And that is where cheat days come in! They let you get a taste of things you don’t necessarily want to include as part of your daily meal plans.
Some people avoid these breaks because coming back from them is so hard. Others go all-in for a day and then jump right back on their diet.
But a nice midline approach is to eat the things you like while keeping an eye on nutrition. There are a few simple ways you can supplement your cheat days for added bursts of nutrition while still enjoying yourself.
Depending on your background, the idea of eating yeast might be a little off-putting, especially because nutritional yeast is not quite the same thing that’s baked into your bread. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of the bacterial strain Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which won’t mean much to most people.
But if you give nutritional yeast a try, you won’t be disappointed.
The activated form is part of what makes bread rise and beer froth when it is fermenting. Once deactivated, the yeast becomes nutrient-dense.
This makes it perfect for cheat days when you still want to make sure you’re hitting your nutritional markers. After all, nutritional yeast is loaded with vitamin B12.
It’s also got niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin. Your body doesn’t need high levels of any one of these chemicals, but when they get low, your mood is going to feel it in a big way.
They’re all types of B vitamins that help balance your moods and boost your energy levels. All of these—plus the protein that nutritional yeast also offers—make it a great energy booster.
As an added bonus, nutritional yeast has a nutty, almost cheesy taste. It’s a great replacement for the cheese flavor in many meals, although it won’t replace the actual ingredient in most recipes.
You can sprinkle nutritional yeast over just about anything, from popcorn to tempeh, to bring complex flavor into the meal.
Dark Chocolate (Hold the Milk)
Chocolate is a tricky topic for vegans, and it gets even trickier when dieting gets involved. After all, almost every diet on the market has sweet stuff as “enemy number one,” and for good reason. Excess sugar can do a lot of nasty things to the body, and it’s hiding in a whole lot of places these days.
And since most chocolate is packaged as milk chocolate, it’s not an option for vegans. Thankfully, there are alternatives like dark chocolate and chocolate made with plant-based milk.
All of these are excellent options for your cheat day. But if you’re looking for a more nutritional optional, you should reach for dark chocolate.
Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate has less added sugar, and—if you ensure any milk used is not animal milk—should be safe for vegans. The best part is that the reduced sugar and lower level of milk means that you’re getting more of the cocoa plant’s antioxidant properties in your sweet treat.
You might not get the sugar rush of milkier chocolates, but you’re getting something a whole lot better!
If protein powder is part of your usual menu while you diet, adding it to your cheat day might be the last thing you want to do. In spite of that, you might want to keep it on-hand anyway.
And if you haven’t been using protein powder because most use whey protein, you should check out these vegan alternatives.
Protein powder is good for so much more than a shake that you feel like you have to drink. It’s a great way to increase the protein content of just about anything you can mix it into.
If you opt for a flavor-free powder, you can pump up everything from sweet to savory. So if you reach for a delicious vegan milkshake on you cheat day, you can be confident you’re getting the protein you need!
If you’re opting for something with a little more warmth to it—like, say, this vegan chili—protein powder is going to turn that nutrition dial up to 11. It blends well into soups and oatmeal, too.
So no matter what meal you’re trying to supplement, your protein powder will have you covered.
Unless you’re someone with an iron will, there’s a good chance you need a day off from your usual healthy eating routine. However, a cheat day doesn’t have to derail your entire diet.
If you keep one eye on nutrition and one eye on enjoying yourself, you’ll get the most from your day off. A few sweet treats, a little extra savory flavor, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect cheat meal or day. Even though it’s a cheat day, you should still try an stick with your diet to a certain degree which means practicing alcohol harm reduction and limiting fast food.
The best part of all of this is that, as you reach your health or weight goal, you can transition these supplemented foods into your daily menu. This creates a perfect avenue for you to transition yourself from a limited-time diet to a long-term, sustainable eating plan.
Ultimately, that is the best way to maintain the goals you’ve worked so hard to reach. Every cheat meal that you supplement now is practice for the day you want to maintain your weight with delicious meals that fit with your needs as a vegan.