What is Healthy Eating?


Vegetables and fruit over chocolate? Seafood and not too much meat? No "processed foods?" Calorie counting? "Watching what you eat?"

This is what I think...

The term healthy eating; in a generalised sense; sucks. It’s useless and lacks nuance. Instead, I support you determining your own definition. And invite you to think of it as a pattern of eating. One that includes the longer-term outlook of your life. The ups and downs. The holidays. The birthdays. The days in between. Life. That also acknowledges you are a human with complex and varying needs. Budget, access to food, health issues, available time, food preparation skills, cultural and ethical values - these all matter.

If your version of healthy eating doesn't include eating all foods you enjoy, socialising and going on holidays without worry, I invite you to expand your definition of "healthy eating." What might a healthy eating pattern look like for you? Can you see it? Do you wish you had that? Considering our eating more as a pattern of eating is also an outlook supported by evidentiary dietary research. For instance, health-protective qualities of a varied and balanced diet are over the long-term and this is how the positive outcomes show up in nutrition research. One meal, one day or even one month is not a pattern. That sounds like a meal plan to me…..

I speak to countless folks about the idea that there must be "one ideal way of eating." And quite simply, there's not. Part of this is everything mentioned above and also the important reframe. What if you were born elsewhere and the food differed? What if you had to avoid a food due to allergy? Can you not enjoy a healthy dietary pattern even so? You can.

An example may help.

Becky has Coeliac Disease and avoiding gluten is required to manage her condition. Her own dietary pattern excludes gluten-containing foods and yet includes all other foods that she enjoys to eat. When she's especially busy at work, she notices it's more accessible and better for her overall wellbeing to eat simply and sometimes rely on takeaway or pre-prepared food. She trusts her body and knows her nutrition is about the long-term and that stressing about micro-decisions is unhelpful. It's in this way that Becky can respect her body and balance her complex needs as a human being.

The messages sold to us loud and clear about what healthy eating is "meant" to be, are they helping you?

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