There is some debate about whether or not cheat days are good or bad for you. I can end that debate; cheat days are good for you. Cheat days help curb cravings and they can act as a reward for sticking with your meal plan all week. Everyone likes a reward.
Consider, as you read this, how much exercise you get each week. If you are doing 20 minutes of cardio four days a week and weight training at least 4 days a week, you can afford to have some of the carbs in this article more often. You’ll burn them up during cardio or training. Plus you need to add extra carbs for fuel or you’ll be fit, but tired all the time.
If you are just starting a low carb meal plan or a low carb / low fat meal plan, I would avoid a cheat day during the first two weeks of the plan. After your body adjusts to your new diet, throw in a cheat day each week. Let me be clear, a cheat day is not a free day to gorge yourself on pizza and cheeseburgers. In fact, you should always avoid fast food or foods that are, essentially, just loads of carbs. You can have a cheeseburger on cheat day, but make it yourself and use a whole grain bun or no bun at all. Cheat days should be limited to minor indulgences or good carbs.
Oatmeal is my choice for breakfast about 3 times a week. Oatmeal does have a lot of carbs, but they are slow release carbs. You also get about 10 grams of protein per half cup of oatmeal. Oatmeal is slow and steady muscle fuel.
Barley can help stabilize blood sugar and decrease inflammation. Barley is a solid food with good carbs and it helps you feel full longer which keeps those cravings at bay.
Whole Grain Pasta
Every fad diet on the market either tells you to not eat pasta or that “on our diet you can eat all the pasta you want.” Both are wrong. Whole grain pasta is a great cheat day carb. Just make sure the pasta you choose is a quality product and not regular pasta with a tan.
Studies show that most beans are good for your heart. Black beans go a step further and provide more anthocyanins than most other beans. Studies show anthocyanins can improve brain function. Black beans can make you smarter! It hasn’t helped me much yet, but I am keeping hope alive.
These squash are naturally sweet tasting and one serving is about one third of your daily vitamin C requirement. Some studies have shown, although the science is inconclusive, that vitamin C can help speed up fat loss during exercise.
With barley being the exception, most of these foods are tasty. I am not a barley fan, but you may be. Whatever you do, do not use cheat day as an excuse to fill your stomach with unhealthy foods. Use good carbs and minor indulgences as your cheat day reward.
If you have a suggestion for a good carb or a good cheat day recipe, let me know in the comments. In the mean time, have a look at these 10 Fast Low Carb Recipes that are perfect for cheat day meals.