Food judging and labeling… STOP!

Hi everyone. I really hope ya’ll had a great, relaxing weekend! Also, if you are a mother, I hope your mother’s day was filled with happiness and a little “you” time. I have one of the most amazing mothers and an equally wonderful mother-in-law, so I’m happy to say I have wonderful role-models that really do deserve a day to themselves!

Now, I’m writing this post for a few reasons. I have many times fallen into the habit of “labeling” foods as good or bad. I kick myself when I realize I have done it, but sometimes I think it comes with trying to simplify nutrition recommendations or put things in terms that a child AND an adult can understand. Sometimes I don’t even realize I have labeled a food until it’s done and over with. I am not proud when I do this and have worked hard to relay a different message to my patients or other people who question me. There are no “bad foods,” there are simply foods that give your body more benefits and help you grown in a healthy way vs others that maybe don’t quite live up to what we need in terms of nutrition. I am very passionate about this… so this is where this post is coming from.

I have gotten really sick and tired of scrolling through Pinterest, Facebook, or other social media outlets and seeing things such as “5 Foods I Will NEVER Eat” or “The Top 10 Foods Your Dietitian Would NEVER Recommend.” This infuriates me for many reasons. Sometimes the stigma that comes with being a dietitian is frustrating enough, but to see people actually using my profession to make others feel guilty about what they are eating is so disheartening.

In my undergraduate career and now graduate career, I have learned and been trained to recognize foods that are good for the human body. I know there are foods that can help moderate or control disease exacerbation, and there are nutrients and components of food that help repair muscles or tissue that has been harmed or weakened. I have learned that eating too many carbohydrates or not having balance at a meal can lead to high blood sugars and that increasing protein after a major surgery will help support tissue repair and regrowth.

There are so many positive things that food and balanced nutrition can do for the body, yet at no point during my educational career are we told that rice cakes are evil or drinking a soda with dinner will for sure cause diabetes. Ice cream does not haunt me in my dreams and candy does not cause my blood to turn to sludge. I am so, SO sick of people judging and labeling foods as bad, evil, and something that should be forbidden in a healthy diet. PLEASE just stop.

One thing that many people forget is what works for one person does not work for another. For me, rice cakes are not very filling and don’t have high nutritive value. For someone else who has a hard time controlling portions, they may find this an easy way to have a crunchy snack that doesn’t over-do it on calories if they have one too many. Do I think there are more satisfying and nutrient-dense snack options out there, of course! But, I’m not going to write someone a health hazard ticket for eating a rice cake!

Our society has become so obsessed with judging what others are eating and shaming people who don’t know what a “healthy” snack choice is that we have taken something very personal like food and made it into something that many people feel guilty about eating. Last night, I brought a key-lime mousse cake to my mother-in-law’s house for Mother’s Day and guess what… I had TWO pieces. I’m alive and well today, and you know what else? It was freaking delicious.

I’d like to change the concept of food shaming and really support my statement that there are no “bad foods”. With that said, I’m not going to talk about foods that you should NEVER eat or I would NEVER recommend. Here are a few foods that I ALWAYS will recommend. You might find this list shockingly simply… and you know why? Because basic nutrition can be that simple. Don’t fall into the food labeling habit. Almost all foods can fall into a healthy, balanced diet. Always remember that combination — healthy AND balanced.

  1. Fruits and vegetables —- SHOCKER. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. No, they don’t all come equal. A sweet potato is going to give you more fiber and Vitamin A than a regular white potato, but they can both have their place in a balanced, healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables with skins tend to be a little higher in fiber, so don’t peal those skins off! Berries are full of antioxidants that help prevent basic illness, and avocados are rich with Vitamin E and omega-3’s which help keep your hair, skin, and nails glowing and promote good heart heath. Aim for 5 or more servings per day of fruits and veggies — your body will thank you!
  2. Whole grains. Yes, some people cannot necessarily eat grains, but overall grains are not evil. Whole grains contain fiber, B-vitamins, and have just as much a place in a healthy diet as other foods. Because of the fiber content, you will naturally take a longer time digesting and utilizing the nutrients in whole grains which is a good thing! Slower digestion helps you feel full longer and prevent rapid increases in blood glucose (blood sugars!).
  3. Eggs. I LOVE eggs. When did eggs get such a bad wrap? For someone who needs a simple, easy source of protein that can also be versatile, eggs is a great option. Eggs are also inexpensive, so for those who are tight on a budget, this is a great protein to utilize. Stop getting rid of the yolks! Yes they contain cholesterol, but your body naturally produces cholesterol on its own. Those yolks are packed with vitamins and protein that you completely waste when you discard them. As with anything, please don’t eat 10 eggs/day. Yes, then we may run into an issue, but otherwise these are an amazing, nutrient dense protein source!
  4. Dark Chocolate. Yes, I said it… chocolate is in my list of foods that I recommend. You know why? Dark chocolate contains plant phenol’s and antioxidants that may actually have some benefits in lowering blood pressure. You know why else I picked this food… because sometimes you need to treat yourself! Deprivation or restriction can lead to poor relationships with food or frustration and relapse when trying to “eat healthy”. I know I have gone into this previously so I won’t re-state what I have said before, but just always remember there is always a little room for a little chocolate in a healthy, balanced diet.

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