Cheat This Not That: What to Eat on Your Days Off

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As a fitness trainer, I encourage my clients to have a “cheat meal” every so often. Consuming a cheat meal helps your body both physically and mentally. If you’ve been eating clean for a while, you may notice that your brain and metabolism are starting to ask for a little stimulation.

Woman Looking in Refrigerator for Cheat Day Meal |

For the record, a cheat meal doesn’t imply indulging in junk food all day long. If you’re smart about it, you’ll make sure to get a few gains from your cheat meals, whether it’s protein, good fats or both.

You never know when the urge to cheat may hit, so having a “cheat kit” handy with some better-for-you foods to swap for unhealthy ones will make your cheat day a little better.

1. Sweets swaps

This is usually the first type of cheat people cave for—a snack to satisfy the sweet tooth. The following items are my favorite sweet swaps for cheat days. Pair these treats with a cup of green tea or coffee for good measure.

2. Carb swaps

Carbs are crucial to the cheat kit. Our bodies crave carbohydrates—unfortunately, it’s not always the good kind. Thankfully, there are so many options to swap in for carbs so you can stay on track!

  • Pizza (my weakness): When the pizza cravings kick in, opt for thin crust to cut the carbs and be sure to add tons of veggies for added nutrition.
  • Lasagna: Instead of noodles, thinly slice eggplant and zucchini to use instead. Or, turn to zoodles!
  • Pasta: Explore Cuisine makes a variety of organic bean-based pastas that are high in protein and fiber. These great-tasting noodles are perfect for pasta salads, soups or simply with spaghetti sauce. Try chickpea, lentil and black bean.
  • French Fries: Make your own sweet potato fries by slicing a sweet potato or regular potato and baking them with a little olive or coconut oil (you can even sprinkle on some sea salt).
  • Bread: If you’re craving something more savory, like a burger or sandwich, eliminate empty carbs by using a high-fiber tortilla or bread thins instead of a bun to save on calories.
  • Pancakes: Swap regular pancake mix for Birch Benders Protein Pancake & Waffle Mix, which is made from natural, non-GMO ingredients and offers 16 g protein per serving. For an added bonus, swap out sugary syrup for peanut or almond butter—this adds more protein and healthy fat.

3. Salty food swaps

Crunchy, salty treats are usually something we steer clear of when eating clean. Try these awesome swaps when you feel the need for a salty cheat.

4. Coffee swaps

When it comes to a healthy diet, we tend to steer clear of the sugary, high-fat lattes. But when plain black coffee doesn’t do it for you, treat yourself with one of the following specialty coffee drink options. Bonus tip: When you’re ordering from the café, ask for a smaller size so you can go all out!

  • Milk: Go non-fat, or ask for light, skinny milk. The milk will add some protein, which is a plus. But definitely pass on the whip (no cheat is worth that mess!).
  • Vita Coco Café Vanilla Coconut Water Latte: Keep a few cartons of this hydrating, tasty beverage in your pantry to fill your caffeine fix when the craving comes.