Staying healthy and maintaining a fit body is a life long journey. As my girlfriend and I like to call it, “a marathon and not a sprint”. And for this reason, instilling a proper diet that you can maintain on a daily basis for years and years to come is key to maintaining that healthy lifestyle. And even for those who tackle it as a sprint, the purpose is the same. We push ourselves to eat super healthy and clean for x amount of days and then we cave here and there on a cheat meal in order to stay sane and enjoy life a bit. Ahhh, the amazing cheat meal. This is what I dream about and think about come Thursday night in bed. Being a foodie and chef, I’m always thinking about food, and when I stick to a healthy strict regimen 5 days a week, every week, my weekend becomes dedicated to eating the food I crave, regardless of whether it’s healthy or not.
And it’s the best! But even then, I would like to preface that it’s not a free for all. It doesn’t mean camping outside a Krispy Crème with a bag of Doritos in hand and a big gulp. Cheat meals are meant to be a way to reward yourself with quality food you really enjoy and not an excuse for you to lose control and stuff your face with junk food. Below are 20 Foods I would avoid as cheat meals, and in general.
1. Fast Food Pizza Delivery – If I’m going to treat myself to pizza, it better be the best kind. I only eat pizza from my favorite spot and at the restaurant, never delivered. It’s such a waste of calories to eat mediocre generic pizza delivered lukewarm in a box. Not to mention everything is so processed at the fast food pizza joints. Avoid at all costs!
2. Mediocre Bar Food – Unless you’re eating at a gastropub, skip the awful items you see on bar menus. From the frozen buffalo wings, to frozen fries, fake nacho cheese, and dry sliders sitting on red and white checkered paper…run the other way. If you are enjoying a night out, save some room for a real cheat meal. Head to your favorite burger joint and grab a real burger and fries. oh heck even throw in the shake. You deserve it.
3. Jolly Ranchers and Starbursts – I don’t know what it is about Starbursts or Jolly Ranchers, but I see them everywhere. At the doctor’s office, the car wash, all waiting room as a thank you for your patience with us. These candies are straight sugar and food coloring that gives you maybe one minute of satisfaction and a colored tongue. Forget it. Eat a real dessert!
4. Pasta Alfredo – Pasta Alfredo is hardly ever done well and honestly just too heavy and one dimensional of a pasta dish. These days there are so many delicious pasta dishes we can get, it’s wise to axe this old school classic. Instead opt for some carbonara, a pasta flecked with black pepper, guanciale, egg yolks, cheese…now that’s a cheat meal worth digging into.
5. Chips – I generally skip this entire section at the grocery aisle. If I’m going to have a real cheat meal, I’d rather have a full meal than waste calories on some greasy chips. I’ll take duck fat fries over a bag of lays any day.
6. Movie Theater Artificial Butter – I don’t know what it’s made of but it’s safe to say it can’t be good for you. If you want to indulge on that movie popcorn, skip the butter and toss some salt and pepper on it. Adds flavor without the fake stuff.
7. Chili dog – I like chili and I like hot dogs, but together I find it to be overkill. I’d rather cheat on a hearty knock your socks of bowl of chili with a nice loaf of crusty bread or have a hot dog at a baseball game with the works. These foods on their own is a good enough cheat meal. Let’s not double up two cheat meals into one. Save it for another time.
8. Enchiladas – I love Mexican food and there’s plenty of cheat meals to sink my teeth into when it comes to this cuisine such as tacos, burritos, and nachos. For me, enchiladas fall last on my list. This dish is heavy and doesn’t incorporate as much of the fresh ingredients you can find in Mexican food that gives it a fresh pop. Tacos, burritos and nachos at the very least, come with some fresh guacamole, or pico de gallo. These condiments lighten up your meal even when it’s a cheat meal.
9. Cupcakes – Cupcakes are hardly ever really gourmet. Even the fancier ones taste kind of the same and with all that frosting, I’m ready to heel over after one bite. I’d rather have an interesting slice of cake, artisanal ice cream or even a freshly baked cookie. Think twice before you pick up that cupcake next time. I know it’s just so easy but there’s something better than that you can enjoy.
10. Sugar laden cereal like Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms. It’s childhood nostalgia, I know. But if I’m going to really eat something to reward myself, some artificially flavored cereal just isn’t going to cut it.
11. Taco Bell – Please go to a taqueria or even a taco truck for the real deal. Don’t head for the bell and eat that overly processed meat with salsa that comes out of a plastic packet. So not worth it.
12. Cinnamon bun – unless it’s some famous item from a bakery that sells it to a line of fans, skip this sugar and fat laden calorie bomb. These things are usually massive too, so it leads to overeating.
13. Danishes – I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a famous Danish. They are almost always some soggy pastry that sits at some conference room or breakfast buffet. It’s glazed in sugar, filled with a sad dollop of fruit and the dough is usually limp. Skip this as your cheat meal. Wait for a real pastry, a perfectly baked croissant perhaps?
14. Fruit Ice pops – Artificial fruit and coloring in a block of ice. You tell me if that’s a good idea as a cheat meal? Do yourself a favor and pick a nice sorbet, packs way more flavor and will satisfy your icy craving far better.
15. Microwave meals like Chicken Pot Pie – The chicken tastes like water has been injected into it and the vegetables have this weird crunchy but soft texture to it. Moral of the story, if you are going to cheat, go out for a real restaurant meal. Don’t you even think about picking up some bad microwave meal as your cheat meal, even if it’s pizza, a pot pie or lasagna. Go have the real thing.
16. Chicken Nuggets – That meat is not 100% chicken. Go eat some real fried chicken instead. It’s way more delicious than some heavily processed chicken coated in some odd batter that won’t mold for days if left out.
17. Breakfast potatoes – I know we are cheating here, but there are better potatoes to cheat on such as French fries, hash browns, baked potato, tater tots. Scrap those potatoes off your hearty breakfast plate or swap it out for fruit and eat some bacon instead.
18. Bread basket – Whenever I’m out for a dinner and ready to eat, I always skip the bread basket or the free bread. It’s a filler at dinner before the main show. If I’m going to cheat on bread, It’s going to be some good, artisan bread out of a bakery that is known for baking. Otherwise, I’ll skip the generic baguette or mediocre rolls.
19. Sodas – It’s probably easy for me to avoid soda as a cheat meal food as I don’t have an addiction to it and I know it can be addicting for some people. But for this very reason, I also think it’s a good idea not to use soda for your cheat meal. Instead, I’d rather go all out and have a smoothie or shake. And these days, if you want something bubbly, there are so many great soda alternatives that provide that same pep. Trader Joe’s carries fabulous, affordable drinks with ginger, lemon, blood orange, yuzu, and coconut. You feel fancy drinking it and it tastes great without the calories or sugar.
20. Mixed Cocktails – If I’m going out to enjoy myself, I’d rather sip on a nice glass of wine, enjoy a perfectly made gin martini than waste my calories on watered down cocktails laden with sugars and god knows what, because tomorrow you may wake up with a nasty hangover from the various mixers you had. SKIP!