There is a story (possibly apocryphal), of a couple of bodybuilders getting married. On their wedding day they both ate chicken and broccoli out of Tupperware containers so that they could maintain their diet. Whether this story is true or not, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone who has ever encountered a true fitness fanatic. These are the people who refuse to eat anything that isn’t organic, bland, and cooked in the healthiest way possible.
There’s nothing wrong with that, if you want to avoid delicious tasting food for the rest of your life then more power to you. But for the rest of us, the idea of missing out on a meal out with friends every once in a while, or a treat while watching a film would be a nightmare!
But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about cheat meals, and sadly most people follow the wrong strategy. This is where they try to avoid any cheat meal completely for as long as possible, before inevitably caving and putting an all-you-can-eat buffet out of business.
What diet are you following? If you are on a simple calorie-restriction diet, then you could pretty much eat whatever you want as a cheat meal. But if you are on a ketogenic diet, eating 2 loaves of white bread might not be the best option. If you are on a paleo diet, then eating a load of processed food is not staying within the spirit of your diet.
If you are finding it difficult psychologically to stick to these types of diets, then are these the right diets for you? There’s nothing particularly special about either of them, if they are easy and fun to follow then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. If they are very difficult to follow, then consider changing them to a more flexible diet approach.
Good examples of cheat meals that stay within the spirit of diets: 80% cocoa chocolate bar for paleo diets, or what about this chocolate chip keto cookie for a ketogenic diet cheat meal? .
Thanks to the fitness industry and supermarkets we now have a huge range of high protein versions of traditionally “bad foods”. They are surprisingly good too! High protein ice cream is an excellent replacement for regular ice cream. High protein mars bars, high protein popcorn, you can even get high protein crisps. None of these foods are particularly healthy (despite their claims), but if you’re going for a cheat meal they can be perfect.
You’ve been good all week, you’ve eaten vegetables with lunch and dinner, you’ve had a high protein breakfast, and you’ve drunk so much water that your step count to the toilet has doubled. You deserve this treat. So, what are you going to go for? A gorgeous meal with friends or a 20 pack of slightly stale biscuits?
We’ve all been there while dieting, you’re hungry, you’re fed up, and your indifferent spouse has left a pack of cookies out on the sofa. Of course, it won’t make much difference physically whether your calories come from a £15 burger or a pack of high sugar cookies, but psychologically it will make a huge difference.
One of the overlooked dieting issues that people encounter is the social functions you have to skip. Saving your cheat meal for something worthwhile will make you appreciate it more and will stop your friends getting on your back when you tell them you can’t make Friday because you have a Quinoa salad to eat.
No matter what “Supersize Me” may have led you to believe about McDonalds, it is perfectly possible to eat junk food from fast food restaurants while on a diet. But you may have to rethink how you spend your money there. Let’s take your local kebab shop as an example.
A medium donner kebab will contain 1,000 calories, 26g of fat, and just 25g of protein . A medium chicken shish kebab on the other hand contains just 325 calories, 10g of fat, and 40g of protein ! (all food calorie totals from MyFitnessPal). Two meals that are incredibly similar in structure, and when covered in sauce may even taste the same. But one has three times the calories and around half the protein content of the other.
You can get calorie totals from most of the bigger fast food companies just by going on their websites. Same goes for regular restaurants like Pizza Express. Check them out ahead of schedule and then you can make simple and effective substitutions to your regular (high calorie) food choices.
If you’re eating to build muscle, you may be tempted to throw caution to the wind and eat every single piece of junk food in existence. This would be a mistake, to understand why check out our course on how to build muscle through optimum nutrition.