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We all know that it’s incredibly difficult to outwork an unhealthy diet. But completely cutting out the food that makes us happy can make it all too easy to go off the rails with our diets. So, what’s the solution? Adding a diet cheat day once a week can satisfy your craving while keeping you on target.

What is a Cheat Meal?

Cheat meals or cheat days vary from person to person, but generally speaking it is the practice of deviating from a planned diet for a pre-determined amount of time. This acts as a reward strategy which should, in theory, help to keep dieters on track. On a cheat day, it’s possible to eat anything you want before going back to your planned diet.

If you’re wondering how often to have a cheat meal, that will also depend on the individual. A cheat day once a week might be enough to satisfy your cravings without seeing weight gain, but it’s up to you to monitor this to ensure you don’t suffer any setbacks.

Need some inspiration for your cheat days? Here are our top ten healthy cheat meals for all the satisfaction without any of the setbacks.

Guilt-free Pizza

Ordering in pizza is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but to say they’re unhealthy is an understatement. The good news is that you can still get your cheese/ dough fix without piling on the pounds. Simply buy a ready-made base (preferably wholegrain) and experiment with healthy toppings. If you need some inspiration, there are lots of mouth-watering topping combinations here to choose from.

Photo from: Greg Dupree |

For an even healthier option, try making a tortilla-based pizza. They’re so much lighter but still incredibly tasty. 

Breakfast Indulgence

Every day should begin with a hearty breakfast. It’s hard to beat a pile of fresh pancakes, and it’s easier than you might think to adapt your stack to be the perfect cheat day treat. This banana oatmeal recipe uses maple syrup for natural sweetness and the oatmeal and banana base keeps things nice and healthy.

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Cheating Taco Tuesday

Tacos are undeniably delicious, but with the addition of cheese, sour cream, and fatty meat they aren’t usually something that can be eaten on a diet. It’s actually quite easy to adapt tacos to be healthy (but still delicious). This sriracha shredded chicken recipe is fresh and spicy, and this succulent barbacoa recipe ditches the calories but retains the authentic flavors of Mexico.

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Clean Eating Cheating

If you’re cutting, you’re probably eating as cleanly as possible. That doesn’t have to change: you can still enjoy a cheat meal without ruining your progress. If you’re eating out go for high-carb, high-protein options like sushi (but avoid the tempura). Or if you want a homemade cheat meal, cook up a steaming bowl of spaghetti and meatballs using lean meat and wholegrain pasta.

Savory Snacks

Sometimes nothing but a big bag of chips and a bowl of dip will do. But your body won’t thank you for this calorie-heavy treat, so choose a smarter way to cheat instead. For the chips, choose a brand made from nutritious ingredients like quinoa, chickpeas, or lentils. Aim to buy baked chips too, to cut down on fat. For a rich and creamy dip without the calories, this eggplant hummus packs in lots of protein. Or, for tortilla chips, try this rich and vibrant mango avocado salsa.

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Cheat Day Cupcakes

Special occasions such as birthdays make it especially difficult to stay on plan, but you can have your cake and eat it. These blueberry muffins with cream cheese frosting pack in plenty of fruit to keep them light and the low-fat topping makes them surprisingly low-calorie.

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Juicy Lucy Sliders

Finding a satisfying cheat meal on Keto is easier than you might think. This low-carb diet allows meat and cheese, so these cheese-stuffed burger patties are a no-brainer. You can go wild with the toppings, too. A dollop of guacamole gives sliders a great creaminess, lean bacon adds crunch and saltiness, and an egg fried sunny side up stops the burger from being dry. And, if you really can’t live without burger buns, you can make your own in a matter of minutes.

Meat-free Cheat Meal

If meat isn’t your thing don’t worry: some of the best cheat day meals are animal product free. PETA has a great recipe for mac and ‘cheese’ which is the ultimate comfort food. Or you can modify our other cheat meals to suit your diet. A Portobello mushroom makes a great beef patty substitute for Juicy Lucy Sliders, you can make a healthy pizza even healthier by piling on the veggies, or you can stick to vegetarian sushi if you don’t eat fish.

Sin-free Sweet Treat

There are plenty of ways to satisfy sweet cravings without risking a sugar crash, and healthy ice cream is our favorite option for low-calorie desserts. This chocolate peanut-butter ‘nice cream’ doesn’t taste like a healthy version at all. It’s also dairy-free and you can add chocolate-flavor protein powder for extra muscle-building properties.

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Cheat Day Drinks

Ok, so this isn’t technically a meal but some days call for a drink or two and some options are better for us than others. If you like to beer stick to light versions, or if you prefer wine switch out the sugary Zinfandel for something lighter like a Chenin blanc.

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It’s even possible to indulge in a cocktail or two on cheat day. This list features some tasty, low-calorie options that have a good amount of alcohol in them.

Final Thoughts

It’s widely believed that healthy cheat days can be the key to a successful exercise routine and diet plan. Allowing yourself to indulge can make it easier to stay on track the rest of the time. The best cheat meal plan is to stick to healthier options. That way, you satisfy your cravings without totally derailing your fitness goals.

What’s your favorite healthy cheat meal? Let us know in the comments.

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