To Tweak or Not To Tweak…That Really Is The Question!

Before I even start typing this I’m holding my breath for a barrage of differing opinions on this subject, so before the keyboard warriors out there decide to get on their high horse, or the tweak police get ready to bang my doors down and cart me away remember…this is just my view on the subject! 

Now that I’ve got that out the way, there may be a few people thinking…

‘What is a Tweak?’

That’s probably the best place to start. Slimming World’s website defines them as follows: 

‘Tweaks’ are foods where a Free Food is used as a replacement for a high-Syn ingredient”

They go on to explain that something will be considered a ‘tweak’ if it changes the reasons that food is a free food in the first place. Free foods are such for the following reasons:

Foods are given their ‘Free’ status for a combination of reasons, unique to Slimming World:

  • Their energy density – that’s the number of calories per gram
  • Their satiety – how filling and satisfying they are
  • The propensity for overeating – how likely we are to eat them past the point of satisfaction

Effectively, something is a tweak when it puts you in danger of overeating a free food because it changes the way that food fills you up…but at the end of the day it all boils down to calories consumed. 

Tweak Examples 

Lasagne Sheets as Tortilla Chips – When used as part of a lasagne, with mince, sauce, some veg on the side etc… lasagne sheets make up the carb part of a balanced meal. However, if you make tortilla chips out of lasagne sheets, a common practice amongst Slimming World-ers, and snack on them between meals they simply aren’t going to fill you up in the same way, and you’re still going to eat your regular meals anyway.

This is why Slimming World say that it is a tweak, because they’re eaten in a different way, in between meals, in large quantities. The same goes for example when using couscous instead of flour in a cake…you’ll end up eating so much more and it just doesn’t have the same result as enjoying couscous as part of a meal!

I also have some bad news for all of those making the 1/2 syn cakes...technically Slimming World say that this is a tweak (don’t shoot the messenger!). I know that’s devastating, but the point is that if you think the entire cake is only half a syn then you’re going to eat the entire cake…and no one gets skinny eating entire cakes now do they?! That being said, if you’re not shoving the whole thing down your face, then maybe don’t bother tweaking. 

So Where’s The Problem? 

I think people get why eating a free food in excess can still be bad for weight loss, but what they don’t get is when they’re told they should syn the free food in the same way that they would syn the regular food. At the end of the day how can it be as bad? Slimming World do this because it’s to help stop you eating too much… there is obviously no sane way that they can realistically believe that eating a lasagne sheet is the same as eating a bag of tortilla chips! 

Basically, if you’re pre-programmed to over eat, then this doesn’t change just because you’ve replaced a synned food with a free food. You’ll still over consume the calories and this can effect your weight loss! 

If you’re chowing down on a free food as a snack, outside of a meal, in the same way that you would eat a synned food just remember that you could be making a difference to your weight loss. Would I syn it to the same degree as the original food? Absolutely not. Would I assign some syns to it to stop me over eating? Yes I would…maybe half? It’s personal choice, and it’s important to work out what works for your body. 

This however, is where it gets more complicated so stay with me…Slimming World does not view all synned food to free food swaps as tweaks! This is where the idea of eating something within a balanced meal comes into it.

When is a Tweak not a Tweak?

A swap from a synned food to a free food is not a tweak when it is eaten as part of a balanced meal. I’m going to stick with the same example for continuity…lasagne sheets are just so versatile! We’ve already established that Slimming World view turning them into tortilla chips as a tweak, for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, however they do NOT view using them to make spring rolls as a tweak. 

This is because when you use a lasagne sheet as the wrapping for a spring roll, you are filling it with speed food, protein, and you’re likely to have it as part of a balanced meal. This means that although you’re eating the free food in place of a synned food, it is still playing its correct roll. 

Here are a few other examples from the Slimming World website of things which AREN’T tweaks: 

Doughnut using Healthy Extra ‘b’ choice  wholemeal roll, low calorie jam and sprinkled with sweetener – the amount you’re eating is controlled by your Healthy Extra portion of bread, and the Syns in the jam.

Mushypea curry − it remains filling and satisfying and is often enjoyed with lots of Speed Free Foods. 

Jelly sweets – The jelly sweets contain Syns, which limits the amount you can eat.

Magic pancakes (made with 35g Healthy Extra ‘b’ choice oats) – it’s a Healthy Extra ‘b’ choice and limits the amount you can eat.

