Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Has healthy eating jumped the shark?

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My colleague and I were recently looking for cookbooks for children and families. I was a bit surprised by what’s available. We were looking for something that used basic, affordable ingredients. Recipes that would be easy to prepare, nutritious, and tasty. What we found was a limited number of children’s cookbooks. Some which met our criteria but many that didn’t. Often they featured recipes that weren’t the healthiest. Lots of sweets and not many vegetables. Things that might appeal to kids but that weren’t going to simultaneously promote healthy eating.

The family cookbooks were the most shocking. There were lots that touted themselves as being “healthy” but they featured obscure and expensive ingredients. Recipes that were heavy on the “superfoods” and light on simplicity. While these might appeal to a certain “foodie” subset of the population, they certainly aren’t going to encourage people who shy away from home cooking because they’re intimidated by the prospect.

It makes me wonder if we’ve put “healthy eating” on such a pedestal that it’s become the sole purview of the culinary elite. Has the “wellness” movement made healthy eating seem unattainable to many people by convincing them that they need to prepare chia lemonade, mushroom jerky, and spirulina chapati (yes, these are actual recipes from an actual children’s cookbook)? Are people throwing in the towel and assuming that healthy eating isn’t for them because they think it means having to spend hours in the kitchen every day activating almonds for gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan pancakes?

Some of the top cookbooks that came up when I searched Amazon for “family cookbooks” included: Forks Over Knives: Ever Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, Kids on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet; The Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby & Toddler; and several other vegan cookbooks. I also came across a paleo for families cookbook and a low-carb for families cookbook.

I’m not criticizing anyone’s decision to feed their families in what ever way they see fit. My concern is that by making it seem that healthy eating can only be achieved by following a very specific, often complicated, and costly diet, that the wellness industry is actually pushing people away from healthy eating. Sure, many of these diets and foods can be a part of a healthy diet. The point is that they don’t need to be. You don’t need to eat chia seeds and tempeh to be healthy. Classics like carrots and broccoli are still nutritious. Don’t buy into the hype. Healthy eating can be simple, affordable, and delicious.

 

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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.

4 thoughts on “Has healthy eating jumped the shark?

  1. I think the Michael Smith cookbooks are a good bet for relatively healthy, affordable recipes that use everyday ingredients. He also promotes having kids involved in food prep, which is so important

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    • I haven’t used any of his cookbooks but yes, there are some great family cookbooks out there. There are just so many that make healthy eating seem complicated and costly. Thanks for the suggestion! Maybe I should do a follow-up post with a round-up of recommended cookbooks.

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  2. Hi Diana,
    Your last comment may be the clue to answering my question but I’ll ask anyway. The cookbooks you found on Amazon…are you giving them the thumbs up or down? The implication from the rest of the story is that you are giving the thumbs down but I am not clear how you know if these books are simple or complex, fad or sustainable, unhealthy or healthy. What put them on the thumbs down category if, as I suspect, that’s where you put them?

    In response to the general theme of your article I personally find it very difficult to know who to believe when it comes to healthy eating. We see daily reports of foods that help prevent illness and others that have gone from the good category to the bad and sometimes even back to good. We have every form of expert one can imagine stepping forward with their ‘scientific proof’ of how this or that will either help or hurt us and in many cases we can find another person stating the opposite – and lets not forget – all those very convincing folks who simply have strong opinions/beliefs. Then we have the folks that point out that raising livestock takes many times the resources needed for us to survive comfortably and healthily on a diet that does not require livestock….and we can reduce climate impact and cruelty to animals…… And then there’s the chemicals that are sprayed on our food, plowed into the soil, fall from the sky, seep into our water supply, get injected into our livestock, applied to processed foods, GMO’s etc. etc.

    So who do we trust for this information…and based on what? Our doctors spend close to a decade studying their trade and yet understanding the fuel that keeps us running in optimal condition isn’t even a mandatory field of study…or so I am told. How completely crazy is that? Every mechanic knows, or should know, (I started my career as a mechanic) how important it is to use the right lubricants and fuels for the machines he/she diagnose and yet our doctors don’t understand the impact of foods on the living machines that are our bodies.

    Are those super foods really super? Says who? Based on what? Are those recipes complex or is it that the authors made certain assumptions on the capabilities of the reader? Are the foods difficult to get due to our location, the cultural make up of our community, the time of year? The demand?

    I enjoy reading your blog and I understand your frustration with the ignorance of the uneducated masses in your field of study but what message are you trying to convey to us? Are you trying to help us fend of illness, help the climate, help animals, keep us balanced fit and happy? What exactly is the message and is it complete enough, easy enough and believable enough for us to run with it?

    Tough crowd.
    Cheers
    Richard

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    • Lots of questions here! As far as the cookbooks go, it’s not necessarily thumbs up or down. For the purpose of offering them to our cooking class participants it would be a thumbs down as they’re not appropriate to get people who are intimidated by cooking into the kitchen. Many of them included ingredients that are expensive, hard to find in our area, and/or are unappealing to people who are used to “meat and potatoes”. Things like beans and lentils are often adventurous enough for our participants. However, some of them I personally might enjoy. This is all based on the “look inside” feature that allowed me to see some of the content.

      Trust a dietitian for this information! We spend 4+ years studying nutrition and must complete ongoing education to stay abreast of the lastest developments.

      I don’t believe in “superfoods”. They’re just foods with good PR (search my blog for previous posts on this subject).

      I am simply trying to convey accurate nutrition information and dispel the many myths around healthy eating. As a personal blog, I can’t hope to achieve everything you mentioned in your final paragraph. I do try to provide accurate evidence-based information but of course it’s all from my perspective and I don’t address all topics. I certainly like to think that it’s easy and believable to run with but there are many other create sources of nutrition information available besides my blog.

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