I work at a Wellness Program where I plan health challenges and health-related events. Yesterday at work we were discussing a new online health-tracking tool. My supervisor commented that she removed, from the online program, a couple of food options on a list of “Foods Under 100 Calories” because they were not healthy options. A co-worker and friend of mine commented that that bugged her. I asked, “Why?” Her response was this, “Because balance is what is important.” I responded, “Well why not promote healthy eating?” She responded, “There is no such thing as a really healthy food and an unhealthy food.”
I beg to differ.
Foods vary greatly in health benefits. While some foods are rich in antioxidants and prevent cancer, other foods PROMOTE cancer growth and contain chemicals which truly harm our bodies. It is essential we understand the role food plays in our health; they are very directly related. The conversation with my co-worker continued. I argued that foods do vary in healthiness. She responded that it all comes down to a matter of balance; her argument was that no food is healthy or unhealthy if consumed in the appropriate balance.
Why do we need to balance the amount of green, nutrient-dense vegetables with McDonalds saturated with saturated fat burgers? We do not need a “balance” of unhealthy foods. We absolutely do not need our 7% of fatty and sugary foods (refer to top picture), which only increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, breast cancer, and hypertension! If we include these harmful products in our diet regularly, though some may call it balance, it actually imbalances our body processes. They are difficult for our body to digest, thus causing imbalance and nutritional stress.
You may argue, believing that you need some of your favorite unhealthy foods or snacks. Read on, my friends:
1. Taste buds change.
According to Dr. Oz, for a child it typically takes about ten times of eating a particular food to acquire a taste for it. For adults, the time is a little longer…but still remains true. Whole Food Mommies shares a couple of stories about acquiring taste buds for healthy eating:
A few months ago, one of my daughters needed to eat a red pepper (which she detests) in her salad. As she took a bite, she got a surprised look on her face and exclaimed, “Mom, Mom, it’s my tenth time”. Confused, I asked her what she meant. She said, “It must be my tenth time eating red peppers, because I love this.” Sure enough, she has not complained once about red peppers since then.
Last week my youngest groaned as he sat down to the dinner table and saw that we were having zucchini (again). Tears welled up is his eyes and he said, “I HATE zucchini.” We went through the same ritual that he needed to eat it but he could plus his nose if it helped. He ate everything else on his plate, and painfully left the zucchini for last. With a little persuasion he finally took a bite. As he did, his eyes popped, and he almost shouted, “My taste buds just hatched!” His sisters knew exactly what he was talking about (I think they introduced him to the terminology) and cheered. He now likes zucchini!
2. Nutrient satiety.
Our bodies send us a signal when it is full. However, how full our stomach literally is is only half of the equation. The other part of the equation is the consumption of necessary nutrients. We feel full when we have received the nutrients we need. [Ever noticed how many bowels of sugar cereal it takes to feel partially satisfied?!] Thus, my advice to those with cravings or favorite unhealthy foods is to eat a huge green salad, loaded with vegetables and light on the dressing (or any nutrient-dense meal) before eating that favorite unhealthy food. It is likely your body will feel great, and you will easily resist that unhealthy junk.