Can Type 2 Diabetics Have a Cheat Day?

People eating Pizza

Your body produces insulin to survive. Insulin regulates our blood sugar by permitting glucose in our blood to enter our cells and provide energy for our bodies.

If you are a person with type 2 diabetes, your body converts carbohydrates from food and drink into glucose at a higher-than-normal level. In response, the pancreas secretes insulin. But the insulin is ineffective, so your blood glucose levels continue to rise. Therefore, more insulin is secreted in response to the high sugar levels.

This can gradually exhaust the pancreas in type 2 diabetics, causing their bodies to produce less and less insulin. This insulin resistance can result in even higher blood sugar levels, putting you at risk for hyperglycemia.

Learning how to live with type 2 diabetes might be difficult, but, with help from a certified diabetes educator or a registered dietitian, you'll discover what works best for you. Some people can control it with health-conscious eating, increased physical activity, or through weight loss. The best advice is to set realistic health goals, create a healthy diet plan, keep your blood sugars within your target range, exercise, and avoid stress one week at a time.

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Type 2 Diabetes and Cheat Days

When people with diabetic diet restrictions bring up the idea of having a "cheat day", it will typically involve losing all self-control and eating the irresistible delicacies they have been denying themselves. Cravings for food like pizza or cake are usually what people with type 2 diabetes wish to indulge in.

Calculating the Impact of Cheat Days on Blood Glucose Levels

The impact of the spike in blood sugar levels during a cheat day is influenced by many factors. If you only ate one bad thing, you'd only have one blood glucose spike that will affect your A1C. But if you chose to snack throughout the day, mostly on carbs and sugar filled food, you might have 6 to 10 large glucose spikes that will greatly impact your next A1C.

Here's a simplified example of how cheat days may affect your blood glucose levels. If your typical A1C is 6.0%, which is a 125 daily average reading, a cheat meal every three weeks might raise your blood sugar to 130 or your A1C to 6.2%. One cheat meal every two weeks will boost your blood sugar average to 133, resulting in an A1C of 6.3%.

What is a Cheat Meal?

Cheat meals are planned meals that contain decadent foods that are typically not permitted in the diet plan of a person with diabetes. A cheat day is a day in which you are permitted to eat any foods you like.

Many people feel that they are being punished when they must follow a strict diet plan. But when you are trying to keep your blood sugars at healthy levels, no diet is too strict.


How Often Can People With Type 2 Diabetes Have a Cheat Meal?

Cheating once a month will cause potentially dangerous high blood sugar levels 12 times a year. A recent study suggests that a healthy lifestyle (excellent eating, daily exercise, and a cheerful outlook) can help your blood sugars normalize in as little as two to three weeks.

It is relatively simple to raise your blood sugar levels by having too many cheat days. That's why it is not advisable to eat a cheat meal while maintaining daily blood sugar control.

While an occasional cheat may not cause permanent damage, every glucose spike adds up. Your best bet is to maintain a balanced diet and avoid putting extra stress on your serious health issues.

Tips on How To Cheat Smartly with Type 2 Diabetes?

If your cravings are too strong to control, and you need to escape from your strict diabetes diet for one meal, there are a few tricks you can use to mitigate the spike of blood sugar your body is about to experience.

Tip 1: Check Blood Sugar After Eating a Cheat Meal

For people with type 2 diabetes, it's crucial to check your blood sugar 2 hours after each meal to attempt to maintain your non diabetes range. It is even more important that you test your levels after cheat meals so you can try to control the damage.

Tip 2: Practice Portion Control

Eating smaller portions is as important as not snacking between meals. A smaller main course means less calories, and less calories equals a lower blood sugar spike. An excessive amount of calories is never good for people with diabetes.

Tip 3: Replace the Main Meal with Your Cheat Meal

By replacing your main daily meal with a cheat meal, you can dramatically reduce your caloric intake, which can further prevent blood sugar increases after eating. For instance, indulge your urge for pizza if that is what you've been craving all week.

But, you should have the pizza for dinner rather than as an evening snack before or after your regular dinner. Otherwise, this would result in double the calories and a high blood glucose reading.

Tip 4: Stick to What You Love the Most

Let's face it, if you're cheating on your diet, you might as well go all the way. If you're craving a hunk of birthday cake, buttery pav bhaji, crunchy samosas, or fried chicken tenders, go ahead and eat them. It's called cheating, after all.

But while you're enjoying your cheat meal, remember tip number 2, portion control. Exercise constraint and avoid stuffing yourself.

How Can I Control Blood Sugar Spikes After Cheat Meals

While every metabolism is different, some of these tips may help lower your blood sugar levels on your cheat days.

  • With your cheat meal, have a side dish of steamed vegetables or a small salad with olive oil and lemon.
  • Eat high protein meals before and after the cheat meal.
  • Eat a small protein snack 2 hours after your cheat meal to help lower blood sugar.
  • Have a light breakfast the next morning to give your body time to rid itself of last night's extra carbs. (Not recommended for those with the risk of hypoglycemia).
  • Eat extra fiber with the cheat meal and your meals the following day. 

Are Cheat Meals Worth it?

When planning on having a cheat meal, you must ask yourself if the risk is worth the momentary pleasure. While occasional indulgences are acceptable, you must be aware of the amount of extra carbohydrates you consume and adapt accordingly. You don't want to increase complications to your health.

Never overindulge during your cheating meal with the intention of skipping the next meal. Skipping a meal might cause low blood glucose, or hypoglycemia, which is quite dangerous if you are taking medication. Check with your doctor if you have concerns about your medication or low blood glucose.


By watching what they eat, people with diabetes can usually control their blood sugars and live a somewhat normal life. And while a cheat day sounds magical, a single cheat meal is a better choice. When the desire for the wrong food overcomes you, try to modify your eating thought process and make the right choices. The last thing you want is to lose control and have a cheat day turn into a cheat week.