Are cheat meals good for you?
“It’s very important to cheat,” contends Ramona Josephson, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, a closer look reveals why cutting yourself some slack may actually help you shed pounds. It’s easier to stick to a healthy eating plan if you allow yourself a little flexibility, she says.
Breena Fretz, a public health dietitian at Brant County Health Unit in Brantford, Ont., agrees. “It makes it more sustainable,” she explains. “The more you take [a treat] away from yourself, the more you’re going to crave it.” Josephson recommends her clients eat three meals and two snacks a day to keep blood sugar steady.
Erratic eating can cause spikes in blood sugar, which can lead to cravings for high-sugar foods and, ultimately, to bingeing. She is also keen on a well-balanced diet: Loading up on veggies, including protein at every meal and opting for carbs at breakfast and lunch, with carbs at dinner being optional.
Not all the dietitians we interviewed for this story agree with a “cheating is okay” approach to weight loss. But all prefer their clients follow a healthy and balanced eating plan that can be maintained for a lifetime, rather than a diet that highly restricts calories or cuts out certain food groups.
For many people, though, even the best-designed diet needs a little flexibility, a small amount of indulgence.
“If you don’t allow yourself ‘cheat foods,’ when you do cheat, you’ll be filled with guilt, which may set you spiralling backwards,” Josephson says.