Sometimes, it drives me absolutely bonkers when I’m about to take a bite out of a delicious, warm chocolate chip cookie, and someone goes “Look! The dietitian is eating a cookie!”
Most of the time I am able to laugh it off, but the more it happens, the more it bothers me. I know, being a dietitian means setting a good example for what healthy eating looks like. But no one is perfect! Just because dietitians have a degree in nutrition, long internship training, and eat healthy the majority of the time, does not mean that we don’t like chocolate chip cookies. Or cheese. Or pizza.
Some of my favorite foods would be considered “bad” foods in today’s society. I enjoy pizza, macaroni and cheese, a good steak, and brownies. But I know that I can have these foods whenever I am hungry for them, and they’re always available. When you put the “bad” label onto foods, you are setting yourself up for a deprivation/binge eating cycle. When you accept all foods as neutral, and learn to listen to your body for what it wants, you can eat your favorite foods without overeating.
This concept of trusting your body is called Intuitive Eating, where you create a healthy relationship with not only food, but your mind and body as well. YOU become the expert of your own body, not a fad diet, book, magazine or weight loss regimen.
Today I’m getting up on my soap box to encourage you to get rid of food labels! No longer are there “good” or “bad” foods— just foods that you like or dislike!
Photo on the left: Me at a casino buffet. My eyes were hungrier than my stomach. When I started to taste the food, I noticed that the flavors weren’t that great and just nibbled on various items. Here is an example of intuitive eating— if something tastes really good, then savor it. Don’t waste your taste buds on mediocre food.
The photos on the right is actually a funny story, at least to me. This was from our internship graduation dinner. It was me, eleven other interns, and our directors. They told us to order anything we wanted off the menu. I love king crab legs, so by golly I ordered them. I wasn’t quite expecting them to come in their shells, and it was quite the show to be the only one at the table cracking crab legs… with a GIANT pot of melted butter… still makes me laugh out loud to this day.
But alas, I scoured the whole menu, and this is what I wanted. Because I’m pretty sure there’s nothing more in this world I love more than king crab legs. Except maybe Link. It’s a close call. I ate all the crab, half the pasta, and only dipped into the butter sauce.
Ah state fair food… here’s a deep fried mozzarella stick. I <3 cheese. I could probably live the rest of my life just eating cheese. Pizza is pretty awesome too (do notice the spinach and mushrooms– my FAV pizza combination. Not because they’re veggies, but because I LOVE the taste).
Cheeseburgers. Biscuits and gravy. Two delicious meals that I forget that I love so much until I eat them again.
The picture on the left below is Kraft Velveeta macaroni and cheese– the shells version. Because that is the best, in my opinion. Yes I know it is super processed, but it tastes amazing. And it gives me warm fuzzy memories of my childhood. I definitely don’t eat this all the time, but when I do (such as this camping trip), I savor each little golden shell, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Picture on the top right is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our house. This is a hard meal not to overeat. But that’s the best part about intuitive eating– you realize that if you overdo it at one meal, you’ll probably eat less at the next. And you’ll remember how it made you feel to overeat, so you’re less likely to do it again.
Bottom right picture is my beloved mushroom and artichoke pierogies from a Polish cafe here in town. Love those things.
Let’s hear from some of my dietitian friends about their favorite “bad” foods and how they naturally allow these foods into their lives.
Bethany Frazier, MS, RD, LDN
“It seems that lately the trendy diets are recommending no dairy. I have had several clients jumping on this bandwagon lately. So although in my professional opinion, I don’t think dairy is a “bad” food, in the eyes of many I am breaking some serious rules by continuing to eat dairy.
My specific “bad” food is cheese. I know cheese adds extra fat, calories, and sodium to my diet but I love to add cheese to just about anything. I honestly think that cheese helps me keep a balanced diet. My husband is a really picky eater, particularly in the veggies he will eat. I have gotten creative recently adding cheese to veggie dishes, and you know what? He eats them! That makes me a happy dietitian!”
Jennifer Pullman MA, RDN, LDN
“I love bacon. Bacon just makes any recipe better. I know it high in fat and does usually contain nitrates, so I always purchase uncured organic bacon. No nitrates! I also cook bacon in the oven using a pan with slots to allow the grease to drip off the bacon, decreasing the fat a bit. I limit myself to no more than 1 serving (generally 2-3 pieces). I probably only cook bacon 1-2 times per month. All food can fit, you just have to vary your diet!”
