The ketogenic diet is about changing what you put in your body as much as it is about your relationship with food, especially the controversial and infamous cheat meal.
Two things: 1. Occasional cheat meals are entirely welcome on keto and 2. Most keto meals are decadent and indulgent, cheat-meal-status recipes, by default.
Fortunately, there are many keto friendly ingredients you can use in place of high carb ones to get the “cheat day” feel without actually cheating. However, if you can't rest until you enjoy a buttery and sweet potato, go ahead and eat it in moderation; keto is a lifestyle and a marathon rather than a sprint.
You can achieve your wellness goals on a low-carb, high-fat diet without a perfect performance—it's a dietary plan suited for real people living in real life.
However, whether you sometimes overdo it with the keto treats or find yourself nibbling on a starchy favorite, you can course-correct quickly and resume following a keto protocol to continue your journey toward your weight-loss goals with a little effort.
Plus, we'll share some keto-friendly recipes with you, sure to quell any comfort-food or cheat meal craving you may experience.
So, there's no need to worry about occasional higher-carb foods ruining your keto progress. Sometimes it's better to eat your craving food in moderation and get it out of your system, and then recommit to living a low carb lifestyle. However, it’s best to choose wisely and stick to safe starches, like sweet potato, white rice and butternut squash, and fruit like citrus, (not high sugar/fructose fruits like banana or apples).
When in ketosis, if people have grains or other carby cheat foods they tend to feel terrible and get a kind of sugar hangover. So aiming for safer foods like the above is a better idea. A small serving of safe starch isn't the end of the world, and if you need that weekly to stick to your plan otherwise it's ok.
We'll touch on keto-friendly comfort meals, wise fast-food options, and other cheat-worthy options you may want to try to diversify your dietary choices when you want to get extra indulgent.
Keto-friendly Comfort Foods (homemade):
Break the Fast:
- Delightful Zucchini Bread
- Amazingly Keto Acai Bowl
- Strawberry Ricotta Pancakes topped with homemade whipped cream
- Birch Benders Keto Pancake or Waffle Mix with Lakanto "Maple" Syrup and a side of bacon
- Keto Breakfast Tacos
- Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce
- Keto French Toast topped with Grass-fed Butter Confectioners Sweetener and Sugar-free Syrup—that's it; it's so good on its own!
- Avocado Egg Boats (use whatever toppings you have on-hand, especially bacon!)
Mid-day & Evening Indulgences:
- King Keto Taco Casserole
- Keto Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
- Keto Pizza: It seems like people's love for a tasty crust topped with sauce, cheese, and other toppings are universal—and this remains true for those on a ketogenic diet.
Try our simple keto pizza recipe if you're craving a savory slice to satisfy your appetite while keeping carbs in check.
- Keto Nachos
- Keto Chicken Wings
- Muy Keto Taco Bowl
- Creamed Spinach
- Keto Low-Carb Beef Empanadas
- Buttery Mash "Faux-tatoes" (load in the cream cheese, heavy cream, and grass-fed butter)
Something Savory on the Side:
- Keto Cheese and Bacon Bread
- Garlic Butter Keto Bread
- Keto Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Sweet Keto Treats that Support Ketosis:
- Super Creamy Strawberry Fat Bombs
- Keto German Chocolate Cake
- Keto Almond Cake (Fat Bomb)
- Love my Lemon Keto Pound Cake
- Irresistible Keto Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
- Keto Mousse (4 Ways)
- Irresistibly Fudgy Keto Brownie
- Homemade Keto Cookies
- Ultimate Chocolate PB Cheesecake Fat Bombs
- Konscious Keto Peanut Butter Brownies
- Keto Chocolate Soufflé
- Keto Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing
- Keto Pumpkin Pie
- Holiday Orange Cake
- 1-Minute Konscious Keto Strawberry Shortcake
- Keto Activate Holiday Fudge
Although many of us find ourselves home now more than ever before, you may need to eat on-the-go during a quick errand run or if you're working outside the home.
You may wonder whether it's possible to indulge in keto options outside of the home without busting your macro budget; good news it is! Here are some delicious and crave-curbing fast food options to consider if you're out and hunger hits you:
- Taco Bell Egg Wrap Breakfast Taco
- Starbucks Egg Bites: These savory and cheesy poppers are excellent at any time of day and perfect for a morning meal as the protein will help fuel your day.
- McDonald's: Grab a bunless breakfast sandwich, like a sausage Mcmuffin, or any other variety—and hold the ketchup to avoid unwanted sugar.
- Five Guys Burgers (any variety with a lettuce bun and veggie fixings like pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce)
- Popeye's Blackened Chicken Strips with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
- Chipotle Salad Bowl with Double Protein, Cheese, and Avocado
- In-N-Out Double Cheeseburger (Double-Double Protein Style)
- Jersey Mike's (Sub in a Tub): Deconstruct the typical hoagie and get right to the good stuff: the filling! Skip the bread and enjoy a variety of tubs sure to satisfy any cheat-meal craving.
