Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fact or Fad? What Makes Food Healthy? Part 2 of 2

By: Holly L. Goroff MS, RD, CDN

Welcome back! Glad you have returned. If you are new to this week’s series, you may want to read Part 1 of Fact or Fad first.

So let’s just jump right into where we left of. Considering what we discussed in the previous post, think of your healthy food as being a result of the following equation:

{My Healthy Food = ‘Standard Healthy Food Recommendation’ + YOU}

STANDARD HEALTHY FOOD RECOMMENDATION*

Generally healthy recommendation of eating whole foods, fruit and vegetables (flash frozen is an excellent and affordable alternative to fresh foods) lean meats, low sugar, salt, trans and saturated fats. Focus on foods that are minimally processed to avoid eating lots of fillers and hard-to-identify ingredients. 



*This is not meant a comprehensive list, but a general concept with selected examples of healthy foods.

+ YOU

In addition to the standard recommendations, what is unique to your life that changes your needs? Do you have increased nutritional needs because you’re an athlete, pregnant or recovering from an illness? Do you have allergies or intolerances? Identifying this will help you sort through the multitude of health claims that make us all feel like we need all the foods with the special claims.

Here is an example. If someone is gluten intolerant or has Celiac disease, it is wise for them to adopt a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is not like a weight- loss diet where you can ‘cheat’ and just start again later. Celiac is an immune reaction causing inflammation of your gut, and therefore, malabsorption and potential nutrient deficiencies. If someone requires a gluten-free diet, they need to be gluten-free 100% of the time.

If you have no intolerance for gluten or no diagnosis of Celiac disease, having a gluten-free item is not a healthier choice than a gluten-containing item. In other words, having a sandwich with gluten-free bread and then later a gluten-containing brownie is a useless combination. Either you need to be gluten free or you don’t. A gluten-free food item does not make it healthier. It does make it more expensive though.

Another example: Carbohydrates (Carbs) are a needed nutrient (MUCH needed). Carbs come from grains and plant sugars. There are no carbs in protein or fat. Carbs do not cause someone to gain weight – eating too much does! Balance your meals and don’t overeat and you’ll be fine. If you are trying to eat healthy then you are likely also trying stay away from overly processed foods as recommended. Remember that low carb does NOT mean healthier. But, if you are choosing to eat low carb just eat less carbs! No need to purchase a carb that says it’s not.


You get the idea…

Now that we have established the foundational principle of health/healthy foods, let’s create a simple series of questions we can apply to ask ourselves, “is this food actually healthy for me or not.”
  1. Is this food WHOLE? Meaning in its original form or close to it?
    • Fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables, fresh meat or fish, plain bagged rice etc. As opposed to Rice-A-Roni. If yes – it’s sounding healthy!
  2. If it’s a packaged good, is there a health claim and is it relevant to you? 
    • i.e. gluten-free. Do you require gluten free foods? If yes, this might be a good choice, if no, then probably not. 
  3. Are you buying a packaged good for a reason (nutrition or health claim - i.e. antioxidant rich) that you can easily get from eating whole foods like fruit and vegetables? 
    • If yes, consider replacing the package with some blueberries! (for antioxidants at least).
  4. What is the first ingredient? The first ingredient is also the primary ingredient. 
    • For whole grain anything, the first ingredient should have the word ‘whole’ in it. If it’s enriched, refined white flour, sugar or similar, put it down or know it’s a treat (if it’s cake or some other indulgence).
  5. Does it seem like there are a lot of ingredients for a simple item (example: tomato sauce)? 
    • If, yes, my guess is it is highly processed and it likely has lots of additives you don’t need for maximally healthy food.
If you can get the majority of your diet to consist of healthy foods, you‘re in a great place for keeping a healthy body! Completely eliminating the yummy treats you love that fall under the ‘not-so healthy’ category is a recipe for disaster. Allow yourself some treats but also treat your body well, by choosing wisely most of the time.

If you commented in part 1’s post, think back to your response and let me know what foods you thought were healthy and are now thinking otherwise? Post your strategies for healthier shopping.

If you have further questions feel free to post them at themobiledietitian.com or The Mobile Dietitian on Facebook!

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.

42 comments :

  1. Everyone processes food differently, so a food that may be healthy for you, may not be for someone else! We have to treat ourselves as guinea pigs until we figure it out!

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    1. Great way of putting it. Just like little kids that have to try something for the first time, we adults also need to err on the side of caution sometimes when we eat!

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  2. this really has some great information here. I keep trying to explain all this to my kids who just want to snack on yucky foods. They get so upset when I refuse to buy cookies and chips for them.

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    1. It's hard to teach nutrition to kids but Choosy tries to help with music. Have you checked out some of Choosy's music to see if they like the song, thus the messages it shares? http://choosykids.com/store/index.php/music-and-video.html

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  3. There is so much information out there that it's hard to figure out what is fact and what's fiction. Thanks for the clarification.

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    1. You are right about that! Who ever knows what to believe anymore!

