I’m not a big fan of “cheat days” on a keto diet.
I personally feel that having cheat days can lead you down an ugly path where you make “cheating” a habit.
However, if your will power is strong and having a cheat meal here and there will keep you sane, then you will benefit greatly from a cheat meal.
But what should you eat for a cheat meal? Should you eat something “bad?” Or should you keep it keto? I’ll get into my thoughts on that below.
Who Should Eat A Keto Cheat Meal?
If you are in the process of adapting to a keto diet or are starting a keto diet, you should NOT do a cheat meal. Right now, you’re body is making the transition from burning primarily glucose for energy to burning fat for energy. Throwing in french fries will confuse your body. Now is not the time to send it mix signals. You want to be clear with your body that you are eating a lot of FAT for a long time so it needs to make the proper enzymatic adjustments to use this new fuel efficiently.
If you are already keto adapted you can have a keto cheat day. The longer you’ve been adapted the better. Your body will fall out of ketosis but be very well designed to get right back in after your cheat day is over.
How Often Should You Have A Cheat Meal?
I think this is more of a personal preference. It depends on how badly you need it and how much of a convenience a cheat day can be for you.
For example, if you are constantly on the road or have frequent business meetings over dinner, you’re not going to have as much control over your food/restaurant choices. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and “cheat”. In this case, you get your cheat day whenever it needs to happen.
But for everyone else, I recommend having a cheat meal every couple weeks if need be. Firstly, if it keeps you sane, then it’s probably a good idea to incorporate cheat days into your diet. It’s nice to be able to go out with friends on a Saturday night and have a few drinks, chips and dip, or whatever else unhealthy stuff that these things often come with.
If you don’t need a cheat meal then definitely don’t have one. The other thing that I don’t like about cheating is that it brings back the cravings of sweets and carbs. They are very addicting. A big benefit of going keto is that you naturally shouldn’t crave carbs and sweets as much. But it’s usually still there to some degree. And when that Wendy’s commercial comes on I can get really damn hungry for a Baconator.
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“Healthy” Keto Cheat Day Food Ideas
You can have a cheat day with any food. It’s better to keep the food paleo friendly. Because after all, it’s just healthier. But, it may defeat the purpose of a cheat meal in that you’re not satisfying that sugar or bread craving. As long as you aren’t going to binge on sugar loaded foods and you are able to get right back into your daily keto habits, I see no problem having sugary foods once every couple weeks.
You know where the Coffee Crisps and bag of chips are. So I won’t give you examples of bad cheat foods. Instead, I’ll give you 10 food ideas that are paleo friendly to have a cheat day with – if you want to keep your cheat day healthier.
Potatoes – I love potatoes. Baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and potato soups. If they weren’t loaded with carbs, I’d have them daily.
Fruits – Yes, you can have that banana, apple, and my two most favorite fruits, oranges and watermelons. Fruits aren’t BAD for you at all. They contain a lot of essential vitamins. However, they are high in sugars. Even though they are the naturally occurring healthy kind, your body still treats it as sugar at the end of the day. Fruits taste extra amazing when you’re on a keto diet BTW.
Honey – I drink all my drinks black, whether it’s tea, coffee, or whatever. You need to get used to drinking stuff like this. But, for a cheat day, spike your drinks with some high quality honey. Having a sweet drink every now is incredibly rewarding, especially after you’ve been so damn good the past couple weeks.
Pasta – If you don’t have an intolerance to gluten or grains, then pasta with maybe alfredo sauce would make an excellent cheat meal. It will be LOADED with sugar, however all of us pasta lovers in a past life know just how good a well done pasta dish is. Some people include grains in the “bad food group”. I can agree to an extent. But honestly, if you have never reacted too poorly to grains, I think it’s a totally awesome way to cheat.
Toast – Yes, plain toast with butter is absolutely amazing. It’s the little things like toast that I really miss since going keto. I actually love white bread and butter. I used to have it all the time. There’s nothing that speaks to my heart as much as a couple pieces of toasted bread with butter.
Berries – Berries are the only fruit type food you can eat on keto. They have some sugars but nowhere near as high as a banana. If you want to get loaded on a healthy food, then go nuts on berries for a cheat meal. You can have them all.
Mac & Cheese – If you eat a lot of Mac and Cheese it gets really gross. BUT on keto, it’s one of those foods I’ve really missed. To keep it healthy, skip the Kraft Mac and Cheese. Buy the best quality grains you can and make your mac and cheese with quality cheese/parmesan, butter, and milk!
Quality Treats – There are a lot of candy and chocolates made from organic honey, stevia, and other healthy flavorful sweeteners. You will find these in local organic stores and online health stores. They make a great treat. I definitely recommend buying JUST enough for the one day. Because if you have this stuff lying around in a cupboard you’re pretty much screwed.
Pizza – Yes, you can make paleo/keto pizza, but does it REALLY taste the same as normal pizza? Cauliflower crust don’t taste the same at all. You can go out and get some Pizza 73 or something, but it would be better to make your own. The MAIN thing is what the crust is made out of. Personally, if you just wanna do a good cheat and have no regrets, use regular flour. You can mix other healthy flours like almond flour in. The toppings can be anything as you know. Make it a full blown cheat meal or keep it very keto friendly. The main thing is to get the TASTE right so it satisfies your cheat day.
Beer, Wine, Spirits – Enjoy a few glasses of wine or beer. That’s probably as much as you’ll be able to handle, since you will NOT be able to hold your liquor like you did when you were a carb eater. I think it’s important to keep your social life positive. If that means having a few drinks every few weeks then it’s something you should do and have no qualms about it whatsoever.
What Happens When You Have A Keto Cheat Day?
When you have a cheat day, you will kick yourself out of ketosis.
That’s okay. Nothing is going to happen to you. Humans naturally go in and out of ketosis. It’s not a all or nothing diet.
If you are very well keto adapted, you will get right back into ketosis. In 24 hours or so. If you are not that great at burning fat for fuel, it can take your body a little longer to get back in.
Basically, what you’ve just done is filled up the TEMPORARY gas tank in your body with sugar. When you get back on the keto wagon, your body will first burn off that extra sugar first for energy. This temporary gas tank will eventually empty, and once that is done, it will again begin using fat for fuel, and you’ll be back in ketosis.
Also, you can speed up the process of getting back into ketosis faster if you eat VERY LITTLE carbs after your cheat day. You can achieve this by having a zero carb day, fasting, or exercising. But my opinion is to not stress about it. I mean, yea you want to be in ketosis, but don’t get hell bent over if you’re in or not. You WILL get in when you stick to your regular keto diet. Whether it takes a day or two really isn’t going to matter in the grand scheme of things.
How Much Should You Cheat?
This is an interesting question since everyone responds to cheat days differently.
I personally recommend having a treat or one meal as a cheat day.
Some people eat whatever the hell they want for an entire day. That’s fine too if you are disciplined and are able to get back on the keto wagon after.
Just know that the more carbs you put in your body on your cheat day, the more it fills up your temporary gas tank. And you will need to empty this tank (filled with stored carbs) first before you can get back to burning fat for fuel (ketosis).
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