The definition of a healthy diet is widely debated on and often contains contradictory information. It’s understandable why some people don’t bother to eat healthy. The media bombards of us with so much information about the latest celebrity diet trends, so called “nutritionists’” nutrition advice, and supplement company ads, it’s difficult to decipher what a healthy diet is and who to trust.
My best advice is to listen to nutrition advice from individuals with respected credentials (i.e. registered dietitians, dietetic technicians, anyone with a nutrition degree from an accredited school or has a CNS certification (certified nutrition specialist)) using logic and common sense to determine if the nutrition information presented is reasonable or true.
If you choose to read articles about nutrition online (like this one), always use the information as a starting point or a brief overview of nutritional subjects—never substitute information found online for health advice.
Without further ado, let’s clarify what a healthy diet is.
What Is A Healthy Diet?
A healthy diet consists of:
- A variety of nutrient dense foods.
- Occasional or reasonable amounts of nutrient poor foods.
- Foods that meets your moral standards.
- Exclusion of food allergies, food intolerances, dairy products, and toxic ingredients.
What Are Nutrient Dense Foods?
Nutrient dense foods are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, probiotics, etc.
Examples Of Nutrient Dense Foods
|Cashew||Sunflower Seed||Kale||Wheat||Navy Bean||White meat of chicken and turkey|
|Almond||Pumpkin Seed||Spinach||Oat||Red Kidney Bean|
|Strawberry||Brazil Nut||Chia Seed||Asparagus
White Kidney Bean
|Orange||Macadamia Nut||Flax Seed||Bok Choy
*This list is not exhaustive
What Are Nutrient Poor Foods?
Nutrient poor foods are junk foods. They have little to no nutrients (i.e. vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.) and are highly processed. They also are high in sugar and calories, contain refined ingredients as well as artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Examples Of Nutrient Poor Foods
Deep fried foods: fried chicken, fried ice cream, and fried Oreos.
Sugary foods: ice cream, cake, cookies, brownies.
Refined ingredients: white sugar, white rice, and hydrogenated oils.
Processed foods: faux meat, TV dinners, fast food, and low fat and fat free foods.
Artificial Sweeteners: Equal, Splenda, and Twinsweet.
*This list is not exhaustive.
What Are Moral Or Ethical Foods?
Ethical foods are defined by you—it’s based on your beliefs. Many people determined their ethical foods based on religion, animal welfare, environmental impact, or injustices they do not want to be a part of.
- Jewish individuals eat kosher foods.
- Hindus avoid tamasic and rajasic foods.
- Some people reduce their consumption or exclude animals from their diet to help the environment.
- Vegetarians and vegans eat a diet in favor of animal welfare.
- Rastafarian eat an ital diet —which consist of fresh, local and in season foods and no animal based foods except for fishes smaller than 12 inches.
- Jehovah witness avoid eating the flesh of animals that have not been properly bled.
Ethical foods are important to consider because including healthy foods in your diet that are against your beliefs may make you feel guilty or stressed. Whenever a food causes these negative feelings, it’s best to avoid eating those foods since it’s counterproductive to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Avoid Food Allergies, Food Intolerances, Dairy Products, And Toxic Ingredients.
Any foods you are allergic or intolerant to should not be consumed under no circumstances because these foods will negatively impact your body.
Dairy products from non-human animals such as cow’s milk, sheep’s yogurt, and goat cheese should not be consumed because there is no dietary or biological need for humans to drink non-human animal milk. Milk is made for a mother’s young (i.e. sheep’s milk is for sheep, goat’s milk is for goats, cow’s milk is for cows, human milk is for humans, etc.). Don’t worry, there are plenty of healthy delicious nondairy alternatives.
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Toxic ingredients such as arsenic, antibiotics, recombinant bovine growth hormone, BST (recombinant bovine somatotrophin), GMOs (genetically modified organism), BHA(butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), azodicarbonamide, potassium bromate (brominated flour), BVO (brominated vegetable oil), and Olestra (Olean) are best avoided because they negatively affect the human body. Some of the adverse effects to human body includes raising your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, lowering your “good” HDL cholesterol, and increasing your risk of a blood clot, heart attack, cancer, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
To avoid consuming toxic ingredients, use the EWG Food Score, buy organic foods when possible, and read the ingredient list before consuming or buying products.
Some individuals are recommended to take supplements due circumstances that interferes with nutrient absorption such as illnesses, medications, limited access to nutrient dense foods, pregnancy, anyone that excludes animal based foods from their diet, and lack of exposure to sunlight.
Unfortunately, supplements are loosely regulated by the FDA, therefore, the ingredients listed on supplements aren’t guaranteed to be in the supplements or even safe.
When choosing a supplement, choose a company that has been tested by a third party.
