Diary of a Fit Woman: Make Cheat Meals Count

If you’ve ever made a significant change to your diet by eating clean and healthy 80-90% of the time, then you know how crucial the cheat meal is. During those times you end up living for the much earned cheat meal. But often, our favorite cheat meals can be cleaned up and made healthier. Here are my tips on how to turn some of the most beloved cheat meals into main meals.

Burgers and Fries

burger and fries

We all like to indulge in a good burger with a side of fries. Instead of saving this for your next cheat meal, turn it into your main by making some key swaps. Instead of beef, use ground turkey or chicken. This will eliminate a lot of fat. Be mindful of your toppings. Go without cheese, and put avocado on your burger instead of bacon, swapping bad fat for good fat. Go lighter on the BBQ sauce or mayo. Eat it open faced or with a healthier bun like a whole grain one. It’s hard to give up the fries, but opt to have a salad on the side. If you have to have fries, bake them instead.


veggie pizza

Being from Chicago, the most indulgent way to eat pizza is deep dish. It’s amazing, but quite a heavy meal. If you love pizza, try making it healthier by preparing it at home. You can buy whole wheat pizza dough from stores like Trader Joe’s. All you need to do is roll it out on a pan. It won’t be deep dish but it will still be just as good. Use low fat mozzarella, then pile on as many veggies as you can. I like to add mushrooms, arugula, and slices of tomato. When I’m making a cleaner version of pizza, I tend to avoid meats like pepperoni and sausage and go for something lean like chicken breasts or no meat at all.

Orange Chicken

orange chicken

Chinese food is high on my list for cheat meals. There’s something about fried chicken drowning in a sweet, tangy sauce that makes a week of eating healthy worth it! But with a few changes, this meal doesn’t have to be a cheat anymore. The biggest change is to bake and not fry the chicken. The next change is to be mindful of how much sauce you use. A lot of times when it comes from the restaurant, there’s too much sauce. At home, be conservative with it and save yourself some calories. Change out fried rice for brown rice mixed with stir fry vegetables. The more vegetables the better.

Soul Food


There’s nothing worse than knowing come Sunday, you can’t eat everything your mom is making for dinner. Sure you could eat a tiny bit of everything, but who wants just a spoonful of baked macaroni and cheese?! So instead you eat until you can’t anymore and tell yourself you’ll do better the rest of the week. It doesn’t have to be this way! One of my favorite meals my mom makes is fried chicken, cornbread and cabbage. I’ve made this a bit healthier by taking out some of her ingredients. My chicken is baked and not fried. If you love the crunch of fried chicken, use Panko bread crumbs to coat your chicken. When my mother makes cabbage, she usually adds bacon or some kind of smoked meat for flavor. I opt to just use onions and garlic or sometimes chicken stock to add flavor to mine. Minus the chicken stock, it becomes a vegan-friendly side. I make my cornbread with almond milk now, which reduces my fat intake, but the key here is to eat just one piece.

Before you begin another week feeling miserable about all of the foods you can’t have until it’s time for your cheat meal, consider making these changes. With these healthier versions, you’ll stay on track with your clean eating goals without feeling deprived or guilty.

Reneé DuBose is a Chicago media professional who was bitten by the health and fitness bug a few years ago. On her journey to get and stay fit, she started a health and wellness blog to share her tips with friends, family and anyone needing help. Visit The Fit Print and keep up with her on Instagram @theFitPrint.