Loving the BITE: Why Cheat Meals are Oh-So-Important
Growing up, I don’t think I had ever had proper fish and chips. That was, until a trip to England and Ireland about 9 years ago. We spent 12 days between the 2 countries, and I must have eaten fish and chips 7 of those days. I absolutely loved it. And don’t worry, we were running around all of the place, so no damage done.
In more recent years, I have tried to capture the magic. I have also become really picky. I despise thick fried crusts around the fish. Soggy? Ugh. I definitely want it to seem “light,” have a crispy crush, and I want to taste more fish than batter.
It’s taken me year, but I recently came upon and further developed a recipe that is magical. I look forward to this dish every 1-2 weeks. And I don’t feel a bit of guilt about the calories. Why?
It’s called 2-Cheat-Meals-Per-Week…and it’s a hallmark of my Daily Nutrition eating philosophy with clients who are trying to lose weight. It’s not an afterthought or compromise. It’s a full fledged part of the plan (this is in addition to the 150 daily wasted calories on each plan) and a strong recommendation from me. Here’s my new favorite fish recipe, and why I believe in cheat meals:
Recipe of the Week: Beer Battered Fish
- Cooking oil, preferable avocado oil or high-oleic sunflower/high-oliec safflower oil; if not available, canola (see my post on omega-6s)
- 1 lb. cod fillets, or other white fish such as mahi mahi, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 ½ cups homemade baking mix (or if desire gluten-free, try Bob’s Red Mill Baking Mix)
- Homemade: Combine 5 cups flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 cup coconut oil. Cut through and mix well with 2 butter knives until well-mixed. Reserve extra mix for next time.
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup light beer
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a deep skillet to about 375° (this can be achieved on medium high heat). Test your oil by placing a small amount of batter in it and seeing if it fizzes and floats.
- Combine baking mix, egg, light beer, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until it’s smooth.
- Dip fish into batter. Turn over and coat both sides.
- Place fish in hot oil, frying a few pieces at a time (do not over-crowd). Fry about 3 minutes on each side, turning half-way through (be careful to not knock off batter). The fish should flake easily with a fork when it done.
- Drain on paper towel.
- Serve with homemade tartar sauce and/or malt vinegar. Enjoy!
Of course, I could have definitely made this healthier. As you know I’m well-versed in adding chia seeds and using coconut oil. Garbanzo bean flour, perhaps? But don’t you see, that’s the whole point. Don’t you dare try to healthify my cheat meal. Cheat meals have to be satisfying, the real thing. It’s the old “Snackwells” tactics of reducing fat and turning dessert into diet foods that has contributed to the mess I see in which so many live as “dieters.” While I think it’s fine to make many foods and recipes healthier, cheat meals are shielded from it. Let’s not be dieters.
Instead, let’s be smart, fit, strong eaters.
And, I’m sorry to disappoint, but this week’s topic isn’t backed up by any major studies, a huge amount of research, or even a nutrition survey. It’s simply what I’ve learned over the last 13 years of working with lots and lots of folks who are trying to lose weight, eat healthy and ride their bikes well.
When it comes to flexibility in their meal planning, being satisfied with food and what they’re able to eat, and really seeing this style of eating as a long-term lifestyle, here’s what I found works best for the majority:
2 two cheat meals per week
These cheap meals are not haphazard nor a surprise, most of the time. They are planned out, thought out, looked forward to, and even cherished. They are what allows for the fun in eating; Pizza Friday, birthdays, parties, barbecues, and more. They really help out on vacations. And the best of all, they help to take away the “diet mentality” by making everything within-the-limits, and nothing completely off-limits. Yes, even eggnog.
It’s simply part of human nature to want things you cannot have, and for many dieters the foods that are not allowed are often the ones they want most. But, give them what they want and it often becomes a nonissue.
That’s right. Gimme some beer-battered fish.
Here’s all that I ask from my clients:
Keep it to two per week.
If possible plan them ahead of time.
Eat slowly and stop when you’re full.
No guilt before, during, or after.
Don’t gorge yourself – mostly just because this is not our goal with food.
Of course, because I have some very dedicated clients who want to lose fat fast there are some who sort of cheat at cheat meals. Or, they don’t use them at all even though I recommend it. And this is actually fine, because it’s a mental thing more than anything. The fact that they can use them if they want to is the biggest benefit. In case you’re wondering, the way that some cyclist “cheat” cheat meals (and honestly I often do this myself mostly because I don’t miss all those other foods that much), is to have a cheat meal either as part of the carb-load before a big ride or as recovery combined with the next meal after one. This works too. Sometimes that last climb is motivated mostly by the recovery meal I’ll have afterward… Waffles and bacon I generally waiting for me when I get home on Sunday mornings!
So my cheat meals? If nothing out of the ordinary is going on it’s fish and chips or fish tacos on Fridays, and waffle and bacon with yogurt and lemon curd on Sundays.
And, why not follow the 80/20 rule or allow for entire cheat days? With the 80/20 rule (80% on plan, 20% off) I find that it allows for so much cheating that there is often a group of consecutive days on-plan. And, this can stall their progress. With full day cheats, I’ve seen complete sabotage of all the hard work put in the rest of the week. In one day. That just doesn’t seem fair.
I’d call this 2-cheat-meals-per-week more 90/10.
Again, I believe this is somewhat individual and many different philosophies work for different people. Some time soon, I’ll tackle the differences between my plans and 100% intuitive eating. But for now, I’ll leave you to ponder what delicious cheat meal you might include this week. Let it motivate you to stay on track with delicious, wholesome, on-plan meals and snacks the rest of the time. Or, maybe it will even motivate you up that last tough climb!
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.
If you’d like to work with Kelli one-on-one with a Custom Nutrition Plan & Coaching, or download one of her acclaimed Instant Download Plans like Fuel Right Race Light, click here: Apex Nutrition Plans for Endurance Athletes. Be sure to use coupon code lovingthebike for a 15% discount!