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The dietitian’s take on eating “bad” foods

It is simple, there are no bad foods!

And I want to help you reframe your food thinking.

You would not believe how many people say to me, “You wouldn’t eat “bad” food.s” They always add on, well you know what to eat so you are always eating well.

Spoiler alert, I love food so much, I had to get a degree in it! In other words, I love ALL foods, even those that may be considered by some as “bad” or “good.” People often ask what kinds of foods I keep in my house.

As if just being a dietitian means I love to eat ONLY fruits, vegetables, and “healthy” food. Yes, there are fruits, vegetables, dairy, and eggs in my kitchen., In addition, you will find pizza, ice cream, chips, cookies, and candy stocked at my house at all times also.

The surprise on people’s faces, when they hear I eat ALL foods, says it all to me.

Not only do I want to help you understand why ” There’s no such thing as good food or bad food.”, but also how to reframe your food talk.

Why are there no bad foods.

There really are no bad foods, unless, of course, the food has gone rancid.

That’s right, you do not have to apologize for what you eat. While foods you consume at times may not be what you think of as having tons of nutrients, the food still provides fuel for your body.

Likewise, there is a reason you ate that food in the first place, whether that’s due to emotions, convenience, habits, or another reason.

Why there are no good foods.

Many people think foods that are commonly considered healthy are “good” food. Eating “healthy” food does not save you from ever having health problems. One food does not give tons of benefits by itself.

Food is just not that magical. As if eating one particular food or type of food would miraculously do something magical for you, just because you ate that food!

Trends and patterns over time, along with many other factors like sleep, movement, stress, genetics, etc. dictate your health.

All food has nutritional value.

All foods provide energy to fuel your body in some form, as well as varying amounts of vitamins and minerals. But the nutritional value of food is only one of the key reasons people eat food.

This is because food serves many purposes to the body.

Foods with fewer nutrients still have value.

If you listen to fad diet gurus, you may hear messages to stay away from foods with fewer nutrients. Every food has nutritional benefits in some sort of form.

Yes, there are foods that have more nutrients than others. But the fact that the food has more nutrients does not mean you need to eat that food over other foods.

How all foods fit into a healthy diet.

One way to think about how all foods fit into a healthy diet is to think about foods like the letters of the alphabet. All letters have value and are used in multiple different combinations to make words, sentences, paragraphs, and so on. There are short words and long words, words with more vowels, and other words that have fewer.

Food is the same way. All foods can be used to make snacks, meals, menus, and meal plans. Some foods are used in smaller combinations and others are combined with other foods in a variety of other combinations.

Just as you need a certain number of vowels to make a word. You also need a certain number of specific types of foods to serve a purpose, whether this use is to add flavor, enhance texture, or nutrient delivery.

This brings us back to a reminder that there is little value in one food, the totality of patterns is what is most relevant.

Food is meant to be eaten combined, not just one food by itself. This is because no one food has all the nutrients in it.

There's no food that is good or bad!
There’s ‘no one food that is good or bad.

Sure, if we eat foods that have small amounts of vitamins and minerals, often, in large amounts, at the expense of getting other more nutrient-rich foods, there could be a problem, in the long term.

But the problem is not the food!

The problem is more from the “large amounts, at the expense of getting other nutrients!” Besides, labeling and thinking about food in a moral way just makes you feel bad about your food.

Labeling food creates confusion about the value of food.

Food is not moral. The problem with food choices is more about how much is consumed, how often, and the extent to which you do not get other foods and nutrients, that’s the real problem.

When you label foods good or bad or even “‘healthy” you create a moral judgment about food that just should not be there. I know you have gone on some kind of diet or approach saying you are going to eat healthier. But what does that really mean?

This diet plan could mean you are not going to have the foods that you enjoy for a little bit, the ones you consider more as a “treat.” Typically this goes well for the first few weeks until you run into some situations that bring back that moral judgment you start doing.

Sometimes moral food judgment comes in when you:  

  • Have a holiday.
  • Experience a major life-stress event.
  • Cannot follow your plan perfectly (You know, the screw-it, thinking)
  • Don’t want to or can’t afford to spend money on special foods or products.
  • Reach your goal and then slowly creep back into the way you were eating.

The way that you can help yourself when it comes to realizing that there are no good foods or bad foods is by starting to think about food the way dietitians do.

All foods fit!

You need to begin reframing how you think about food. I’ve got 7 tips you can use that can help with reframing how you think about food.

7 tips for reframing your food thoughts.

  1. Each time you catch yourself labeling a food. Reframe and remove the judgment label.
  2. Ask for support from those around you to call attention to when you label food and help you to change your words.
  3. Say this affirmation daily “I am changing the way that I think about food. Food is neither good nor bad, it is just food.”
  4. If you are trying to say, I had a “healthy” meal,  just say, I had a meal.
  5. Take the morality out of food, and just say food.
  6. If you are trying to say, I went to XYZ spot and had “bad” food. Change the sentence to I went to XYZ spot and had food.
  7. Use these words. My dietitian says, “There’s Always Room for Ice Cream and Chocolate!”

You don’t have to eat “healthy” food.

You may feel you are not eating enough nutrient-rich foods; feel you should eat better and must change.

Just eat food, a variety of food. You do not have to label the food healthy, good, or bad. The food is just food.

The labels of the food can play with your mind and give more power to food than it actually has. Choose food with color, prepared in different forms, from all food groups. You do not have to call food good, bad, or even healthy!

If you are struggling with how to find a balance of foods that is right for you and that you enjoy, schedule a discovery call with me to find out how we can support your goals.

Kathryn Fink Martinez

Conquer food fear and overwhelm! My passion is helping guide people who are embarrassed about their struggle with food and teaching them simple habit changes that lead to a life with more energy, happiness, and the freedom to eat the foods they truly enjoy. Find a realistic food and exercise approach and remove the uncertainty about what to eat. Get started with some of the free resources on my Confidence in Eating website, especially the Bariatric Success Guide., Emotional Eating Quiz, and Binge Eating Quiz resources. I offer telehealth nutrition programs so you can live your life knowing how to nourish your body, mind, and soul.