When it comes to healthy eating, all too often we’re drawn to calling individual foods “good” or “bad” — labels that don’t quite fit because what really matters is our eating patterns and cultivating a joyful relationship to food that respects our preferences, cultural significance, and budgets.
I’ve made it my job as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to end food shame through my work. My goal is to de-stress the grocery shopping experience and help people eat healthy without the burdens of baseless social pressures.
That’s why I partnered with A Fresh Look to help dispel some of rumors I see most, and make sure you’re armed with facts based on sound research, not myths based on trendy food blogs and social media hearsay.
To get started, here’s a short list of so-called “bad” foods that you can stop worrying about — and start enjoying without shame — today.
- White Rice. Think brown rice is always better for you? For years, we’ve had it drilled into our heads that there is a significant difference in the nutrients we’re receiving from white versus brown rice. The reality is, you get nourishment from both. If you prefer white rice, the bits of fiber or vitamins you may miss are easily obtained elsewhere, like the vegetables in stir fry. Also, enriched white rice is a better source of folate1https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/brown-rice-vs-white-rice#key-nutritional-differences — an important protein that helps your body make DNA and other genetic materials, as well as supporting cell division.
- Cereal. In the cereal aisle, do you spend extra time looking for that “GMO-free” label before you decide to buy? If so, let me help you cut your shopping time in half: Don’t worry about GMOs. Decades of research prove that non-GMO labels don’t mean healthier or safer food — but they can mean higher prices. A recent study published by Food Policy2https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919218301131 figured out just how much, showing that consumers are consistently paying up to 62% more for foods labeled non-GMO (and up to 90% more for organics!). Even worse, a number of popular cereal brands that transitioned to all non-GMO ingredients now have fewer vitamins and nutritional value — not more.3https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2014/01/17/Post-unveils-non-GMO-verified-Grape-Nuts-as-Gen-Mills-says-goodbye-to-GMOs-in-Original-Cheerios So, save yourself the extra money next time and don’t waste your “worry points” on the cereal aisle. Pick what you like and move on.
- Bread (with gluten!) Food allergies and sensitivities aside, gluten isn’t actually the enemy for most people! Recent studies have found that there are no specific health benefits to be gained from a gluten-free diet4http://theconversation.com/if-you-dont-have-coeliac-disease-avoiding-gluten-isnt-healthy-88300, and in reality, the very opposite might be true. Gluten is actually proven5https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/ to lower your risk of heart disease and contribute to better gut health. So if you’re getting sick of lettuce wraps, go ahead and enjoy that sandwich and savor that gluten as part of your overall balanced way of eating.
- Edamame (soy) There’s a nasty rumor going around that you shouldn’t eat edamame because soy is often grown with GMO Farming methods — have you heard it? I love edamame. My girls love it boiled with a little salt. It’s such an easy and convenient snack, warm or cold. I love that my kids get a nice combination of plant protein plus vitamins and minerals in a snack they truly enjoy eating. As far science goes, there is no reason to avoid edamame foods. You don’t have to just take my word for it; visit the National Academy of Sciences, the European Commission, the World Health Organization6https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/well/eat/are-gmo-foods-safe.html, to read more. The truth is, avoiding GMOs in the name of health is not the healthiest choice, no matter which way you look at it.
- Butter. Sometimes foods have more benefits than meet the eye. Butter has long been hailed as the enemy of anyone who desires to eat well, but butter can make many foods – vegetables especially – taste better. Even more, the fat in butter helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K in the meal.
Here’s a bit of information new parents may not know: The plentiful nutrients in vegetables can actually add a slight bitter taste that most adults don’t even notice anymore (like calcium, polyphenols and flavonoids)7https://www.eatthis.com/how-get-kids-to-eat-vegetables/\, but kids do. To help your kids get past the taste in the beginning, mask the bitterness with a little butter! As an added bonus, a small to moderate dose of butter contains vitamins A, E and D3, which help kids grow to be healthy and strong.
I’m hoping I dispelled at least some of the food shame you might have faced in the past. Remember, your preferences matter. Taste really matters because it’s how you connect joy with healthy eating patterns instead of individually judging food or yourself for liking certain foods. Who is this random “food judge” anyway? You have the wisdom you need to make choices that fit your varying tastes and budget. Trust yourself. If you need some help, a qualified registered dietitian nutritionist can be a great help for tailored advice.
This post is sponsored by A Fresh Look, a 501(c) (6) organization, whose mission is to provide trustworthy research-based info to consumers about the benefits of GMO Farming methods.