• Haley Dixon, Dietetic Assistant

What is Healthy Eating?


2017 has arrived and with it, New Year’s Resolutions. Many people look to this time as a way to remake and improve themselves. The most popular New Year’s Resolutions often revolve around weight loss, fitness, and … healthy eating. If someone is aiming to start eating healthier, where do they start? What exactly is healthy eating?

Healthy eating is eating in a way that properly fuels and provides the body with all the necessary nutrients. These nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water. So what does this exactly mean for us? Striving to achieve balance among these nutrients ultimately improves health, weight loss success, and overall well-being for the long run. However, with new goals and desires for the New Year, it is extremely tempting to search and find a quick fix.

Quick fixes take many forms, but they all provide a short term solution for habits that require long term change. Detoxes, fad diets, and cleanses are incredibly popular among the public, but need to be handled with caution.

Detoxes:

Master Cleanse Detox Diet:

The Master Cleanse Detox is arguably the most popular detox. Many people, including celebrities, have used this cleanse to drop weight quickly. The detox lasts from a minimum of ten days to an entire month. Each day begins with a quart of salt water solution followed by six to twelve 8oz glasses of a homemade lemonade concoction consisting of maple syrup, water, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. At the end of the day, a herbal laxative is taken.

The detox will absolutely result in a loss of pounds, but this is only due to a simple lack of calories. With this detox, the possibility of muscle loss and nutritional deficiencies may result in followers of the detox because of an insufficient amount of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, the promoter of the diet, Peter Glickman, is not at all a health professional and does not supply any scientific data to support the detox.

Whole30:

The Whole30 is a recent detox trend that has emerged and risen in popularity quickly. The entire premise of the eating plan is to eliminate "unhealthy" foods, specifically sugar, grains, beans, and diary, because these foods are causing health problems. By cutting out these foods for 30 days, the body "resets" itself and health restored. However, the entire dieting plan does not give any scientific data to validate the claims and increases the risk of nutritional deficiency by eliminating grains, beans, and dairy. Essentially, the diet deems certain foods as "bad" and "unhealthy" and forces the impression that the only way to be healthy is to follow the diet.

Juicing:

By now, everyone has heard of juicing and juice fasts, especially in the weight loss and detox variety. Juicing is simply the removal of the fiber in fruits and vegetables, leaving the water, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins behind. The proponents of juicing state the practice allows the body to better absorb the nutrients, give rest to the digestive tract from fiber, and protect from disease and illnesses. However, no scientific data exists to back up the claim that juicing is healthier than consuming whole fruits and vegetables. Out of the previous detox fads, juicing is healthiest in comparison. If you do not enjoy vegetables and fruits, juice is one way to incorporate more of their benefits into your diet. If possible, just skip the juicing. You can blend the fruits and vegetables with water to get a similar product without sacrificing the healthful fiber. It is always best to consume fruits and vegetables in their whole form.

Popular diets:

Ketogenic Diet:

A ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat diet. Although there are a few variations, it typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. The goal of the diet is to enter "ketosis," the process in which your body shifts from utilizing carbohydrates as fuel to using stored fat to produce ketones for energy. The purported benefits are weight loss, improved cognitive function, and decreased disease risk. Some research does exist to support these benefits, but only for limited populations typically suffering from epilepsy. The diet is incredibly restrictive and excludes fruit, grains, beans, sugary and processed foods, root vegetables, and alcohol. Unless you are suffering from a medical condition and a registered dietitian instructs you to follow a ketogenic diet, it is unwise and unnecessary to follow such a diet.

Paleo Diet:

A paleo diet is centered around what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. The diet says yes to fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats while saying no to starches, grains, legumes, processed food and sugars, and alcohol. The goal of the ancestral eating plan is to alter our diets to mimic our ancestors', thus encouraging overall health and reducing disease risk. As with the other detoxes and diets mentioned, a paleo diet is restrictive and lacks sufficient research to support the health claims.

Yo-yo dieting and Disorder Dieting:

When we turn to quick fixes like detoxes, fad diets, and cleanses, we run the risk of many health risks, such as muscle loss, impaired brain function, nutritional inadequacies, and much more. These temporary “solutions” do nothing for us. They do not teach or help us implement healthy habits that actually lead to positive and long-lasting change. When we turn to a quick diet, detox or juice cleanse, we deprive ourselves, restrict foods we love, and begin viewing food in a negative light. This is dangerous; viewing food as the enemy to health and our ideal bodies may lead to yo-yo dieting and disordered eating.

Yo-yo dieting is a cycle of going on quick diets, dropping pounds quickly, jumping off the wagon by “slipping,” and starting another diet once the weight comes back. For many, yo-yo dieting often results in even more weight gain than prior to the cycle. Along with yo-yo dieting, the increasing prevalence of eating disorders demonstrate how vital it is that we understand and promote the value of balanced eating and positive eating habits.

Feelings of Food and Listening to your Body:

All too often when trying to get healthy and obtain an ideal weight, we resort to quick fixes, gimmicks, and shortcuts. The diets, detoxes, and cleanses are costly in more ways than one. By restricting and labeling certain foods as "bad," we start to see food as a challenge to overcome in order to achieve our goals. We begin viewing our food as the enemy and hating the natural act of eating. This perspective of food affects us in drastic ways; our food is no longer enjoyed, our confidence and self esteem are damaged, and our idea of true healthy eating is skewed and warped to the point of total confusion.

It is time like these when we need to heed the following advice; listen to your body. Your body is unique and what it needs to thrive is as individual. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Healthy eating does not have to be complicated and can be simple. Instead of looking to an all-in or nothing approach, we need to strive for daily change and implement healthy habits, such as incorporating more physical activity, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, and reducing consumption of saturated fats and sweets. When we listen to our bodies and aim for progress instead of perfection, true health is achieved.

Until next time,

Haley Dixon

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