Good Food versus Bad Food? Mind on Nutrition doesn’t know her.
And we don’t ever use that language.
You’ll never hear us say toxins, cheat meals, or unhealthy either.
In case you didn’t catch the good food bad food post on Instagram, you can read a bit more about why we avoid those terms there too.
In this blog post, Erica Tangeman, Dietetic Intern, is here to tell us a bit more about the good food bad food mentality.
Thanks for the wise words, Shakespeare
In one of my favorite books, “A New Earth”, there is a Shakespearian quote that has always stuck with me. “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” While this quote has some pretty deep meanings, it is something I like to relate back to food.
It is quite common for me or other health professionals to hear how good, bad, clean, unhealthy, etc. various foods or food groups are for you. Food, however, is not that black and white.
We’ll say it again for those who read fast…
“Food, however, is not that black and white.”
Food is neither good nor bad, it is just food! I will break down the meaning of calorie density vs. nutrient density later in this post, but first I want to explain why viewing food as good or bad is not a healthy mindset.
Good Food Bad Food is a Mindset, Not a Fact.
While most people’s intention when calling a food good or bad is to help them make healthier choices, it actually can cause quite the opposite. Labeling food can wreak havoc on your relationship with food and your relationship with yourself. When you put foods in these contrasting categories and choose the “bad” ones, there a few things that tend to happen:
1. You eat more of it.
a. Restricting or depriving yourself from having something, tends to make you crave the food even more.
b. When you finally give in to the desire, you tend to overeat said food, because you don’t know when you will allow yourself to have it again.
2. You equate your self-worth with what you eat.
a. Once you start eating the “bad” food, your mind starts in on a negative cycle of guilt, shame, and unworthiness.
b. You start saying things like, “I was bad today,” because you chose to eat the forbidden food.
c. Your confidence in yourself is now completely out the door.
3. You create unhealthy eating patterns.
a. Since you ate said “bad” food for a snack, you only allow yourself to have a small salad for dinner.
b. Your hunger-fullness cues are now completely being ignored.
c. You are now setting up a cycle of over-indulging certain foods, while depriving yourself of vital nutrients from other foods.
At Mind on Nutrition, we help you stop labeling food and build a healthy relationship and eating pattern.
Step 1: We help you remove the subjective labels.
While that might sound obvious, it is where you need to start. Remember, food is neither good nor bad. Food is just food!
Step 2: We teach you the difference between calorie-density and nutrient-density
Calorie density is the energy content (calories) per a certain amount of food. Nutrient density is the amount of essential nutrients per calories. There is overlap between the two terms, so we will look at them in three categories: high calorie density-low nutrient density (i.e. fast food), low calorie density-high nutrient density (i.e. fruits & veggies), and high calorie density-high nutrient density (i.e. nuts & seeds).
Step 3: You feel motivated to choose more nutrient dense options, while not prohibiting yourself from the calorie dense options.
Neither of these needs to be classified as good or bad, as they both serve a purpose in a healthy diet.
Here’s an example of this in action!
Build your plate with nutrient-rich options, like colorful veggies, a variety of protein sources, and whole grains.
Give yourself full permission to eat the higher calorie density-lower nutrient density options in moderation.
I know what you’re thinking… “what does moderation mean?”.
One of our Registered Dietitians can help you out with that.
Moderation takes practice, however, you will learn that if you build a good foundation of your diet based on nutrient dense options AND allow yourself the occasional sweet treats, you will stop feeling deprived, stop the over-under indulging cycle, and stop feeling so down on yourself.