A Dietitian's Take on “Health Alternatives” like Frozen Grapes
The first thing I need to say is this: If I see one more recipe for “Healthy Sour Patch Kids” with the tagline “they’re even better than the candy!”, I’m going to lose my s**t. Don’t lie to me, they aren’t, they are grapes and candy is candy and these are completely different things - so let’s just all just get on the same page about that…
Secondly, in case you couldn’t tell (I know I can be SUPER cryptic when it comes to my view of diet culture) the concept of “healthy alternatives” is a tough one for me. Not because I don’t validate that, YES, a grape is more nutritionally dense than something like sour patch kids, but because of the moral value we’re innately assigning to these foods and the behaviours we then engage in because of it!
Let me break this down…
The “healthy” alternatives in many cases (i.e., frozen grapes) are actually super delicious (and nutritious) foods. BUT, if we are using them as a “replacement” for another food then we are probably comparing them to that food. Because of this, it would then not be uncommon for some variation of the following chain reaction to occur:
a. Because we genuinely enjoy the food that we’ve decided needs “replacing” (which is a give in if we feel the need to find an alternative for it) we have probably decided that said food is “bad” and therefore should be avoided. However, we can’t just assign moral value to food without taking it on for ourselves. So, we feel like we’re holding moral power when we choose the “healthy alternatives” but then like we are somehow being “bad” or “failing” if we don’t. NO.
b. Due to the fact that we are trying to replace the food(s) we are craving, the “replacements” might feel like the subpar option in terms of taste and satisfaction. Which is sad, because foods like frozen grapes ARE delicious, but are we really paying attention to that if we are reminiscing on the taste of sour patch kids? Probably not… So, because of the way our brains work, it’s not uncommon for food seeking behaviours/thoughts of food to take off and feel intrusive. We never met our satisfaction, so the body keeps searching for it.
c. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the mindset around “healthy alternatives” sounds something like “I can eat an unlimited amount/however much I want because it’s healthy”. Sure, 100% you can eat as much as you want if it’s something you’re enjoying. But, leaning into binge behaviours, not respecting your bodies cues, and secondarily consuming JUST AS MUCH sugar/calories as we would have in the first place, which makes NO sense. Especially if you would have just enjoyed the original food more and been able to respect your body while consuming it.
Moral of the story: eat frozen grapes or your other “healthy alternatives” if you like them, enjoy the flavour/texture, etc… because they ARE delicious, but don’t go into it with this maladaptive mindset that you are doing it because you NEED to be replacing the food you are actually craving. Instead, try eating the food(s) you ARE craving, when you’re craving them, and maybe you’ll even realize that your body does start to crave the frozen grapes/“alternatives”… because you enjoy them more without the idea that they are “the better option”.
On another note, want to make frozen grapes because they sound awesome? SO EASY! Toss seedless grapes in lime juice, then some Monk Fruit sweetener (or other sweetener of choice), freeze, and enjoy!
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