Check out NSF (a third party testing organization) list of safe supplements:
The Greatest Healthy Eating Myths Ever Told
“I can eat (insert popular fad diet) because there is no one size fit all diet.”
Technically, part of the above statement is true—there is no one size fit all diet. However, there is only one diet—the human diet otherwise known as clean or healthy eating.
Since we have different needs because of the availability of foods, food intolerances, food allergies, medical conditions, and dislike and favoritism for certain foods, everyone cannot eat the exact same foods. Instead, we have to modified the human diet to accommodate our needs. The modification of the human diet doesn’t mean follow a fad diet.
At the end of the day, we are human. As humans, we all need nutrients (just in different amounts). We obtain nutrients from the same source—nutrient dense foods. The main difference in our diets is the exclusion of some nutrient dense foods due to medical conditions and preferences.
“I can eat (insert popular fad diet) because it helps me lose weight.”
There is absolutely no need to replace nutrient dense foods with meal replacement shakes, frozen pre-made processed foods, exclude multiple nutrient dense food groups, or follow any other popular fad diet rules. There are many unhealthy ways to obtain the benefits of a healthy diet including starvation, weight loss pills, use of illegal or dangerous drugs, and energy drinks. If you want to lose weight, build muscle, increase your energy or obtain any other benefits of a healthy diet, then skip the gimmicks and shortcuts and eat a clean diet. Shortcuts only yield temporary results and serious consequences.
“I rather eat (insert popular unhealthy foods) because healthy foods are disgusting.”
Healthy foods are your favorite foods made with nutrient dense ingredients and little to no nutrient poor ingredients. Therefore, there is no need to exclude pizzas, fries, burgers, pastas, chocolates or whatever your favorite foods are from your diet. Whenever you choose to eat these foods, avoid unhealthy dietary habits such as deep frying foods, using artificial or refined ingredients, overindulging in nutrient poor foods, and overeating.
“I don’t want to eat healthy because I hate counting calories.”
You don’t have to count calories to eat healthy. Low calories foods aren’t guaranteed to be nutrient rich. This is why it’s important to look at ingredients and not only calories. The ingredients determine the quality of the calories. For example, if a small fruit bowl has more calories than a bag of 100 calories thin crisp Oreos, then the fruit bowl is the healthy option since it’s nutrient rich and doesn’t contain artificial or refined ingredients.
“I’m not eating clean because I don’t get all my nutrients from my diet.”
Food is the main source of nutrients but isn’t the only source for nutrients. Vitamin D is obtained from the sun and our bodies makes its own cholesterol. Supplementing isn’t a bad thing. As I mentioned before, supplementing is necessary for individuals with circumstances that interferes with nutrient absorption such as illnesses, medications, limited access to nutrient dense foods, pregnancy, anyone that excludes animal based foods from their diet, and lack of exposure to sunlight. Even if you don’t buy supplements, some foods such as bread, flour, milk, and cereal are fortified with nutrients to help us avoid deficiencies.
I’m Still Confused About What Is A Healthy Diet. What Should I Do?
Talk to a registered dietitian, dietetic technician, or a nutritionist with a nutrition degree from an accredited school such as New York University, Cornell University or state universities (i.e. Queens College, University of Kentucky Lexington, Iowa State University Ames, etc.) or has a CNS certification (certified nutrition specialist) about your diet concerns. However, please keep in mind, professionals within the nutrition field have different ideas about what a healthy diet is. For some professionals, animal based foods are mandatory for a healthy diet despite ethical concerns while for others it isn’t. If you would like to learn how to eat without or with small amounts of animal based foods, you have to find a dietitian that knows the truth about an animal free diet (i.e. he or she can’t believe in any myths about excluding animals from your diet such protein or iron deficiency myths).
If you are unable to afford a nutritionist:
- Read books written by nutrition professionals such as The PCOS Diet Plan by Hillary Wright, RD, Radical Beauty: How To Transform Yourself From The Inside Out By Deepak Chopra, MD & Kimberly Synder, CN, The Low Carb Fraud by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, A Plant-Based Life: Your Complete Guide to Great Food, Radiant Health, Boundless Energy, and a Better Body by Micaela Cook Karlsen, MSPH, and How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger MD.
- Subscribe to blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts owned by nutrition professionals and download any free resources available such as eBooks and worksheets.
*This list is not exhaustive.
Unlike doctors, anyone can claim the title nutritionist and give nutrition advice without graduating from an accredited nutrition school or even without going school at all. If getting nutrition advice from an unqualified professional doesn’t bother you because they are more affordable than qualified professionals, you agree with their nutrition advice, you’re seeing positive results or whatever your reasons are–it’s your health do what you need to do feel better.
How To Find A Registered Dietitian:
Ask your insurance provider.
Search the following sites for RDs in the USA:
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