My Guilt Free Diet Cheats

November 14, 2019

Some of your all-time favorite “treats” made guilt-free (and still delicious) diet cheats with just a few tweaks!

Cravings. We all have them – especially when we’re just starting out on a new diet and lifestyle plan. Maybe you’ve had a stressful week and crave something crunchy, or you’re just feeling festive with the holiday season approaching and the urge to bake is overwhelming. Whatever your reason is, I’ve got your back with some great diet cheats!

Did you know that your feelings about food influence your fat loss? I read this study a few years ago that had a tremendous impact on how I now view dieting. Researchers asked Americans what emotion they associated with chocolate cake. The overwhelming answer – guilt. Then they asked the French what emotion they associate with chocolate cake. Their answer may surprise you – celebration.

I came to the realization that diets that don’t incorporate celebration and the foods we enjoy and consider treats and diet cheats are doomed to fail, because of how strongly our emotions are tied to our food. Deep down, we really feel like diets are all work and no play. For a diet to be successful, at least some of our food choices have to bring us joy and feel like a celebration.

With my 4 decades of experience helping thousands upon thousands of dieters like you lose weight and keep it off, I understand the need for treats and “diet cheats” to enjoy while trying to lose weight. The good news is that when you choose wisely, you can quell the crave without expanding your waistline or compromising your health. Today I’m sharing with you my all-time favorite diet cheats – that are actually healthy treats that won’t derail your progress.

When You Crave That Crunch

I love popcorn. There’s nothing like settling in to watch a movie after a long day with a warm, freshly popped bowl of it. And believe it or not, it’s one of the healthiest snacks you can indulge in if it’s prepared properly. It turns out that how you cook it makes all the difference between it being a healthy snack or one that packs on the pounds, promotes disease, and ages you prematurely.

One of the topics I tackle in my upcoming book, Radical Longevity, is the harmful process of glycation and the formation of dangerous Advanced Glycation End Products, also known as AGEs. AGEs are highly inflammatory, toxic molecules that clump together and cause silent damage to cells, tissues, organs, joints, and even your DNA. The accumulation of AGEs in your body leads to chronic diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, kidney failure, liver cirrhosis, and more.

When it comes to AGEs, it’s how you cook and not what you cook that is most important. It doesn’t matter how many miles you run, how much muscle you build, or how much you starve yourself – if your cooking methods are adding to your toxic load, your skin will sag, your tissues will clump together, and your cells will age prematurely. And if your body is already on toxic overload, there’s no route for those AGEs to get out, so they go into your tissues and lead to chronic disease.

If you roast, broil, grill, barbeque, fry, sauté, sear, bake, toast, brown, or use high heat in any manner to cook your food, you are creating very high levels of AGEs – regardless of what you’re cooking. And surprisingly, the dry heat that has been touted as the healthier alternative to frying, causes AGEs to form at levels 10 to 100 times what is present in uncooked foods.

Animal proteins, by themselves, are more susceptible to AGE formation than any other food. Just like you, animals are exposed to toxins through their environments and accumulate AGEs. This means they are naturally present in the animal products you consume, so butter isn’t the best choice to put on your popcorn if you’re trying to stay healthy and youthful. And any food combined with sugar in any form will also form high levels of AGEs, so caramel corn and other sweet popcorn treats are also off the table.

Popcorn is a universally well-tolerated starchy vegetable – even those with gluten and grain intolerances do well with it. The healthiest way I’ve found to prepare my non-GMO, organic popcorn is using an air popper – NOT a microwave – to pop about 3 cups for me to snack on. I then drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil over it and sprinkle with a little Real Salt or one of their herb salt blends. Another way to add more flavor is to warm some extra virgin coconut oil and infuse with herbs or spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for a festive holiday flair. Personally, I can’t think of a better crunchy diet cheat!

To give you an idea of exactly how low in AGEs air-popped popcorn is compared to other crunchy snacks, consider this study published in the Journal of the American Dietetics Association (JADA). The same amount of each snack was used to measure AGEs – 30 grams by weight. A 30 gram serving of popcorn without any fat added is 10 kU, and adding butter brings it up to 40 kU. Compare that to baked potato chips at 135 kU, corn chips at 151 kU, mini pretzels at 537 kU, and baked cheddar crackers at 653 kU, and you can see just how healthy properly prepared popcorn can be for you.

When You Want Something Warm and Sweet to Drink

Who doesn’t love wrapping their hands around a warm cup and breathing in that sweet aroma to take the chill out of the rapidly cooling temps? But, chances are your new healthy lifestyle has caused you to ditch your favorite warming drinks from the coffee house because of their high sugar content and chemical soup of added ingredients. So where do you turn when you crave that comfort?

When my Fat Flush plan became a New York Times Bestseller with millions of copies sold, as the thousands of weight loss testimonies came pouring in, so did the requests to recreate favorite comfort foods and treats. It was a labor of love to develop healthy versions of timeless classics, and some are surprisingly simple. I have made it a point to include “diet cheats” in all of my healthy eating plans and actually made it a feature of my new Radical Metabolism and QuickStart plans.

My favorite hot cocoa recipe – or should I say hot cacao – is so festive, easy and quick to make. Simply bring 8 ounces of filtered water to a boil, add 1 scoop of Fat Flush Whey Protein Powder, 1-2 tablespoons of cacao to taste, and a pinch of cinnamon. Whisk together and serve topped with whipped coconut cream, if desired. A pinch of cinnamon brings out the natural sweetness of most foods, so if your sweet tooth is tempting you, be sure to remember this helpful tip.

I was thrilled to include the latest research on the slim-stimulating effects of coffee and cacao in my Radical Metabolism plan. I discovered coffee is a superfood that is rich in chlorogenic acid. This means your morning coffee is good for your liver, heart, and brain, plus it triples your fat burning – all while helping you retain lean muscle mass.

Did you know bitter tastes like coffee and chocolate make your diet work better by cutting cravings, increasing digestive juices like stomach acid and bile, and helping you reset your digestion after a high fat diet like keto or paleo? It’s true!

To make the best of both worlds, try making the hot cocoa recipe, but substitute an organic, medium roast coffee for the water. My brand of choice is antioxidant rich, mycotoxin and chemical-free Purity Coffee (get 10% off with code DETOX10).

For even more coffee and cacao beverages and recipes – and to learn how your diet can be a celebration of weight loss and not a chore – check out my Radical Metabolism and QuickStart plans.

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Dolores

    So happy to learn the benefits of popcorn, one of my favorite snacks! I can’t wait to try the hot cocoa recipe.

  2. Chris Finner

    Amazing that these are healthy treats!

  3. Nan Louis

    Love my new air popper! Thanks for explaining why it is so important.


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