This morning I was scrolling through my newsfeed when I saw, for about the 3,654th time, a headline that said “THE 10 FOODS THAT DIETITIANS WILL NEVER EAT” . I have a problem with headlines like these. For one, all dietitians and nutritionists are not exactly the same. They are a huge community of people who have very different belief systems about food. It’s not like they all got together at some huge conference and decided “Hey, let’s vote on whether pretzels are evil, ok?”. It doesn’t work like that.
Secondly, I am willing to bet that a vast majority of nutrition professionals indulge in “no no” foods all the time. Not constantly. But once in a while. I’m willing to bet they have the same philosophy as I do, which is that life is too darn short to not have an ice cream cone once in a while.
I feel that statements like these set everyone up for failure. Imagine you are someone struggling with healthy eating, just trying to do your best. Maybe you are at the very beginning of cleaning up your diet. Maybe you’ve ditched Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for some whole grain pretzels, and you’re feeling pretty good about it (as you should!). Now imagine you read an article like the one above in which a dietitian says she will only consume a pretzel if she is quite literally starving. What does that say to you? What I’ve heard time and again by people who are working on eating healthier is that when they hear statements like these, the first thing they think is something like “Screw it, I’ll never be good enough and so I might as well go back to my Flamin’ Hot Cheetos”.
Blanket statements as they pertain to nutrition just aren’t helpful, in my opinion. When I hear a nutritionist say that they would never ever in their whole entire lives eat a hot dog, I feel sad for them. I love hot dogs. I don’t care that they might contain weird animal parts. Isn’t part of being ecologically responsible using up all the parts of the animal so we produce less waste? And I just really love the way they taste. So when I’m at a BBQ and that’s what’s served, I am ok with that. I will throw some sauerkraut, pickles, onions, mustard and ketchup on that thing and enjoy every bite.
Is 80% of my diet healthy, nutrient-dense foods? You bet! Do I love deep fried pickles once a year when I go to the state fair? Oh heck yeah! You see, I think eating a healthy diet is what helps me walk 18 holes of golf (about 8 miles) while carrying my bag. It is what allows me to keep my kidneys and brain and heart healthy so I can hopefully live a very long and contented life. But if I subsisted only on chia seeds, kale, salmon and blueberries my whole life (all things I love by the way), without any of the added extras, I think it would actually decrease my quality of life. There is something to be said about joyful eating, especially when it’s with people we love, and its affect on our happiness.
These are just my opinions. Everyone is different. But one thing I do know is that perfection is an illusion. The perfect diet, the perfect marriage, the perfect job. They don’t exist. And while we are all chasing our perfection, we might be missing out on the best parts of life.