Cheat meals can help you lose more weight because they prevent your metabolism from slowing down. When dieting, your body tries to conserve energy by decreasing the number of calories it burns each day. This is called adaptive thermogenesis and cheat meals help reduce its effects.
Another benefit cheat meals offer is that they make sticking to a strict diet easier in the long-run. A cheat meal once every week or two prevents boredom. It allows you to indulge in some of your favorite foods without feeling deprived at all times. Just be sure not to overdo it. Look for healthy food delivery by Ideal Nutrition or similar if you want to save your time in the kitchen. But here, you’ll find juicy recipes in case you prefer cooking cheat meals on your own.
A good example of a cheat meal for weight loss would be a homemade pizza with dough made from chopped cauliflower. This option allows adjusting ingredients according to your fitness goals. Another idea is to make a steak and potatoes. It’s a great cheat meal for athletes who are bulking up. Lean meats are the best option while the side dish adds more juicy flavors to the meal.
While keto requires low-carb foods, bacon-wrapped onion rings are just what you need today. This cheat meal idea is made up of about 200 calories and contains a healthy serving of fat. Cheat meals can still be healthy and nutritious. For example, pasta with grilled chicken contains about 350 calories, 17 grams of protein, and 47 grams of carbs.
Here’s the ultimate guide on cheat meal ideas to fit in your dietary needs (weight loss, mass gain, keto).
Best Cheat Meal for Weight Loss Plateau
If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, a cheat meal might be just what you need. But still, try eating something high in protein and healthy fats, like grilled salmon or chicken breast. The cheat meal can be higher in carbs than your regular meal. But it should also contain nutritious foods (pasta, nachos, pizza). Don’t neglect fruits and veggies for a balanced cheat meal. That will help jumpstart your metabolism.
When you’re feeling run down and tired, cheat on your diet with some sugary goodness. Indulge in a piece of cake, some ice cream, or even a donut. This will bring more energy and a good mood. Just make sure to keep your cheat meals small and infrequent. So you don’t sabotage all of your hard work.
When cheat mealing, make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid eating processed foods. That way you’ll get the most out of your cheat meal without derailing your progress.
Are Cheat Meals Bad for Weight Loss?
No, cheat meals are not bad for weight loss. In fact, a cheat meal can actually boost your metabolism and help you lose more fat in the long-run. It’s recommended to schedule your cheat day beforehand. Wisely planned cheating may help avoid binges and reduce cravings. So cheat meals are not bad for weight loss if they are done right.
We all know how dieting can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. Especially, if this is your first time. Having a cheat meal provides a mental break from counting calories.
Sometimes you need to allow yourself a wee treat to express how well you handle on this way. But still, a cheat meal is a healthy way of eating smart. Don’t confuse it with a messy cheat day that ends up with binges and bloating.
There’s no pressure to have a cheat day. If you feel like keep going on a healthy track, good for you. This is a great sign for the first weeks or a month. But if you crave more motivation, the weight loss plateau hits you, it’s time to add a cheat meal.
3 Cheat Meal Ideas for Weight Loss
You’ll need the following ingredients:
- one cup of chopped cauliflower (steamed then mashed);
- two large eggs, beaten;
- half a cup of grated parmesan cheese;
- a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Mix all these ingredients together in the bowl then form your pizza crust on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until the crust looks crispy. Then spread some tomato sauce, add mozzarella cheese and spinach leaves before putting it back in the oven. Bake for about ten minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You can add even more ingredients like chicken, ham, pepperoni, or any other toppings of your choice.
A pizza is always a great cheat meal idea, and this time you can make it even healthier by using cauliflower as the base. Cauliflower is low in carbs and calories, but still high in nutrients. You can also customize your pizza however you like with different toppings.
2.Nachos with Ground Beef and Cheese
For this delicious Mexican food, you’ll need ground beef, refried beans, cheese, and tortilla chips. You’ll want to start by cooking the meat with some garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. Then add in the refried beans and mix well. Put it all on top of nachos with shredded cheese on top. And put it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about five minutes or until you see that the cheese is melted.
This cheat meal idea is great to break the weight loss plateau. Because you’re getting a combination of protein from the meat along with carbs from tortillas to give you energy for your workout later on. If possible try using organic ingredients. So there are no harmful pesticides added to our food supply. This can cause many health problems down the road.
3.Chicken Stir-Fry with Noodles
To make chicken stir-fry with noodles, you will need:
- one pound chicken breast, thinly sliced;
- half cup soy sauce;
- three tablespoons cornstarch;
- one teaspoon sugar;
- half teaspoon black pepper;
- two tablespoons vegetable oil, divided;
- one and a half cups of frozen mixed vegetables thawed;
- eight ounces of uncooked noodles of your choice.
In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and black pepper. Set aside. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, about three minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet along with the mixed vegetables and cook until tender, about three to five minutes.
