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What is Healthy Food?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly is considered healthy food lately and it’s all my brother in law’s fault.

During our last family visit, S mentioned he and his new bride wanted to eat healthier while still trying to save money because they are in the We Just Got Married and Starting Our Careers So We’re Broke phase of their lives.

I can relate because that’s where Husband and I were oh so many years ago. The thing Husband and I find funny is in our search for a lower food bill not only did we learn how to cook from scratch, but we started to eat healthier and became accidental foodies. I never saw that coming!

Throughout the visit however, our young couple got a lot of conflicting advice as to what it means exactly to “eat healthy.”

1. One person believed vitamins, protein/health shakes, and herbs/supplements is healthy eating.

2. One person believed you should eat something from the four basic food groups at every meal.

3. One person believed you should only eat organic food, including processed organic chips, cheese crackers, etc. because the conventional equivalent will kill you.

4. One person believed you should cook from scratch as much as possible emphasizing whole grains and vegetables, cut out the processed food as much as possible (even organic), and remove trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup. 

I’m not even bringing in the other healthy eating ideas of:
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Soaking grains (I don’t get this. I haven’t had time to research it.)
  • Grain/gluten free
  • Remove the food I’m allergic/sensitive food form your diet because it could potentially kill me (for reals) so it’s bad for you too (maybe not)
  • Eating/avoiding particular food for cultural/ethical/religious reasons
  • Lactose/dairy free (That’s me. Whimper. I hate it)
  • Meat and potatoes, stick to your ribs type of food in farm hand size portions (our young couple lives in farm country where farmers need and work off this type of diet.)
Who’s right? One of them? Some of them? All of them? None of them?

Depending upon exactly what type of food combinations and the amount you are eating, and your individual medical and physical needs, any of the above healthy eating ideas could have merit. Or not.

No wonder our young newlyweds are confused! 

We're supposed to scrap the four basic food groups for the new new food pyramid. 

The USDA's 2005 food pyramid courtesy of Wikipedia 

You’re not exactly going to get definite answers looking at the food pyramid. All I get from this thing is to eat less candy – duh. Maybe that's why they revised it.

Now it is a plate. 

A little better but I’m not sure how something like my Asparagus and Tomato Sautee compares to eat by the plateness portions. The plate doesn't list exactly what kind of food they put in each category either. The dairy portion implies a glass of milk which is great unless you are lactose intolerant like I am. 

Are these portions per day or per meal? Not listing what type of food fits into each category could be confusing to the growing number of people who aren't familiar with what basic fruit and vegetables look like or those of us with special diets. I doubt a vegan is going to follow this dairy recommendation. I can't follow it if it contains lactose. However our bodies need the nutrients commonly found in dairy so what do those people do according to this diagram?  

Let’s not forget the bazillion food bloggers who have their own personal ideas about what they consider is and is not healthy food  – myself included. Which honestly, unless they (me) are a registered dietitian, they (we) could be steering you the reader in the wrong direction inadvertently. Let's be honest there can be a lot of social, ethical, personal agenda involved as to who recommends what is healthy food.

GAAH! No wonder so many people give up and eat microwavable food from a box.

How do you determine what you consider healthy food? There are no wrong answers here, I’m just curious. Do you have any reliable healthy eating resources for our young newlyweds? Or would it be best to suggest they speak with their family doctor or a registered nutritionist to tailor their diet to their needs?

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In the interest of full disclosure, I side with number four because that tidbit comes from Husband and I. You may disagree or it could be wrong for you but it works for us.


suzyhomemaker said…
I agree it is difficult. But just because someone is a registered dietitian, it does not guarantee they will steer someone correctly. I know many RD's and they might recommend low-fat margarine with tons of chemicals over butter or like you mentioned, highly processed organic items. I think the easiest thing is common sense and eating as close to unprocessed as possible.
Mary said…
I think #4 on the list of suggestions sounds like the most practical as far as being healthy, thrifty and simple. It also allows for a lot of tailoring to individual preferences and experimentation (learn to cook while you're learning to eat well). Of course, they'd have to take any personal health issues into consideration.
That's part of the thing Suzy. Common Sense is different for everyone. I talked to a food blogger who is a dietitian by profession. She confirmed that there are more people than we realize who think just because they sell it the food must be healthy. In case of our young couple, they believed they were eating healthy because Advice #1 is what they started to do.
Amy said…
I think they first need to decide what their idea of eating healthy is. Or at least a general idea,, for example do they want to cut out processed foods, are they concerned about high fructose corn syrup,,, Once they have an idea of what the want to avoid and what they are willing to include in their diet you and others will be able to better help.

If the issue is they have no idea of what is healthy and no convictions in any direction, I would suggest some research based on the list of ideas of healthy they were given. We all need to make our own informed choices but a starting point can be difficult to find...
Amy said…
Btw I agree with you and Mary we try to follow those guide lines in our diet.
F said…
Hi Lisa,

Funny how food journeys evolve. We started off wanting to see if we could be vegetarian because there was a program we wanted to participate in that would require it. Then we did Peace Corps and had no choice but to learn to cook from scratch. Now as we get comfortable our, don't tell anyone, 30's we are looking for simple good food we can make from what we grow and buy locally.

It was fun to see how your story is inspiring others.

We're having our inaugural Eat Make Grow Blog Hop. We are looking for folks to link up who want to share what they have been eating with their families, growing in their gardens or making with all their creative impulses. If you're interested, I hope you'll hop on over and link up a couple of your posts. It's a way for you to grow your readership and find other like minded mamas.

Hope to see you there,