Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

13 ‘naughty’ food swaps that are better for you than the ‘healthy’ versions

You know what we’re so over? Talking about eating high-calorie or high-fat foods like it’s a sin. A literal sin. It’s just food, you know? French fries are not tied to your eternal salvation. An angel does not get her wings every time you eat kale. And sure, some choices are better for your health than others, but bringing feelings of guilt into the picture is some deeply ineffective bullshit. Am I right?

More: Your weekend splurge cheeseburger made over into a responsible weeknight meal

Integrative nutrition health coach Melissa Milne agrees, which is why she wrote The Naughty Diet (as in, a diet that is The New Healthy Way You Eat Forever, not the other kind of diet you do for a short time because it’s hell and then you gain back everything.) Milne’s approach is to make sure you feel well and truly fed. Food should be satisfying — even pleasurable. And guilt has no role to play when it comes to health.

So what does this look like? We’ve excerpted some of Milne’s food swaps from the book. For her, it’s not about naughty vs. nice. It’s about “nasty” foods that leave you hungry, have fake ingredients or just taste like sadness vs. “naughty” foods that fill you up, are free of fake crap and that taste heavenly.

More: The secret to whipping up a real dinner without the soul-draining grocery trip

the naughty diet
Image: Alex Camilin


Nasty: Light & Fit, fruit-flavored, “fat-free” = sugar-laden

Naughty: Fage Total 0 percent plain Greek yogurt. Add honey or fresh fruit to sweeten, and nuts or granola for a crunchy texture.


Nasty: Muscle Egg flavored liquid egg whites

Naughty: Organic eggs — all the better if you have to flick away a feather


Nasty: Margarine. I Can Believe It’s Not Butter.

Naughty: Unsalted, cow’s milk, preferably French-produced. Beurre d’Échiré is France’s best. When you see it, do not resist.


Nasty: Veggie burger with soy cheese, turkey bacon and no bun, no fries

Naughty: Go big or go home! Burger time is no time to scrimp, especially on quality and personal taste. Look for 100 percent beef (sirloin for me!) patties; make sure they’re cooked just right for you. Only add toppings that add high-mileage pleasure. So, if you feel meh about cheese, forget it. But if caramelized onions, a sliver of crispy bacon, slice of gherkin, dollop of chutney or bite of foie gras rocks your burger experience, bring it! The best burgers are made-to-order.


Nasty: Turkey bacon. Why bother?

Naughty: Crispy pork-elicious bacon


Nasty: Skittles. Each colored bead is essentially sugar and corn syrup glued together with hydrogenated palm kernel oil and no less than 10 artificial colors!

Naughty: Chupa Chups. And M&M’S, well hidden in the fridge.

Nasty: Skinny Cow clusters

Naughty: One or two of anything bite-size from a chocolate shop — dark, milk or white; or one Baci or real kiss!


Nasty: 100-calorie pack of cookies

Naughty: Home-baked chocolate chip, still warm from the oven — even Toll House are better than Chips Ahoy


Nasty: 100-calorie unroasted, unsalted almonds

Naughty: Walnuts for breakfast; cocktail peanuts at cocktail hour; pistachios whenever, because they take a quick minute to remove from their shells


Nasty: The pink stuff. The blue stuff. The yellow stuff.

Naughty: Manuka honey, brown sugar, date sugar, molasses, maple syrup, stevia, agave nectar and a spoonful of love

More: 20 heavenly golden elixirs made with turmeric


Nasty: Frozen soy mac and cheese bowl

Naughty: Half order of spaghetti alle vongole

Ice cream

Nasty: Skinny Cow

Naughty: Talenti or any brand of fresh gelato


Nasty: Any bread labeled “whole wheat” that lists “whole wheat” as the second, third, fourth or fifth ingredient — after brown sugar. Pepperidge Farm, I’m talking to you!

Naughty: A fresh baguette. Press your thumb into the tip, and if it dents the crust, buy it.

Editor’s note: Any artisan loaf made with the bakery’s own sponge.


Nasty: Anything with calories on the bottle (there is a special circle in hell reserved for these manufacturers)

Naughty: A big, bold, smooth (soft tannins) cabernet sauvignon. Girls love big boys! (French rosé in the summer)

Excerpted from The Naughty Diet: The 10-Step Plan to Eat (and Cheat!) Your Way to the Body You Want, De Capo Press.

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed.