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.
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! http://group.slimmingworld.co.uk/useful-features/tweaks.aspx
Need somewhere to write down your syns and track your meals? I love this Slimming World diary…and it’s less than £5!