Add the chicken back into the pan with vegetables. Whisk the cornstarch mixture again before adding it to the skillet along with two cups of water. Cook while stirring until the sauce has thickened and starts boiling, around one minute. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a few more minutes as you prepare noodles according to package instructions. Serve stir-fry overcooked noodles just before serving.
Should You Have a Cheat Day When Bulking?
If you want cheat meal ideas for bodybuilding, then it’s important to understand that cheat meals aren’t a necessity when bulking. While cheat meals can be helpful in some cases, they can also disrupt your progress. If you don’t have the self-control to stick with them. You might end up eating far too many calories or even cheat on other areas of your diet as well.
The best thing about cheat days is that they help keep you motivated and make dieting more enjoyable. As long as this isn’t at the expense of overall progress, then go ahead! If you decide not to indulge in such foods during this period, that’s fine.
But if you feel like cheating when bulking, here’s a rule of thumb. The foods you eat shouldn’t come over your daily intake of calories. Stick to your protein/carbs/fats range while swapping your meals. Usually, there are enough calories consumed while bulking up so most athletes don’t do cheats these days.
How Many Cheat Meals Are Allowed when Bulking?
If you want to cheat when bulking, then the most cheat meals a week should be one or two. This will ensure that your diet remains on track for the entire duration of your bulk. You can also opt for cheat snacks instead of full-blown cheat meals. That’s a great option if you’re not in the mood to eat too much junk food.
If you have multiple cheat days within a single week, then it’s going to be harder to burn off all those calories and fat. As body weight increases while bulking up. So stick with just one cheat day per week at most.
3 Cheat Meal Ideas for Bodybuilding
1.Home-Made Ice Cream
All you need is:
- one hundred and fifty grams of milk (or for those who are lactose intolerant – almond milk);
- a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. This will help the ice cream become firmer much faster over time.
- three tablespoons of cocoa powder OR two tablespoons of peanut butter instead of cocoa powder (optional). If you want to make chocolate ice cream, add three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Or if you want peanut butter ice cream, add two tablespoons of natural peanut butter instead.
- one tablespoon of your favorite protein powder (optional). To make it even better, try using some cinnamon with the protein and agave syrup as well.
- a teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional). This will give your ice cream a nice flavor that you’ll love.
Put all foods into a blender and blend them until smooth. If you find that it’s too thick, add more milk or water until desired consistency is reached. Add ice cubes to make sure there’s enough liquid content in your ice cream.
2.Steak and Potatoes With Creamy Garlic Sauce
This cheat meal can be enjoyed when you’re on a cut or bulking up. But it’s best saved for those high-calorie days because of the amount of protein and fat in this dish.
- steak cut (leaner cuts are the best option);
- two tablespoons of olive oil;
- four tablespoons of butter;
- one tablespoon minced garlic;
- one teaspoon dried thyme leaves (optional);
- one pound of baby red potatoes;
- half a cup of milk (or cream);
- salt and pepper to taste.
Cut your steak into smaller pieces so that they cook faster and more evenly as well as being easier to eat later on. Place all ingredients into a pan over low heat until meat reaches desired doneness. You can also cheat by using a pre-made creamy garlic sauce.
Wash your potatoes well then slice them into small rounds. In a pot over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter then add the potatoes. Stir frequently until potatoes are soft and slightly golden in color then remove from heat. Add remaining butter, milk, salt, and pepper to the pot and mash everything together until desired consistency is reached.
If you want some added crunch, try roasting the mashed potato mixture for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
3.Meatballs with Spaghetti
- ground beef;
- one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree;
- eggs/egg whites;
- minced onion or garlic powder if desired (or even fresh herbs);
- breadcrumbs/almond flour (or oat flour);
- Worcestershire sauce (optional).
To make cheat meal pasta you can use a pre-made marinara sauce or make your own.
To make your own, heat about three tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium flame. Add chopped garlic and onions then stir for about two minutes until fragrant. Pour tomato sauce and simmer for an additional five to six minutes before removing from heat. Season with salt, pepper, Italian herbs such as rosemary or basil. And any other flavorings you prefer (e.g., red chili flakes).
For the meatballs: mix together ground beef, eggs/egg whites, minced onion, or garlic powder if desired. Add breadcrumbs/almond flour (or oat flour), Worcestershire sauce (optional), salt & pepper. And any other herbs or spices you’d like (e.g., parsley). Form into meatballs and bake on a lined baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15-20 minutes until done.
While meatballs are in progress, make spaghetti. It’s best to cook it “al dente” which is Italian for “to the tooth”. So you’ll end up with slightly firm spaghetti to the bite. Once both spaghetti and meatballs are done, plate them up however you’d like and enjoy.
Can You Have a Cheat Meal on Keto?
It’s better to avoid having cheat meals on the keto diet. At least, during the first weeks. This will help you keep your results and avoid kicking your body out of ketosis (i.e., being fat-burning mode).
