If it’s your cheat day, and you don’t want to have your regular favorite foods, there are healthy cheat meals you can enjoy.
Although they still contain high number of calories, they are better options that keep you from losing your fitness or weight loss goals.
Besides, cutting the carbs doesn’t mean that you have to cut the flavor.
All that is involved is a simple substitution of ingredients to healthier options and you are good to go.
Thus, in this article, you’d discover healthy cheat meals you can enjoy, as well as strategies to help get you through cheat day.
Let’s get started.
What is a healthy cheat meal?
A healthy cheat meal is a meal that contains your favorite food, that you eat while on a fitness journey.
Unless you’re an elite athlete, there’s absolutely no reason why “cheat foods” can’t be a part of your diet.
You can’t eat it every day, hence the name “cheat meal.” If you did, you’d go backward on your fitness journey.
So, getting the right high calorie, carb-packed meals can help optimize your body’s hormones to prevent the weight from remaining like that.
In fact, the occassional cheat meals, help you stay on track, and you wouldn’t feel deprived or bored of eating a particular kind of meal daily.
Healthy Cheat Meals You Can Try
Beginning this list of healthy cheat meals is Pizza. Pizza is the world’s most wanted cheat meal.
Unlike popular belief, though, pizza can be quite nutritious when preparing a simple recipe at home.
This global favorite can be modified by using different foods, e.g. a whole wheat thin crust, adding loads of vegetables, and sticking to the red sauce or olive oil.
Instead of the regular pepperoni pizza, you can make it healthier with a flatout pizza with turkey pepperoni, onions, mushrooms and peppers yields 328 calories, 13 grams of fat and 32 grams of carbohydrates.
#2. Burger and fries
On your cheat day, you can add burger to your cheat meal. The burger and fries alone aren’t great, but adding topping like mayonnaise and bacon, make the meal more palatable.
More so, these toppings are what make burgers a high-calorie item. In its simplest form, a burger is packed with nutrients including protein, iron, and zinc.
For a healthier option, choose grass-fed beef when available. Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed is lower in saturated fat and richer in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients.
Also, swap the potato for sweet potato. Potatoes are rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin A.
Don’t fry. Instead, hand-cut the sweet potatoes in fingers and spread them out in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Place the fries in a preheated 425 F oven for 15 minutes before flipping them over and baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
#3. Chicken Nuggets
Another good healthy cheat food to try is chicken nuggets. While they are not entirely healthy, they still come with a certain level of nutritional value.
What’s worse is that many popular restaurants don’t make nuggets with pure chicken, and the breading can be questionable.
So, if you crave chicken nuggets on your cheat day, here’s how to make it healthier.
Get six baked chicken nuggets that contain only meat. This portion contains 188 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 8 carbohydrates and a whopping 26 grams of protein.
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#4. Bran Muffins
Bran muffins can be a good meal to have on your cheat day. When made with quality ingredients like honey, blueberries, and walnuts, can make another great cheat day treat.
More so, bran muffins are high in fiber. So, and additional nuts and fruits provide plenty antioxidants and healthy fats to make it worthwhile.
To get a healthier approach, go for reduced-fat bran muffins in the market. Also, serve with a fat-free latte or a cold glass of nonfat milk.
#5. Spaghetti & Meatballs
Spaghetti & Meatballs are very traditional dishes, however, it comes with high amounts of calories and carbohydrates.
Instead of going or the regular spaghetti and meatballs, opt for those with vegetable pasta and turkey meatballs.
This will cut down the amount of calorie contained in the food, allowing you to enjoy your meal properly.
A healthier approach to this cheat food is, serving a zuccini noodle pasta with turkey meatballs containing 440 calories, 15 grams of fat and 42 grams of carbohydrates.
This keeps you on the safe side.
#6. Chips and Guacamole
Another healthy cheat food is this diet – chips, and guacamole. However, its usual serving contains a high amount of carbohydrates and calories.
A healthier option will be opting for baked tortilla chips and guacamole over the usual chips and dip.
Fresh avacado can be a better option since it contains healthy fats and antioxidants.
Another healthy option will be substituting tortilla chips with some crisp Belgian endive.
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#7. Macaroni & Cheese
Whether you’re going out for dinner or making Kraft at home, macaroni and cheese is typically made with a lot of milk, butter and artificial ingredients.
This screams calories, everywhere.
To make it a healthy cheat day meal, be careful of how much milk you are adding. And this time, you don’t have to make vegetable pasta.
Instead, try a baked version with more flavor. More so, a serving of baked macaroni and cheese has 297 calories, 9.7 grams of fat and 34.5 grams of carbohydrates.
You can opt for a bowl of granola for your cheat day breakfast. Go for a healthy variety filled with nuts and dried fruits, and enjoy with a splash of low-fat dairy, soy, or almond milk.
Granola is typically made with oats, a good carbohydrate, while the nuts provide plenty of healthy fats for a mega breakfast.
So, when choosing granola brands, be sure to check the label, as some granola may be extremely high in saturated fats.
What other way is there to start your morning, than with a good plate of pancakes?
A healthy whole grain or whole wheat pancakes cannot be replaced, especially when combined with a healthy drizzle of organic syrup.
For more nutrients, combine a nitrate-free cooked bacon, with some fresh berries and yogurt.
Don’t forget to add Tacos to the list of healthy cheat day food, will you? There are lots of ways to make Tacos. Some are healthy, but the regular drive-thru tacos don’t make it to the list of being healthy.
Many Tacos are topped with sour cream and cheese, and it’s hard to avoid adding a side like chips and nacho cheese.
For a healthier approach, go for lettuce cup tacos. These contain 198 calories, 2 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein.