- KFC Grilled Chicken: These grilled cuts of poultry are not your run-of-the-mill dry variety; they are well-seasoned and juicy with a slightly crispy exterior—a perfect main to pair with an endless amount of keto-friendly sides.
- Wendy's: Baconator or cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap sans fried onions (unless you're, maybe, doing a carb-up day)
Plus, bunless versions of options like the chicken BLT, double stack, or junior cheeseburger all make for excellent munchie selections as long as you ditch the bread.
- Taco Bell: Grilled Breakfast Burrito Bowl or Beefy 5-layer Burrito (sans tortilla wrap)
- Burger King: If you're a fan of flame-broiled double cheeseburgers with loads of keto fixings and a lettuce wrap, BK's got you covered!
- Chipotle: You have a wide range of options at Chipotle, once you stick to some basic guidelines.
Go for either a burrito or a salad bowl and stack the toppings high with steak, chicken, or carnitas. Also, add guacamole, salsa, sour cream, or any additional low-carb fixings for a satisfying and indulgent savory bowl that makes you feel like you're being naughty while still keeping carbs at bay.
- Shake Shack: Skip this venue's famous potato buns and ask them to swap that high-carb option with a lettuce wrap instead!
- Subway: This option may seem like a no-go on the surface, but Subway sells more than hoagies.
Browse their salad options, keeping a close eye on dressing carb macros, or use your high-fat favorite dressing for a healthy yet satisfying indulgence.
Cheat Days vs. Cheat Meals
Some choose to dip their toe in the cheating pool with a cheat meal, and others opt to dedicate a day to extra-decadent cheat meals. If eating specific meals triggers binging for you, avoid it as it can lead to overeating and falling off track for the week or beyond.
Overall, whether you splurge a lot or a little with your cheats, it's best to plan indulgences and minimize their frequency, especially if you want to lose body fat.
Overeating is overeating in the sense that regardless of the cause of overeating, you can end up with a caloric surplus and subsequent additional weight.
However, those who consider themselves emotional eaters can find themselves in a unique dilemma as we deal with added stress as we navigate life in pseudo-quarantine. Those who eat due to heightened states of emotion—whether happy, sad, or other—can lead to excessive noshing to comfort chronic or challenging anxiety feelings.
It is particularly important to keep your pantry and freezer stocked with keto friendly snack foods, like Rebel ice cream, Lily’s chocolate bars, and premium meal replacements, like our Keto Slim Shake, to ensure a healthy and fast keto-friendly indulgence at any time to avoid dietary derailment.
Beware that the calories and carbs add up, even if you're eating keto-friendly treats, so mind your macros to enjoy extra treats without completely blowing your macro budget—resulting in the triggering of cravings as well as noticeable spikes and dips in energy.
Again, we always recommend that you plan and pre-calculate "cheating" on keto. Consider what you're craving and see if you can find a keto friendly recipe to make it work without sacrificing any progress you have made.
Although the goal is always to restrict carbs, you never have to feel like anything is completely off-limits forever on a ketogenic diet.
One, there's probably a comparable or more exceptional keto alternative, or you can find ways to have beloved high-carb foods in tiny portions on occasion—to tamper the attraction and obsession over a specific food.
Choose High-Carb Cheats Wisely (e.g., sweet potatoes vs. white potatoes, etc.)
- The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Instead of cheat days or cheat meals, some people choose to do a more structured and cyclical style of "cheating" on keto, in this variation of the ketogenic diet. For example, you may want to incorporate a higher carb meals before workouts or choose to incorporate a few higher carb days into your week routinely. Again, we recommend safe starches, such as fruit, white rice, potatoes, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
- Eat cheat meals filled with muscle-sustaining protein, and you'll also find yourself feeling fuller faster and for longer. Plus, the vast array of bunless burgers served in lettuce wraps with melted cheese, and all the keto fixings are like a party on a plate; so much so, you won't even miss the bread or fries!
- Keto Flu 2.0: You may have experienced keto flu symptoms, like fatigue, when you first journeyed to enter ketosis.
If you're well into ketosis, you're likely over the fatigue and brain fog associated with the transitional phase known as the keto flu. Unfortunately, the bad news is that you may experience the same unpleasant symptoms again, every time you want to return to ketosis after a sugary binge.
These are signs that your body was kicked out of ketosis and it may take some time to re-enter, which can result in weight loss stalls, as well. For these reasons, we feel sticking to safe starches or finding a way to “ketofy” your cheat meals is the best course of action.
- Eat Sweet and Savory Fat Bombs: As you become acquainted with the range of foods you get to enjoy on a low-carb, high-fat diet, you will come across many fat-filled recipes to make any time you need a little food therapy.
Indulge and Stay in Ketosis
A ketogenic diet contains lots of decadent and indulgent foods you can enjoy with little restriction. However, there may come a time when you're faced with a portion of high-carb food and give in for one reason or another.
