7 Alternative Sweeteners

"Alternative sweeteners" may sound too good to be true (or absolutely disgusting), but we assure you...they do exist (and they're not gross)! Check out this list of 7 guilt-free sweeteners and how to use them. 

The majority of the time when people think of the word “diet”, they are also thinking “uhg! No more sweets for me! This is such a bummer!” Have no fear, alternative sweeteners are here! We compiled a list of our favorite alternative sweeteners and how to use them. 

*Check out our list of keto friendly flour and other baking products HERE.

We have given you some delicious pancakes and waffles recipes, but what if you don’t want to miss out on the syrup?! No problem; we have found and tested the perfect syrup substitute that won’t ruin your diet.

Lakanto Maple Flavored Sugar-Free Syrup is delicious without the guilt of regular maple syrup.
Use in place of: maple syrup. 
Why we love it: it tastes like real maple syrup and it’s sugar free. You can use it on pancakes, waffles, bacon, veggies, or on pasta if you’re Buddy the Elf (if you haven’t seen the movie Elf, you will not understand this joke). 
 
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Lakanto Maple Flavored Sugar-Free Syrup, 1 Net Carb (Maple Syrup, 13 oz)
1,237 Reviews
Lakanto Maple Flavored Sugar-Free Syrup, 1 Net Carb (Maple Syrup, 13 oz)
  • TASTES, smells, and looks like REAL maple syrup - Use in Baking, Coffee, Tea, and on Pancakes, Oatmeal, Yogurt, and BACON
  • SUGAR-FREE, 1 Net Carb, All Natural, Low Glycemic, Lower Calories and Gluten Free
  • LIFESTYLE FRIENDLY - Keto, Diabetics, Candida, Paleo, Vegan, Low Carb, Low Sugar, All Natural

I was mind-blown the first time I used Lakanto monkfruit sweetener as a sugar substitute because my dessert tasted amazing! You would never guess I hadn’t used real sugar. 

Lakanto Monkfruit Sugar Substitute is amazing and I am never using real sugar again. 

Use in place of: granulated sugar.

Why we love it: uuuuh…because it’s AMAZING and you can’t tell the difference between this and real sugar once it has been cooked or baked.

This company also sells monkfruit sweetener in liquid form in flavors: chocolate, lemon, original, and vanilla. You can find them online.

 

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Lakanto Monkfruit 1:1 Sugar Substitute | 28 oz NON GMO (Classic White, 800 g)
2,854 Reviews
Lakanto Monkfruit 1:1 Sugar Substitute | 28 oz NON GMO (Classic White, 800 g)
  • TASTES just like sugar | Zero net carbs, Zero calorie, Zero glycemic Sweetener
  • 1:1 SUGAR REPLACEMENT | Lakanto has a perfect mix of monk fruit and erythritol to match the sweetness of sugar and maintain your baking and cooking needs
  • LIFESTYLE FRIENDLY | Keto, Diabetic, Candida, Paleo, Vegan, Low Carb, Low Sugar, NON-GMO, and All Natural

Yes, coconut sugar is a thing. I had no idea until I started eating keto friendly.

Nutiva USDA Certified Organic, non GMO, Unrefined Granulated Coconut Sugar is technically still sugar, but it is not that processed crap and actually has some benefits.

Use in place of: granulated sugar.

Why we love it: This sugar is easy to cook with and surprisingly, there are a few good vitamins in this coconut sugar. Yes, this is sugar, but it is natural and a great alternative.

You can find other brands of coconut sugar, but we like this one the best because it is organic, non GMO, and affordable. 

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Nutiva USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, Unrefined Granulated Coconut Sugar, 1-pound (Pack of 3)
571 Reviews
Nutiva USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, Unrefined Granulated Coconut Sugar, 1-pound (Pack of 3)
  • NATURALLY EXTRACTED: Nutiva starts with the raw sap from organically grown, responsibly harvested, non-GMO coconut trees and gently heats the excess moisture away to yield a mildly sweet sugar without...
  • CONTAINS TRACE MINERALS: Nutiva Organic, non-GMO, Unrefined, Granulated Coconut Sugar contains potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins and may have a lower glycemic index than other...
  • EASY SUBSTITUTE AND PREMIUM DIET COMPATIBILITY: Nutiva Organic Coconut Sugar is a natural alternative to high fructose corn syrup and an excellent option for vegetarian, vegan, whole food, paleo,...

OK, if you have been in the keto or low-carb world for a little while, then you surely have heard of Swerve. No, it is not a dance move. It is a brand of sugar free sweeteners and they are super popular with great reviews. I have to admit, this stuff is good. 

Swerve Granular Sweetener is the-bomb-dot-com (do people still say that…?). This is my favorite sugar substitute to bake with. 

Use in place of: granulated sugar.

Why we love it: besides the fact that it is reasonably priced and guilt-free, you can bake/cook/make pretty much ANYTHING with this sugar substitute. Cupcakes with frosting? No problem! Homemade ice cream? Yep! Lemonade? Go for it! 

This company also sells this in different size bags. 

Swerve Sweetener, Granular, 12 Ounce
3,667 Reviews
Swerve Sweetener, Granular, 12 Ounce
  • TASTES AMAZING: Swerve is sweet and delicious. It is a natural sugar replacement that does not have the bitter aftertaste associated with other sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit.
  • MEASURES LIKE SUGAR: If your recipe calls for a cup of sugar; simply replace with a cup of Swerve. Since it measures just like sugar, using Swerve in your favorite recipes will be a breeze.
  • ZERO NET CARBS: The ingredients in Swerve do not affect blood sugar, so the carbohydrates it contains are considered non-impact.

When I saw a “brown sugar alternative” I got really excited. The First things I thought of were cookies and sweet potato pie (are you hungry now?) This sugar substitute is good, however I do have to admit it is on the pricey side. In my opinion it is worth it if you use it sparingly and if you do not use it for experimental baking…because you don’t want to waste this stuff. 

Sukrin Gold: The Natural Brown Sugar Alternative really is a great brown sugar alternative. 

Use in place of: brown sugar.

Why we love it: we haven’t seen very many brown sugar alternatives out there, but this one is our favorite.  It really does taste like brown sugar but without all the calories and sugar.