Chickpea dahl loaf – none of the ingredients are blended and it retains its satiating (filling) qualities.  However, as a snack it is definitely not as good as Speed Free Food – remember, the more Speed you choose, the more weight you lose!

Chickpeas in houmous – when eaten as houmous, there will likely be plenty of Speed Free Foods (veg crudités) to dip in and this is lovely and filling. If roasted as ‘peanuts’, chickpeas are easy to overeat which is why they’re a tweak.

Cloud bread –  Cloud bread isn’t a tweak when it’s eaten as part of a main meal, with plenty of Free Food and at least one third of a plate of Speed Free Food too (in the same way you’d eat an omelette) – however it could seriously affect weight losses if you are snacking on ‘cloud bread sandwiches’ all day – eating many more calories outside your three filling, Free Food-packed meals.

Where Do Slimming World & I Disagree?

OK…so, this is where it goes a bit wrong for me. Slimming World have a list of common tweaks on their site which include using Smash as a pizza base, or to coat chicken to make KFC (something which I do all the time, here’s my recipe). 

Smash as a pizza base I only get as a tweak if you proceed to eat the entire bloody pizza! If you were to make a Smash pizza, split it between four people, and serve it with salad then you’re actually not eating any more Smash than if you made it up as mashed potato. 

Where I completely disagree with Slimming World is tweaking Smash as a KFC coating! At the end of the day when you do this you’re eating this Smash as part of a balanced meal with veg, beans, maybe some chips etc… (or at least I am), and therefore I cannot see how this is any different than simply having a few more chips. As someone who eats plenty of speed food alongside my KFC style chicken, I hands down refuse to syn it! 

For me, this argument goes for any tweak (even the ones I agree with in principle)…

If you really like lasagne sheet tortilla chips, then have them for lunch with some chicken and salad and melt some cheese over them! They then become the carb part of your meal and it’s no different to eating a side portion of pasta! If you really really enjoy a Smash scone, eat it for breakfast with some delicious speed fruit. Ditto, if you love chickpeas eaten as nuts have them with a meal, and they’re essentially just chickpeas! 

What Does This All Mean? 

For me, it comes down to how you eat something rather than what you’re eating. If you eat something as part of a balanced meal, with 1/3 veg and plenty of protein, then I wouldn’t call it a tweak. Slimming World themselves say this: 

“Use Free Foods and Healthy Extras to create satisfying, filling meals (not forgetting that all-important at least ⅓ of a plate of Speed Free Foods) – reaching for Speed Free Food fruit (strawberries, raspberries, melon, apples) and veg (vegetable crudités, veggie pickles, Speed Free Food-packed quiche) first in between meals for the BEST weight loss results.”

Just remember that if you do want a snack the best weight losses come from snacking on speed and protein…that’s undeniable unfortunately! 

If you’re using your free food ‘tweaks’ to create healthy, balanced, and satisfying meals then crack on! If you’re eating them outside of a meal however, I would personally advise adding on a few syns at least just to keep you in check. If you don’t, you might look down and realise you’ve eaten an entire bag of pasta as a snack! 

More importantly however my advice would be to listen to your body. If you start eating tweaks without synning them and find that they effect the rate at which the scales go down then maybe listen to Slimming World’s advice and stick to the rules. If you’ve always tweaked and the weight comes off fine, then don’t listen to anyone who tells you to change the way you’re doing it. Your body knows what works for it, and that’s the most important thing! 

If you don’t trust my words on this, check out Slimming World’s own page and make your own mind up… like I said this is just how I feel! 

Need somewhere to write down your syns and track your meals? I love this Slimming World diary…and it’s less than £5!


  • Jim

    30/05/2016 at 7:09 am

    Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam comments? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it's driving me crazy so any support is very much appreciated.
    1. Cliona

      31/05/2016 at 8:48 am

      I use Askimet, but still get lots of spam!
  • Leah

    17/07/2016 at 6:51 pm

    I'm so pleased to read this! It's just common sense and I feel like banging my head against a wall in group sometimes when I hear the word 'tweak'. Love your thinking! x
    1. Cliona

      17/07/2016 at 6:58 pm

      Thanks!! I know exactly what you mean, sometimes you wish the world would have a bit more common sense? X
  • anne jones

    02/11/2016 at 12:14 pm

    This was really interesting. This is definitely where I have been going wrong in the past with Slimming World and thinking oh it doesn't work for me. I've re-joined for about the 5th time and am determined to do it properly. In the past I have been having things like a tin of mushy peas in between meals as a snack, now I realise I should be having speed fruit or veg or protein. I didn't even know there were such a thing as tweaks!! Thanks so much
    1. Cliona

