When it comes to food and diet, we have all heard the phrase: “everything in moderation”. But what does that really mean? How do I serve up moderation? What does moderation look like in a measuring cup or on the end of my fork?
I have recently started to think a lot about the cultural role that language plays with respect to eating. Words, terms, catch phrases and labels permeate our world, particularly when we are dealing with health and eating.
‘Good’ vs ‘Bad’ Foods
One example is the recent official classification of salami, bacon and other processed meats as carcinogenic. The World Health Organization published guidelines to support this 15 years ago, and yet it took a shift in language to make it into the headlines. Overnight, these foods became enemy number 1 to some people, joining a growing list of so-called ‘bad’ foods.
A few years ago (after watching her eat ice cream on waffles for breakfast) I asked a dietitian friend for advice. “Tell me about bad sugar vs. good sugar,” I asked. “What about good fats vs bad fats?”
Her response: there are no such things as bad foods or good foods. Just eat more of this and less of that. Fill your plate with more of the foods containing whole and healthy nutrients and with less of the foods containing empty calories or processed ingredients.
Terms like ‘bad’ or ‘good’ are rife with judgement and can make us feel ashamed and guilty if we’re seen to be ‘giving in’ or eating something that is labelled ‘bad’ for us. The negative psychological impact of this disappointment and deprivation can derail our healthy eating goals or weight-loss plans and discourage us from trying again.
Here comes that word again…moderation.
Studies are starting to show that this eating philosophy is actually leading to larger amounts of high sugar and high fat foods taking the place of healthy foods in our diets. Our modern diets have also become so diverse that eating all of these foods in moderation can actually lead to weight gain.
Moderation can certainly be used as a tool to reduce or quit our consumption of certain foods but as an overall nutrition philosophy, it leaves a lot to be desired and it may not work for everyone.
Milk in “moderation” for someone with a dairy allergy will make them sick. Sugary desserts in “moderation” for someone with diabetes could have serious health outcomes.
This month, I encourage you to think about the language you use when talking about food. Think about how that language makes you feel and its impact on your health. And perhaps try eating more of this and less of that.
- Eat more whole foods, and less processed foods.
- Drink more water, and less alcohol or soda pop.
- Fill your plate with more veggies and less meat.
- Add more herbs and less salt when cooking.
- Have more breakfast and less dessert.
Make an effort to consume more of the foods that we know will give us energy, feed our muscles and keep our bodies strong and eat less of the foods that can be harmful and destructive to our long term health.
All my best,
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