Sukrin Gold - The Natural Brown Sugar Alternative - 1.1 lb Bag
470 Reviews
Sukrin Gold - The Natural Brown Sugar Alternative - 1.1 lb Bag
  • THE ORIGINAL GOLD SWEETENER - Enjoy the aroma, sweetness, flavor, and texture of brown sugar with zero calories per serving
  • ALL-NATURAL - Made of erythritol, stevia, malt extract, and tagatose. Non-GMO with no artificial flavors, additives, or preservatives
  • DIABETIC FRIENDLY - Less than 1 GI and no effect on blood sugar. Gold is well-suited for low carb and Keto diets

Confectioners sugar is the powdered sugar you would use as a garnish or to make frosting for cake. Yes, this confectioners sugar replacement tastes like the real stuff and is easy to work with.  

Swerve Confectioners Sweetener is awesome and it is pretty obvious why this sugar replacement is so popular. 

Use in place of: confectioners sugar.

Why we love it: well, we love it for all the same reasons why we love the Swerve granulated sweetener. It tastes like real sugar and there is no limit on the baked goods you can make with it. I like to use this stuff in and on the baked goods I feed my family and then wait until after they have eaten it to tell them “ha! That wasn’t real sugar! I tricked you into eating healthier!”

Sale
Swerve Sweetener, Confectioners, 12 oz
3,667 Reviews
Swerve Sweetener, Confectioners, 12 oz
  • GREAT FOR ICINGS & FROSTINGS: Use Confectioners Swerve in place of powdered sugar. It has a super-fine texture that also works great for glazes, puddings and curds.
  • TASTES AMAZING: Swerve is sweet and delicious. It is a natural sugar replacement that doesn't have the bitter aftertaste associated with other sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit.
  • ZERO NET CARBS: The ingredients in Swerve do not affect blood sugar, so the carbohydrates it contains are considered non-impact.

Liquid stevia is great to keep at home, in your car, or in your bag for when you need a quick sweetener.  

Sweet Drops SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia Sweetener, SteviaClear is a must have in a keto or sugar-free household. 

Use in place of: liquid sweeteners.

Why we love it: this is so easy to use, portable, and affordable. I love that it’s so easy to control how sweet you want your drink or food with this liquid sweetener. This sweetener is perfect for drinks. 

Ashlee Nicholas

Best Oatmeal for Weight Loss & Building Muscle

Learn how oatmeal can be a great part of a diet that promotes weight loss and muscle building. Plus, we included a few of our favorite oatmeal recipes.

Are you struggling to burn fat and build muscle?

You’re not alone. So many people encounter this difficulty on their fitness journey.

Luckily, there’s a cheap, tasty, and simple fat burning solution?

No, you don’t need to sign up for a $1,000 workout program, pay for an expensive personal trainer, or even buy my magic weight loss pill.

If you’ve ever heard of Pareto’s Principle. you know that 80% of your results are affected by 20% of your changes.

Adding one delicious food into your daily diet can help increase your metabolism and make it easier to stay on track. This timeless muscle-building, metabolism-boosting food will kick-start your day in a healthy way.

So what is this awesome superfood?

Drumroll please… OATMEAL!

Oatmeal | The Fat Burning Food of the Past & Future

Since the beginning of time, humans have consumed oats to survive and thrive.

But now, the only time you hear about oats is in oatmeal cookies!

The timeless, yet long forgotten, super food provides more health benefits than the Quaker Can could ever fit on its label.

Oats are heart healthy and provide a number of other fitness benefits!

In most households, they’re tragically underutilized, though. Think about it: when was the last time you had a big ol’ bowl of oatmeal?

It’s time to change that.

The Best Oatmeal for Weight Loss & Bodybuilding

The best oatmeal for weight loss is found in a bowl of whole, rolled, or steel-cut oats! One of our favorite choices is Better Oats Steel Cut Maple & Brown Sugar oatmeal.

Although oatmeal’s texture and flavor should be reason enough to dig a bag out of the pantry, here are some other surprising benefits of oatmeal:

  • Energy Boost
  • Burn Fat
  • Sleep Better
  • Prevent Sickness
  • Save Money

Oatmeal Energy Boost

Oatmeal is a great source of low-glycemic carbs and protein. These carbs can be converted into a huge energy boost!

Studies have shown that oatmeal gives runners more endurance than other high-glycemic foods.

Another great part about loading up on oats before your workout is that oats will sit better in your stomach. If you eat a tons of eggs, bacon, or bagels, you’ll likely feel uncomfortable or bloated.

Try eating a bowl of oats before your next cardio or resistance training workout and see if you can feel a difference.

Oatmeal Helps Your Metabolism

First, the energy boost you’ll get from oats will improve your workout. Better workout = burn more calories.

In this study, runners burned more fat after eating low-glycemic carbs than high-glycemic carbs.

Because oatmeal is rich in fiber, it takes a longer time to digest. This helps keep you feeling full longer. The less hungry you are, the less you’ll snack and overeat—which will help eat less calories and hopefully make losing weight easier.

In addition, your body will burn more calories trying to digest oatmeal than a sugary cereal or bagel. This can help boost your metabolism and keep you from gaining unwanted weight.

Sleep Better With Oatmeal

Oatmeal is not only a great food to start the day, but it’s also great before bed.

Eating oatmeal helps to release a hormone called serotonin, which calms the mind and relieves stress, helping you enter a peaceful state before going to bed.

This might also help you avoid waking up hungry in the middle of the night. You’ll stay relaxed and satisfied throughout the night, letting you start and end the day the right way.

Prevent Sickness With Oatmeal

Studies have linked oatmeal to being helpful in managing diabetes and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Oatmeal’s unique fiber, beta-glucan, enhances your body’s immune response to disease.

Antioxidants play a crucial role in protecting your cells from free radicals (harmful molecules that increase the risk of heart disease and cancer).

Save Money With Bulk Oatmeal

It doesn’t take a financial advisor to tell you eating oatmeal daily will help you save money.

Let’s just take a quick look at the cost difference between oatmeal and cereal.

25 lbs. of oatmeal costs about $10. This usually lasts 4-5 months – assuming you eat about two cups a day.

1.1 lbs. of Honey Nut Cheerios costs $2.90—and that’s a good price! And how long will that last you?

Oatmeal Recipes

Don’t get bored of this superfood! Instead, change it up with these delicious recipes:

6 Overnight Oats Recipes

These recipes are awesome. Not only do these offer a great variety, but you can prep these to be ready to go first thing in the morning. These make breakfast meal prepping easy, which is always the biggest obstacle with staying on track and consistent with your diet.

