I hope everyone had a great weekend; I know I did! It was filled with family, memories, oh, and let’s not forget Ben & Jerry’s, gluten free pancakes, and hot chocolate with extra whipped cream…….
But wait, those last three things aren’t paleo! Gasp! I thought this was a paleo blog where the blogger is perfect and NEVER eats those terrible, non-paleo foods. She’s a liar!
Yes, I know, I feel the same way about me too…..
No, Ben & Jerry’s, non-paleo pancakes, and hot chocolate made with whatever the heck it is made of is not paleo, but will these treats hurt you, if enjoyed in moderation? Absolutely not…..
You see my friends, I believe in the 80/20 template when I eat paleo: 80% of the foods I eat on a daily bases being real, nutritious foods, and the other 20% being, well, foods that aren’t that. Balance and moderation is KEY to everything in life, whether it is eating, how you spend your time, exercising, etc.
Every paleo eater has their own view on “cheat meals” or “treats”; some agree that having them once a week is good, some say once a month, and others (A.K.A “The Paleo Purist”) have super strict guidelines for their diets and almost never allow any treats in the belief and fear that it will mess up their progress and make them fall back into the unhealthy eating path.
The reason I agree with having treats is because nobody deserves to feel restricted and like they can’t eat something just because you are paleo. Paleo is a LIFESTYLE, not a diet. You can’t live your whole life on a strict diet that allows for no wiggle room, as that will make you question why you even eat that way in the first place and lead you to having a bad attitude towards the way that others eat. You will feel angry at your friends because they ordered a dessert and turn up your nose at them because “you don’t eat that.”
Not only will you begin to turn against others and the way they eat, but you will also gain a bad relationship with food if you hold yourself to such a high standard…
Which is why I completely agree with having treats, using the 80/20 outline. Even Dr. Oz recommends that while following the paleo template to allow for three, non-paleo meals per week. If balanced out by real foods a majority of the time, a cheat meal, weekend, or even week (only acceptable while on vacation), will NOT damage your health or progress, but eating those foods every day or even multiple times per week for long periods of time will. Allowing yourself treats will also most likely make you realize that those foods you treat yourself with really aren’t as amazing as they seem and help you to recognize why you eat paleo in the first place.
In addition to my agreement on having cheat meals, I also have 5 “rules” that I like to have when planning for and having my cheat meal:
1. Plan your cheat meal
I don’t know about you, but I don’t do well with going with the flow or “winging” it. It makes me feel stressed. It is a good idea to plan your cheat meals so that you not only can look forward to it, but it also prevents you from getting stressed out about it if the situation arises where you may be offered something unhealthy. For example, if you are going to a party and you know there will be a meal and dessert served there, plan to have that as your cheat meal. That way, if you end up having a bite of, let’s say, cake, that you didn’t plan for, you won’t beat yourself up for “not having control” or “giving in.”
2. Eat light the day of your cheat meal
No, I don’t mean starve yourself all day until the time comes to eat your treat, as that will lead to not feeling satisfied afterwards. What I mean is, have lighter meals and a snack before your treat, such as a smoothie for breakfast, grilled chicken salad for lunch, a light snack before your cheat meal so that you won’t dive head first into your treat starving.
3. Make it count
Are you craving ice cream? Go out and get the most expensive, real, and rich kind you can find (ahem, Ben and Jerry’s?). While it may pack more calories, you will feel much more satisfied than if you were to eat a Healthy Choice fudge bar. Same for any other food- burgers, cheesecake, pasta, etc. Opt for the real thing, not the low fat or “healthy” kind.
4. Slow down; enjoy it!
Take the time to eat slowly and enjoy every bite.
5. No guilt allowed!
Enjoy your treat- you deserve it! Your body is a magnificent creation; you will not get fat or unhealthy from your treat. Don’t obsess over how many calories or grams of sugar you may have just consumed, instead, enjoy your once in a while treat, whether it is a pint of ice cream or a burger and fries.
“But won’t I fall off track?”
Most likely not, but that depends on your willpower. Having treats is also a great way to test your will power and your ability and want to eat healthy. You need to learn how to be able to say “no” to the junk food, and “yes” when the time comes.
“Okay, so what if I do fall off track?”
Then it’s time to get back on the paleo train! Get back to making healthy meals for yourself and give yourself encouragement. Know that you will allow yourself to have another cheat meal in the future, but for now, tell yourself how important it is that you take care of your body, not just for yourself, but for your family and the ones you love as well.
To conclude my view of cheat meals, I want to remind you to be kind to yourself. Life is not about food. While it is extremely important to feed your body plenty of nutrients and eat whole, real foods, it is also equally important to have a good relationship with food and to not feel restricted while eating paleo. After all, eating paleo should not feel stressed or leave you feeling deprived, but should leave you feeling healthy, fit, and happy!
*If you have serious allergies or health issues and get sick and remain sick for a time after a cheat meal, maybe cheat meals aren’t for you. Try making your own treats for the enjoyment of a “cheat meal” without the side effects.
Question(s) of the Day:
1. What is your opinion on having “cheat meals”?
2. How often do you have a “cheat meal”?
3. What is your favorite treat?