Food and Diet

How to 'cheat' on your diet without ruining it

(CNN)Food is one of life's greatest pleasures, so with just about every diet I've ever prescribed, I've given "permission" for people to incorporate their favorite treats. It's something I make room for in my own daily life and believe others should, too.

This concept of eating your favorite treats while on a weight loss plan is often referred to as "cheat meals." But personally, I would never think of eating your favorite foods with planned indulgences as "cheating" on your diet. I'm not alone.
"I don't like to use the word 'cheat meal' because I think it connotes that there are good and bad foods," said Martha McKittrick, a registered dietitian and health and wellness coach. "You think if you are 'cheating,' you are eating a bad food, and it sets up a mind game."
    "Cheat meals are an indication of not being happy with your diet," added Mascha Davis, a registered dietitian in private practice and national media spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
    Changing the word "cheat" to "treat" can make all the difference in the way foods are perceived and can prevent the potential for disordered eating, according to experts. But whether you call them "treats," "splurges" or something in between, most agree that there are positive aspects of including them in your diet.

    The benefits of planned indulgences

    Incorporating planned indulgences helps to give people something to look forward to, especially when following a stringent weight loss plan. And whether it's a piece of cake, a scoop of ice cream or a big juicy cheeseburger, scheduled splurges can also break up the monotony of restrictive eating, which can help you stick to your plan for the long-term.
    "People who treat themselves are giving themselves permission to eat something they enjoy. ... It's not 'off' the plan or 'bad,' " McKittrick said.
    On the flipside, forgoing your favorite foods on a regu