Nutrition Ditch the Good Vs. Bad Food Mentality

food mentality

The “good” vs. “bad” food mentality can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and restriction!

Labeling food as “good” or “bad” is something our diet culture has been doing for quite some time.

Why is it a problem?

Because it’s an oversimplification that can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, I’m a big fan of shifting our mindset and view foods in terms of their nutrient density. By embracing this perspective, we can foster a positive and balanced approach to nourishment, focusing on the nutrients our bodies need rather than simply categorizing foods as either good or bad.

Understanding Nutrient Density

Nutrient density refers to the concentration of essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, in relation to the number of calories in a food. Nutrient-dense foods provide a high amount of these beneficial compounds relative to their calorie content. Examples include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods offer a broad spectrum of nutrients that support optimal health and well-being.

Calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods are those that provide a significant amount of calories relative to their weight or volume. These foods tend to be high in fats and/or sugars, which contribute to their calorie content. Think chips, candy, fast food, baked goods etc.

Challenging the “Good” vs. “Bad” Food Mentality

The “good” vs. “bad” food mentality can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and restriction. It sets up an unhealthy relationship with food, promoting a sense of moral value attached to what we eat. Have you ever eaten a couple of cookies only to beat yourself up over it and continue down the rabbit hole of “screw it, I already messed up?”

By shifting our mindset towards nutrient density, we can start working towards a more balanced approach to eating and away from self-sabotage.

1.Focus on Nutrient Variety:

Instead of classifying foods as good or bad, strive to incorporate a wide variety of nutrient-dense options into your diet. Emphasize the inclusion of different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to ensure a diverse intake of essential nutrients. (*ahem* there is life beyond chicken breast and broccoli) Nutrient dense foods don’t have to be boring, you may just needs to branch out a little!

2.Emphasize Moderation:

Rather than completely eliminating foods that are traditionally labeled as “bad,” practice moderation and portion control. Recognize that occasional indulgences can be part of a balanced approach to eating, as long as the majority of your diet consists of nutrient-dense choices. Reading nutrition labels and understanding what serving sizes truly are can help you get a better understanding on why portion control can be so important.

3.Mindful Eating:

Cultivate a mindful eating practice by paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Allow yourself to savor and enjoy your meals, focusing on the nourishment they provide and the pleasure of eating, rather than eating while you’re scrolling social media or watching TV.

4.Consider the Whole Picture:

When evaluating the nutritional value of a food, look beyond just the calorie content. Sure, calories matter… but they don’t tell the whole story. Look at the nutrient profile, fiber content, and other beneficial compounds it offers. For instance: 100 calories from Oreos vs. 100 calories from black beans. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that black beans are better for you. But you can also ask yourself: Which will keep me full, longer? Which would I be more likely to continue to want to go back for more? Which will make my body feel better?

Benefits of Shifting to a Nutrient-Dense Mindset

  1. Improved Well-being: By embracing a nutrient-dense mindset, you prioritize nourishing your body with essential nutrients, leading to improved energy levels, enhanced immune function, and overall well-being. Feeling good feels good.
  2. Balanced Relationship with Food: Seeing foods as nutrient-dense rather than good or bad promotes a healthier relationship with food. It removes the guilt and shame associated with indulging in certain foods and allows for a more flexible and enjoyable eating experience.
  3. Sustainable Habits: Adopting a nutrient-dense mindset encourages sustainable dietary habits focused on long-term health. Instead of relying on restrictive diets or quick fixes that demonize food, you prioritize nourishment and make choices that support your overall well-being.

Shifting our mindset from labeling foods as good or bad to recognizing their nutrient density allows us to approach eating in a more balanced and positive way. Having a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to mean guilt and restriction!

 Chloe Durant

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