We asked our doctors and registered dietitians: What are your favorite “cheat” foods?
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Their answers — including the idea that maybe “cheat” isn’t the best choice of words — may surprise you. As with all things related to food, moderation is the key.
No such thing
“Cheat food? No such thing,” says Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and marathon runner. “I am never on a diet — just always monitoring my intake and making smart choices while enjoying all of the foods that I want to eat. I have been successful with keeping my weight off for over 10 years. I was an overweight child and adolescent who lost around 40–50 pounds later in college and after. My approach is to have only a small taste of things that are not healthy. No food is worth the battle that comes when you eat very large amounts. Food doesn’t have to be the enemy, but it shouldn’t rule your life either.”
Portion size matters
“Low-fat ice cream (a mix of vanilla and chocolate) is a cheat food for me,” says Karen Cooper, DO, who specializes in family medicine and medical weight management, “but I try to keep portions small. I like fruits for a sweet treat but not really a ‘cheat’ food — ripe mangoes, sweet grapes, juicy oranges, half-ripe avocados (with a tiny amount of salt), organic bananas.”
My bread and butter
“White bread and butter is my cheat — I don’t have it often, of course, but every once in a while, it hits the spot!” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and wellness manager. “As a dietitian, I believe that moderation is the key to staying healthy and keeping weight down. If you eat healthy 90 percent of the time, then “cheating” on some unhealthy items every once in a while won’t kill you! Overall, my motto is to keep food simple, and keep it real!”
Bonus: Road-trip tips
If you’re on the road or otherwise find yourself with only fast food or chain restaurants as your options, you can still eat healthy. Start with these tips:
- Look for entrée salads — but not those that are loaded with meat, blue cheese and high-calorie dressings.
- Try a fish option.
- Stick with steamed veggies when available.
- At a burrito place, try the “bowl” option rather than the tortilla. And go very light on extras like sour cream.
- When in doubt, ask for the nutrition facts.