Satisfaction Not Swaps - Why “Healthy Swaps” are not Always so Healthy


***Disclaimer: The intention of this blog post is to shed light on why diet culture’s “healthy swaps” are not always so healthy and how to tell if you REALLY like a food swap or if you are only eating it because you think it is healthier. The intention of this blog post is NOT to give ideas for swaps or ways to “cut calories”. If you are struggling to find satisfaction in food and constantly seeking the lowest calorie option, it could be beneficial to speak with a dietitian.


Diet culture loves finding new “healthy swaps” for foods that are already healthy and enjoyable for individuals. The goal of the majority of these healthy swaps is to create a lower-calorie, lower-fat, lower-carb, and therefore lower-enjoyable alternative. In most cases, these swaps are not what your body craves in the first place therefore after eating a swap to the normal version you will most likely feel unsatisfied and probably still hungry after. When constantly looking for the “healthier swap” for certain foods it may lead you to eat beyond fullness cues when you finally allow yourself to have that food. This is because the more we restrict ourselves from a certain food the more we crave it.


Our mind is very powerful and sometimes it can trick us into believing these healthier swaps actually taste better. In reality, it is most likely the voice of diet culture telling us it tastes better because it is fewer calories, so we don’t have to feel as guilty when eating it. 


How to tell if a food swap is actually healthier for you:

  • You feel satisfied and full after/during eating the food
  • You don’t crave the normal version after/during eating


Healthy Coke

A current trending example of a not so “healthy swap” right now is “healthy coke”. The Healthy Coke Challenge is currently trending on TikTok after a non-nutrition professional posted about mixing balsamic vinegar and sparkling water as a “healthy” alternative to Coca-Cola saying it tastes exactly like it. Aside from the color, this combination could not be farther from the real thing. The majority of the individuals that have recreated this TikTok have totally disagreed that this tastes anything remotely like the real thing. So why do we all of a sudden need a “healthier” replacement for Coca-Cola when we truly enjoy the real thing? If drinking this concoction of balsamic vinegar and sparkling water does not truly satisfy us like the real thing, why do we force ourselves to drink it and pretend to enjoy it? Probably because Coca-Cola along with other sodas gets a bad rep for its sugar content. At the end of the day, drinking Coca-Cola in moderation can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Certain fruits can be high in sugar but that does not mean we try to find an alternative to them. Regardless of if from fruit or soda, sugar is still used in the body in the same way. Therefore, we recommend enjoying your soda and saving that balsamic vinegar for a dressing! Link to the original TikTok here


Lettuce Buns and Bell Pepper Bread

Another diet culture “health swap” that has been trending for a while now is replacing buns/bread with lettuce or bell peppers. Diet culture time and time again makes carbs look like the enemy when this is not the case. Unless you are allergic to gluten, using bread to make a sandwich or having a bun with your burger is completely healthy. Not only does bread offer us vitamins, minerals, and protein it also add calories to keep us full. When you swap a bun for lettuce which has little to no nutrient value or calories it will most likely leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied after. The same goes for swapping bread for a pepper when making a sandwich. Therefore, we recommend enjoying a burger with the bun while keeping that lettuce on the inside and enjoying a sandwich with real bread while having peppers on the side with a dressing.


Honoring Your Hunger

The majority of these diet culture “healthy swaps” that are created do not honor your hunger  and therefore leave you feeling unsatisfied/hungry after. Instead of ignoring our craving for a food or drink that brings us joy we should honor it to avoid putting this invisible forbidden tape across that only makes us crave it more. Healthy swaps put this label on the original version of a food or drink as being unhealthy when this is not true. A food or drink only becomes unhealthy for you if it is something you are only eating/drinking because you think it is healthier, but you do not really enjoy it. When you see these new trending alternatives to food or drinks it is okay to be curious and try them to see how they taste. What is not okay is forcing yourself to like them in the name of health.

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