Eating for well-being

"Eat this not that" summarizes most every diet and food rule. Turns out, that's NOT helpful in learning to eat better. Listen to this podcast by Jennifer Harris, registered dietitian and eating disorder specialist.

When it comes to nutrition, we’re often told we can do better. Healthy eating is defined by the USDA as eating a variety of vegetables and whole fruits, choosing whole grains instead of white, limiting added sugars, and cutting out saturated fats. But then, just last week, a woman told me that she felt badly about buying green grapes. She read, according to clean eating, that they were nothing but sugar.

Clean eating seems to go a step or two further than healthy eating. Clean no longer means that you rinse your produce and practice hygiene in the kitchen. Clean eating says to have unprocessed whole foods, whole grains, lean meats, and no artificial ingredients, preservatives, “chemically-charged foods,” sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats.

With so many food rules, it’s a wonder we can make it home with a bagful of groceries! Food selection has become more and more complicated. Maybe you’ve had a thought to just buy the foods you want without looking at the nutrition facts label. I have. While this can be done, it’s harder now that nutrition information is on the front of the package, too.  

So, what’s the problem? After all, these nutrition ideals are good for us, aren’t they? The simple answer is “not really.” Rule-following sets us up for conflict and anxiety about food. Diet culture including healthy and clean eating is skewed and potentially dangerous. What we know is that eating disorder often begins with healthy eating, quickly or eventually evolving into a hyper-focus on some aspect of food that must be controlled.

How to achieve health: gather and share food

More important than clean or healthy is getting to the table. Or to a cleared-off spot on your desk. Or to a blanket spread on the family room floor. Research shows that people who have meals eat better. 

Meals help eliminate the static that develops around food—static in the form of pressure to eat more or less, to hurry up or slow down, to eat this food not that. Without focusing on food values and rules, the people gathered around the table learn and grow. Meals are less stressful and eating becomes more joyful. The benefit of the meal is there regardless of what you eat!  

Jennifer Harris, Registered and Licensed Dietitian from the Ellyn Satter Institute shared her view of healthy eating in a February 15th podcast for The Full Bloom Project with psychotherapists Leslie Bloch and Zöe Bisbing. While The Full Bloom Project is an online body-positive parenting resource, Jennifer’s podcast episode is pertinent for us all. Feeling good about eating and enjoying food is the very essence of good nutrition. As host Leslie Bloch summarized, “The family meal is healthier than kale!”

Having 3 or more family meals per week reduces risk of eating disorder

Connecting with family over a meal normalizes eating and connects children with important adults in their lives who also eat. This is an opportunity for parents to model a positive relationship with food.. Studies show that children and adolescents who ate family meals at least three times per week had a 35% reduction in disordered eating. 

One more reason to get in the meal habit.

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