Walking Guide

How to Cheat Without Cheating

Wouldn't it be great if the cravings disappeared right along with the pounds? Unfortunately, that's not usually the case. For many people struggling to get healthy, one of their biggest weight loss challenges is sticking to their diet plans and steering clear of the inevitable temptations.
At SparkPeople, moderation, not deprivation, is integral in finding success, balance and, ultimately, happiness. Experts say that treating yourself to the occasional splurge can actually make it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan the rest of the time. The key is choosing smart indulgences that satisfy your sweet tooth without being unfaithful to your diet. These 10 pseudo-sinful treats can beat even your most intense craving:   
1. Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries: Satisfy your hankering for chocolate by dressing up your strawberries in a sweet coating. Melt half of a Hershey's chocolate bar in the microwave, then dip one end of several medium-sized strawberries. Place in the fridge until the chocolate has set, then enjoy.
2. Chocolate Frozen Bananas: Now you can enjoy a refreshing frozen treat without the guilt. Slice a banana into two halves and freeze them. Next, roll the frozen halves in melted chocolate. For a bit of crunch, roll them in the topping of your choice, like nuts or granola. Next time you're tempted to reach for the ice cream, this vitamin-packed confection will be waiting.
3. Smoothies: From breakfast to dessert, it's always a good time for a smoothie. Convenient, portable and delicious, they're the ultimate guilt-free treat. SparkPeople member Animal_Lover posted this refreshing recipe: "Blend one cup of unsweetened chocolate almond milk, one small frozen banana and a handful or so of frozen strawberries in your blender. It's a delicious frozen drink, like a Neapolitan shake, with only 150-200 calories. It's a great way to cool you down without indulging in ice cream!" Also check out our 10 super-berry smoothie recipes.
4. Lightened-Up Apple Crisp: With a fruit base and very little added sugar, this popular SparkRecipe is a smart way to satisfy a craving for sweets. It's also quick and easy to prepare.
5. Apple Slices with Almond Butter: Thanks to SparkPeople member ANASHEIKH for this yummy idea. She sometimes swaps the almond butter for unsalted, reduced-fat peanut butter or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
6. Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse: This low-fat treat satisfies your chocolate craving for a mere 150 calories.  
7. Chocolate Cherry Angel Food Cake: With this light but flavorful chocolate cherry treat, you can have your cake and eat it too—at just 105 calories per serving.
8. Homemade Trail Mix: As a healthy alternative to chips or bite-sized candies, mix up your own trail mix. The beauty of this salty snack is that you can include all the ingredients you love, from dried fruit to chocolate chips to whole-grain cereal. Browse our trail mix recipes for ideas.  
9. Cottage Cheese: Top it with strawberries, blueberries, nuts and/or almonds for a treat that's low in fat, yet high in protein, calcium and vitamins.
10. Air-popped Popcorn: It's filling and a good source of fiber—and when you add your favorite toppings, it becomes a delicious way to cheat without cheating. See our 23 ways to top your popcorn for under 150 calories.

5 Rules of Cheating

When indulging in a splurge, follow these guidelines to make the most of the experience:
  1. Make it last. If you're allowing yourself a slice of your favorite lemon meringue pie, take small bites and savor them. Chew slowly and pause between forkfuls to prolong the enjoyment.
  2. Plan your portions. If caramel popcorn is your treat of choice, don't eat from the bag. Measure out individual servings into baggies to prevent over-indulging. And if you know from experience that you're likely to go overboard with a certain "trigger food," don't add it to your cheat list.
  3. Cheat without distractions. Enjoy your treat in a quiet place where you can focus on the experience. When you mindlessly snack while on your laptop, watching TV or driving, you're more likely to overindulge.
  4. Make it real. When choosing your cheat treat, go for the real thing and not the sugar substitute. If you're craving ice cream, don't choose a low-fat, sugar-free version. The artificial sweeteners will only provide temporary satisfaction. Instead, splurge on a small cup of real ice cream made with whole ingredients.
  5. Shake off mistakes. If you slip up and overindulge, don't beat yourself up. Recognize the mistake, get back on track and don't look back.
What are your favorite ways to satisfy cravings without disrupting your diet plan?
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Member Comments

"Cheating Without Cheating" What a concept Report
Thanks Report
Our plans miscarry if they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. —SENECA PROVERB ~ 5/2/18 Report
Great article Report
Some great ideas here Report
If the splurge is part of your meal plan, is it really cheating? Report
Sweets aren’t my thing. My treats/splurges need to be savory! My favorite thing to satisfy it is either, hummus or low fat cottage cheese or sour cream kicked up with herbs and spices on 6-7 Food Should Taste Good Multigrain chip/crackers with iced tea. Tastes good and is good for me! Report
If you really, really "have to have " a trigger food, have it as you're walking out the door to work or to run an errand - whatever. You have your treat, but you have removed yourself from the whole batch, box or bag. By the time you return, you should have worked passed the trigger point. Report
If I get candy or cookies or even some nuts and seeds, I wrap up individual portions in cheapie plastic sandwich bags, twist and knot. I'll do the same sometimes with other foods. This keeps things fresh longer but also makes it easier to avoid the mindless eating of more than actually comfortable. They also can be easily stashed in the freezer this way (I pack the backed portions in zip or slider bags), avoiding the "have to eat it before it goes stale" syndrome.

With pastries like donuts, cake, pie, cookies etc., you can cut them into the right portions for you (yes, you can cut that donut or muffin or huge cookie into several pieces....) and wrap the same way and then stash in the freezer.

I even portion out raw veggies this way in preweighed packs (those snack bags are perfect) for the fridge so I just have to grab for a quick meal based on a bowl of preshredded cabbage or broccoli slaw or shredded carrots and chunks of onion (please try shredded carrots or broccoli or cabbage and chopped onion and peanut, nut, or seed butter, inside or outside a sandwich). Likewise with baby carrots and radishes and cucumbers and celery sticks. That encourages me to eat more of them. Yes, I'm that lazy, I mean tired. Report
For ice cream - look for sturdy 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup freezer containers with sturdy lids (I like Oxo 2oz cups marketed for homemade baby food and Rubbermaid half cup ones). Whatever brand, they need to be sturdy and well-sealed and not break if dropped (maybe that last one is just me...).

Let the ice cream soften enough and just fill up the containers to the line. Then you can grab one when the craving hits and have instant portioning for whatever amount you need. For me, it depends on the ice cream (Ben&Jerry's needs the 1/4 cup while Breyer's or sorbets can manage with the 1/2 cup).

In my case, cost is a major factor since I need nondairy and those are usually more expensive than most dairy ice cream. But before the nondairy was locally available, I had to think in terms of the allergenic hit... So limiting to 1/4 cup helped a lot. Since I'm not very active, I also have to consider the percentage of my daily food needs taken up by such stuff. Report
i do and have done a lot of these "cheat's" I managed to stay within my calorie count and fat grams for the day Report
Good ideas and alternative approach to high calorie snacks. Also like the ideas listed by many of you. Report
These are all great suggestions. Report
Some intriguing information Report
Walking Guide

About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.
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