Nutrition and the bigger picture
Summer is the season for lazy lunches and slowing down to enjoy the warm weather—it's a time to enjoy barbecues with friends and family. As we make our way through summer, make the most of all the fresh produce available at the grocery stores and local markets.
This week I will be looking at the perceptions and understanding that we have around food, the two main different types of food, unprocessed (good) and processed (bad), and how this can lead to stress in peoples lives.
There is an underlying perception that food is either good or bad for our health. My clients often feel guilty having enjoyed food at a birthday party or say that they ate ‘badly’ over the weekend when visiting family. We all know that life is not black and white, and neither is food. To understand this, it is important to realise that food comes in many forms. First off, there are unprocessed fresh vegetables, meat, whole grains, and healthy fats. All these foods are good for us, unless there is an underlying health concern such as colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Secondly, there are foods in the grocery store that have been processed or refined, such as premade sauces and meals, refined grains such as white bread and pasta, cookies, and pastries, etc. Most of these contain more sugars than are disclosed on the nutritional information, their nutritional value is lessened by the refining process, and they often contain unhealthy fats and salts. When combined, the added salt, sugars, and fats increase the shelf life, texture, and flavour of these products.
Somehow food seems to get more complicated the more it is processed. People get caught up with the calorie counting, or the points systems, counting their carbohydrates and looking at food as being either good or bad, it has to be all or nothing. This notion does not allow any flexibility and adds stress to people lives that are already stressed enough.
The Oxford dictionary’s definition of food is: ‘Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth’. This appears to be a straightforward definition, as we know that processed food does not contain the same nutritional values as unprocessed food.
However, when we consume processed products sporadically, such as at parties and gatherings, the negative impact on our health will be outweighed by the health benefits of a balanced diet that is made up of fresh vegetables, meat, whole grains, and healthy fats—sometimes referred to as the Mediterranean diet.
It is not one meal or one weekend of eating ‘badly’ that is going to have the biggest impact on our health. Instead, it is the healthy day-to-day habits that we create and integrate into our lifestyle, which means we can relax at a party and enjoy the food offered, without feelings of guilt or thinking that we have eaten ‘badly’.
The bigger nutrition picture is about finding that balance and realising that it is not always about eating good or bad food but the company and atmosphere that are just as important in feeding our souls as the food that we eat.
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