Anytime I tell someone that I am studying nutrition and dietetics, within seconds, the person’s eyes open wide and their whole body leans in to ask me: is (fill in the blank) good for me?
And while semantics can be annoying, I can’t help but ask back what exactly “good” means. On Merriam-Webster, it says good can be described in one of three ways:
- to be desired or approved of
- having the qualities required for a particular role
- to be morally right or righteous
The second, and bolded, definition is the most beneficial to consider when labeling food as good or bad.
Food is more than just a vehicle to get nutrients into our bodies. Food is a part of culture and is a way to gather and bring people together. Food is a source of comfort and leaves us with fond memories. Food is an experience – an experience that should never cause guilt or shame.
You see, food has so many roles in our life.
Are vegetables good for me? Of course!! They are rich in nutrients and bright in color.
Is a big piece of pumpkin pie good for me? Duh!! Every year, I go all out decorating a delicious pumpkin pie that I get to share with the people I love most.
Are plantains with ropa vieja good for me? Absolutely!! This meal means that I am in Miami spending time with my Cuban family.
Is a cheeseburger with guac and bacon on it good for me? Yes!! Eating this burger meant Friday nights with my best girlfriends at one of our favorite spots in Nashville.
Food choices cannot be decided based on nutrition facts alone. While it is important to be aware of the nutrient components of foods it cannot be the forefront or only deciding factor as to what to eat. For example, using whole grain flour will supply more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined flour; but a cake made with refined flour will taste a heck of a lot better than a cake made with whole grain flour.
Now, I have a challenge for you.
Next time you are deciding whether a food is “good” for you to eat ask yourself these questions.
- What nutrients does this food offer? fiber? essential fatty acids? potassium?
- Will this food be satisfying? if you don’t feel content or pleased after eating a food was it that the serving was too small or your body truly wanting something else?
- How will eating this food make me feel? boredom? regret? happiness? Becoming aware of how various foods make you feel is a step toward food peace.
- Who will I eat with? eating with loved ones can increase meal satisfaction making a food all the more “good.”