What is Healthy Eating?
Food is a constant in our lives. We all eat several times a day; and even when we are not eating it feels like we are planning our next meal. As a dietitian living in today’s society, I am constantly asked this question—is this food healthy for me? As consumers we too often ask ourselves is this food “good” or bad” for us? Everyone tries to eat healthy, but what do they really mean when say this? The question becomes even more complicated for someone with an eating disorder. I hope to bring a new and fresh perspective on the term healthy eating and help shape your definition of a healthy food.
Conventionally we think of a healthy diet as one that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limited in sweets, salts and fined flour. How did we come up with this? Mostly from the messages we are have seen in the media, heard from the government, and read in professional journals. We tend to put foods into black and white categories of good and bad. Rather than dichotomizing food, I challenge my clients and their families to think of all types of food falling on a scale that is gray. The answer to the question of whether you can eat a food is not yes or no but always yes; a better way to ask the question is how often or how much should I have of a given food.
Eating healthy means listening to your body. We all have cues inside; these include hunger, cravings, or just a plain old want. Getting in touch with these cues and enabling them to drive whether to eat a certain food and more importantly how much can be translated into healthy eating. If we are able to truly be in touch with these cues, we can start to eat when we were hungry and stop when we are full; this is one way to achieve an appropriate body weight—this can include both weight loss and weight gain.
A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from all of the food groups; rice, apples, chocolate, pasta, fish, and butter are all included. A healthy diet includes all foods and does not eliminate any food or food group. You can eat your foods at home or at a restaurant. It should include all of your favorite foods and satisfy your personal hunger.
Healthy eating is being flexible—sometimes you may eat for other reasons than being hungry, such as emotional nourishment; other times you may eat for the sake of enjoyment. Sometimes you may want to try a new food while other times you wish to enjoy an old favorite. Often meals are a way to socialize with a friend or network with a colleague.
Eating should be a priority in your life, but not the only one. Healthy eating is so much easier if you can look at food and yourself in a positive light. Our body is equipped with complex feedback mechanisms including taste buds and brain signals to ensure we get the food we need for proper growth and daily functioning. Choose foods you can appreciate the texture, taste, and aroma of.
Healthy eating is different for all of us as we come in all different shapes and sizes. I challenge each and every one of us to define it for ourselves and continuously ask ourselves this difficult question.