A very important yet very misunderstood part of having long-term success with healthier eating and nutrition habits is the “cheat meal”. When combined with consistent healthier eating habits and regular daily exercise, the cheat meal can actually be beneficial toward healthy weight management, especially when on a calorie controlled meal plan. Some of the benefits include:
- Keeps your metabolism running at a high level
- Break weight loss plateaus and stagnant energy levels
- Prevent hunger pains and thinking about food throughout the day
- Avoid binge eating
- Will power to not give into the pressure to eat unhealthy…or drink!
- Positive mental perspective about food and eating healthier
- Avoid feeling guilty about eating “bad”
- Keep your mental sanity!
Because the word “cheat” has a negative connotation, as if you’re doing something bad, I wanted to put a more positive spin on it. Think of it as a reward for staying consistent with your healthy eating habits and daily workouts—a reward meal!
The key to incorporating reward meals effectively is to plan ahead, especially if you’re watching your carbohydrate/carb intake or enjoy having an adult beverage (aka alcohol) with your meal. Here are a few guidelines when planning your reward meal:
- It’s reward MEAL, not a reward DAY!
- Stick to 1-2 cheat meals a week which is less than 10% of your meals (4 meals a day x 7 days = 28 meals a week)
- Keep the reward meals at least 2 days apart, ideally 3 or 4
- Plan your reward meal in advance so you can mentally prepare yourself
- Choosing days that are holidays, special occasions or days that you have a party, date or event is best.
- Don’t skip any meals on the days you have you have your reward meal, this can lead to over eating
- Avoid eat past full and stay away from buffets.
- Make sure you work out the day of and after a reward meal.
- Stick with your meal plan on the day of and after a reward meal
- Enjoy! You deserve it!