B.U.F.F. Dudes Overnight Oats

This BUFF Dudes oats recipe is a must try! Simply mix all the ingredients together in an air-tight container and store in the fridge overnight. We recommend using Naked Whey Vanilla Protein.  Make sure to shake it thoroughly before and after putting  it in the fridge. If you want, add some fruit to your oats before eating.

Food Faith and Fitness' Healthy Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal

Image provided by www.foodfaithfitness.com

The taste of a cinnamon roll with all the nutrition of oatmeal. Breakfast doesn’t get much better than this. Be sure to check out the details of this recipe here.

Conclusion

The best way to incorporate oatmeal into your healthy diet is to find a few simple recipes that you love and can make quickly and easily. That way a healthy oatmeal snack can become a staple in your diet.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

How Long Does Canned Food Last? You’d be Surprised…

Ever wonder if those cans of food in the back of your cabinet are still good? Check out what a few studies show, and also some great benefits of buying canned food. 

If you’re like most of us, you’ve got a pantry full of canned food.

From black beans to pickled items, sauces, and beyond, canned food is convenient, delicious, and the perfect addition to your pattern of fresh cooking.

But how long does canned food really last?

Before you start tossing out your “expired” cans, it’s smart to learn the basics of canned food, and how long you can expect it to stay good.

Read on.

5 Top Benefits of Canned Food

Whether you’re keeping canned food on hand for convenience or to have an emergency store of food to get you through a power outage or natural disaster ,these are some of the biggest benefits of canned food:

1. Long Shelf Life

Some canned foods last anywhere between 2-25 years (and sometimes more!) This is easily the primary reason for the popularity of canned food, and goes to show that, most of the time, there’s no need to toss out your canned goods after a few years.

2. Safe Storage

During a power outage or natural disaster, it’s common for refrigerators and freezers to stop being reliable. Luckily, canned food can easily be stored anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about insects getting into it.

3. Few Preservatives

Surprisingly, not all canned foods are not loaded with preservatives. Some contain additional amounts of salt, oil, or water to preserve foods, but nothing you should worry about. Always check the label to make sure excessive amounts of salt and sugar have not been added. In most cases, a simple rinsing prior to consuming can reduce up to 45% of the listed sodium content.

4. Low Cost

Canned foods are significantly cheaper than “fresh” produce and meat. And because you don’t have to worry about canned food expiring, you won’t waste nearly as much money on food that will eventually spoil in your fridge.

5. Quality Nutrition

You might have already stereotyped canned food as subpar when it comes to nutrition. But canned food is often more nutritional  than “fresh” produce at the grocery store. How is this possible?

Most foods in the produce section were grown in a foreign country or state, stored and shipped, then stored again at the grocery store for several days before you bought it, stored it in your fridge, and eventually ate it.

Canned foods, on the other hand, are typically processed hours after harvest. This process seals in the freshness and nutritional value.

So How Long Does Canned Food Last?

How long the canned food will last depend on the food in the can and the storage conditions.

According to the US FSIS, “‘Use-by’ dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates….Canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 °F (32.2° C). If the cans look ok, they are safe to use.”

If you’re worried a canned food item has expired, check for the following signs:

  1. There is mold or scum on the surface of the food
  2. The food has an unpleasant smell
  3. The food tastes musky or old

Conclusion

Canned foods are the workhorses of your household pantry. In addition to having a long shelf life, they’re versatile, delicious, and nutritious – perfect for meeting your fitness goals and keeping mealtime easy!

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

Is Sugar A Drug? How Your Body Responds To Sweets

There are many scientists that would classify sugar as a drug. When you learn about how your body responds to sugar intake, you may start to realize that may be true.

Have you ever had such an intense craving for sugar that you said something like “I have to have my fix,” or “I’m addicted to these cookies,”? Often people talk about sugary sweets as if they were a drug, for a good reason! Sugar has addictive properties.

In this post, you’ll learn what is happening in the body when you eat a sweet. This information is beneficial for understanding cravings and eating patterns. It will also help you find ways to take back control and cut down on sweets as a part of your healthy lifestyle.

What Is Sugar, Exactly?

“Sugar” actually refers to several different molecules which come in various formations. There are two basic categories for sugar: single and double.

Within these categories, there are even more sub-categories. The body processes molecules depending on their structure, so each kind of sugar has a particular pathway in the body. We’ll cover the important ones here.

Single Sugars (Monosaccharides)

There are two major kinds of monosaccharides, glucose and fructose, and they are each processed differently in the body.

The first type of single sugar we’ll go over is glucose. Many carbs (like bread) contain the simple sugar glucose. Glucose can be processed in the brain and muscles. When doctors refer to “blood sugar” they are talking about glucose levels. Glucose causes the body to release insulin. It also causes the release of leptin, also known as the “satiety hormone.”

The second type of single sugar is fructose. A common example of a food group that contains fructose is fruit. This type of sugar can only be processed in the liver.

Double Sugars (Disaccharides)

There are three different kinds of disaccharides: sucrose, lactose, and maltose. We’ll focus on sucrose.

Cane sugar (like the kind you find in a sugar bowl, on the countertop) is sucrose.

It is made up of glucose and fructose. For the body to use this type of sugar as energy, an enzyme must first break it down. Next, the body will use the glucose and fructose in separate ways, but at the same time. When this happens, the glucose is used for energy first, and often the fructose is converted to fat for storage.

Sugar, Addiction and the Brain

So, why does all of that matter? It is important because when you read “sugar” on the nutrition label, it could be talking about single sugars or double sugars. What the body does with the sugar you eat depends on what type of sugar it is, as well as how much of it you consume.

Even though the body has an intense, pleasurable reaction to eating foods with sugar, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The body needs a certain amount of glucose to function.

People with low glucose levels can become irritable, dizzy, nauseated, or unconscious. When the body reacts with a sense of pleasure, it can be seen as a response from the body, saying “well done, I needed that desperately to stay alive.”

The problem comes in when the intake of sugar exceeds (sometimes by a great deal) what the body needs to function well. The pleasurable reaction to the sugar intake then becomes disproportionate to the needs of the body.

Sugars trigger the release of two neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin and dopamine. If you reach for sugary treats for a quick fix of these happy hormones, the body might be taking in many calories that it doesn’t need.

When a person feels unhappy, they might look to sugar for a way to raise their serotonin and dopamine levels, when in fact they need something else entirely. Scientists have referred to this phenomenon as “eating for dopamine,” and have found that it can be linked to obesity.

