For most of us ’cheat food‘ means ‘bad food‘ for it usually comes fat drenched, deep fried or oil soaked and with not so healthy breading that goes into its making. But that doesn’t mean that you can never have it. Enjoy it on days you plan to go easy with fat at other meals especially on one of those cheat days! Besides there are guilt free versions too that won’t play fiddle with your weight regimen.
For the most part, it is all about balance. Your nutritionist may confide; “No matter what your fitness goals are, it’s not always a bad idea to indulge in good and rich food once in a while. May be this will encourage you to stay on your wellness track for long!”, And believe me, he couldn’t be more right! But simply switching to a burrito bowl from your regular deep pocketed meal and opting for rice and beans won’t do any good if you choose to keep the full fat sour cream and cheese intact. Instead this will turn into a nutrient dense ‘cheat’ and could leave you feeling the guilt over a nimble beef burger too.
It’s so easy to bite into myths and half truths about nutrition that in the end you are left with far fewer healthy choices than you would imagine. From fruit juices to canned veggies, from muffins to whole grain bread, it’s always easy-breezy to believe that we have chosen wisely and made healthier food choices than they really are. Sure, you may know which foods are healthy and which make a better sense when it comes to getting on with your day guilt free. But do you know which ones pack a powerful punch of more than one nutrient and is one of the healthiest feel fuller foods? Turning to those grab and go foods aren’t any good either. Real trick is to eat real food to stock up and yet be on track all the times.
Nonetheless, since filling foods with high fiber and high protein means fewer calories per gram, you can pile up your plate without packing on pounds and binging on healthy cheat foods on your cheat day could really keep you on the move!
Here are 12 such choices that have made to the top, to let you know what to stock up on. Eat to your fill without eating less. And remember, small changes do make a heap of difference.
Beginning your day with a hearty and healthy breakfast is all about a dish that’s packed with vitamins, and proteins. After all breakfast is a big deal. Eggs, fruits and whole wheat toasts are good choices but it’s easy for your nosh to go south if you prefer heartier options. Traditional pancakes with maple syrup butter and strawberries, crispy and delicious waffles or that fluffy French toast with egg, all add up to calories and carbohydrates fast, especially if you add more butter and syrup after preparation. Fattier breakfast meats are just as bad, unless you are a vegetarian and prefer vegan food. Since it’s an important meal, a few simple changes could make you less guilty about it.
Traditionally two pancakes and four pieces of bacon contain 480 calories, 26 grams of fat and 46 grams of carbohydrates. On the contrary whole wheat pancakes and turkey bacon in the same amounts carry 289 calories, 16 grams of fat and 24 grams of carbohydrates. So, begin your day on a healthier note once you have picked up on your restraint.
Black Bean Burgers
There’s nothing wrong with having a burger every now and then, but what is important is meat you consume with it . Grass fed beef ranks lower in saturated fats and has almost 5 times more of omega-3 and higher contents of vitamin-A and E as compared to grain fed beef. Prefer to have a home-made burger or even a multigrain one will do. Mash boiled potatoes and shallow fry them in olive oil, add lots of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cottage cheese, and even egg if you like. Your home-made happy meal with high nutritional value and moderate calories is ready. Add half a slice of cheese and a teaspoon of mayonnaise, and experience the flavors take a new turn.
Sweet Potato Fries
Eyeing fries means junk food with a burger but when you think of it seriously, the dish adds up to potato slices that have been flash fried, are a bit higher on fat and calories but render carbs, fats, fiber and vitamins as required for an overall healthy diet. The bottom line though is that if you choose proper cut fries, fried in lighter oils instead of fast food version, they won’ be as unhealthy as you’d think.
You may consider switching regular fries for sweet potato ones as a healthier option but the truth remains that when deep fried, both are equal in calories. One great way to cut the calories however, is to try baked or roasted version with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of paprika to pep up the flavors.
A burger and fries usually make up for a great brunch though alone they aren’t great in taste but toppings like mayonnaise and lean meat kick the flavors once dipping sauce options pour in. To make it more wholesome, swap beef for turkey and you have already cutback to 269 calories, 11.7 gms. of fat , 20.3 gms. of carbs and 4 gms. of sugar for each helping. You could eat two of these and still be under McDonald version.
Tacos are delicious, but too many condiments and use of fatter cuts of meat, or deep fried battered fish turn it into a sinful chew. Grilling a white flaky fish like cod and seasoning it with herbs and spices, or lemon juice instead, would help you avoid the ‘bad for you’ fats and render the dish into a guilt free healthy alternative. You could even swap the taco for a pita. Serving with a dark green leafy salad would add fiber to your meal. If you’re still apprehensive, just remember that it’s only the traditional drive-thru tacos that don’t do you any favors. Topped with sour cream and cheese, and sides like chips and nacho cheese, these are a diet disaster. But a lighter approach will give you the flavor you want without the extra calories, fat and carbs. And above all, it’s the meat alone that matters and there is nothing wrong with having tacos every now and then.
Make no mistakes and get one thing straight right away; there’s no such thing as a zero-calorie food though fiber and water-rich veggies like cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, celery, broccoli, and cabbage come pretty close, for they come naturally very low in calories. Try 100% corn baked tortilla chips with a lean protein, low fat dairy and heaps of veggies like peppers, olives, jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, refried beans. Top off your dish with guacamole, salsa, and cilantro and you have a delight on your plate that gives the satisfaction of chewing plus a full belly. Use the topping to bulk up your sandwiches or omelette if you have no tooth for raw veggies.
