How to spot a good or bad food: A beginners guide

When we’re trying to live a better day, we’ve got to look at our diet. Sure exercise is vital- one of the only ways to increase our metabolism is to build lean muscle (sorry, detox teas). And we’ve got to sleep well- poor sleep wreaks havoc with the hormones that regulate our appetite. But, quite simply you 1. Can’t outrun bad diet and 2. Need a bucket load of nutrients to effectively run your body- way more than any amount of SkinnyMe Tea can give you.

Nutrition celebrities like Pete Evans (AKA Paleo Pete) and Sarah Wilson (AKA Ms. I Quit Sugar) have done a fantastic job at raising our awareness of the importance of knowing and caring about what we’re putting into our mouths, which is a great thing. They’ve taught us lots, like cavemen didn’t eat Maccas so we too shouldn’t eat it (regularly), but they’ve also confused the majority of us at the same time- they didn’t eat Protein Balls either, yet we’re supposed to?

When messages regarding what we should and shouldn’t be eating start become contradictory (drink red wine; avoid alcohol), it’s easier to throw our hands in the air and reach for our second bottle of red. But it needn’t be this way. So, I present to you “How to spot a good or bad food:  A beginners guide”. This very detailed guide, consisting of two sentences, will help you decide if any given food should be scoffed or banned. The guide, if followed correctly, can completely revolutionise how you see food. It is as follows:

All foods are morally neutral. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. 

That’s it. Though to meet the word limit of this article, let’s dissect each point:

All foods are morally neutral.

Many of us have been brought up to think of chocolate as a ‘bad’ food, and carrots as a ‘good’ food. In addition, we are skilled at categorising foods based on how we feel after eating them- guilty or proud. However, this can be a very damaging way to view food, and factually incorrect. Chocolate, when consumed in certain quantities, can give us a good dose of antioxidants- molecules which protect cells from the damage which leads to disease. This sounds pretty good, right? Carrots, when consumed in certain quantities, can cause skin to discolour due to a build up of a substance called beta carotene. This sounds pretty bad, right? So really, it is not the TYPE of food that makes it harmful or beneficial, rather than the quantity. Diets which tell us to avoid certain ‘bad’ foods are never sustainable because when we eventually eat a ‘banned’ food, we fail the diet, and this can affect our confidence to eat in a healthy, balanced way. So we may then over consume the ‘bad’ food because we know soon enough we will re-ban it- so better make the most of it now. We may feel like a failure, when really, the diet failed us. It was never designed to be sustainable. I encourage you to stop banning foods, stop binging due to guilt or the fact “Diet starts Monday”, and know that food, unlike some people’s life choices, is neither good nor bad, rather morally neutral.

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Whilst foods are morally neutral, nutritionally there is great variation in how well they nourish our bodies. Unfortunately in Australia 1/3 of our energy intake comes from discretionary foods- foods like chocolate, chips, biscuits, lollies, takeaway and alcohol. These foods don’t fit into the five core food groups because they contain minimal amounts of the nutrients our bodies needs, and provide more fat, sugar, salt and calories than we require. This means we’re over fed and under nourished. These discretionary foods are mostly foods which our grandparents either never ate, or ate on special occasions (a special occasion meaning once a year, not “I survived work today”). And they’re often foods which have long lists of ingredients whose names we barely recognise. So when I say eat food, I mean eat mostly things with minimal ingredients listed, and foods that grandma recognises. Eat cheese instead of cheese flavoured crackers, strawberries instead of strawberry flavoured snack bars, and chicken instead of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets. Eat to 80% full- the longest living people in the world credit this strategy to their long and healthy lives. Your stomach is a muscle which stretches, so don’t over stretch it. And 96 % of Australian’s do not eat sufficient quantities of vegetables (largely because their steak is taking up valuable plate room), so I feel 96% confident suggesting you to cut back on the animal food and increase the vegetables, fruits and wholegrains on your plate. Your bowels, your waistline, your environment, and your future self will thank you.

Unfortunately, my publisher said I needed more than 2 sentences to make buck loads of money off this guide, so I doubt this advice will outsell Paleo Pete’s latest project. But I can guarantee that if you follow those 2 simple sentences, you will be a happier, healthier, and less confused version of yourself.