Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

What is healthy eating?

5 Comments

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Lately I’ve been thinking about what healthy eating is and why so many people struggle with it so much. I think it all comes down to the false dichotomy; where if you have healthy eating on one side, you have unhealthy on the other with no overlap between the two.

I was looking at stock photos for a presentation and my search for “food choices” returned a similar array of images as you see in the screen grab above. As you can see, you have “healthy” eating on one hand, generally consisting of a pile of vegetables or a piece of fruit. On the “unhealthy” eating side you have fast food and not a vegetable in sight. You also see the “healthy” choice emphasized as virtuous by the presence of an angel, and the “unhealthy” choice literally demonized by the presence of a devil. It’s no wonder that people falsely attribute virtue to some foods and shame to others when we see this as the common dialogue about healthy eating.

The thing is, while vegetables are certainly healthy, a diet consisting entirely of leafy greens or apples most certainly would not be. Variety is one of the most important factors in a healthy diet. This is for a couple of reasons. One being that, in order to meet our nutrient needs, we need to consume a variety of foods. The other being that, without variety we get bored, making us far more likely to give up entirely  on the whole “healthy eating” kick and scarf a bag of chips for supper.

I all too often see people posting their meal prep for the week on social media, or talking about their “healthy” snacks for work and it’s the same sad options every day. Fellow RD, Andrea Hardy put it so well on Instagram recently,

It drives me BANANAS when people say foods that are healthy don’t taste as good. What I find is lack of cooking knowledge, the weird societal belief that ‘baked chicken breast, broccoli, and rice’ is what constitutes healthy, and lack of confidence in the kitchen is why people struggle SO much with healthy eating.

I mean, man, if “healthy” eating actually entailed eating plain chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and plain rice every damn day then I sure as heck wouldn’t be eating healthfully either!

Healthy eating can include so many different things and it can be so different for different people. Vegan, omnivorous, paleo, gluten-free, sugar-free, whatever, can all be healthy. The important thing is to include a variety of foods and flavours to meet both your nutrient and palate needs. Healthy foods can be delicious. They can be as simple as fresh figs with yoghurt or a handful of nuts, or a more complicated chili packed with spices, beans, and vegetables. A healthy diet can also include less nutritious foods, you know, the ones the devil is taunting the stock photo people with. One meal or snack does not a diet make (or break). It’s about the overall pattern of food intake and enjoyment. Life is too short (or too long) to spend it eating bland food.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

5 thoughts on “What is healthy eating?

  1. Hi Diana,
    You have touched on something that I have been wondering about for sometime.  I have lived under the maxim of everything in moderation, but throughout my life I have had irritable bowel syndrome as well as less problematic issues.  Whenever I have moved I have shared this information with my new doctor and received the same useless questions and advice.  Not one doctor ever talked about how diet would affect the body and it’s functions.  

    A friend recently told me about the Keto diet that he has been adhering to for just over a month.  He claims that his irritable bowel issues have disappeared, he sleeps more soundly, isn’t hungry all the time (he is very into physical fitness and used to find himself preparing for his next meal as he finished his current meal), he now has clarity of mind and can concentrate on what he is reading or doing without his mind wandering….and he is approaching what he feels is his ideal weight without even trying.  He says the important thing is to get into a state of Ketosis and to stay there, which means that this must be a lifestyle change and not just focusing on ‘good food’ while allowing some ‘bad food’ in moderation.  

    If this diet really does allow the Body to operate as it should then shouldn’t the Angel hover over this choice and the Devil hover over all other food choices?  Or is the Keto diet another of dozens of fad diets?  If even my Bowel issue is resolved with this diet it would be worth it for me, assuming there aren’t new negatives that come with this option.  

    Would love to hear your opinion.
    Thanks
    Richard  

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    • Hi Richard, I would say that most diets can be healthy (or unhealthy) and what works for one person might not work for another. Restrictive diets such as ketogenic can be difficult to follow long-term and there is very little research showing how it impacts health long-term. If you decide to try such a diet you should consult with your doctor first, and if possible work with a registered dietitian, to ensure that you’re obtaining adequate nutrition.

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  2. Some great points here. Lots of things to think about. Thanks for posting

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your lovely blog with us, actually I am also a fitness freak and loved to eat healthy diet always. I definitely include your advice in my diet plan. Please continue sharing like these kind of healthy diet.

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  4. Pingback: How a dietitian does a juice cleanse |

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