Nutrition is a hot topic year-round, however, come January it seems the presence of the newest nutrition fads take over social media, bookstores, news articles, and general conversation. It’s not uncommon to hear comments about “good foods vs. bad foods” as you’re checking out at the grocery store from a cashier, who then proceeds to go on about their newest diet plan. Amongst all these food “beliefs” it raises a question that we hope everyone would take a moment to consider – what is balanced eating for health?
How do we begin to make sense of that question in today’s world of different nutrition perspectives? More importantly, if navigating your own recovery from an eating disorder, how can you continue forward with trusting that your food choices are right for you?
- Challenge the notion of good vs. bad. A quick reminder – typically, when someone labels a food as “bad”, it often creates feelings of guilt and shame when consumed. What if we took a moment to consider what this food choice is providing for our physical and mental needs, and why it sounded good, to begin with?
- Nutrition is a science: All food provides usable energy to our bodies – that’s right! Our body is an expert at utilizing proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and no one food causes weight gain or health derailment when eaten in moderate portions alongside a variety of foods.
- Intuitiveness: As you’re grocery shopping, you notice the salt and pepper wavy potato chips and realize they’d be perfect with the caramelized onion dip you just picked up. Hesitation occurs – but why? Likely due to judgment of the food and fears associated with the nutrition. Let’s remember that all foods can be part of balanced eating for health, and as humans, we eat for taste, energy, and enjoyment! That means a handful of chips & dip have a place as a side at lunch or a snack, just as much as a side of roasted veggies have a place on the dinner plate. Your brain is constantly sending you rich and complex messages about the foods you choose. If the “food police” is so loud about rules and restrictions on food, you may not be able to hear the brain’s intuition as to what looks and sounds good that day for you.
Returning to the definition of balanced – “having different elements in the correct proportions. Synonyms to consider: mixed, varied.” In Dietitian talk, that means all foods have a place on your plate. Some choices, such as walnuts, berries, and dark chocolate provide the body with antioxidants to fight free radicals. Other choices such as creamy ice cream with friends or a flaky croissant at a cozy coffee shop provide social enjoyment (but don’t forget – that ice cream has protein and calcium, and that croissant has a balance of carbohydrates and fats that make for a great snack!). Balanced eating for health is just that- respecting that foods provide both physical and mental benefits for our mind and body.
About the Author
Courtney Schauder RN, LDN, CEDRD, is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) who has been treating adults and adolescents with eating disorders since 2008 after completing her undergraduate education in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and Dietetics at Virginia Tech, and her Dietetic Internship at The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.