Chicken gets boring at times. And if this happens to be one such times, simply look around for a source of lean protein that comes with a fat-fighting advantage. Salmon is one such good choice which helps in weight loss by improving glucose sensitivity, reducing insulin resistance and inflammation and speed up the oxidation of fat. Pack more punch to the dish by having a pick of roasted vegetables like artichokes, spinach, or broccoli, served alongside which all provide at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Above all, you don’t need a ton of it to feel satisfied; still don’t ignore the portion size!
Cheap, filling and easy to reach, this is one huge go-to cheat meal. What more it’s delivered right to your doorstep even in the middle of the night? And oh!! It’s so delicious. But be wary of the crust, for this breading could wreck your diet plan. Cheese and meat toppings too are guilty and so is the accompanying sauce. Getting thinner crust and less cheese works well though. Try for once and you will wonder how on earth could this unhealthiest of cheat meals come up with a nutritional value no less than other options? But trust me, that’s what you get when the crust in your pizza thins out to a true dietary good boy! A flat out simple pizza topped with turkey pepperoni, onions, mushrooms and peppers yields 328 calories, 13 grams of fat and 32 grams of carbohydrates.
Spaghetti and meatballs
This dish is as close to traditional Italian cuisine as it could ever get though unfortunately, tradition comes at a price of high calories and carbohydrates. Choosing a healthier option like vegetable pasta and turkey meatballs however, could scale back the worrying numbers and would allow you to enjoy your meal and not feel bad about it later. Just be mindful of the portion size for each serving of zucchini noodle pasta with turkey meatballs enriches you with no less than 440 calories, 15 grams of fat and 42 grams of carbohydrates. Cutting everything even by half will make a huge difference, and you won’t be deprived of flavors in the process.
Macaroni & Cheese
If you do not intend to dine out even after a hectic work day or simply want to laze around at home on a wintry afternoon, macaroni and cheese is one good dependable choice that could lift your spirits. What more, you will be doing your entire body a great favor by doing nothing for once!
Typically made with a lot of milk, butter and artificial ingredients, you have already sacrificed a lot for the sake of noodles and cheese. Just be mindful of how much more dairy you add. And remember, this time you are not making any vegetable pasta! Still anxious! try a baked version for you get more for less without sacrificing flavors. One serving of baked macaroni and cheese has 297 calories, 9.7 grams of fat and 34.5 grams of carbohydrates.
Fried Rice & Egg Rolls
One of initial fears in pursuing a plant-based lifestyle is that most of us find it difficult to give up the foods that we have enjoyed all our lives. But reality is so different! You enjoy more by recreating ethnic cuisines than dining out.
So, for once put your foot down and step out of the box. You could start by tackling fried rice and tofu eggrolls. Sautéed diced tofu in canola oil until light brown is a visual delight. Add coleslaw (finely shredded cabbage with a salad dressing) mix for that extra crunch and sauté’ till wilting. This filling wrapped into an open egg roll like a burrito and then heated and deep fried until golden brown, makes for one great dish to enjoy without feeling the regret later. Oven or air fryers don’t do justice if authentic dish is your choice. You could switch the tofu with another high protein dish or add crushed seaweeds to your egg rolls or even swap deep fried egg rolls for non fried spring rolls, if you want this to be your signature dish! Be wary of the portion size though. Each 200 grams (1 bowl) serve of cauliflower fried rice contains 108 calories, 3 grams of fat, 14 carbohydrates and 1 gram of sugar.
If you are the one who is on various diets, you would understand the struggle of “cheating” in moderation. And more so finding the right way to do it. This doesn’t mean that you cannot bite into your regular pizza or you cannot have a ball in your favorite Chinese buffet. All it requires is finding a way to enjoy your favorite cheat food in a healthy way.
While chicken nuggets aren’t the unhealthiest of cheat foods, they definitely don’t offer as much nutritional value as other options. Nuggets with the breading make things still worse.
Each helping from McDonald’s has six nuggets and regrettably carries 270 calories, 16 grams of fat, 16 carbohydrates and 15 grams of protein. Not so terrible sounding!! but most of the people don’t stop at only six chicken nuggets at a time. So make a baked platter of your own and you could get rid of all those extras. 188 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 8 carbohydrates and 26 grams of protein in six baked nuggets is what you get when the dish is made only with meat.
Raspberry Thyme Granita
When your sweet tooth aches, it’s time to reach for … dessert! There are so many healthy versions of it and you don’t need much of it to feel satisfied. There’s actually nothing wrong with having a little sweet treat during the day. In fact, satisfying yourself with something delicious and nutritious is the key to ace healthy diet .
If you’re looking for a healthy, dairy-free light frozen treat, this easy to make raspberry thyme granite is just the right choice for you. A super refreshing, slushy this Italian ice dessert is similar to sorbet and what more, you could use raspberries, watermelon, blackberries, or even strawberries for this a zero fat- zero sodium dessert. A good source of vitamin C and fiber and a perfect alternative to overly rich, sugary desserts, this dish won’t let you go overboard on the calories. One cup (150 gms) provides 8 grams of satiating fiber and sets you back only 60 calories. Not creamy or decadent, this food is a perfect way to end a meal.
Cheat Food: An occasional binge is not a bad idea!
Cheat foods aim to help you stay motivated throughout the day and in no way harm your weight loss plan. Besides, they gives you a break from the usual food that you have been eating daily without craving for it. But you just cannot go about bingeing through the day as it will only undo an entire week’s hard work. This will only stir up more cravings, eventually losing complete focus. Excessive indulgence incites craving for these foods and it will be difficult for you to go back to restrained eating over the next few days.
So, choose the cheat food that you enjoy enough to give up the ‘sinful part’ of it. Loads of meals and snacks come packed as nutritional powerhouses. Just look for whole foods as first ingredients that are as simple as possible. It will be easier for you to choose among better- for- me options without too many sacrifices. And don’t forget the reason that makes a ‘cheat food’ so special.