Conflicting Ideas on Healthy Eating

Glass of milk with fruitsIt would seem to me that the idea of being healthy would be pretty straightforward. You eat things that are good for you, and you don’t overeat. Right? Well, perhaps it should be so simple, but in this day and age of processed food and convenience treats, what exactly constitutes healthy?

I’ve been perusing the blogosphere for a while now, and it has come to my attention that there seem to be two paradigms of healthy eating. We all want to feed our families and children in healthy and nutritious ways, so they can grow and be strong and save the world. It is just the way of going about achieving that goal that varies so greatly among people.

The first model of healthy eating centers on the idea of simply eating less, and is by far the most widespread idea of healthy eating in America today. Perhaps because the obesity epidemic is constantly on the forefront of the news, the concept of eating less, regardless of where those calories actually come from, is a very popular one. From diet soft drinks to reduced calorie chips (Olestra anyone?), as a nation we are constantly trying to find ways to indulge in the same treats without the repercussions of ingesting any calories. The problem with this idea is that as America has focused on eating low-fat, calorie free food substitutes, we’ve actually become a more obese nation. It seems counter intuitive, and the very idea has sparked numerous debates about how those chemically laden food substitutes actually interact with our bodies and our biological makeup.

The alternative paradigm, and one that resides much more on the fringes, is the idea of getting the most out of the food that you eat without worrying as much about the calorie content. Popularized by trends such as the Slow Food Movement, books such as Nourishing Traditions and Real Food: What to Eat and Why, and to some extent even television shows such as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the second model of healthy eating focuses on nutrient rich foods that will provide your body with the most nourishment possible. Instead of focusing on the parts of food that should be taken out of your diet – which vary greatly depending on which part of the diet is considered evil at the moment – this second model of eating focuses on the things that should be put back into your diet, such as healthy fats, whole grains, dairy products, and saturated fat.

I’ve been on both sides of the eating healthy mindset, but only within the past few years have really made a conscious effort to begin to move towards the second model of eating whole, non-processed foods and not worrying so much about calorie counting. I enjoy a good Oreo as much as the next person, so this journey is exactly that – a journey. I think the most important part of the move towards making healthy choices is to incorporate the idea of small steps towards a bigger process. To completely overhaul your diet in a short period of time would be very overwhelming – not to mention that it would likely cause a revolution within the rest of your family. On my blog I have two series’ called “Try It Out Tuesday” and “Work On It Wednesday,” which build on this idea of incorporating change in small doses. By trying out one new food or food group each week, or making one change to your lifestyle for the week, we can expand our horizons, introduce new foods, and make healthy changes in a more manageable way.

The process towards making your life healthier and “greener” can be very overwhelming. It seems that everywhere you turn people are telling you to make changes, to the point that we are inundated with ideas on what changes we should make. By focusing on baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle, we can change small elements that can make a lasting difference in our lives.

Lauren Keplinger is a self proclaimed foodie and author of the blog, Just Add Lauren. Her writing focuses mainly on her baby step transition towards a healthier lifestyle, including making her home a “greener” place, and eating more fresh, wholesome foods.

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