However, while you can often quickly recover after eating mama's famous mac & cheese or a close friends' sweet and sinful cheesecake, there may be consequences for a sugar-filled binge.
Adding sugar into your diet after converting to a ketogenic diet can result in the following:
- Imbalance in Blood Sugar (possibly leading to erratic dips and spikes that may lead to significant energy and mood fluctuations)
- You may notice an increase in cravings for sweet or starchy foods after straying from your keto protocol, and this makes perfect sense.
Consuming sugar leads to the brain and body wanting—you guessed it—more sugar! It's a vicious cycle that we suggest avoiding altogether. Instead, look for ways to remake old favorites without the unwanted sugar and carbs to enjoy the best of both worlds.
- Fast Before or After Special Events: You may want to do a 3-day fasting reset protocol (e.g., bone broth fast, fat fast, etc.) before periods when you know you'll face lots of high-carb temptation.
Bank some calories and splurge within reason. Preparing for moments when you're likely to want to expand your carb macros can balance out the splurge and mitigate the adverse effects of jolting the body out of metabolic ketosis. Fasting after a cheat day can also help your body get back into a state of ketosis quicker.
- Stick to whole foods when eating higher carb fare and keep an eye on calories to ensure that you still achieve a caloric deficit despite your splurge, when possible.
- Some people can quickly snap back and resume a sugar-free dietary program, while others may struggle.
Your best bet is to find keto alternatives to your favorite carb-rich cheat meals rather than eating the original versions to avoid a possible uphill battle attempting to return to a state of nutritional ketosis.
- Pair a salad or some other fibrous low-glycemic food with high-fat cheat meals to aid in slower processing of the energy in your food during digestion—for sustained and even energy levels throughout the day.Plus, eating significant amounts of fiber will help keep your body regular as you increase your healthy fat and protein intake to avoid unpleasant side effects like constipation.
Best Ways to Return to Ketosis
OK, so what do you do if you succumb to an item with many more carbs than an entire day of keto macros allows?
Look, no one is perfect, and sometimes you may blow your carb macros as a result. However, there's no need to beat yourself up and wallow in self-pity if you fall. Get right back up and return to your sugar-free plan, and you'll soon find yourself in metabolic ketosis once again.
Here are some simple tips to help you return to ketosis after a setback:
- Stay Hydrated: The body goes through a conversion process when you cause it to switch fuel sources because of your food choices, and it's incredibly important to remain hydrated when seeking to return to ketosis.
Your body will naturally release water retained in the body, along with present electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals as you eliminate carbs. As a result, it's crucial to sip on lots of H2O, bone broth, or maybe even a daily electrolyte supplement, as you eliminate sugars and starches from your diet to replenish them in the body.
Click here to read more about the many ways to avoid the keto flu and enter ketosis with ease.
- Meal Prep Keto Versions of Cheat Meals: Again, it's a great idea to prepare meals ahead, so you have various keto-friendly options to choose from when hankering cravings arise.
- Exercise: Eating lots of healthy fats and eliminating carbs and sugars are primary methods to trigger ketosis, but keep in mind that exercise increases ketone levels in the body, as well.
- Get Your Rest: The body goes through changes as it reverts to ketosis in the absence of carbohydrates. Make sure you get sufficient sleep every night to allow your body a chance for regenerative repair.
- Utilize BHB exogenous ketones to boost the body's ketone levels for increased energy and a thermogenic, fat-burning effect to facilitate rapid fat loss.
We created a clean BHB supplement designed to support your ketogenic lifestyle, a formula that enhances ketone levels to support nutritional ketosis, promotes optimal energy and enhances mental sharpness, as well. Click here to read more about our exogenous ketone blend.
- Stick to whole foods when working to return to ketosis. Now, this suggestion is not a restriction; think of all the delectable keto-friendly meals we can enjoy virtually without limit and still honor this guideline; you've got this!
Part of the beauty of a ketogenic diet is its inherent decadent nature. When people hear they are encouraged to eat bacon and butter, they're usually ready to sign up immediately!
Honestly, can you blame them?
Plus, enjoying low-carb foods high in healthy fat and premium protein is naturally satiating, causing an effortless suppression of the appetite, so you eat fewer calories without trying.
Plan and make tasty comfort foods perfect for storage in the refrigerator or freezer to enjoy throughout the week or later months and you’ll always stay prepared to cheat wisely on keto.
Also, line your pantry shelves and bins with some of your favorite keto-friendly snacks and treats so you can keep carbs low even when you want to splurge a bit.
There may be times when you can't resist having a portion of sweet potatoes with your steak, and life is short; you should enjoy yourself. Just return to your keto meal plan as soon as possible and you should be fine.
It's all about balance. Keep the amounts of high-glycemic foods you consume small and comprise your diet primarily with pure fats, appetite-crushing protein, and nutritious low carb veggies, along with your favorite keto goodies, for a well-rounded, realistic, and sustainable approach to the ketogenic diet that you can maintain long-term.
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