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The Best Cheat Meal Ideas for Your Cheat Day

You may be shocked these “cheat meals” are healthier than imagined. Find out which cheat foods have a surprisingly rich nutrient profile and can offer some impressive health benefits!

The Best Cheat Meal Ideas for Your Cheat Day

The concept of a cheat meal and cheat day is multifaceted.

But perhaps the core of enjoying these meals is to help one stick to their diet when trying to lose weight. Following a strict diet plan can lead to feelings of restriction, increasing the risk of binge eating and weight gain.

While all foods can fit into a healthy eating plan, you may be surprised some junk foods are healthier than imagined. What’s more, your favorite foods are likely to make the cut!

15 Healthy Cheat Meals & Snack Ideas

From pizza to milkshakes, these cheat foods surprisingly have a rich nutrient profile and can lead to some impressive health benefits!

1. Pancakes

Pancakes are thought to be a high-carb breakfast staple. And they certainly can be, especially when drowned in maple syrup.

But they can be nutrient-rich when using whole grain or nut-based flours such as in these cinnamon apple pancakes. Adding protein powder to the mix can make the pancakes even more satisfying.

2. Burgers

Adding fancy toppings and condiments, including macaroni and bacon, make most burgers a high-calorie item. Ordering up a burger packs some serious nutrients, including protein, iron, and zinc, when kept in its simplest form.

For an extra nutritional punch, choose grass-fed beef when available. Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed is lower in saturated fat and richer in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients.

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3. French Fries

These healthy and delicious sweet potato fries are the perfect complement to a juicy burger. 

Besides, potatoes are rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin A.

4. Milkshakes

To tie up this diner-esque theme: Adding milkshakes to the burgers and fries! (But maybe not overindulging on all at once.)

While milkshakes are looked at as a sweet treat, they are actually quite nutritious. Milk supplies protein, calcium, and other beneficial nutrients.

The added carbs can even enhance muscle recovery. This is the reason why chocolate milk is considered one of the best post-exercise recovery beverages for endurance sports.

5. Pizza

Pizza is craved by most but not enjoyed by all when dieting. Unlike popular belief, though, pizza can be quite nutritious when preparing a simple recipe at home.

Swap out a dense crust for a whole grain tortilla or flatbread then spoon on tomato sauce. Add fresh veggies, lean proteins, and other favorite pizza toppings then sprinkle with cheese. Bake in the oven until crispy and enjoy!

6. Pulled Pork

Pork is rich in protein, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium. The slathering of sugary BBQ sauce is what makes it so sinful.

Let the other white meat shine by reducing the amount of BBQ sauce or using a sugar-free option.

7. Loaded Baked Potato

As previously mentioned, potatoes are quite nutrient-dense and satisfying. In fact, the spud has shown to be the most satiating food based on the satiety index.

Instead of relying on a beaucoup amount of bacon, sour cream, and cheese for flavor, lighten the load a bit. Top with pulled pork, shredded chicken, steamed veggies, Greek yogurt, and other creative ingredients.

8. Chicken Wings

Chicken is a known lean protein source fitting into dieters and fitness fanatics alike. The issue with chicken wings is they tend to be deep-fried and drenched in buttery buffalo sauce.

For a cheat meal idea that actually is not cheating, bake chicken wings then toss in a low-fat hot sauce. Dip wings into Greek yogurt ranch to kick the protein and flavor up a few notches!

9. Spaghetti and Meatballs

Pasta is often disregarded with many weight loss plans, though spaghetti and meatballs can actually be a wholesome meal. Whole grain noodles offer some serious nutrients while meatballs are rich in protein.

If concerned about the high carb content of the noodles, prepare spaghetti squash. Simply cook squash and scrape out the flesh with a fork for a low-carb noodle option.

10. Chicken Pad Thai

Craving Asian food but not all the sugar and sodium that often comes with a pan-fried bowl?

Prepare a nutrient-dense version of your own by bulking a serving of noodles or rice with steamed veggies. Rather than using sugary sauces, offer flavor with a light drizzle of low-sodium soy sauce. Mixing in a dollop of peanut butter also gives a nutty flavor to the dish.

11. Cheese Plate

A cheese plate with a glass of wine may taste sinfully indulgent, but it can actually be quite healthy! Cheese is packed with protein and calcium while wine supplies a powerful antioxidant known as resveratrol.

Build a cheese plate with high-quality cheeses, fresh fruits, and nuts. Pair with a glass of red wine, just be sure to stick to a serving for maximum benefit!

12. Burrito Bowls

Craving authentic Mexican flavors on your cheat day? Build one nutrient-packed burrito bowl!

Scoop a serving of brown rice in the bottom of a bowl. Layer with favorite toppings, including ground beef, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, salsa, and guac.

13. Popcorn

Think you have to forego the popcorn on movie night? Think again!

But instead of dousing the kernels with butter and salt, use seasonings found in your pantry to enhance flavor. For instance, try pizza seasonings such as oregano and basil or sweetened ideas like cinnamon.

14. Ice Cream

But not sitting down to the entire carton… Those preportioned ice cream cups are the perfect nightcap once and awhile.

Besides, a cup of rich vanilla ice cream is truly satisfying while supplying protein and calcium.

15. Dark Chocolate

Calling all chocolate lovers!

Dark chocolate, especially, contains monounsaturated fats, a type of fat that can help improve cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels. The chocolate also supplies a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants shown to support heart and brain health.

To ensure the benefits of chocolate, look for chocolate products with minimal added sugars.