The amount that you eat and the way that you feel has a lot to do with the type of sugar that you are consuming. Glucose, the single sugar that you would find in a bagel, will make the body feel full at lower levels than fructose, for example. You could take in the same amount of sugar in grams from a bagel and an apple, but only feel full after the bagel.

Is Sugar A Drug?

To recap, we’ve covered the fact that different types of sugars create various types of reactions. That is key when it comes to thinking about the addictive qualities of sugar. Behavior is only considered an addiction when it causes harmful effects.

If you repeatedly have the urge to consume carbs when you are hungry, so that you don’t faint, that isn’t an addiction; it is just smart. It crosses over into the addiction category when the effects of your eating become harmful, like obesity.

Addiction is a condition (technically, a “brain disease”) in which a person compulsively seeks a substance even if it causes harm. These conditions are thought of as brain diseases because they change how the brain does its job within the body. In this sense, sugar can be considered addictive, but only when it causes harmful effects.

Taking Back Control

Now that you know the ways that your body is reacting to sugar, do you see any patterns in your eating behaviors? For example, when you feel depressed do you reach for a sugary treat to boost your mood? Do you find that you eat a lot of certain types of food, like sweet fruits, but still don’t feel full?

If these behaviors are creating problems for you, it is time to take back control. Realize that you can get that mood-boost in other ways that don’t involve excessive calorie consumption, like playing with a pet or laughing with a friend.

Eat foods that will help you to feel full in a healthy proportion instead of binging on foods that have been pumped full of fructose but won’t make you feel satisfied.

Sugars create a complex array of reactions in the body. Some of those reactions are addictive and change our brain chemistry. If you are treating sugar like a drug and seeking it out for unhealthy reasons, it is time to curb the habit! Take steps towards ending the addiction.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

10 Foods That Fight Inflammation

Recent research has shown that many common foods may be the culprit for chronic internal inflammation in the body. Next time you go to the grocery store take this list of 10 foods that help fight inflammation.

Do you wish that you had more energy during the day and less pain? Chronic inflammation is a condition that might be draining you of your energy and increasing your pain levels. Doctors have linked chronic inflammation to some of the most common diseases of aging including cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

It is evident inflammation can be damaging, so what can be done to fight it? The good news is that eating certain foods will help your body naturally reduce unnecessary inflammatory responses, which will help you prevent disease, increase energy, and experience less pain. Here are the top ten foods that fight inflammation.

Oranges

You might know that oranges are a great source of vitamin C, but did you also know that they can help your body reduce unnecessary chronic inflammation? This is because they are rich in carotenoids and flavonoids.

Carotinoids provide the orange with the bright orange hue that it is named after. Other foods with this bright orange coloring also have carotenoids, and will help the body fight inflammation. Examples include carrots, orange bell peppers, and peaches.

To get the most anti-inflammatory benefits from an orange, eat it raw. Oranges are delicious on their own or can be chopped into a fruit salad or mixed in with a green salad.

Tomato

Tomatoes can help the body fight inflammation and have been researched extensively for their role in cancer prevention. What makes the lycopene in tomatoes so great? Lycopene helps the body by inhibiting the inflammatory response. Lycopene is a red toned carotenoid, and many other bright red foods like watermelon and papaya have it as well.

Sardines

According to experts from Harvard, fatty fishes such as Tuna, Salmon, Salmon, and Mackerel can fight inflammation in the body. The fats in cold water fish contain marine omega three fatty acids, which interrupt the inflammatory response.

Research shows that marine fatty acids lower inflammation by changing the way cells produce cytokines and T cells in response to perceived intruders. Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3’s because smaller fish have lower mercury levels than larger fish.

Though an anti-inflammatory diet is important to your health, so is avoiding mercury poisoning! Mercury can be harmful to your health. When you begin including fish in your diet in order to get those healthy marine fatty-acids, be sure to keep track of your weekly mercury intake and stay within recommended limits.

Cumin

The spice cumin contains a nutrient curcumin, which has proven antiinflammatory qualities. Studies have shown that curcumin can reduce instances of inflammation in cases of edema, ulcerative colitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Osteoarthritis.

Cumin is a spice commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, but it has infused western culture as well. This is particularly the case lately as more and more health experts give praise to this herb.

Sprinkle cumin on a bowl of rice, spinach, and tofu for a simple addition to your meal that will give lots of anti-inflammatory benefits. Cumin can also be taken as a supplement in the form of a capsule, or mixed into drinks and smoothies.

Spinach

Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and bok choy are rich in anti-oxidants, and vitamin K. Research has shown that vegetables high in vitamin K have lowered the markers of inflammation significantly.

Eat spinach raw to get the most nutrients out of every serving. Spinach can be tossed with other lettuces, avocado, dried cranberries, almonds and mandarin oranges to make a super anti-inflammatory salad!

Almonds

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews are high in monosaturated fats which have antiinflammatory abilities. Nuts are high in calories and fat, so they should be consumed moderately as a part of your balanced diet. Raw, unsalted nuts deliver the most anti-inflammatory benefits.

Raw nut butter is a great option for consuming almonds that makes it easy to include monounsaturated fat in your meals. Spread two tablespoons of almond butter on your next apple-slice snack, and reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Strawberries

Strawberries and other colorful berries are an excellent source of antioxidants, red carotenoids, and vitamin c. The anti-oxidants in strawberries may help fight inflammation because of their ability to reduce the number of potentially harmful, inflammationtriggering free radicals in the body.

Add organic, raw strawberry slices to your next bowl of oatmeal, or have them tossed with blackberries and blueberries for a sweet and healthy dessert.

Beans

Beans have a high volume of fiber per serving. Fiber is known for helping the body by sweeping out the intestinal tract and promoting weight loss. You may not know it, but fiber also helps the body prevent inflammation.

This is because it lowers the levels of  Creactive protein that the liver produces. C-reactive protein is correlated with inflammation in the body. Since beans are low-fat and budget-friendly, they are a great option for an anti-inflammatory diet.

Cherries

Research confirms that cherries help the body fight chronic inflammation. One study showed that the consumption of 45 cherries a day, for 28 days in a row led to a significant decrease in 8 markers of chronic inflammation.

Another study discovered the fact that cherries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants, and bioflavonoids, which together provide the same anti-inflammatory affects as Advil, but without the side effects.

Olive Oil

Studies have shown that olive oil can produce some of the same effects in the body that ibuprofen produces. It can stop the production of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, both of which trigger the inflammation response.

