Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
American diet English idioms

Have you ever dieted?

Do you feel as if you hear people talking about dieting a lot in English?

Dieting and nutrition is a very popular topic in America, and you may wish to be part of the conversation.

We’re going to show you some common terms about dieting, healthy eating, and nutrition that you can use in your conversations as this topic comes up a lot.

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The listener question is from Instagram, and it was from a video Jessica posted about the words sick and wicked.

Hi Jessica!

I love your show and I listen to it all the time! Thank you for sharing the amazing slang words with us, they help a lot. I’d like to ask you a question about something that I heard.

What does saying “cheat day” mean? I heard one American woman say she loves cheat days. I wonder what on earth does this mean? I’ve never heard this expression before, so I’m confused.

Thank you very much for your help,


Understanding Some Background

When you talk about a cheat day, it’s a day where somebody can eat whatever they want if they are dieting.

You may be dieting to lose weight, and on this one day per week you can eat more calories.

You can “cheat” so to speak on your diet and allow yourself to have treats that you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy during the week.

A diet can be about losing weight, but you can also use this to talk about how you eat.

In this way you could say something like “My diet consists of a lot of veggies and healthy fats.”

It can be fun to think about what you would eat if you had a cheat day in your week–this is where you can focus on some of your favorite foods!

We’ve done some episodes about losing weight and dieting, and focused on related topics.

These are good for you to review so you have some background here.

These posts can be helpful and informative on diet and weight loss related topics.

As you are going to quickly find out, this is a common topic with Americans that comes up often–and you will learn how to be a part of these conversations.

Why Cheat Days Are Important

A cheat day is one aspect of dieting that you will hear a lot about.

As we said, a cheat day is when you are dieting and you let yourself off that diet.

Why are cheat days important?

It will make the rest of the week easier because you know you have something to look forward to.

If you diet all the time and restrict yourself, then you will be more tempted to eat the foods that you consider to be “off limits.”

You will be less able to control your eating habits when you have those cravings.

It’s all about balance and eating well most of the time, but also allowing yourself to enjoy treats and the foods that you crave.

Today we will teach some additional nutrition words since this is such a common topic.

This will help you when you want to talk about diets or eating habits or anything related.

You’ll be glad to have this background, because you will find yourself talking about it frequently.

Looking At Nutritional Terms

There are so many terms in this area, but this is not meant to be a scientific lesson.

We’re trying to teach you the basic ideas and most common words so that you can use them in conversation.

We’ll go more into this topic another time, but for now these are these are the words that you can use as they will inevitably come up in conversation.

  • Sodium: This is basically salt. Though it is technically different, this is what you use to talk about foods with salt in them. When you talk about salty foods, you say that they have a lot of sodium in them. A certain amount of salt is essential, but you don’t want to eat too much sodium as it can be unhealthy.
  • Low fat/high fat: This is how much fat there is in a food. Fat free used to be super common and popular, as that was the diet trend. Now things have changed because people realize that things like healthy fats are good too such as avocado. You want to look at the fat content in a food, but think of what ingredients make it that way. Ideally you don’t want a bunch of high fat foods that are processed because those are unhealthy.
  • Low/high calorie: This is more about energy units than fat, but sometimes it seems they correlate. You see calories and then calories from fat, and so you want to be good about reading labels in this capacity. You want to be mindful of your calories but not go too extreme in either direction.
  • Processed: You can think of this as a frozen food, where the form has been changed to a certain extent. This also includes deli meat like bacon, and many snacks that we eat. Eating too many processed foods can be bad because they are usually full of sodium and preservatives.  
  • Cholesterol: This is also a part of nutrition. You have cholesterol levels within your body too, and you need to get these levels checked to ensure that they are in a healthy range. If you have high cholesterol then you wan to be mindful not to eat foods that are high in cholesterol such as eggs.
  • Protein: Your body needs protein to function properly and so you will hear a lot about eating a diet rich in protein. Meat, beans, and even certain veggies have protein in them. If you are trying to lose weight you may hear to eat a lot of lean protein along with fruits and vegetables.

These terms will help you to be able to talk about nutrition, healthy eating, and dieting.

Everything In Moderation

In the end, it’s all about everything in moderation–that’s a key phrase to use often.

The best approach is to eat well most of the time, but also allow yourself to enjoy some of the foods that you love.

When you say everything in moderation, it means to enjoy the food that you eat and even the treats you can have but in a moderate amount.

This is where portion control comes in–and eating good foods in the right amount matters greatly.

Eat well and focus on a healthy diet, but treat yourself because depriving yourself of what you love will only work against you.

If you deprive yourself all the time, you will likely fail at whatever diet you are trying to stick with.

If you allow yourself everything in moderation, then you are much more likely to stick with your healthy eating plan.

Remember that food is fuel for your body, and you want to focus on the right things in the right amount.

You don’t ever wan to become obsessed with dieting, but now you know how to talk about it with others.

This may very well be a good way of connecting, just be sure that you have a healthy approach to it at all times.


Today we have talked about diets, cheat days, and given you many other vocabulary words in this area.

We looked at some of the basic ideas and words that center around nutrition.

You might be surprised at what a big part of the American culture it is to talk about diets ad nutrition in general.

This is a huge discussion, and so there’s a lot more to cover.

What do you pay most attention to when deciding what to eat?

Do you have a healthy diet?

These are questions to ask yourself so that you can be an active part of the conversation.

This could also be a topic on the IELTS Speaking Test. Click here to learn more about IELTS.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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