Quite commonly I find myself frustrated by stories in the media by health “experts” selling the idea that a particular food or style of eating has miraculous health benefits. The hairs on the back of my neck also tend to stand on end when I hear people talk about the evils of sugar or fat. Sugar and fat have their place in our lives and demonising food never helped anyone achieve good health.
The danger of categorising food as good or bad
The minute we begin to think of foods as being good or bad, we immediately attach unhealthy feelings to those foods. We feel guilty if we eat too much “bad” foods and perhaps a little virtuous if we only eat “good” foods. The reality is that it is possible to have a healthy relationship with all kinds of foods by learning to eat them in context of the whole diet. It is far better for children to eat fruits and vegetables because they enjoy the taste and understand that they help their bodies to feel good. With support, children can learn to savour the taste of “sometimes foods” like chocolate, sweets and ice cream and eat them in context of the whole diet. In the not-too-distant future my pre-teen child will be solely responsible for her food choices. When she does, my hope is that I will have taught her enough about ALL the foods available to her in her world that she will be able to make considered food choices according to her needs. She will be “food literate”. She will have the skills to cook and prepare food, and she will delight in opportunities to try unusual foods that she has not encountered before.
There are no magic bullet foods or cure-all diets
- The less processed and more varied the foods in our diet, the better for our health
- It is the COMBINATION of nutritious foods that give the greatest health benefits
- Cutting out food groups is detrimental for our health, particularly for children’s growth and development
Beware the next Super food in the spotlight
Goji berries are NOT so super, but by all means include some in your diet if you enjoy the taste (and you can afford it!). My favourite fruit is blueberries (another acclaimed “Super food”) and while they do have some wonderful nutritional qualities, I primarily enjoy eating them because I love the taste. Eat foods because you enjoy them and because they fit with your eating patterns, favourite meals and snacks and budget and not because you think you “should”.
Beware diets that avoid particular food groups
All food groups provide us with essential nutrients. Grains have been somewhat in the negative spotlight in part due to the popularity of the Paleo diet. However, cutting out whole grains eliminates a key source of B vitamins, fibre and minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium. Whole grains also help provide us with sustained energy.
The problem is that the “sensible” approach to food and eating isn’t sexy and it doesn’t provide a quick fix. But if you embrace the sensible, you will indeed have a healthier relationship with food for yourself and your family.