Tuesday, July 28, 2015

FACT OR FAD? What makes food HEALTHY? Part 1 of 2

By: Holly L. Goroff MS, RD, CDN

Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect of ‘I bought something healthy – it was a gluten-free … (insert food name here)’? Or, ‘It’s good for you – NO CARBS!’? I have and it gives me chills! We are such targets of manipulative food marketing that our sense of ‘healthy’ has been obscured and our wallets are consequently drained.

It seems like every six months to a year there is a new definition of healthy. Healthy one day means juicing every morning, colon cleansing and antioxidants and the next it is eating quinoa, going gluten-free, drinking kefir or almond milk and no dairy...the list goes on and on.

I refer to these changing definitions of healthy foods as ‘food fads’. In addition to being heavily marketed, they also seem to get adopted by key public health figures, say…Dr. Oz, Jillian Michael or someone similar. Daytime shows have special guests to speak to the fads and drop key words like ‘toxins’, ‘metabolism’ and ‘cleansing’ and know they will capture your interest to hear more about the latest health craze.

What makes things a bit complicated is that these fads generally have some element of truth to them. It’s just not the WHOLE truth. And generally, it’s a truth that is subjective. We’ll get into this in a minute.

If I were to ask you WHY some of these foods are healthier than others, what would your source of information be? If it is Dr. Oz, Jillian Michael or someone similar, a quick Google search, branding or word of mouth, I would suggest you consider those resources questionable. Ask yourself, what makes them experts in nutrition? They could be super smart in cardiovascular disease and or fitness, but why does that make them worthy of dictating your diet?! Does what works for them work for everyone?
Another red-flag for establishing if your source is credible is asking if their recommendations ebb and flow with the moving trends. If your source’s recommendations change with the trends, I would suspect there is a financial benefit for them and/or lack of knowledge of actual nutrition research guiding their advice.

With all of these food fad’s flying around and your busy life which prevents you from doing scholarly research, what does “healthy food” actually mean? How do we know? And, how do we know quickly?

Excellent questions! Let me help…

Let’s start with the basics. What does it mean to be healthy? 

Here are some helpful definitions to keep in mind:

A) Health – The condition of being well or free from disease.
B) Macronutrients – Food (substance) required in relatively large quantities for providing energy and essential nutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates (including fiber) and Fat.
C) Micronutrients – Organic compounds (notably vitamins and minerals) essential in minute amounts to the growth and health.

Putting it all together:

A healthy food will provide macro and micronutrients to support your bodies’ optimal functional performance. This includes healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Notice I said, YOUR bodies’ optimal performance. Each person has unique needs either for optimal nutrition to accommodate a fast-paced life, athletic lifestyle, pregnancy or perhaps a disease state.

Quick tip for choosing healthy foods before we get to part 2:
  • Shop the perimeter of the supermarket where the fresh produce, meats and dairy are located.  Or, patron farmers markets and fill in the nutritional blanks by purchasing a protein like chicken or fish at the supermarket, butcher or fish store. 
Stay tuned to next week’s blog to learn how to calculate YOUR bodies’ optimal performance.
(UPDATE: Click here to read part 2!)

But until then, tell me, what do you consider ‘healthy’ foods for you or your family, especially when you are grocery shopping? 

About the Author: Holly is an experienced dietitian in both clinical and community nutrition. She is currently serving as the Clinical Nutrition Manager at now guest blogger for Choosy Kids!

She received her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from the Steinhardt School at New York University. She is published through her research and contributing work at Burke Rehabilitation Center investigating nutritional factors impacting neurological rehabilitation in stroke patients.

In addition to managing her staff of clinical nutritionists, she has a passion for serving at-need and underserved communities. She teaches outreach programs focused on mindful eating and strategies to make healthier lifestyle choices to at-risk community populations. She has recently been made lead in her hospital for teaching and managing the outreach classes to reduce childhood obesity.

She has expertise in: weight loss and management, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dealing with polypharmacy and achieving nutrition goals, achieving wellness goals in a creative and resourceful manner and motivating change.

