What Nutritionists Eat: On Cheat Days

Experts weigh in on how they regulate cravings when on a healthy path

Ayushi Thapliyal

If you follow a well-balanced and healthy diet plan, workout regularly or follow a strict budget, it’s natural that you would crave guilty pleasure food every once in a while. In fact, a study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology discovered that planning certain days when you allow yourself a 'cheat day' can boost your drive in the long run. Meanwhile, other schools of thought disagree with the concept entirely and believe that the idea that you’re ‘good’ if you eat clean or ‘bad’ if you cheat can cause a psychological barrier.

A balanced way to get around your cravings is thinking of it as a cheat meal instead of a cheat day. Your cheat meal can be part of your diet, while a cheat day could potentially ruin your balanced and healthy plan. Shweta Bhatia, a Mumbai-based clinical and sports nutritionist, chooses to keep a record of her cheat meals. “I eat any one specific food I have craved through the week which is just one meal. I usually keep a diary of what I eat so I don’t go berserk and pick one food from that list,” she shares.

Meanwhile, Delhi-based clinical nutritionist Lovneet Batra believes that eating what you want should not be associated with a sense of cheating. “Eat what you love but know how to balance food for taste with food for health. For every indulgence meal, make sure you are eating four fresh home cooked meals,” she suggests.

Find out what you enjoy the most. If brunch is your go-to meal then enjoy that. If you love fries or pizza, relish them as you eat. Follow the universally approved 90:10 rule. According to this, 90 per cent of your diet should be focussed on healthy food while the remaining 10 per cent can be devoted to 'cheat' meals.

Sheela Krishnaswamy, Bengaluru-based dietician and wellness consultant, doesn’t have cheat days either. “Knowing how to balance the food and nutrient intake makes it easy for me to decide the quantity and quality of food,” she says and adds, "I indulge when I go for a party or when I dine out.”

A cheat meal requires restraint and compromise as your body still needs its essential macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat for energy and to build muscle. A cheat meal is a time to enjoy the “bad” carbs and fat which could mean going from having roasted potatoes to French fries or grilled chicken to fried chicken for one meal during the week.

Having a tough time being earnest? Follow your binges with clean foods. Since there is little you can do to reverse the damage after indulging in a cheat meal—you can take a healthy stride to the future by choosing foods that help your body detoxify. For instance, water and potassium-rich foods such as bananas and dark leafy greens help balance sodium levels and reduce bloating. While probiotic foods such as yoghurt can help ease your digestive system.

Remember to keep an open mind and not deprive yourself of what you want. While indulgences to an extent can help you unwind, what works for one person may not work for the other. It’s important to find what works for you and your system.


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