      03/11/2016 at 11:18 am

      Hi Anne, thanks for your comment! I'm really glad you found this post interesting and useful! Good luck, I'm sure you'll smash it this time ?
  • Emma

    24/04/2017 at 1:10 pm

    I couldn't agree with you more! I lost 4 stone several years ago, merrily tweaking all the way. I have been to several different SW groups over the years and have tried to explain my views on tweaks many times with no success. I'm booking marking this post to send people in future!
    1. Cliona

      25/04/2017 at 9:11 am

      Thanks Emma! I just think it needs to be left up to the individual, as you say it worked for you so who's anyone else to tell you it doesn't! Everyone's body is different. I'm 100% behind suggesting that if people tweak and find that they're not losing then it might be the problem, but there's not such thing as a one size fits all weight loss method so it's important to be flexible!
  • Katharine

    15/05/2017 at 1:33 pm

    this is the most logical and intelligent explanation about tweaks that I have ever found. I was having a hard time (I am left brained most of the time...) accepting that a calorie was not a calorie....for instance, I enjoyed using a small (60 grams) sweet potato as my base for pancakes instead of wheat bran (just for a change)...thereby also retaining my B for something else later...I was told it was not allowed...even though I KNEW I WAS NOT OVER-INDULGING in sweet potato and that had i chosen to eat it as a FREE food, I would no doubt have consumed a lot more than 60 grams. So, I think the idea is that yes, we can tweak, but if they weight gets stuck, or it is more than a SERVING - then that is what got us in trouble in the first place. Ye makes yer choices and ye takes yer I want roasted chickpeas more than I want to be healthy and hot? No. I have a great group leader who tried to explain the reasoning to me, and I think that she was right - probably was going to abuse it earlier on in my journey. Thank you so much. Look forward to hearing more from you.
    1. Cliona

      15/05/2017 at 1:50 pm

      I am so pleased that you found this useful and logical! You're exactly right, it can be really difficult to rationalise it but the best thing to keep in mind is that if you deviate from the official plan and then find the weight isn't coming off, then the first thing to do is to go back to how the plan should be and see what happens. I hope you enjoy the rest of my articles!
  • Georgina Adams

    12/09/2017 at 7:05 am

    Really well put! I can see myself coming back to read this many times, just to remind myself! Thank you x
  • June Seghni

    28/10/2017 at 7:33 pm

    I do feel that sometimes people act like the Slimming World Police are going to come and take them away if they don't follow the plan to the letter.. Yes, the plan works, and I am doing my best to keep it as the basis for my eating, but at the end of the day when I pay for group I am buying a product.-i.e. the Food Optimising concept. If I choose to do something differently once in a while, that's all it is- a choice. It's not the end of the world.
    1. Cliona

      13/11/2017 at 5:19 pm

      I totally agree with you June!
  • Tracy

    21/01/2018 at 11:57 am

    I'm with you 100% on the tweaking! I use tweaks within a meal for example Banana pancakes for breakfast, essentially it's 2 eggs & 1 banana with a little sweetener ground ginger ground cinnamon! & a little vanilla then I add some strawberries with a sweetened quark/yogurt mix. SW would allow me to eat 2 boiled eggs followed by a banana, strawberries & a fat free yogurt so I don't see the difference yet I believe they class the banana pancakes as a tweak :-/ Again with you, if you're using tweaks and still losing weight then it's a bonus when the weight loss slows down then you can maybe drop the tweaks to boost the loss again :-D I found your blog by accident but I'm so glad I did :-D
  • Hayley mb

    05/03/2018 at 8:14 pm

    Really informative reading! I was very confused about what a ‘tweak’ was until I read this! Thank you!
    1. Cliona

      12/03/2018 at 6:40 pm

      I'm so glad I could be of help Hayley!
  • Samantha Wellbelove

    23/06/2019 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you so much, this has been really helpful. I’ve been having a discussion with others about whether or not I should syn some homemade crisps. No oil was used and I will only be having them occasionally. So this has helped me considerably. ?
  • Jamie

    08/01/2020 at 10:21 am

    I join the others and saying well done you for writing this article. I actually think Slimming World has been around long enough to know that they need to delve into this whole subject much more, and like you did 'explain the way to approach it'. Congratulations !!!

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