Since experts recommend cutting margarine from the diet entirely when you are trying to beat inflammation, olive oil can step in as the perfect substitute.

Inflammation is a natural response that the body puts together in response to perceived threats. This natural response can become problematic when it is chronic and unnecessary. Instead of protecting the body, it can lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Food provides us with an excellent way to fight chronic inflammation. Add powerful, anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to lower your inflammation levels.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

Diet Strategies: Why Eating a Variety is Crucial

Don't try those crazy bodybuilding diets that tell you to "eat chicken and broccoli 6 times a day". A healthy diet needs to have plenty of variety in order to be sustainable long term.

The food pyramid used to be posted everywhere. Do you remember examining it on the back of a cereal box at some point or learning about it in school? I do!

But as the information age continues to expand our awareness of nutrition and health, you might have noticed that things aren’t so simple anymore. People these days use a variety of diet programs, like veganism, the Paleo diet, and the Ketogenic diet, to find the right balance between food groups.

But no matter what diet you choose, one thing remains certain: eating a variety of foods is crucial. The human body is built to function optimally on a mix of nutrients, and variety allows you to meet all of those needs healthily.

What are the Benefits of Eating a Variety of Foods?

Eating a variety of foods isn’t just a way to prevent boredom. There are many benefits to that come with getting lots of variety in your diet.

When you eat a variety of foods, you are more likely to meet the nutrient needs of your body. Each nutrient has its job to do within the body. For example, vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9 work together to help the body build red blood cells. Protein is a nutrient that helps the body make structural units, like hair, skin, and muscle cells. Glucose is used in the brain to help fuel cellular activity.

Each nutrient has a particular job in the body, and no food contains all of the nutrients. For example, a grapefruit has plenty of vitamin C, but no vitamin b12. A piece of chicken has protein in it, but no vitamin C.

You can see that eating only chicken would lead to some serious problems! As would eating only grapefruit, or only any food, for that matter. As you introduce variety into the diet, you start to build a combination of nutrients that will take care of all of the needs of the body, not just some of them.

The best way to ensure that you are giving the body what it needs is to eat a wide variety of foods that deliver all of those individual nutrients that your body requires.

What Can Happen If You Don’t?

You might remember from your history lessons that vitamin-C induced Scurvy killed more sailors than the civil war. But the problem of missing out on nutrients isn’t just for the history books. It is still a major problem today.

Researchers estimate that 1 billion people across the globe have a vitamin D deficiency, even in developed countries. This lack can cause rickets, among other things. Vitamin B depletion was found in about 15% of the US population aged 20-59. This nutrient deficiency can cause tingling sensations, fatigue, and weakness, among other things.

Potassium, Iron, and Magnesium are more examples of nutrients that have high incidences of depletion, even in developed countries like the US, which can cause health problems.

How to Add More Variety to Your Meals

It has been proven scientifically that the human brain loves things that are familiar. Our minds seek out routines because they feel safe. Because of this, it’s easy to slip into a pattern of eating the same thing over and over.

This is particularly the case for people who are focused on achieving a particular diet goal, and find one meal program that seems to “work.” They’ll eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner day after day thinking that they are doing the right thing by sticking to the program.

When you fall into a rut like that, you miss out on the variety that is necessary for health. Here are some ways that you can add variety to your meals:

See Your Patterns

If you don’t know you’re stuck in a rut, you won’t try to get out of it. Be honest with yourself as you look at your eating patterns. Do you prepare the same three or four meals for dinner each night, because you’ve got the recipe down pat? It is time to switch things up! Get a cookbook and try out some new meals.

Be Open to New Things

Be open to experiencing new foods and ingredient combinations. Fermented foods are rich in necessary enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and b-vitamins. Asian and Ukrainian dishes are a great place to look for fermented foods recipes.

Indian dishes are often prepared with cumin. This ingredient contains iron, an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B1. If you regularly opt not to eat Indian foods, you could be missing out on these beneficial nutrients. Open up to new dishes for more variety in your diet.

Get Educated

If you stick to a few staple meals, and rarely switch things up, it might be because you only know of a few healthy foods and are afraid to add in anything new because it might be unhealthy. Instead of living in fear, learn more about health and nutrition so that you can feel confident expanding your menu.

Create Colorful Plates

A straightforward trick for creating variety in your meals is to aim for a colorful plate.For example, if you have a meal with tan chicken breast, brown rice, and carrots, you can add in some cilantro, a few beets, and slices of red pepper to meet this colorful plate ideal.

Variety is crucial to a healthy diet. Our bodies require a diverse range of nutrients for optimal functioning, yet no one natural food offers them all. To get the right nutrients, we need to eat many different kinds of foods that each have a unique composition.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

5 Things You Need to Know About Protein

Protein protein protein! Everyone always says make sure your eating enough protein. Here are the five basic things you may not have known about protein.

We eat protein every day. This macronutrient is necessary to build muscles and body tissue. People require more protein during infancy and childhood than they do as adults.

Protein helps keep your nails skin and hair looking healthy. It helps women maintain proper hormonal balance and stabilize men’s libidos. Practically all Americans get enough protein from their food. Protein deficiency is rare in developed countries.

Here are five things you need to know about protein and why it’s so important for health.

1. Protein from Food Supplies Your Body with the Nine Essential Amino Acids

Protein exists in every cell of your body. When you eat eggs, meat, cottage cheese, or any other protein-filled food, your body turns the protein into amino acids, the building blocks of life. Amino acids build muscle and help your body metabolize fats.

There are nine essential amino acids you get from food since your body can’t manufacture them on its own. These amino acids are:

  • Leucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Lysine
  • Histidine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Isoleucine

The Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) valine, leucine, and isoleucine help prevent muscles from breaking down when you exercise, and they may also release human growth hormone.  Weightlifters and bodybuilders often take supplements containing BCAAs during training to support muscle growth.

Beef, fish, turkey, and pork are just a few protein-rich foods containing BCAAs. When you eat these foods, you’re working to keep your muscles strong even when you’re not exercising. The USDA’s Choose My Plate program contains more information about protein and foods that provide essential amino acids.

2. Most People Get More than Enough Protein From Their Regular Diet

That means most Americans get twice as much protein as they need. It’s easy to see why. Most people consume milk, yogurt, meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts and other diet staples several times a day.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for adult men is 56 grams. Women need 46 grams, and pregnant or breastfeeding women need 71 grams. Children need 19 to 34 grams a day.

