We call an unhealthy meal a "cheat meal" often because we feel guilty after eating it. I wish we could relabel it as a "treat meal" and get more people on the track of eating a balanced diet, including treats.
Can cheat meals work?
When you start up a diet plan and decide to be 100% committed and change your entire eating habits is when cheat meals are a good idea. When you are used to eating a certain way and then change it completely, mentally you are going to hit a wall, and physically you may see a change in energy levels. For this case, a cheat meal once a week could be a good idea for you.
When should I plan to eat my cheat meal?
Cheat meals can be beneficial in certain circumstances. They can be a great thing if you are staying on track with your current diet and exercise program, but you keep having a craving all week. This would be the time to have a cheat meal...not a cheat day...just a meal. (Portion size for a cheat meal is also very important. This cheat meal is to help satisfy cravings and keep you on track towards your goals.) Second, cheat meals are a great tool to have before a workout, because it can help give you the extra fuel to hit the gym hard.
To cheat or not to cheat?
The last question to ask yourself is, can you eat in moderation and control your portions. If you have a bag of candy in your house, will you be prone to eating the entire bag in one day? If the answer is yes, you may want to buy a snack size candy bar and only have that as your treat.
Cheat meals are great tools to keep you on track with living a healthy lifestyle. When you mentally can be comfortable with food by not having strict limitations, cheat meal can be seen as treat meals!