Think You Can Have a Cheat Day on Keto? Our Nutritionist Weighs In…

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Can you have a cheat day on keto? We’re answering the infamous keto cheat day question!

mint keto buttercream frosting on a cupcake

Can you have a cheat day on keto? Our Keto Nutritionist gives us the rundown.

How many times have you ever said, “I’m picking back up on my keto diet next week.”? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably fallen off the diet wagon a few times over the years and found yourself in a position where you had to start over. You’re not alone! It’s common to have great intentions, only to have them crumble when you cheat and break the rules on a “keto cheat day”.

Many people include “cheat days” or “cheat meals” as part of their diet plans, thinking that the cheating will actually help to keep them on track. But with a keto diet, this way of thinking can negatively affect your weight loss journey and keep you from reaping all the other health benefits of the keto lifestyle.

woman wearing ketosis is magical tee

The keto diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat way of eating. The purpose is to get your body to burn fat (ketones) for fuel instead of carbs. When your body is burning fat for fuel, you’re in a state of ketosis.

The amount of time it takes a person to get into ketosis can vary. When first starting keto, some people are able to achieve ketosis within a few days, while it might take others a few weeks to adapt to burning fat. The better you are at following a strict keto diet, the more likely you are to be in ketosis and reach your health goals.

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Carbs, which turn into glucose when eaten, are the easiest form of energy for the body to burn for fuel. When glucose isn’t available, your body will switch to burning fat for fuel. But as soon as you have carbs, your body will return to relying on glucose. For many people, a high carb intake leads to weight gain. Your body can’t burn all the carbs you eat and the excess glucose is stored as fat.

It may be tempting to reward yourself on the weekends after doing such a good job following a keto diet during the week. But be careful – as soon as your blood sugars spike, you’ll be out of ketosis.

woman pointing at keto cheat food for how to get back into ketosis

Weekend cheats can mean that your body will spend Monday through Wednesday getting back into full ketosis. Then, you may be in ketosis for Thursday and Friday and then switch back to burning glucose on Saturday and Sunday. Cheating will prevent your body from fully adapting to ketosis, and you will never be able to get all the benefits of keto if you’re cheating on the weekend!

Cheating on keto could also lead to cravings and make it more difficult to get back on track. The stricter you are on keto, the less likely you are to have cravings or feel deprived. If you’re just starting a keto diet, it is recommended that you avoid cheating as much as possible.

Stetson wearing Recovering Carboholic tee

How to stay in ketosis.

Now, we do realize that there is no such thing as a perfect diet and slip-ups do happen. When you get off track, acknowledge it, and then get right back on keto.

There is nothing you can do except move forward, so do your best to skip the guilt! Don’t dwell on the pizza, fries, or donuts. Make a plan for what you’ll do next time you find yourself in a tempting situation, and then use these tips to get back on track!

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Going forward, make sure to keep plenty of keto-friendly food in your kitchen. Focus on protein and vegetables at meals. Make sure you’re eating enough fat throughout the day. If you skimp on fats, you’ll end up feeling deprived and hungry, which could cause you to binge on carbs in a moment of weakness.

Fat makes food taste better, too, and it will help to keep your taste buds satisfied so you won’t be as tempted to cheat. Use butter, olive oil, coconut oil, cheese, nuts, seeds, full-fat salad dressing, and avocados.

woman holding keto krate box with keto snacks

“It’s hard to get the real benefits of keto if you’re cheating every weekend. Once in a while, I am all for it because life experiences sometimes revolve around food, but don’t stay there! There are so many substitutions and at the end of the day the body responds best to whole foods with minimal preservatives and that’s what keto is!” – Rachel, Hip teammate

hand holding homemade frosty in glass mug with spoon

Some other tips to avoid cheating on the keto diet:

  • Count your macros: Every carb counts, especially on keto. And while it might feel like a lot of work to use software like Carb Manager to calculate your nutrition, at least consider this: there ARE fewer carbs to count than calories, so there’s that!
  • Wait 20 minutes: That’s usually all it takes to get over that thing you REALLY thought you needed to eat. A small dill pickle is also a fantastic way to satisfy taste buds, especially if you’re craving sweets.
  • Cope with the goofs: Did you sip a regular Coke thinking it was diet? Accidentally lick the frosting from your fingers? It happens to everyone. Just keep moving forward.
  • Don’t wait to get back on the plan: Did you eat off-plan for dinner? Cave to a Snickers? Don’t wait until tomorrow (or Monday) to keep going. Start with the next bite of food you take. By the time you wake up tomorrow, you’ll have been back on plan for eight or more hours already!
  • Not quite ready to fully commit? Check out cyclical keto, also known as carb cycling, and have on and off days to ease into full keto. You could also just start with a low-carb diet and gradually reduce your carb intake over the course of a few weeks until you’ve reached 20-30 grams of carbs a day.

woman holding up kale leaves in kitchen

The bottom line is this!

Eating keto is like no other diet, and it only works when you’re following the principles of ketogenic eating. This means that “cheat days” aren’t really an option for keto peeps, but once you’ve been eating this way for a while, you’ll find that the benefits are worth staying the course.