Consume 10% of your daily calories from protein, but not more than 35%. You should eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to the Food and Nutrition Board. Competitive athletes need 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilograms of body weight, and recreational athletes need 1.1 to 1.4 grams.  

Research by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) shows many Americans get twice the amount of protein they need. Men 20 and over get 101.9 grams of protein a day, with women getting 70.1 grams per day.

Cut back on protein if you’re in this group. Consider replacing the excess protein with magnesium-rich spinach or kale. (About 70% of Americans lack the proper amount of magnesium in their diets.)      

It’s not known how consuming too much protein will affect you, since it depends on the type and amount of protein consumed and the individual’s medical history. However, it’s best to avoid high-protein diets and refrain from consuming 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Overeating protein may cause dehydration, weight gain, constipation, and in rare cases kidney stones.

Eating 200 to 400 grams of protein in a day may make it difficult for the liver to create urea, a waste product made from excess nitrogen.

3. Vegetarians Can Get Enough Protein from Plant Sources

With all the focus on meat, dairy products, and poultry, we sometimes forget that non-animal foods have protein as well. Soy, peanut butter, beans, and almond milk are just a few vegetarian sources of protein.

Check out these sources of plant-based protein if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. (Meat-eaters can save calories by including some of these foods in meal plans instead of meat or dairy.)

One cup cooked lentils = 18 grams protein
One cup split green peas = 8 grams protein
Three tablespoons hemp seeds = 10 grams protein
One-quarter cup nuts = 7 to 9 grams protein
One cup black beans = 15 grams protein

A study conducted on over 80,000 women showed that women who consumed protein mainly from vegetable sources had a 30% lower risk of heart disease than women who ate high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets.

4. Post-workout Protein Contributes to Muscle Growth

Bodybuilders and others who engage in intense workouts should consume 10 to 20 grams of protein within 60 minutes after exercising. Weightlifting and other vigorous exercise break down muscles. That’s why drinking whey protein shake after a workout can help protein better adhere to muscles.

Consuming more protein (via food and protein powders) will not increase muscle mass unless it’s combined with strength training and an all-around balanced diet.

Protein powders offer an easy way to get high-quality protein, especially for athletes and people who want to lose weight. However, athletes and dieters can get enough protein from their food, so protein powder is only necessary for a few situations. Here are a few people who can benefit from using protein powder:

  • Teen new to working out
  • People recovering from injuries
  • Vegans and vegetarians
  • Athletes increasing their workout schedule

5. High-protein diets can cause high cholesterol and heart disease

Eating a large steak for dinner and a bacon cheeseburger for lunch, with peanut butter parfait for dessert, may do more than pack on muscle. For example, hot dogs and sausage contain protein, but they’re also heavy in sodium, which can raise your blood pressure. Certain cuts of meat contain saturated fat, which can cause heart disease if you overeat these foods over a long period.

Be mindful of the type of foods supplying the protein in your diet and how much of it you eat.  Choose tuna, salmon, beans, eggs and other healthy sources of protein over fatty meats.

Eat an assortment of high-protein foods daily (along with other healthy foods) to feel satiated and avoid overeating the rest of the day. Protein also increases your metabolism, causing you to burn more fat. Lastly, make sure you eat a combination of plant protein and lean meat protein. A healthy mix will make your body run more efficiently, helping you acheive your fitness and weight lose goals.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

The Staple Foods of the Paleo Diet

New to the Paleo diet? To clear up any confusion, here is a basic overview along with the list of foods that you can eat and those you should avoid.

Any fresh, whole food that comes straight from nature is one of the staple foods of the Paleo diet. The Paleo food list consists of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. It’s not Paleo if it’s processed. Some people refer to the Paleo diet as the Caveman diet because the recommended foods are similar to what cavemen ate in prehistoric times. 

Let’s take a look at the major Paleo foods and why you should eat them. You can make many delicious main and side dishes using the foods from the following list.

Fish

Any fresh, wild-caught fish provides you with heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and Vitamin D. As long as you swap out fish as a main dish with poultry and red meat, you won’t need to worry about excess mercury. The Paleo diet is based on real, unprocessed foods, so get used to eating  whole tuna as opposed to canned tuna. Studies show eating fish reduces your chance of heart attacks and strokes.

To keep things interesting, choose from the following fish when making meal plans:

  • Red Snapper
  • Swordfish
  • Trout
  • Shrimp and other shellfish
  • Cod
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Tuna

That’s not a complete list, of course, you’ll find a lot more in the seafood section of your supermarket.

Poultry and Meat

Red meat and poultry supply B-complex vitamin, especially energy-boosting Vitamin B12.

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Pork Chops
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Ground beef
  • Bison
  • Bacon
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Eggs

…and much more.

Turkey is a great protein source, and it also contains niacin and Vitamin B6 to boost the body’s energy production. Eating turkey on a regular basis lowers cholesterol, and it has the amino acid tryptophan, which produces serotonin to relax you and improve your immune system. 

Chicken provides plenty of B vitamins, selenium, zinc, magnesium, choline and iron. A skinless, boneless chicken breast has 31 grams of protein.

 Pork contains 25.7 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. It also contains 0.07 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids and four important B vitamins – Vitamins B6, B12, Thiamin, and Niacin. A 100 gram serving of pork has 2.39 mg of zinc and 148 mcg of selenium (212% of the daily value).

 Beef comes from mammals and has more iron than chicken or fish. The Paleo diet includes ribs, roasts, and steaks made from various red meats. Processed meats, like sausage and jerky, are discouraged. Lean beef contains iron, zinc, B vitamins, and all essential amino acids. Eating beef is recommended when you are recovering from surgery, and athletes also need plenty of it to build muscle.

 Eggs provide cheap, high-quality protein. They contain Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus, but are also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. One large egg contains 17.5 IUs of Vitamin D, 244 IUs of Vitamin A, and 23.5 mcg of folate.

Vegetables

Perhaps the most important part of this (or any) diet is vegetables. These are common veggies to make sure you include in your daily nutrition.

  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Swiss chard
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Broccoli
  • Squash

Vegetables are low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Eat one to four cups of fresh vegetables daily to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Low-cholesterol spinach is rich in most vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron, Vitamins C and K and potassium. Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables due to its high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and anti-cancer agents like glucoraphanin, beta-carotene, selenium, and diindolylmethane.

Fruits

Some people may complain about adding more vegetables to their diet, but few people don’t love at least a few types of fresh fruit. Here’s a partial list of the fruits you can eat on the Paleo diet.

