By: Kelly Atyeo-Fick, B.A.Sc. M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
When people think about how to be healthier, typically one of the first things that comes into one’s mind is eating better. The goal of improving your diet to support your overall health and wellness is highly recommended among healthcare practitioners.
However, sometimes people can take healthy eating to extremes and become too restrictive with their food intake.
Of course, we all need to be inspired by healthy foods and encouraged to eat them, however – obsessions can lead to guilt if one day you eat a “bad” food.
Strict Food Rules
There are hundreds of diets that some people decide to follow when starting their action plan to eat healthy. One of the biggest issues with diets is whether they are sustainable. Meaning – will they be able to provide you with long-term results, or will you see short-term improvements in your health followed by going back to your “previous” ways of eating.
Typically, this is seen with weight loss. If a person wants to lose weight and goes on a restrictive diet this is more likely to result in weight cycling or “yo-yo dieting”, which is weight loss followed by weight gain1. This constant change in a person’s weight can have negative effects on overall health, including possibly increasing risk factors associated with heart disease.1
Other diets that are extremely restrictive can result in negative effects on a person’s mental health.2,3 If you are constantly worried about the food you’re eating in every situation (i.e. holidays or a birthday party), this can lead to a lot of anxiety and prevent you from enjoying the social and cultural aspects of food.2,3
There are certain situations where strict food rules are necessary – for example, having allergies, intolerances, medical conditions or drug prescriptions that prevent people from eating certain foods. However, if you are able to eat a variety of foods – balance is key.
Eating healthy starts with understanding what foods are healthy options for you and what foods are “not so healthy” so you can begin to make choices to support your wellness. That being said, labeling foods as “good” or “bad” isn’t as important as recognizing which foods are those to include in your diet regularly and those that you should have in moderation.
Foods that would be considered “good for you” are nutrient dense and are the ones you should focus on every day. These include lean meat like chicken and fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The foods that we sometimes consider treats are those that may be “not so good”, including sweets, chips, candy, cakes, white bread, processed and fried foods etc. These are foods that should be limited in your diet, however – you shouldn’t feel bad about indulging now and then! You can enjoy these foods sometimes and not feel guilty – as long as you think about the healthier options as your “go to foods” for everyday meals.
Also, try to find different ways you can use “good for you” foods to make treats that you enjoy. You can always modify recipes to make them taste great but still have a bit of a health kick to them!
This chicken burger recipe is a perfect example. If you are used to eating beef burgers, try using lean ground chicken instead. You’ll cut back on the fat and calories but the flavour is still amazing.
Similarly these chicken fingers are baked, not fried. Simply by changing the cooking method you cut back on the fat and grease.
This chicken chili uses lean ground chicken and is a fibre boost with beans and tomatoes. When you try this recipe you’ll see that although there’s not as much fat as a traditional beef chili, there is still tons of flavour!
Keep Food a Positive Thing
On your journey to healthy eating, keep food a positive thing. Try to learn about new recipes, search for other healthy and easy substitutions and try to not feel guilty about your food choices. Just be mindful about the choices you are making and stay committed to trying to choose foods in your diet that will best support your health and wellness.
- 1. Montani, J., Viecielli, A., Prévot, A. & Dulloo, A. (2006). Weight cycling during growth and beyond as a risk factor for later cardiovascular diseases: the ‘repeated overshoot’ theory. International Journal of Obesity, 30, S58-S66. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v30/n4s/full/0803520a.html
- 2. National Centre for Eating Disorders. (2012) The Effect of Under-eating. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://eating-disorders.org.uk/information/the-effects-of-under-eating/
- 3. Kratina, K. (2016). Orthorexia Nervosa. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa