Despite the push of diet books produced by nutritional gurus, there is little you eat that is “bad.” There is a tempered version of eating all foods, so long as you don’t have a real allergy.
Welcome to the August instalment of Vitals.
Words like “poison,” and arguments about presumed ancestral diets confuse the nutrition conversation. But, if you can eat something without recourse, then, by all means, eat it.
If dairy turns your body into an overfilled hydration bag
, then be smart: avoid. Just understand, no single food is the sole proprietor for negative health outcomes. What gets confusing is when foods are both healthy but also poor choices for your health goals.
Most people in the western world have a goal to lose a few kilos, even if they aren’t actively pursuing it. I would lobby that this goal is demotivating, but it still stands as something many Westerners share.
We’re overweight. We believe it to be bad, and we want to change it. If that is your secret goal, then you may carefully consider the foods on this list.
Without getting too deep into what moderation looks like for each individual, there is a version of eating these foods that work with your goals. When you find these foods in front of you, your Spidey senses should kick in. That's when it's time to consider your options wisely.
Most people aren't too surprised to know that soft drinks make the naughty list.
The issue is more than just sugar. Soft drinks are not satiating. They often don’t even quench our thirst the way we anticipate, not the way water does.
Add to that, they are full of simple calories, which move quickly into our bloodstream, unless you are actually running as you drink, there is little chance you will use all those calories.
What most soft drinks equate to being are non-thirst quenching loads of non-filling calories. They satisfy an urge. That’s it.
Surprised to see this one? Salad in and of itself is a great source of nutrients, depending on the blend.
We’re not counting your aunt’s pasta salad with all the white sauce. In this case, we’re talking about green and leafy salads, the sort that are made with raw veggies.
Where do salads go wrong? The dressing.
While nobody wants to shovel raw veggies down his gullet, most of our options for dressing are so caloric we’d be better off eating a meat pie. Before you throw out the baby with the salad dressing, consider that salads are a great source of micronutrients.
For many of our diets, goals aside, eating insufficient micronutrients is why we're fatigued. Instead, eat your salad with a light soy sauce. If you’ve ordered a low-fat salad, sprinkle some olive oil and vinegar on it.
Even better, order your salad with the dressing on the side. Dip your fork in your dressing, then stab a bite of salad.
This includes trail mix. Nuts are a wonderful source of energy. Peanuts aside, many of them pack in fiber with their calories, but also flavor.
As an actual trail mix, they function great for fueling a hike. For those of us with a nine to five, they usually mean extra calories. Even a small handful of almonds, though packed with good stuff, can be hundreds of calories. That’s just the first handful.
Especially for women who are on the fat loss train, 200-300 calories a day could be the difference between hitting goals or not hitting them.
Yes, if they are on your salad that counts too. Nuts and seeds add a lovely texture to salads, but if you’re trying to keep your intake lean, you’re not doing yourself any favours.
Wine is good for your heart, right? Sure.
But that doesn’t mean more is more. Downing a bottle of wine every night may keep your heart humming like a comby, but your body has to manage those calories.
Not to mention, all that alcohol is going to dry you out, but not in a good way. You will be dehydrated. If you cannot enjoy a small glass of wine, then you might find this choice takes you off your goals every time.
Forget about a drinking problem. You have a calorie problem.
For many people, a few glasses of anything alcoholic incites cravings, but not for dressing-free salad. For me, drinking alcohol is the fastest route to the closest fast food joint.
We were all so relieved to find out that chocolate has antioxidant properties. That’s good, right? Antioxidants are something that we need; keep those cancers at bay and such, right?
Try again, mate. Yes, like many on this list, chocolate packs in the nutrients. It’s great for the trail, fuel for putting kilometres under your feet, but chocolate is nutrient dense.
Edging out soft drinks, because of the antioxidants, chocolate is more likely to be the difference between you and your goals. What’s sad is that we're seeing more evidence questioning the value of antioxidants.
Time will tell on that one. Listen to your doctor, but don’t pretend that Hershey’s bar is anything but a caloric treat.
Last thoughts… don’t let anyone shame you for your dietary choices or goals, not even this author. Those are yours to own as an adult.
My goal was to lay down the straight dope on what often gets corralled into confusing terms like healthy and unhealthy. I enjoy many of the options on this list, some more than I should, but I never lie to myself about what I’m doing. Unless I am out on the aforementioned trail, I consider these as treats.
Eat sparingly, but don’t waste your intake on the cheap stuff unless that’s your fancy. Buy the good wine. Buy the dense chocolate. Life’s too short.
Damon Mitchell is a recovering fitness industry fancy-pants, with twenty plus years of experience. He's been certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. These days he works as a content creator on health and fitness.
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