binge day. I typically will have one treat meal each week, this for me usually Sunday when my family gets together for lunch. Usually lunch is very balanced; we always have veggies and some kind of grain with a protein, but we also have lots of bread and we always have dessert and maybe some other salty snack while we watch a movie. I love Sunday lunch, not only for the delicious food that I treat myself to without feeling guilty, but for the experience of spending time with my family. Maybe for your treat meal it’s going out to a restaurant on Saturday night or meeting up with a few friends for a cocktail hour. If you choose to have 1 treat each week, enjoy the entire experience and take it all in.

If your goal is fat loss or if you find that you don’t have the willpower and one treat will sent you into a full binge day, then consider one day each week where you allocate more calories to carbs. In this case your protein allocation would remain steady, but you would decrease your fat and increase your carbs. Say for example your allocation is 35% carbs, 40% Protein and 25% fat, then maybe change it up to 50% carbs, 40% protein and 10% fat, and go ahead and include whole grains in each meal and snack along with some fruit throughout the day. For example, have oatmeal with berries with your breakfast, have a sandwich and an apple at lunch, some rice crackers with your snack and barley with your dinner.

If you happen to be one of those rare people who can have just one bite of something decadent and walk away, then kudos to you! It takes an incredible amount of inner strength to have just one bite of pizza or a few potato chips. Keep in mind that one bite of something won’t derail all of your hard work, but if that one bite leads to two and three and then a whole slew of treats, then you’re binging so just be honest with yourself. If you really can handle this and feel perfectly comfortable eating this way, then you can include one bite of something each day if you choose instead of having one treat meal a week, but remember that these bites do add up so just be mindful. I personally know that this is not for me at all. If I keep these things in my house and I happen to have a rough day or if I haven’t eaten enough, then I know I will turn to junk food. So unless it’s my treat meal, I avoid this completely.

If you’re still not sure what’s the best way for you to have a treat then consider what I call a healthy alternative treat. These are versions of homemade recipes for typically heavy meals that are transformed into a healthier option (see below for some alternative treat ideas). A good example would be making our own version of French fries where instead of deep frying the potatoes, you bake them with a little drizzle of olive oil. These are ideal if you’re not sure what’s best for you of if you are following strict regimen, that way you feel like you’re indulging without actually eating the not-so good for you stuff.

When it comes to indulgences, choose to treat yourself instead cheating on your diet; eat what you really like, but be reasonable and mindful of the choice you make. Whether you decide to have one treat meal or one high carb day, or if you chose healthy alternatives instead, make sure that it’s what you really want. Go ahead, enjoy your treat and really take your time eating so that you can savor every bite. Remember that you don’t have to indulge at all; if you don’t feel like having a treat and you can keep going without it then skip it altogether. Should you choose to have one though, don’t feel guilty; eat it, enjoy it and move on.

Healthy Alternative Treats:

  • 1 slice sprouted grain bread with 1 teaspoon non-dairy buttery spread, 1 teaspoon agave nectar and a sprinkle of cinnamon (I strongly suggest that you try this, it’s delicious!)
  • Air popped popcorn
  • ½ cup Banana-Protein Nice Cream (see my previous post “How Often Should You Eat?” for the recipe)
  • ½ cup soft silken tofu topped with ¼ cup berries, 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey and a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 6 inch corn tortilla filled with ¼ cup mashed black beans mixed with 1 tablespoon salsa and 1 tablespoon avocado

*As always, consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet as they are the best resource for living a healthy life.


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