  • Bananas
  • Coconut
  • Apples
  • Tangerines
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Cherries
  • Pineapples
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Plums

Fruits add plenty of Vitamin C, fiber and potassium to your diet. Oranges, grapes, grapefruit, and bananas are high in folate (also known as folic acid). Folate helps form red blood cells and prevents congenital disabilities.

The phytochemicals in fruit help guard against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Eat fruit for snacks to supply natural sugar and energy. Eat one to two and a half cups of fruit a day for optimal health.

Nuts, Seeds, Spices and Dried Herbs

All nuts, seeds, mushroom, dried herbs, and spices are considered Paleo-friendly. Anything that’s not processed; that you can get from the ground, a tree or plant, or in the wild is a Paleo food.

Chocolate, coffee, and alcohol are allowed as an occasional indulgence. Coffee beans and cocoa beans come from plants. Alcohol has been consumed for centuries, and is made from fermented sugar or starch.

Consider the pros and cons of these foods before adding them to your Paleo diet.

The Do Not Eat List

As with most diet plans, there are a handful of things to avoid. While following Paleo, try your best not to touch:

  • White potatoes*
  • Wheat flour
  • Sugar
  • Pasta
  • Processed foods
  • Dairy
  • Cereal
  • Candy
  • Peanuts and other legumes

*Some Paleo experts include white potatoes, while others allow it. The choice is up to you.

Essential Paleo Pantry Foods

Even Paleo foods could use a bit of sprucing up with sauces and spicy garnishes. Here are a few Paleo-approved pantry foods to make your meals more enjoyable.

Seaweed is more than a garnish in your miso soup. All seaweed varieties contain essential minerals and nutrients, including chlorophyll, B vitamins, and iodine. Eating salad or soup made with seaweed adds flavor to meals, but doesn’t add many calories.  Two tablespoons of Wakame have five calories; two tablespoons of kelp have four calories. 

Even though wheat flour and regular baked goods are Paleo no-nos, you can still use almond flour, coconut flour, or another type of nut flour to make thick sauces or bread pork chops or chicken. Check out this Almond Flour Biscuits recipe.

A Paleo diet allows eggs, but not cheese. Substitute nutritional yeast if you miss making cheese omelets or quiche. A flaky, vitamin-heavy substance full of amino acids, nutritional yeast is often used by vegans to replace cheese in recipes. Buy nutritional yeast online or at health food stores.

Use unsweetened cocoa powder as a sugar substitute to make chocolate chili or other recipes. Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate provides taste and nutrition. Dark chocolate can even help lower blood pressure.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

3 Great Things to Eat Before Bed to Build Muscle

Evening cravings are possibly one of the hardest parts about eating clean and healthy. Here are three great options for nighttime snacks that you don't have to feel guilty about.

Amino acids, along with exercise and weight training, help build muscles. Eating protein-rich foods at bedtime lets your body produce amino acids to repair muscles while you sleep. Since you spend about one-third of your life sleeping, eating protein every night before bed will allow you to maintain healthy muscles.

You want to eat something that will relax you, but you also need a snack that will help you build muscle overnight. Caffeine, sugar and excess salt are out of the picture. You need food that’s proven to make you calm and produce amino acids. Remember to eat the right amount of protein-rich foods during the day for your age, sex and activity level. Drink a whey protein shake within an hour after an intense workout to repair overworked muscles.

Check out three great things to eat before bed to build muscle and keep amino acids in your bloodstream while you sleep.

1. Greek Yogurt and Other Dairy Products

You’ve probably heard that drinking a glass of milk at bedtime can make you sleepy, but eating dairy products before you doze off can also help you build muscles.

Drink a tall glass of low-fat milk before bed )eight grams protein) with avocado toast – or avocado spread on a bagel.  A cup of sliced avocado has 2.9 grams of protein, 4.6 grams of dietary fiber, plus magnesium, Vitamin K, folate, potassium and Vitamin B6. It’s also a great source of Vitamin E and heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids.     

Greek yogurt is a lot creamier than regular yogurt because it lacks the liquid whey, sugar, and lactose of thinner, plain yogurt.   Both types of yogurt are full of calcium and protein, but six ounces of Greek yogurt has 15 to 20 grams of protein, compared to 9 grams in the same amount of regular yogurt.

Sprinkle chia or flax seeds in your Greek yogurt for even more protein – and fiber-power. Chia seeds contain fiber, antioxidants, Omega 3 fatty acids and two tablespoons contain four grams of protein. A cup of Greek yogurt and two tablespoons of Chia seeds has 24 grams of protein and 14 grams of carbohydrates.

Flax seeds add plant-based Omega 3s and six grams of protein to your already-muscle building Greek yogurt. A three-tablespoon serving of flax seeds contains 30% of the RDA for magnesium, 31% of the RDA for Vitamin B1 and eight grams of fiber. 

Eat low-fat cottage cheese with a handful (one ounce) of almonds. Almonds contain healthy monounsaturated fats, six grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber and 20% of the daily recommended value of magnesium. The fiber fills you up, and the protein slows digestion to  provide you with amino acids bit by bit.

Add a cup of nonfat cottage cheese, which has 15 grams of protein to your bedtime snack for a total of 21 grams of protein. Add a few more almonds or more cottage cheese if you like for more protein.

For another low to low-prep snack, eat a few slices of reduced fat cheese with chopped raw carrots, broccoli or celery. Choose low-fat mozzarella cheese (32 grams of protein per cup) or goat cheese (31 grams protein per cup) for the biggest muscle-building power.

2. Canned Tuna or Fish

For a quick and easy snack, open a can of water-packed tuna and add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. A drained can of water-packed light tuna has 39.3 grams of protein (79% of the suggested daily value). Eat half the can and save the other half for lunch the next day if that’s too much pre-bed protein for you. Tuna is also high in choline, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin B6. One can of tuna has 102% of the daily value of niacin.

Eat a piece of salmon left over from dinner, or cook a fresh piece with olive oil. Salmon is incredibly nutritious, with a four-ounce serving of wild-caught salmon containing 53.1% of the daily recommended value for protein and a whopping 55% of the DV for Omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon also has 127% of the daily value of mood-boosting Vitamin D.

Less popular types of fish also provide muscle-building protein. Halibut, snapper, and tilapia contain 26 to 29 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. Eat with a few raw veggies for a before-bed snack.