Regardless of where you are along your journey to better health, we’re here to support you along the way!

Learn how eating keto can help you manage your cortisol levels for better health!

About the writer:

Emily graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Idaho, holds 5 years of blogging experience, and has been featured in Every Day Health and Women's Health Magazine.

Join The Discussion

Comments 28

  1. Serah

    What do you think about instant ketones? I am not looking to cheat but if I did…it *Seems* like a solution for getting back into Ketosis?

    • Allison

      Exogenous ketones only stay in your body for a short period of time. You’re only in ketosis while it’s in your system. You’d have to keep supplementing. Plus, they’re expensive ?

    • Scott

      Exogenous Ketones stay for a short period of time. I know for a fact some stay for 4-6 hours depending on the supplement. This might not put you back into pure ketosis but it can help burn fat for 4-6 hours. It’s not perfect by any means but it helps. It also elevates your ketone levels when you are in ketosis so you are burning more fat faster than before.

  2. Melissa

    Thank you for the useful Information! I’m new to keto and still give in to carbs nd sugar too much, this information will help me when I want to cheat.

    • Amber (Hip2Keto Sidekick)

      You’re SO welcome! Super glad this will be helpful for you!

  3. Christine

    Hi guys! Any suggestions for cake and cookie substitutes? They are usually my downfall. I’ve also been struggling with all this great fruit out for the summer.

  4. Christine


    • Amber (Hip2Keto Sidekick)

      You’re so welcome!

  5. Grace Sikora

    Sometimes I give into 1 piece of Dove chocolate at night. Will this affect a Keto diet?

    • Amber (Hip2Keto Sidekick)

      Hi, Grace! If you’re counting those treats in your overall macros for the day and you’re still losing weight or feeling fantastic, that sounds like it’s working for you as a choice. It’s only if it caused greater hunger or was taking away from other foods you should be eating that I’d probably be concerned. Hope that helps!

    • Kaity

      Look into Lily’s Chocolates or opt for 90-100% dark chocolate to avoid the carbs!! Lily’s is sweetened with stevia and tastes amazing! Half an entire bar has about 4 net carbs!

  6. Jodi Thiel

    What do you suggest to find out when you are in kestosis? I’ve heard of the pee sticks but would love a recommendation.

  7. Steph

    I do keto for a few days then have a day or two where I eat carbs. Fruits, bread, oats. etc. It has been highly effective for me so far so I am disagreeing with this post.

    • Alli

      You’re probably losing weight because you’re cutting back on your carbs, but your body won’t get into ketosis. Getting into ketosis & staying there is even more effective. That’s what this post is about .

  8. Abby

    Hello. I’ve been on Keto for over a month. I have only lost about 2 lbs. I’ve been so strict and I use the strips, which show I’m in ketosis. What can I do to lose some more weight??

    • Amber (Hip2Keto Sidekick)

      Stick with it! If you’re feeling amazing, you might just lose weight more slowly. If you’re reaping the health benefits of keto, and it’s obvious you’re losing, you’re on the right track.

  9. Abby

    Thanks, I plan to continue as I do feel some what better. Time will tell 🙂

    • Amber (Hip2Keto Sidekick)

      You’re welcome!

    • Kelli

      Hello! I have been going through the same thing, and I discovered that I was eating too many calories. I was so worried about carbs and getting enough fat, that I didn’t think that if I have fat to lose, I do t need to eat a bunch of fat! Just cut the carbs and make sure your eating goo healthy foods and protein. Once you lose the weight, you can add more carbs and fat to maintain.

      • Kelli

        * don’t *good. Spell check is the best! 🙄

  10. Abby

    I do use the pee strips every day, to help me to see what food keeps me at the highest level of ketosis. I’m learning what works best, such as eating a fat bomb before bed. I can see that I need more fat daily. When I eat a fat bomb before bed or some other high fat food, I’m quite high on the pee stick the next morning. I drank a glass of white wine, the next day I was much lower on the stick. But when I drank red wine, it was still purple. They’re great, but I feel like I’m peeing on them constantly just to see the results of the food I eat. 🙂

  11. Sharon Goldsmith

    keto is the only eating plan that I have ever stayed with been on it for about 5 months and have lost 30 lbs. I have to admit according to the strips I have never been in ketosis but feel great and brought my a1c from 8.9 tp a 6.9…….I am single so easier but you can feed a family this food and they probably would not know the difference.

  12. Pauline

    In all honesty, I do believe that if you indulge your cravings with artificial sugar or even natural sugars, you will never get rid of sugar cravings. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between one or the other.

  13. gandalfmycat

    I do a strict keto but I had to put Organic prunes in my diet plus I do a low net carb of a Wrap that I get at Sam’s club for the high fiber in each wrap. I also eat the healthy fats like Avacado’s over the bacon. I recently got diagnosed with Gerd and Gallstones which was caused from other health issues I have not from Keto.

    • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

      Glad you’ve been able to make these adjustments and found what works best for you! Wishing you the best with your other health issues! 🤗 💕

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