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  4. Such great advice. I've been trying to get my family to eat healthier, so this is really great information. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. You're welcome! Choosy Kids is all about healthy eating and involving the family. We have a lot of helpful resources so be sure to check out our website.

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  5. I strive to feed my family as many whole foods as possible!! Once I started ready labels, I was shocked at what was in seemingly healthy foods!!

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    1. It is quite shocking what goes into seemingly healthy food. You have to be very dedicated to label reading to learn ingredients.

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  6. Great post! You included a lot of helpful info and tips here, and since my partner and I are planning on eating healthier, this will surely come in handy!

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    1. Glad to hear you are striving to eat healthier. It makes such a difference! Good luck!

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  7. This was such an informative article. I really loved the infographic since it makes everything so abundantly clear. It is so important for our kids to get a healthy start.

    Amanda
    www.queenofthelandoftwigsnberries.com

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    1. I am glad that you enjoyed the graphic. It is a great reference tool!

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  8. This is one thing that I struggle with. I find it hard to find foods that are not processed. Do you have any suggestions on how I can help weed out these kind of foods?

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    1. Processed is a broad term first of all. We tend to villianize the work but the action of 'mashing potatoes' is a form of processsing. So not all processing is bad. It just means you are changing the form in its basic sense. The negative use of the word means not only have they changed the form, but removed healthy things (like bran from grains to make white flour) to create a more desirable product. Sometimes other ingredients, dyes, fillers are also added to create a better appearance, longer shelf life etc. Think about macaroni and cheese. You can make is using whole/minimally processed (which would be like grinding a grain, mashing a potato) ingredients like cheese, milk, butter and pasta OR a box of mac and cheese is generally white pasta powdered cheese mix (heavily processed) added chemical flavors. So the basic rules... 1) buy whole foods where possible (fresh or frozen) "shop the perimeter" of the grocery store. 2) when shopping down the aisles bags of grains, rice without the powder mixes are good choices, even canned beans etc. 3) another helpful trick is to look at the ingredient list. A) if its long its likely heavily processed b) if its short and has recognizable items its likely a better choice. Lastly, meals that are ready (unless made at the store), frozen meals, just add meat things like hamburger helper are also tell-tail for highly processed foods. I hope that helps!!

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  9. This is a thorough listing for sure. I really appreciate your method of categorizing the foods - makes it much easier to decide what is really good for my niece to eat!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. It is a lot of info to take in at once but well worth it!

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  10. This is a very informative article and it was good to learn about all these. Now it's easier to choose the food that I should be serving my family.

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    1. Hope that we helped boost your family meals :)

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  11. I'll have to keep this in mind more often when I'm shopping. I do notice a lot of items that seem to have way too many ingredients.

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    1. Once you start to read labels you'll be overwhelmed with what goes into items that you thought were healthy!

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  12. This would be great for everyone, especially the people who are trying to switch to a healthier lifestyle. It's really about your food intake, and with a reference like this, we should have a better idea on what to eat and what not to eat.

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    1. You are spot on with your thoughts on portion control. We are so accustomed to large meals and portions that our body now thinks we need that much but really we don't!

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  13. This is a great idea must keep in mind. Lots of process food to choose from now I know how to tell the difference

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    1. So many things are processed. We need to revert back to "cave man days" and eat a wholesome meal!

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  14. Thank you for sharing. Great infographic you posted here. I'd love to have one taped to the pantry or refrigerator door as a constant reminder. I guess eating healthy entails a lot of making the right choice.

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    1. Thanks! Go ahead and give the chart a print!

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  15. That really has simplified the process of discovering what is truly healthy or not. Thank you for taking the time to post this and doing the work to make it simpler on all of us.

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    1. You're very welcome! Glad that you liked it and I hope it helps you in the future.

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  16. Long read for me but definitely worth the time reading. Full of great fact and info. Thanks!

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    1. I know it was quite lengthy but everything I stated is important so I didn't want to skip anything. Glad you still liked it.

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  17. We're trying to eat more healthy foods like veggies, thanks for sharing this amazing tips. This could be help a lot.

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    1. Good luck with eating your veggies. My personal favorite is grilling them during this time of the year!

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  18. Great post! It is so important to remember what is really healthy and whats not!

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    1. And yet it is so easy to forget sometimes. We always need reminded to step back and evaluate our meal and food choices.

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  19. I think a lot of these food companies can give people the wrong idea about what is healthy and whats not.

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    1. Marketing can be very tricky, and the images that they show on the packaging can be very deceiving. That is why reading ingredients is so important!

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  20. I have a hard time with the grandkids sometimes because they don't like the healthier food I make them. I love growing a lot of my veggies now. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Getting kids of any age to try something new is hard. Let them play with the new food first and then see if they'll eat it!

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  21. Sorting through the labels of gluten-free,fat free,sugar-free-additive free etc. can be overwhelming!
    Thanks for simplifying the choices!

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    1. It can be really overwhelming! But at least you are trying your best!

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