Although it seems counterproductive to cheat on your health program, weekly indulges can improve insulin sensitivity (and accelerate fat loss), keep you sane, prevent you from feeling deprived and help you stick to the program. Taking a zero tolerance approach to cheating creates a lot of stress, which is a huge contributor to health issues. Ditch the rigid mentality and use these tips to nourish yourself without the guilt.
1. Plan Ahead
Plan one to two cheat meals a week to indulge. If planning is a challenge, then abide by a three bite rule. The three bite rule is exactly as it sounds, enjoy three bites and call it quits.
2. Make it Matter
Make your cheat meal special. A delicious dessert at a romantic restaurant is a lot more satisfying than candy in front of the TV. Take your time, savor each bite and let go of any guilt.
3. Set Up for Success
Don’t skip meals or save room for your splurge. Eat a balanced meal with substantial nutrients before the sugar rush. For example, enjoy eggs and bacon before mimosas and syrupy french toast. Lastly, drinking a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea ahead of time can decrease the negative effects of sugar and alcohol.
4. Choose Whole Foods
While it may be a cheat meal, the quality of the food is still important. You deserve the best quality ingredients for your indulgence. Choose natural, one-ingredient foods over man-made, processed products. Homemade treats are an excellent way to know exactly what you’re eating and they’re made with love.
5. Read Labels: Ingredients
Read food labels, starting with the ingredients. Select whole ingredients over refined, such as a date over brown rice syrup. The fewer ingredients, the better. Avoid ingredients that look like a chemistry experiment.
6. Read Labels: Sugar
Next, focus on sugar. Processed products contain over 40 types of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners! Many hidden sugars end in “-ose” such as dextrose. Choose less processed forms of sugar, such as fruit over fructose. Aim for less than 20 grams of sugar per serving.
7. Sweeten Smarter
Whether buying a product or making homemade treats, it’s important to choose better sweeteners to reduce your sugar intake, lower the glycemic load of your sweets and even add nutrients. Smart sweeteners:
- Cinnamon, a naturally sweet spice, is excellent for stabilizing blood sugar levels.
- Stevia, a naturally sweet herb contains zero sugar and has zero effect on blood sugar levels.
- Fruit (fresh/dried) is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. Swap brown sugar for dried dates.
- Honey (preferably raw, local) is rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes.
- Maple syrup (grade B) contains antioxidants, manganese, zinc, iron, and calcium.
8. Increase Antioxidants
Increase your antioxidant intake by favoring fruit, dark chocolate and nuts for dessert. Antioxidant boosters:
- Cacao is packed full of antioxidant-rich polyphenols and flavonoids.
- Berries are loaded with polyphenols that support fat loss and fiber that helps prevent insulin spikes.
- Cherries are relatively low in sugar and high in antioxidants, potassium, quercetin, and melatonin.
- Pecans pack in healthy fats and are among the top 15 foods rich in antioxidants.
9. Befriend Natural Fats
Natural fats help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide high satiation to prevent you from overeating and keep you full long after you eat. Add a serving of healthy fats to keep your indulgences in check.
- Coconut fats (coconut oil, butter, flakes, milk, cream), support metabolism, immunity and blood sugar.
- Walnuts contain omega-3s and antioxidants that decrease inflammation, insulin levels, and cravings.
- Chia seeds are filled with fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3s.
- Pumpkin seeds are full of healthy fats and the powerful antioxidant zinc.
- Almond butter is rich in healthy fats and the antioxidant vitamin E.
10. “Pig Out” Out
If you tend to go overboard with indulgences, then plan your cheat meals out. Dining out costs more and increases your awareness for what you’re putting in your body. Both of which can help to keep your indulgences in check. However, don’t bring a doggie bag home. Keep temptations out of sight, out of mind.
- Simple: frozen grapes, chia pod, “Banana Smores,” Parfait, Fruity Desserts, Almond Butter
- Thrive Market: Alter Eco, Mamma Chia, Ona Treats, Simple Mills, Sejoyia Foods, Good Bites
- Chocolate lover: Brownies, Covered Berries, Cookies, Mousse, Pudding
- Fruit Ice Creams: Banana Chocolate Chip, Cherry Coconut, Orange Berry Vanilla, Strawberry Banana
- Dairy-Free Milkshakes: Banana Sundae, Date Delight, Prune Perfection, Orange Creamsicle
- Pumpkin: Pudding, Pie, Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds
- Homemade: Cookies, Cheesecake, Popcorn, Sundae Bites, Almond Balls, Fig Bars, Peaches & Cream
- Recipe resources: CNK, Against All Grain, Balanced Bites, Mark’s Daily Apple, Nom Nom Paleo
Cate Ritter is a Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner specializing in weight loss, digestive health and hormone balance. In-person, Skype, phone and corporate health programs available.