We all know that it’s important to eat healthy if we want to be healthy and feel good. Realistically, though, it’s not always easy to eat highly-nutritious meals every single time. Work, family, medical emergencies…. these can all make us time-poor and put a strain on any eating plan. And once we slip up – by skipping a meal and then making up for the hunger pains with a block of chocolate, for example – it can be easy to fall into the mindset that says, “Well, that’s my healthy eating plan down the drain. I’ve screwed it all up now!”
So we want to examine the question: what if I eat something not on my healthy eating plan?
First, let’s look at a basic healthy eating plan. For most people, we recommend the following dietary mix:
• 50-75% plant food: high-fibre fruits and vegetables – Eat rainbows people. The more colour the better!
• Around your training sessions, include nutrient packed carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and legumes.
• The rest of your eating should consist of lean protein and some fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Eat good quality, healthy, sensibly-portioned meals that conform to these basic standards 3-4 times a day. That’s between 21 and 28 nutritious meals each week.
Now, the ‘cheating’. Many personal trainers of our acquaintance have a similar theory – that of the cheat day. They say that sticking to a strict regimen of great food and exercise will do your body the world of good, but sometimes you need to nurture the pleasure-seeking side of yourself – and that if you do it regularly, in small ways, you’re unlikely to let loose with one huge cataclysm of sugar and chocolate and fat that not only puts you back a few paces in your wellness journey, but also makes you feel horribly ill in its aftermath. So they recommend a ‘cheat day’ once a fortnight, or a ‘cheat night’ once a week, where their clients are encouraged to relax their standards and indulge a little.
If you’re eating, say, 28 small, well-balanced, nutritional meals every week, then we’d say that you can generally afford to ‘cheat’ on 2-3 of those meals. We’re not recommending that you eat half a pizza 2-3 times a week, mind you! But a planned ‘cheat’ meal might consist of:
• A slice of pizza and a garden salad.
• A small steak with mashed potato instead of steamed vegetables.
• Your normal healthy meal with a cheesecake dessert.
See how you’re still getting some of the recommended nutrients with your meal, but you’re also indulging by including something that doesn’t fit in with your eating plan?
To summarise: the occasional cheat on your eating plan doesn’t have to be a disaster – in fact, it can be beneficial in helping you to keep on the path of healthy eating. Just don’t overdo it, and ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients that it needs.