The Myth of Good and Bad Foods

Raise your hand if you think there are good and bad foods.

I admit, I used to think so too. As humans, we really love binary thinking. Black and white, good and bad, healthy and sick, high and low, etc. It’s an easy way for our brains to divide things up into categories and make potential choices seem easier.

When it comes to food, we LOVE to talk about which ones are “good” (Superfoods! Yay!) and which ones are “bad” (Oh no, toxic sugar! Eek!). But what if I told you, it’s all just….. Food?

Mind. Blown.

Just about anything edible can have a place in your overall diet. The only “bad” food for you is one you’re deathly allergic to. That one should most definitely be avoided! But all the other stuff, including cake, bread, pasta, rice, donuts, ice cream, bacon, and muffins, can be included in the overall spectrum of a healthy diet (for more on this “spectrum” idea, check out this post).

What?? Did she just say ice cream can fit? Yup, yup I did.

It’s only one piece of the puzzle

What is the end goal for most people? It’s usually something like:

  • Be generally healthy
  • Have the physical ability and energy to play with our kids/grandkids
  • ENJOY this big awesome journey called life for a long, long time

To do all of those things, we need a varied and nourishing diet that supports our goals. This includes adequate protein, lots of fruits and veggies, some healthy fat, some carbs, and some “fun foods” or “treat foods.” Any one of those things is just part of the overall picture of a healthy, reasonable, sane, and enjoyable diet.

The key is to keep them part of the eating pattern and not the entire eating pattern. (Check out: If there are no bad foods, why manage sweets?)

There are no bad foods. You can eat healthy without completely swearing off your favorite foods! A healthy diet includes the ability to eat sweets.

Food has no moral compass

A food cannot be good or bad all by itself. How a food impacts your overall health has more to do with the REST OF YOUR DIET than it does with that food.

Let’s take two examples to illustrate this point…

  • Example 1: A person who has an overall varied and healthy diet, and eats a piece of cake here and there. The occasional piece of cake does not somehow make their overall diet “bad.” And it most certainly does not make the person “bad!” Cake isn’t “bad.”
  • Example 2: A person with a deep-fried, fast food, candy-centric diet who tries kale one day. Eating kale once doesn’t somehow make this person’s overall eating pattern “good” or healthy. Kale isn’t “good.

Eating kale doesn’t make your diet “good,” just as eating cake doesn’t make it “bad.”Click To Tweet

Please separate “good” and “bad” from individual foods. The BIG picture of how someone eats is what’s important, not the minutiae of any one item. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Similarly, what a person chooses to eat does not make THEM good or bad! Whether a person chooses to eat a textbook Mediterranean diet, or they choose to eat cake for every meal for months on end, their choices DO NOT make them a “good” or “bad” person.

So if you’ve had more cake/ice cream/brownies/etc than you wanted to or thought you “should”, do not fall into the trap of thinking you were “bad.” You made a food choice you weren’t thrilled with. That’s all. Thankfully, you get an opportunity to choose something different next time you eat. No biggie!

Food choice is a big ol’ spectrum of grey

Now, just because there are no foods that are all good or all bad, that’s not to say that some foods aren’t healthier than others. I think we can all agree that spinach is healthier than a Snickers bar. If we want to move away from thinking in black/white, good/bad extremes, we need to open our minds to the full spectrum that is the grey area in between.

If we can focus our efforts so that the majority of our food choices fall on the healthier side of the spectrum, then the occasional foods that are on the less-nutritious side aren’t going to do much to tip the balance.

Likewise, if we’ve come to notice that the majority of our overall diet falls on the less-nutritious side of things, we can choose to make a few choices on the healthier side to move ourselves up a bit on the spectrum.

Our food choices will NEVER be 100% healthy or unhealthy.

We are ALWAYS somewhere on the spectrum in between. Keep the big picture in mind and don’t fall victim to the idea that any single food is “good” or “bad.”

Share this, and let everyone know there are no “bad” foods!

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