P.S. my favorite way to eat bacon is dipped in maple syrup!! Isn’t that terrible.”
Grace Rivers, RDN, LD, CDE
“My favorite “bad” food is Herb Yeast Bread-YUM. A favorite for me starting with the smell of it as it bakes. Anytime I say that I eat this to a non-RDN, I get the same comment, “that bread is not good for you”. Hmmm-let’s see, it’s white, contains gluten and it is carb!!! I mean after all, what kind of RDN am I??
One who knows the science! I eat this bread for sandwiches with egg or a meat of choice. Also, it works for snacks. Not everyone tolerates high fiber and everyone doesn’t have Celiac disease nor or they gluten sensitive. As far as carb, everyone needs carb for energy!
Funny that bad food comment gets made and if I have the bread in front of me, I just keep eating. It used to bother me, but not anymore. They’re not going to ruin my delicious bread as I enjoy it with my Diet Coke.”
Layne Lieberman, MS, RD, CDN
“As I was taking my lunch break in Vancouver, BC, which included a yoga class, I was craving a crepe. After living in Geneva, Switzerland for 2 years, I became accustomed to indulging in crepes every now and then.
Most people think of crepes as decadent and unhealthy, but this is not true! Crepes are thin and don’t weigh very much so the actual crepe is only 120 to 160 calories, depending on the size. It’s the fillings that matter most when it comes to keeping crepes healthy (not too high in sugar and fat).
So choose or specify a savory filling with veggies! I chose a vegetarian filling with spinach, tomato, mushroom, onion, pepper and feta and emphasized “no butter”. Nice thing about crepes, is that they are typically made in front of you. Some creperies now offer buckwheat crepes for those on gluten-free diets.”
Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN
“I am so opposed to the dichotomy of “good” and “bad” foods. There are so many foods I enjoy – and indulge in – that would be considered “bad” by many, but I’ll only list a few for you! Ice cream – not low-fat or fro yo, but real ice cream with mix ins like caramel, peanut butter cups, Oreos. Chocolate babka/ danish. Birthday cake or cupcakes with buttercream frosting.
I don’t consider any of these bad foods – the only “bad” food is one that is spoiled. As long as there is balance in the diet, there is room for indulgences like these (plus ice cream has calcium!). I make room for these foods by eating healthful portions of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and protein at my main meals of the day and I choose one treat per day. If I know I’m going to have a sweet treat on a given day, I’ll be more mindful of my other meals and snacks during the day. Maybe I’ll have a salad instead of a sandwich at lunch or I won’t have wine with dinner (although on the weekends I’m a little more lenient).”
Wendie Schneider RDN, LD, MBA
“I like to call those foods “non-negotiables”. One of mine is Cheese. Nobody is stealing my cheese! One of the things I like to share with my clients is that it is okay to have non-negotiables, and I won’t try to take them away or tell them they can’t have these foods. I just share with them the best choices and to enjoy in moderation. Ex: Lose the Kraft shredded and Velveeta for sheep/goats milk cheeses, feta, buffalo mozzarella, parm, etc.
Another non-negotiable for me is wine. I enjoy red wine with my cheese plate and that’s never going to change. I just try to keep it to 1-2 glasses depending on the Friday :) I love a good wine and cheese plate on my porch. And to make it completely balanced I throw in some fruit and nuts.”
Abby Langer, RD
“My favourite ‘bad’ food is Nanaimo bars. They’re a Canadian treat with a chocolate/walnut/coconut bottom layer, and middle icing layer, and topped with chocolate. These babies are massive in the calorie department! But they are so good!
I don’t consider them bad because they’re an indulgence. No food is bad, if you aren’t eating it all the time. Food should bring you pleasure as well as sustenance; these are so delicious and I literally have one maybe twice a year. Overall I have a very healthy diet, so why should I feel bad about enjoying a Nanaimo bar every once in a while?”
Katie Serbinski, MS, RD
“My favorite “bad food” has to be pizza. Every week, my husband and I make homemade pizza— and yes, we don’t make it thin crust or leave off cheese or pepperoni. BUT, we do include lots of veggies to our weekly pizza rotation. From green bell pepper, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, artichokes, you name it, it’s going on our pizza. Our new favorite is roasted broccoli! All things in moderation— even cheesy pizza. Photo: roasted vegetable pizza [with pepperoni under the cheese].”
What are your favorite foods? Do you love a food that would be considered “bad”? Do you ever catch yourself putting a “good” or “bad” label on foods?