3. Peanut Butter

Everybody loves peanut butter – and as a bonus, it’s good for you. Natural peanut butter or any nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut) has good fats that fight Type 2 diabetes, prevent weight gain and even increase metabolism when eaten in moderation. Two tablespoons of protein have eight grams of protein.

Increase the protein content of a peanut butter snack before bedtime by making a smoothie using whey protein powder. Combine peanut butter (or any nut butter), ice, and whey protein powder in a blender for a nighttime drink with up to 35 grams of protein per shake. You can also add bananas or other ingredients for a different taste and other nutrients.

Eat peanut butter on whole wheat crackers with a soft or hard boiled egg. We usually think of eggs as a breakfast item, but they’re loaded with protein and easy to prepare any time of day. One large egg has 70 calories and contains six grams of protein, along with choline, selenium, biotin, Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and iodine. Peanut butter on crackers and a large egg will give you 14 grams of protein or more, depending on how many crackers you eat.

Prepare a late-night omelet if you have the energy. An omelet made with two eggs, two egg whites and grass-fed butter has 24 grams of protein and 215 calories. Add a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter instead of crackers for even more protein.

When you don’t have enough time to cook anything before bed, or if you’re on the road, carry a few protein bars with you to eat before you go to sleep. Choose a sugar-free bar that’s relatively low in calories, and stick to one bar per night.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.

Why You Need a Cheat Meal

Great news: when you are trying a new diet or staying strong with healthy eating, it is totally OK to indulge in a cheat meal every once in awhile.

Whether you’re on a weight loss diet or committed to healthy eating, it’s okay to cheat once in a while. Any diet can survive an occasional cheat meal. Reducing daily calories lowers carbohydrates and can leave you feeling weak and hungry. All those changes in your body due to your diet – and increased exercise – come at a cost.

Scientific research shows cheat meals are necessary because they help you maintain your energy when you are on a prolonged, moderated diet. Without an occasional high-calorie treat, cravings may get the best of you and undo all the hard work you’ve put into your diet.

Cheat Meals Regulate Appetite Hormones

A temporary binge meal can help regulate leptin, the hormone that regulates hunger and energy in your body. Your leptin level decreases, slowing down your metabolism when your body has fewer calories to nourish it. Eating a cheat meal aids weight loss by temporarily convincing your body it has enough food.

Ghrelin, a peptide hormone, and appetite stimulant, is increased when you exercise heavily or restrict your diet, causing intense hunger cravings.  Extreme low-calorie diets may cause your ghrelin levels to rise, making you binge on unhealthy food.

A temporary boost in calorie intake can regulate the levels of leptin and ghrelin in your body. Leptin (and energy) increase by up to 30% in healthy females, after they ate carbohydrates, according to one study.

Other facts about leptin and ghrelin:

  • Leptin levels are low when you’re thin, and higher when you gain weight.
  • The thinner you are, the faster leptin decreases when you don’t eat. The leptin that remains is bound and unable to create energy and suppress appetite.
  • The appetite-suppressing hormone leptin and its appetite- stimulating opposite ghrelin experience significant changes after you fast for one to three days.

A Cheat Meal Reduces Cravings

An occasional cheat meal stops the cravings caused by a restricted diet. Mainstream diets with lists of allowed and restricted foods cause many dieters to cheat more often than recommended or go off the diet completely.

Studies show that flexible dieting, which allows cheat meals and a large number of foods, works better than rigid dieting, which allows dieters to eat only certain foods. Restricted diets are more likely to cause eating disorders and higher BMIs.

A Reward for Being Good All Week

Reward yourself for sensible eating all week can stabilize your hunger cravings and keep you on your diet. A 2014 review of various studies published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found cheat meals and other dietary rewards offered positive short-term changes in appetite and eating behaviors.

Without a reward, dieting becomes boring and monotonous. Cheat meals give you something to look forward to and make it easier to continue your diet for the rest of the week – or until your next scheduled cheat meal. 

A reward system works if you eat an occasional cheat meal and don’t abuse the privilege. You may need to cut down or eliminate cheat meals if you find that they become larger and more frequent. Cheat meals are a happy break, but you still need discipline and willpower to stay on your diet for the long haul.

Schedule Small Cheat Meals

Plan your cheat meals; don’t wing it. A cheat meal should add extra calories without going overboard. You can replace your regular meal with a cheat meal at home, or have your cheat meal at a restaurant with friends.

Use common sense when planning a cheat meal. A few pieces of mushroom, olive and meatball pizza is more well-balanced (and probably has fewer calories) than a pint of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.

Eat a steak with baked potatoes and creamed spinach, a chicken burrito or a cheeseburger (preferably without the bun) to satisfy your cravings while enjoying a well-balanced meal.

Instead of eating a full cheat meal, you could add 200-300 calories to your count for a few days, and eat a few cookies or a croissant. This method gives you something to look forward to more often, even though it’s not a full meal.

The 90/10 System

Experts agree that 90% of your meals and snacks should be healthy, with 10% allotted for fun cheat foods (pizza, ice cream sandwiches, fried chicken, etc.).

As long as you follow the 90/10 rule, you can eat an occasional junk food snack or high-calorie meal, without throwing off your diet.  You’ll feel satisfied and be less likely to crave “bad food” later in the week. Use cheat meals to keep your diet and appetite on track. Don’t get greedy and have “cheat days.” The 90/10 rule allows for three or four cheat meals a week if you eat five small meals a day, seven days a week.

Stick to the 90/10 rule if you want to lose a lot of weight. It might be a good idea to follow the rule even if you’re at your ideal weight.

How To Avoid Cheating Too Much

You’ll need to disrupt your diet a lot to gain weight, even if you’re not especially adept at self-control. Eating out one or two nights a week may add up to 2,000 calories (the average restaurant meal is 1,000 calories), but you’ll need to eat out every night for a while to gain five pounds.

Don’t feel you need to stick to your diet when you’re at a birthday party or traveling. Enjoy the moment, and get back on track when you get home.

Limit yourself to one cheat meal a day. Avoid placing all your cheat meals one right after the other. A healthy breakfast and lunch followed by a dinner with co-workers aren’t as bad for your diet as three cheat meals in a row.

Reset your body after a cheat meal by eating potassium-rich bananas and avocados to reduce bloating and sodium levels, or eat broccoli, which contains detoxifying glucoraphanin.

Consistency in your diet is better for your gut microbes, so stick to the same cheat foods on a regular basis. Have pizza every Thursday night or go out with your friends for Mexican food and margaritas on Monday.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.