Healthy Cheat Day Meals for Runners and 4 Great Reasons to Indulge
Deciding to eat healthily does not have to be an all-or-nothing concept. Life really is about balance. This is true whether you are talking about exercise, prioritizing your own mental health, how you immerse yourself into your career or the food you chose to eat.
If you take an “all or nothing” approach to eating, you may find yourself in an unhealthy relationship with food. My daughter Carolan put things into a great perspective in a way I won’t soon forget.
She stated how she tries to eat low carb and limit her carbohydrate intake to carbohydrates in their most natural form (such as sweet potatoes and corn on the cob). However, as a mother to two young children, she does not want her kids to ever see certain foods as “bad.”
In other words, you can strike a delicate balance if you enjoy tasty things in moderation.
What Is a Cheat Meal?
A cheat meal is where you completely indulge yourself by eating food you normally would not eat. For example, if you eat low carb, your cheat meal might include pasta and bread.
For someone who focuses on eating low fat, a cheat meal might include a juicy bacon cheeseburger and a side of cheese curds.
Why Include Cheat Meals In Your Diet?
There are many perks to including a cheat meal in your diet. First, if you know you have an opportunity coming up where you can indulge yourself, you may be more likely to stick to your healthy food plan.
Besides keeping you on track, a cheat meal can also boost your metabolism. Following a strict dietary regiment too closely can actually lull weight loss, and the cheat meal can help you get back on track.
Hard to believe, isn’t it? Who thought that a plate full of pizza could actually help your diet.
Lastly, a cheat meal can help prevent a feeling of deprivation that comes from following either a strict or a healthy diet. As my daughter so eloquently said, food is not evil in moderation.
If you are craving cake, have some cake. Just have your cake and get back on track.
Is An Occasional Cheat Meal Okay?
Not only is an occasional cheat meal okay, but it can also actually be very good for you.
The 4 benefits of a cheat meal include:
- Boost your metabolism
- Easier to keep on track the rest of the week
- Keeps you from feeling deprived
- Shifts your mindset from deny to delayed gratification
Can I Have One Cheat Meal a Week?
You absolutely can have your one cheat meal a week. Please note that you should not hop onto a scale for a day or two after indulging. A cheat meal can actually give the scale a short-lived boost in the wrong direction. Just stay off the scale and don’t worry about it.
Plan your cheat day meal over the weekend when you are more likely to be tempted to have fun food.
When I was marathon training, my cheat meal was always on long run day. This way I felt less guilty. Also, I knew that the following day was either for rest or non-impact cross-training. I knew that my food choices would not adversely impact my run.
How Do You Have a Healthy Cheat Meal?
When contemplating the best cheat meals, some athletes want to lean toward being as healthy as possible. So the first thing to focus on here is moderation, and that you can take some very naughty food and make it healthier.
If a cheeseburger is what you crave, consider adding the healthy fat avocado to the burger instead of bacon, which is an unhealthy fat.
Sure, French fries are delicious, but you can make equally delicious sweet potato wedges in an air fryer. See how we took an old favorite and made it healthier?
As I search for a healthy cheat meal, I often turn to pasta. Pasta does not have to be the dietary enemy. Instead of meatballs, you can have strips of chicken with your pasta.
Homemade sauces allow you to control the sugars in the sauce. Instead of opening a jar of store-bought sauce, make your own red sauce with fresh veggies. Also, if you serve your pasta with a significant protein source, you eat less starchy pasta.
Craving a BLT? Sometimes you have to submit to the craving. A BLT is another great chance to add some avocado to your diet. Use that in place of regular old mayo.
4 Cheat Meals For Runners
When I am looking at a cheat meal, I often lean toward carb-heavy food sources.
My favorite cheat day meal ideas include:
- Pasta with red sauce and grilled chicken
- Grilled turkey sandwich with zucchini wedges
- Chocolate chip pancakes and bacon
When I consider what I think are the best cheat day meals, different things come to mind. I no longer do things that I used to consider “cheating” because I have figured out how to make them healthier in my own home.
My husband and I both love spicy chicken wings. We used to have hot wings in restaurants. Now, we buy the big chain sauces and bake the wings in the oven at home.
We have learned that we can replicate many amazing meals on far fewer calories and fat. All of our favorite wings are deep-fried in restaurants. We either bake, or air fry them.
Shifting Your Mindset
One thing to consider is if you actually even need a cheat meal. Many people will tell you that what you really need to do is just never deny yourself. If you enjoy your food in moderation, your body will be happy and treat you well.
I fall somewhere in the middle of this food debate. I don’t feel you should see any food as evil or taboo; however, I do have some foods I tend to stay away from.
Pizza is an example of a food that I rarely eat because I try to limit the amount of grains I eat, and, let’s face it, pizza dough is delicious when made with flour of some sort.
So, I eat pizza in moderation, typically accompanied by an ice-cold beer. I don’t do it often, and I truly enjoy the experience when I have pizza.
That is how I use the cheat meal. It might be something I have been craving, or simply that I am having a girls’ night out and plan to have dinner, cocktails, and dessert.
The important thing for me is that the following day, I get right back on track. A cheat meal or day is not an excuse to completely derail your diet.