#11. Loaded Nachos
Loaded nachos are just a combination of high calories and high carbs. To make it a healthy cheat day meal, go for nachos with corn or maize, with ground beef, beans, peppers, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and jalapeños.
These other ingredients make it healthier, as it provides quality protein and healthy fats.
More so, if you want make it vegetarian, omit the meat and go for additional beans and vegetables.
#12. Dark chocolates
To all my fellow chocolate lovers, y’all rock!
However, you do know this isn’t good for our fitness journey right? More so, it doesn’t even qualify to be called a healthy cheat meal.
So, it’s best to go for dark chocolates instead. This is because, dark chocolate, contains monounsaturated fats, a type of fat that can help improve cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels.
In addition, it supplies a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants shown to support heart and brain health.
Opt for this instead, and other chocolate products with minimal added sugar.
It’s no news that milkshakes are loaded with sugar and a high amount of calories.
But you can make it better. Instead of the regular Diary Queen milkshakes, go for a peanut butter cup with banana milkshake.
This contains 220 calories, 8 grams of fat, 36 carbohydrates, and 16 grams of sugar.
#14. Fried Rice and Egg rolls
Fried rice and egg rolls are common choice. Hence, it’s difficult to try to control your calorie intake.
But there’s another side to it. You can make your fried rice and egg rolls healthier.
Add cauliflower to the rice, and swap the deep fried egg rolls for non-fried spring rolls.
One serving of cauliflower fried rice contains 108 calories, 3 grams of fat, 14 carbohydrates and 1 gram of sugar. Two chicken spring rolls have 200 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of sugar.
That’s a better option.
#15. Pulled Pork
Rounding up my list of healthy cheat day meals is pulled pork. Pulled pork sandwiches contain a lot of extra sugar in the barbecue sauce.
A healthier approach will be to push the sauce to the side and complement your sandwich with a whole grain bun.
Doing this helps you to reduce the number of carbohydrates and empty calories.
Cheat Meal Strategies for Weight Loss
Here are some strategies to employ when you are having a healthy cheat day.
#1. Don’t cheat when you’re famished
Some people make this mistake by punishing themselves at they gym prior to their cheat day.
While creating a good appetite is a smart strategy, it almost always backfires. You’d realize that once it’s your cheat day, you’d end up overeating.
And overeating on high calorie foods is the last thing you want to do.
#2. Cheat moderately
There’s a reason you get cheat days once a week or in two. There’s no need to go bizarre with high calorie foods simply because its cheat day.
As a matter of fact, if you’re serious about your weight loss journey,then it’s best to go for healthy cheat meals instead.
Because, constantly moving from one restaurant to the other will just rob you of your hardwork.
#3. Work out before you feast
Another way to minimize fat gain from your cheat meal is to empty your glycogen stores—the sugar in your system that your body burns up for energy.
And a good way to do this is to work out. This is because, the body won’t store carbohydrate as body fat until its glycogen reserves are full.
This means the emptier the tank, the more room you have until burger gets to your arms.
So, when next you have a cheat day in view, spend time at the gym. To boost your metabolism rate, have a cup of black coffee. Studies have shown that caffeine can increase metabolism when taken as a pre-workout supplement
#4. Eat the best type of cheat meal
A cheat day isn’t a day to unlock all your sugar and high carb cravings. There are healthy cheat meals you can eat on cheat day that keeps you on track.
Here’s something you should know. Carbohydrates have the greatest influence on leptin levels, which help you burn fat and feel satisfied.
And protein has the greatest influence on satiety due to its influence on appetite-regulating hormones and high thermic effect.
So, go for protein meals or healthy cheat meals like the ones listed above.
#5. Take lots of water
It’s so easy to get caught up while having your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant that you forget to take enough water.
Restaurant meals tend to be high in sodium, throws off antidiuretic hormones, which are chemicals that control how much you urinate.
This can leave you feeling dehydrated and bloated.
So, before you start to eat, replenish your body with large glasses of water. Drink water with your meal and when you wake up the next day.
#6. Take your time
Since its your cheat day, take your time and enjoy. Savour the moment and appreciate the taste of your favorite foods as they touch your taste buds.
More so, eating slowly helps you to recognize when you’re full. It’ll help to prevent ovreating.
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#7. Your cheat meal should be nutritious
On your cheat day, pick a healthy cheat meal that has nutritional value and not just empty calories.
Instead of going for processed foods with artificial flavour and ingredients you can’t pronounce, go for cheat meals with protein, fat, and carbs.
#8. Avoid the worst type of cheat meal
A high-fat meal causes more immediate fat storage than a high-carb meal. This is because dietary fat is stored as body fat at a faster rate than carbohydrate or protein.
So, when its cheat day, avoid menu options that are very high in fat, like pasta dishes, greasy pizza, battered or tempura foods and, unfortunately, most desserts.
#9. Plan your cheat day
When you know its cheat day, and you are allowed to have your favorite meal, it’s best to plan what you will eat.
Studies show that when people are presented with multiple food options, they eat more.
So, its best to mentally limit the number of food choices you allow yourself to eat.
It’d save you lots of extra calories.
#10. Get back on track
There’s a reason its called cheat day and not cheat week. Because if you continue cheating, you’d add all the weight you lost at the gym.
So, after your cheat day, resume your healthy meal ASAP. Get rid of any cheat day leftovers in the fridge to prevent temptations.
Cheat days are something to look forward to when on a fitness journey. It’s a time to have your favorite foods still in moderate portions to avoid excess calories.
Even better, there are healthy cheat meals you can make on your cheat day to ensure you don’t go out of line.
Whichever one you choose, ensure you make the most out of your cheat day.
All the best!