If you’re on the ketogenic diet, cheat meals are a bit different because it’s not as simple as just “eating whatever you want.” If you eat too many carbs or even too much protein, your body will stop burning fat for energy. So cheat meal ideas for keto need to be fairly low in both.
Here’s what happens when you cheat on a keto diet. You eat carbs, your body burns them for energy instead of fat, and you lose the benefits of ketosis. You may even gain weight. Because when you cheat on a keto diet, you’re not really eating that many calories. Most likely because they will all be from carbs.
But if you absolutely have to cheat on a keto diet, here are some ideas:
- eat something high in healthy fats like avocado or olive oil;
- choose lower-carb cheat meal options like grilled chicken or fish with lots of vegetables;
- avoid grains and sugars as much as possible. These will spike your blood sugar and set you back for weeks.
If you follow these tips, you can still enjoy your cheat meal without ruining all your hard work. Plus, check the keto cheat meal ideal below.
3 Cheat Meal Ideas for the Keto Diet
- ground beef;
- sour cream;
Put the ground beef in a skillet and cook the meat over medium heat until browned. Add cheese and bacon and continue cooking until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream if desired.
Cut a bun in two halves. Add tomatoes, pickles, and onion rings if you like. Place the beefsteak in between.
2.Bacon Wrapped Onion Rings
For this keto cheat meal, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- one big onion;
- two eggs;
- keto-friendly breadcrumbs;
Cut an onion into quarters and separate the onion layers. Dip each layer in flour, then egg, then keto-friendly breadcrumbs (you can make them yourself). Wrap bacon around each ring and secure it with toothpicks. Bake until golden brown at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce if desired.
Bacon and onion rings are a great cheat meal on keto as they are both low in carbs and high in fat.
3.Keto Pizza with Fathead Dough
Ingredients for pizza:
- one and a half cups of mozzarella cheese (shredded);
- two tablespoons cream cheese;
- one egg, beaten;
- half teaspoon baking powder (optional but recommended);
- a quarter cup coconut flour or almond flour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In an oiled pan on medium heat, melt the mozzarella and cream cheese until smooth. Add in eggs for binding purposes. As well as some salt and pepper if desired. Then stir again with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps left behind.
Take off the burner once done mixing everything together. Because this will take too long otherwise. You will want it nice and hot when you put your toppings on top later. So that they don’t get soggy from being cold while cooking.
Pour your mixture into an oiled pan, spreading it evenly across the bottom. Then bake this in the oven until golden brown (about 15 minutes). Let cool before slicing and serving with toppings of choice!
Toppings options include:
- pepperoni slices;
- shredded mozzarella cheese;
- marinara sauce or pizza sauce for dipping on top;
- sliced olives (optional);
- fresh basil leaves if desired too.
If you like spicy foods then try adding some crushed red pepper flakes to taste as well. You can even make a healthy version by using turkey bacon instead of regular pork bacon.
Image by The Matter of Food on Unsplash
Healthy Cheat Meal Ideas
Low-Calorie Cheat Meals
Can you cheat meal healthily? Yes, you most certainly can! In fact, there are plenty of healthy cheat meal ideas that will satiate your cravings without destroying all of your hard work.
One great option is to make a light version of one of your favorite dishes. For example, if you love pizza, try making a grilled chicken and veggie pizza instead of the regular variety. Another healthy cheat meal idea is to prepare a big plate of roasted veggies with some grilled chicken or fish on top. This provides you with lots of filling fiber and protein as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
Another great way to indulge in a healthy cheat meal is by enjoying one of your favorite comfort foods in moderation. For example, have a small bowl of macaroni and cheese with some chicken or shrimp for a healthy cheat meal. You can also have just one cheat meal a day, such as an apple pie after dinner.
Desserts are generally high in sugar and saturated fats. These aren’t good for you in large quantities. But if eaten occasionally they can be beneficial to health by promoting satiety and boosting mood. If you eat too many sugary foods, then try swapping out chocolate cake or ice cream with fruit salad instead.
High-Carb Low-Fat Cheat Meals
If you’re trying to build muscle, then a high-carb low-fat cheat meal is a good option. This type of cheat meal will help replenish your energy stores and promote protein synthesis. A good example of this would be a large bowl of pasta with grilled chicken or steak.
You could also try a pizza cheat meal which is high in carbs and calories. Just make sure that the pizza isn’t overloaded with cheese and processed meats.
Another idea is to make a cheat meal sandwich. This can be done by making a large chicken, tuna, or egg salad sandwich on whole-grain bread. Eat it alongside some fresh fruit such as an apple and strawberries.
These cheat meals will leave you feeling full, but they won’t pack on the pounds as other cheat meals do.
Cheat meals can be useful for weight loss, building muscle, and staying on track with a keto or low-carb diet. Just make sure that your cheat meal is healthy and doesn’t contain too many calories or unhealthy ingredients. You can also try some of the cheat meal ideas listed in this article.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.