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[A] Merriam-Webster.com. Health. Available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/health. Accessed on June 15, 2015.
[B] Mahan, K. Escott-Stump, S. Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy 11th Edition. 2004. Page 38. Saunders
[C] Merriam-Webster.com. Micronutriends. Available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/micronutrients.Accessed on June 20, 2015.

27 comments :

  1. I've never bought into the "food fads," in particular. We as a family shop for mostly fresh foods, lots of veggies, protein, etc. Thanks for such an informational post!

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    1. That is great that you shop as a family! It gets everyone involved in the whole buying/cooking/eating process.

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  2. We try to define things as healthy as what occurs naturally, without (or minimal) processing. My family has health issues, so I'm very particular about what I give the kids.
    I'm definitely forwarding this to my mother in law, so she can learn a thing or two!

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    1. Great definition! I am sorry to hear about your family's health problems but at least you know that healthy eating is a step in the right direction.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I hate fad diets. We are on a gluten free diet for celiacs disease for my son and intolerance for myself. Everyone thinks I'm torturing him with a fad diet, but it's his prescription.

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    1. A gluten free diet can be very difficult to follow so go you for making sure your son eats right for his body!!

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  4. Great post! Fad diets drive me crazy, especially when I think about the "low fat" processed food craze that my family totally bought into in the 90's! Now I wish we'd just eaten REAL food!

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    1. Oh gosh! Isn't it funny how fast we go through fad diets?! Obviously they don't work or else it wouldn't fade away.

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  5. Great post! It's so simple and so complicated all at the same time. Sadly, I would never trust anything that Dr. Oz says, he sold out long ago. I do think a key for healthy eating is staying away from processed food as much as possible, and cooking at home most of the time.

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    1. Sometimes it is hard to believe that TV doctors are really doctors at all. I agree with what you state about Dr. Oz. It is always best to consult your regular physician about a major dirt change.

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  6. Awesome post. As a family, we tend to define "healthy" as the freshest food possible rather than give in to fads.

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  7. I consider healthy for me any food that isn't at all or overly processed and food that doesn't trigger my allergies. We cook a lot of things from scratch, with exceptions like fries. Unfortunately I am limited to a small range of vegetables and fruits.

    Alex - Funky Jungle

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    1. We make our own fries some nights with different oils so they are a bit healthier. But I totally understand with having to be careful with what you eat with allergies.

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  8. I try not to follow fad diets too. "Moderation in all things" I say. The more unprocessed foods we eat, and the more we stay within a healthy level of calories, the better we'll be, right?

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    1. I agree with everything in moderation. We can't miss out on everything in life but if we pay attention to intake then we should be ok!

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  9. Yes!!!!! I love every single word in this post! "health" celebrities are so misleading. And, I started waitressing in 2004 when everyone was happy with bacon but didn't want carbs. I stopped working in the restaurant industry 8 years later when everyone wanted GF because they were "allergic". My brother has Crohn's and does better GF and DF. I have friends who are celiac but the incidence of gluten "sensitivity" is definitely vastly inflated. My mom is still conditioned to think all dietary fat is bad... So in a rambling nutshell, I loved every word of this.

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    1. So glad you loved it! Share this post about dietary fats with your mom http://www.choosykids.blogspot.com/2014/12/dietary-fat-is-it-good-or-bad.html?m=1

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  10. It can be hard to break the up and down the aisle habit, but you will find that you don't need most of the junk you find in there anyways. Most grocery stores have their health food near the edge of the store too... Not a coincidence! I love that I can find my organic pasta and sauce without being tempted down the main aisles.

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    1. It makes shopping trips a little faster too!

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  11. Great post! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. You're welcome! Visit our website to learn more about Choosy! Www.choosykids.com

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  12. This is a great post! I am always so annoyed by the changing health fads! It never makes any sense as to why something was healthy last month and suddenly is no good for you!

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    1. Completely agree! It just shows that not all diets work for everyone and you just have to figure out what works best for your body.

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  13. This is a great post! There are always new health fads popping up everywhere these days. www.littlemissfangirly.blogspot.com

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