Classifying any food as healthy or un-healthy is ignorant. All food has nutritional value. It may not be the best value for your daily nutrition but it also may not be the worst. As social media storms through leaving opinions left and right, many are left confused as to what they should be fueling their day with. Such articles, Instagram photos, and trendy super-foods are never discussed in correlation to their portion sizes, macronutrients, or moderation. This kind of marketing leads people astray from achieving their goals. Newsflash: There is no food you can eat copious amounts of and still consider it healthy. So to set the record straight I’ve written the following list of healthy foods that aren’t “healthy” in excess.
Nut Butters– When you see nut butters, you should see a source of fat and energy. Consuming nut butters in the correct portion size of 2 tablespoons when you need energy is a great way to give yourself a boost. Casually eating half a peanut butter jar throughout the day will most likely exceed your fat needs for the day. When you exceed your need for any nutrient, it can be stored as fat. Moderation is key when it comes to consuming nut butters.
Oatmeal– A client once told me “I eat oatmeal 3 times a day because it is healthy.” This sort of thinking is directly associated with how ideas and information are shared in the health industry. Oatmeal is a great source of carbs that also contain protein, but by no means should your whole diet consist of it. Consuming oatmeal on a daily basis is a great way to consume complex carbs, beyond that oatmeal is no healthier that bread, rice, or pasta.
Trail Mix– Nuts, like nut butters, are a great source of fat and energy. Adding in a little dried fruit or some chocolate to sweeten the deal can make a great snack. However, trail mix as a snack can quickly become an over-indulgent meal. A serving size of trail mix is usually a quarter cup or a handful…not a whole bag or an ‘eat until you’re full’ snack. Always make sure to use portion control when consuming this addicting snack.
Fruit– Often people think fruit is overly-healthy and can be consumed in any and all quantities. But just like all food, anything consumed in excess is unhealthy. When consuming fruit, think of a serving as the size of your fist, only consume one serving per sitting. Fruit is also considered healthy because it is a good source of fiber which is true. Fruit is also a source of sugar and because of that you want to consume it in moderation.
Olive/Coconut/Seed Oil– Any oil is a formation of lipids or fat. In moderation, fat is a key part of your diet. Using any oil in excess can cause your body to store it as fat because your body has no need for it, nor the ability to immediately put it to use. Regardless of the kind or purification of oil, it still is fat and should be consumed in moderation.
Multigrain Items– Just because something is whole wheat, whole grain, or multi-grain does not automatically make it healthy. Consuming a whole grain item versus a white or processed item means that you are consuming complex carbs versus simple carbs. Each have their place in nutrition, but one is not better than the other.
Brown Rice– As with multi-grain versus white, brown rice is also no better than white rice. It is a complex carb, whereas white rice is a simple carb. Depending on your nutrition, you need both in your diet to sustain good health.
Dark Chocolate– Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content and lower sugar content. It is still a confectionery sweet that should be consumed in moderation. A perk of dark chocolate is that it is rich in anti-oxidants and sometimes stress relieving because it releases certain hormones when consumed.
Diet Soda– Soda in general is a very chemically processed beverage. Although diet soda is sugarfree, the artificial sweeteners used to replace the sugar are very tricky to play around with. The occasional diet soda to curb your sweet tooth is fine, but regular over-consumption can lead to digestion discomfort and distress, not to mention the negative effects it can have on your teeth.
Gluten Free Items– Gluten seems to have gotten a bad reputation in the past year or so. As it now receives the blame for people’s excess weight gain and inability to lose weight, people hardly do their research to understand what gluten even is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat. Although some people with Celiac’s disease need to stay away from gluten, there is no harm in the rest of us consuming it.
Low Fat Items– Low fat does not mean you will lose fat. Rather, low-fat is an alternative to items more rich in fat. Fat in itself is not bad for your diet, but needs to be consumed in moderation.
Sugarfree Items– Just like diet soda, sugarfree items are packed full of artificial sweeteners. These artificial sweeteners, though low calorie, can create a slew of health issues you most likely will want to avoid. In small amounts, the chemicals in artificial sweeteners can be consumed, but can become toxic the more you consume them.
Greens Supplements- Greens supplements are not a fix all for your health. They are a supplement. If you consume no fruits and vegetables, greens supplements will work wonders for you because your body is finally getting the vitamins and minerals it craves. For those that regularly consume fruits and vegetables, greens supplements are only recommended to be used on an as needed basis.
Protein Supplements– Just like greens supplements, protein supplements are not a fix all or a weight loss product. Protein supplements are used to supplement your daily protein consumption. Although the best way to consume protein is from whole food sources, these supplements can be a great way to meet your protein needs.
After reading through this list, I hope you found some common themes: Moderation, Portion Control, and understanding the nutritional value of the food you’re consuming.
Next time you’re thinking about “eating clean” or “eating healthy” make a list. At the top of the list write “Foods I Can’t Eat”, then list the foods you “can’t” eat when eating “healthy” or “clean”. Then when you’re done with the list cross out the title “Foods I Can’t Eat” and instead write “Foods I Can Eat in Moderation”. Think of food as an opportunity to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs.