The other day, fellow Dietitian Ellie Krieger wrote an amazing article on the Washington Post discussing four terms that make Dietitians cringe, including ‘good/bad food,’ ‘clean eating,’ ‘guilty pleasure,’ and ‘low-carb/cutting carbs.’ As a Mindful and Instinctive Eating Dietitian, I could not agree more with this list (though there are circumstances where a lower carb and/or slightly altered macronutrient meal program may be positive for someone). This article inspired me so much, I wanted to share some of my own words that absolutely make me cringe. Check them out below:
- ‘Processed’: Though there are foods that are [much] more natural than others, often, the term ‘processed’ is used very negatively. All foods, some way or another, are processed. Whether they are grown, picked, and sent to a grocery store, or harvested, cut, washed, and blast frozen, all foods undergo some kind of process. Of course, there are many foods that undergo a much more extensive process and may be heavily depleted of nutrients, but it does not mean that they do not nourish us in some kind of way. As a Dietitian, I encourage nutrient-dense foods (a term a much more prefer to use) most often, but there is always room for the lesser nutrient foods. Further, frozen, canned, pre-chopped, pre-seasoned, and boxed items can make cooking and life a little bit easier.
- ‘Non-GMO’: The ‘Non-GMO’ label can be seen on over 50,000 food items at your grocery store. Yet, did you know that only 10 foods are actually considered to be genetically modified? Sadly, the food industry (and even the supplement industry) has taken full advantage in instilling food fears by making consumers believe that genetically modified foods are not only extremely harmful, but that they are also healthier. The truth is, there are many benefits to genetically modified foods, not only for consumers with limited access to certain crops, but also for farmers. I’ll never recommend to someone, “Apples are good for you, but only if they are ‘non-GMO.'” If you want an apple, just eat an apple.
- ‘Dirty’: I am sure everyone by now has heard of the term ‘Dirty Dozen,’ which include foods such as, strawberries, spinach, and kale. My question is, when did foods – any foods – become ‘dirty’? Now, if we are referring to crops that have been harvested and not washed yet, I would understand the ‘dirt’-y term to them. However, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list is created yearly by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which indicate the fruits and vegetables with the most amount of pesticide residue. [They also come out with a yearly list of the ‘Clean 15,’ but we already know that ‘clean’ is not a term I’ll ever use, unless it’s referring to scrubbing my toilet or tile floors.] The truth is, by washing your fruits and vegetables with water, you’ll remove most of the ‘dirty.’ So go ahead, give your berries a rinse and enjoy them fully.
- ‘Sugar Free/Dairy Free/Gluten Free’: There are some medical conditions that may require some kind (or more than one) dietary restriction. However, the terms ‘sugar free, dairy free, gluten free’ are now being used by influencers, food marketers, and fad diet creators as if a diet free from sugar, dairy, and gluten is the answer to all health conditions. Again, there are circumstances where someone may benefit from a restricted diet, but trust me, a diet that includes all of the above, can be a lot more fun.
- ‘Detox’: Between the ‘juice detox,’ ‘apple cider vinegar detox,’ ‘lemon water detox,’ ‘tea detox,’ and all of the other ‘detoxes’ in between, there is no greater word that makes me cringe more. Please know, and always know, that our bodies knows how to ‘detox’ and ‘get rid toxins’ – thanks mostly in part to our remarkable liver and kidneys. So please, I beg you, don’t listen to any hype that says you need to detox because your body is taking care of you just fine.
Next time you hear a friend, family member, or fellow colleague mentioning any of these words, think about this blog post and don’t be afraid to stand up for food truth. That’s mindful. That’s instinctive.