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Feel good, not guilty: Tips for happy balanced eating

By December 17, 2012January 30th, 2013How To

It seems like every day someone asks me, “Is (insert a food here) bad for you?” It’s also common for people to insist on me hearing their “food confessions,” and accompanying excuses. These often sound something like: “I’m trying to quit red meat because I know it’s bad, but once a week the guys and I go to Capital Grill and I get the rib-eye, I can’t stop doing that.”

balanced dietIt’s a rare day that I encounter someone who talks freely about what they like to eat in a positive light, or asks what their diet might be missing rather than what they should give up in order to eat better. Why do we tend to think that a healthy diet means quitting certain foods entirely?

This may come as a shock to you, but there is no such thing as a “bad food.” Take a second and let that one sink in. No foods are by nature (or manufacture) evil and to be avoided at all costs, 100% of the time (unless of course you have an allergy or medical diagnosis that stipulates exactly this.) Some foods are, however, quite the opposite. They are really, really good for you. The problem most of us face isn’t that we can not resist or identify “bad foods,” it’s that we are not willing to try unfamiliar foods that are good for us, and we do not make these “good foods” the focal point of our food choices and meal planning.

steak-dinnerFor one second imagine that you are planning to have steak tonight, and maybe you’ve heard that we should all eat less red meat, so you aren’t sure if this steak is a healthy option, or an indulgence. Now ask yourself the following questions: “Will I be choosing a lean cut of meat, and do I know what the leanest cuts are? Is my portion size going to be reasonable? Do I know what a reasonable portion of meat is? Is half of my plate going to be filled with colorful vegetables? Am I having any whole grains with my meal? Is this the first time in a few days that I’ve had red meat?” If it’s likely that you would answer yes to all of these questions then congratulations, you would be on the verge of eating a healthy, well-balanced meal! Your conscience would be free to worry about other things.

Whether your personal nutrition goals are based on weight loss, or wellness, a simple change in thought from what you need to stop eating to what you need to start eating could be your key to success. Think about it…you can probably think of at least 5 things you believe you should eat less of, but what might you benefit from eating more of?

Anything can be a part of a healthy diet in moderation. Challenge yourself to stop fixating on quitting foods and instead try a new healthy food every day until you find you find a few that you like. You might be surprised. Seek the experience of a credentialed nutrition professional if you need help figuring what foods might be lacking in your diet and how to find delicious ways to add them to everyday meals.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Jennifer Jasmin, R.D. is a nutritionist and freelance writer living in Watertown, Massachusetts. She holds a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College, and a Graduate Certificate in Dietetics from Simmons College. In her work, Jen strives to help people find balance between real nutrition facts, and realistic health and fitness goals. Her background also includes over 15 years working in the food service industry, which adds to her unique perspective on eating well. She shares her insights, personal cooking lessons, and recipe ideas on her blog at: In addition to writing, Jen shares her passion about healthy eating in casual, approachable nutrition seminars and workshops in both corporate and community settings. To Jen, the journey to wellness is incredibly personal, and should be approached in a way that is individual, actionable and unpretentious. [/author_info] [/author]

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