Fried Oreos, cheesy fries topped with bacon and double deep-dish pizza. This is what cheat meals are made of. But often more than not, it’s also the quickest way to add extra pounds around your midsection. A cheat meal, according to bodybuilding.com is eating something that is not usually a part of your diet. The gist of a cheat meal is to stay active and eat healthy for a large part of the week, and then reward yourself. Dietitians and nutritionists alike agree that a cheat meal might very well save you from a weigh-loss plateau and ward off feelings of deprivation.
Amy Shapiro, found and director of Real Nutrition NYC, suggests to “pick your poison. If you’re going out, pick your splurge. Are you going to dig into carbs like a breadbasket or pasta or dessert? Or are you planning on tossing back a few cocktails?” She urges cheaters to avoid consuming all three of those common categories at once sitting. “Focus only on one,” she says, adding that by saving the others for another time you can “enjoy without going overboard.”
There’s a cheat meal and there are cheat days. And the latter—is never a good idea. “A solid diet and exercise program will help you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week—a deficit of about 3,500 to 7,000 calories. Consider the average sit-down restaurant meal serves up 1,200 calories, and it’s easy to see how cheating too big or too frequently, can undo your weight loss efforts in a matter of hours,” says eatthis.com. The easiest way to cheat is what’s known as the “single-cheat meal strategy”. This is done by planning a meal you love and crave once a week. Eat reasonably and don’t go back for seconds.
To apply the idea, eat what you want until you’re satisfied, not until you’re stuffed, suggests Amy Goodson, sports dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine. Go for one or two slices of pizza, not the whole pie. Goodson also recommends finding a midpoint. For example, if you love cheeseburgers, have one- but pass on the fries and soda. Most importantly, “don’t out-eat your workouts. A caloric deficit is necessary for weight loss,” says Goodson.
A single cheat meal is practical and easy for anyone with focus and self-control. For those who are just starting an exercise and diet program, you don’t need to cheat right away, wait at least 3-4 weeks until you’re truly committed to your program.