As a dietitian, I get a lot of people and patients alike, who label me as the food police. That is really further from the truth, as I see myself as a nutrition expert who can help guide people to make changes to their nutritional health for sustainable, long-term changes to their lifestyle. That’s a mouthful. But really, it’s all about healthy eating, isn’t it?
A lot of healthy eating is common sense, I agree. I generally don’t spend a lot of my clinic time teaching patients much new nutritional information. I spend a fair amount of time highlighting information that is specific to them or provide strategies to help achieve goals. Also, I help dispel incorrect information or nutrition myths (thank you for propagating those, internet!).
When I am talking to a patient or even a friend about healthy eating habits, I hear people tell me that they include “cheat days” or “cheat meals” or like to “cheat” on unhealthy food sometimes. This seems to happen more often when I am looking over their food diary and see an unhealthy food written down (bread? Gasp!). I can promise that I’m not judging you. That’s not my job, nor is it the point of meeting with me (or any dietitian).
I want people to realize that all foods, good, bad, or otherwise, can fit into your life. We know cupcakes aren’t exactly the healthiest option, but eating one at a birthday party is not a big deal, but scarfing down 8 mini cupcakes for dinner, isn’t ideal.
I have seen patients so anxious and terrified about eating a morsel of cheese, not fully appreciating how little impact it will likely have on their heart health (and really, their overall health). It becomes more significant if you really love cheese (or any food) since deprivation of said favourite food can make this whole “healthy eating diet thing” much more challenging. I’m not saying that cheese is a health food (you wish!), but eating it sometimes is not “cheating”, it’s living.
So, why do I hate the idea of “cheating” on your healthy eating plan? I just don’t think it sends a positive message about food. It gives the perception that cheese and cupcakes are labeled as “BAD” foods, where really, they’re not bad at all. Kale and brussel spouts equally have the label as “GOOD” foods, but it boils down to balance. Yes, I want you to eat your veggies and eat them everyday, but should it be at the expense of eating something really fabulous that you only eat sometimes? (I think you know the answer by now).
So, eat your kale and cupcakes and brussel sprouts and cheese, but think about how often some of the less healthy foods pop up in your diet versus the healthier options. Don’t worry about cheating, worry about living.
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