Ask Charlotte: How Often Are Cheat Meals Really Allowed?
Chillier weather feels sort of feels cozy (tea please), but it also feels like eating all the things at once. All the pasta, all the bread, all the pizza, all the—you get it.
So a reader wondered, innocently: what’s the deal with cheat meals? If I follow the rules for most of the week, or every other day, or every day for two weeks, do I get a cheat meal? What’s a good way to think about this loophole? We reached out to nutritionist extraordinaire Keri Glassman for an answer. (Like what she has to say? Enter our winter sweepstakes to win a $500 personal consultation with Keri!)
QUESTION — CHEAT MEALS:
How often is a “cheat meal” really allowed? I have read one meal a week to one day a week… whats the best way to think about it?
ANSWER — KERI GLASSMAN, MS, RD, CDN:
Personally, I hate the concept of a cheat meal or cheat days. Yup, despise. Ok, I know that sounds a little aggressive, but I’ve seen them (meals labeled cheat meals or days labeled cheat days) do so much more harm than good. The whole premise of a cheat meal or cheat day is just so negative.
So does this mean we should all stick to kale, salmon and blueberries and never indulge?
Absolutely not. Do I like indulging? You betcha. I never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like. And, I do feel indulging is part of living a Nutritious Life.
The name “cheat meal” makes it seem as if you’re doing something wrong. It’s all negative energy. We eat well to feel well, not to be made to feel bad. And if you’re always feeling like you’re waiting for your next cheat meal, then guess what, you’ll want that decadent French toast or curly fries with truffle oil a whole lot more.
Chia seeds don’t walk themselves into your pantry. Kale doesn’t get chopped up by itself. You make lots of great choices and those choices shouldn’t feel like they need to be cheated on.
The cheat meal concept completely diminishes the empowering good vibes you get from all the hard work and excellent choices you make most of the time. what if Sunday is your “cheat day” and you wake up motivated to run a 10K and eat a 3 veggie frittata with sprouted grain bread and a green juice?
So should you indulge, ever?
Absolutely! Instead of viewing them as cheat meals, I prefer to call eating them a conscious indulgence. A conscious indulgence should be a few things: Portion controlled, the most nutrient dense option of what you’re truly craving and finally, eaten from an empowered place.
Dying for those Reese’s Pieces?? Well then perhaps an ounce of 70% dark chocolate with a teaspoon of natural peanut butter with a cup of green tea is even better than perfect.
And, what if you just want the actual Reese’s Pieces or you don’t have the dark chocolate around? Eat a portion slowly (I’m not a calorie counter but in this case aiming for approximately 100 to 150 calories is a good way to control portion) with a cup of tea and move on.
The idea of cheat is negative. I like to be positive. A conscious indulgence is positive. It comes from a place of empowered eating, not a place of giving in or falling off the wagon.
Want more nutrition tips from me? Follow me on instagram at @nutritiouslifeofficial.
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Keri Glassman also weighs in on a basic nutrition and health question: Should I Be A Vegetarian?
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