Is this healthy?

I’m a part of a few closed Facebook groups where health and fitness are the main topics of discussion.  I love them because we bounce ideas off of one another, and it’s really cool to see newbies to health and wellness dip their toes in.

But one thing I’ve seen come up again and again and again is this.

Is [blank] healthy?

Is yogurt healthy?  Are almonds healthy?  Is quinoa healthy?  Is chicken healthy?

I’m genuinely baffled a lot of the time – and not because I’m a health expert, but at the ignorance that many of us have about common items.  Not only this, but the seeming unwillingness of folks to simply Google, or the lack of knowledge that information about a lot of these food items is readily available is pretty astounding.

But the biggest thing that I find somewhat problematic with this line of questioning is the question itself.

We are asking the wrong questions about our food.

Stay with me here.

“Is chicken healthy?”

Well, that is a really subjective question.  You can boil an appropriate portion size of chicken (about the size of a deck of cards), and eat it with steamed  veggies.  That’s a pretty balanced meal.

You also can fry a few pieces of chicken and eat it with mac and cheese and potato wedges sprinkled with old bay.  Not the most balanced meal.  Pretty good, but not balanced.

So I think when we throw out the question “is [blank] healthy” we miss the entire point.  A food, in its raw form isn’t inherently unhealthy.  The nutrition factor of the food is changed in a few instances.

  • When you put a dressing on it.  A bare salad, or a salad that’s been dribbled on is wayyy different than a salad that has been doused in ranch, for examples.
  • The portion.  There’s a big difference in a half-cup of pasta, and four cups.
  • And finally, the way you prep it.  Did you fry it?  Pan sear it?  Rub some rub on it and bake it?  All of these things will change how nutritious this food is.

So, I think, before you ask “is this healthy,” consider reading up about the food.  Figure out a few good ways to prepare it that don’t involve dunking it in egg mixture and frying it in oil.  Find out what the serving size of the food is.  And get creative!

5 thoughts on “Is this healthy?

  1. There’s such a wealth of information on the internet about what is “healthy” that it can be paralyzing. And so much of that information is conflicting. Googling “is chicken healthy” gave me 5 positive results and 5 negative results about eating chicken, all on the first page. Yikes!

    I think what it comes down to though, is some people struggle with the idea of calories – what a calorie is and what it does for your body. If you don’t have that foundation, if you’ve never been taught what a calorie is, thinking about counting calories is a pretty abstract exercise. If ‘calories in’ is less than ‘calories out,’ you’ll lose weight (which is often the true question when asking “is this healthy”). You’ll be mighty hungry if those calories come from fried chicken versus vegetables though. Counting calories forces you to learn how to read a nutrition label and pay attention to serving sizes (even weigh your food!).

    Once a person has that down, I feel it’s a natural progression to start exploring the macro/micro nutrients. Then the questions become more specific, and much much easier to find clearer answers on Google. For example, how much protein should I eat to feel full longer, but stay within my caloric allowance? I feel tired, what foods give me iron? Which vegetables have the most fiber? It becomes less about internet opinion and more about actual food science.

    Good post!

    1. Yes – this is why I’m a huge fan (as corny as it is) of programs like Weight Watchers because for people (even like me) who didn’t have any clue what a calorie was, or what an appropriate portion was, it is SUCH a good education and it really applied outside of the program.

      1. That’s great that you have something that helps you with counting calories and it can work with some people, by the huge problem with it is that you can be under-eating by a lot, which will cause lots of damage internally. That’s not to say that it can’t work for some people, but it doesn’t take into account your personal information or caloric needs. BUT it can be a good place to start! If you need help learning how to count calories and macros there’s many trainers and dietitians who can help you out, myself included. ❤ It doesn't hurt to learn a little bit about it either way! 🙂

  2. I totally agree! And you don’t have to count calories forever once you have a general idea of how much 4 oz. looks like compared to 6 or 8 oz. It gets MUCH easier to count calories and then you can move into counting macros! From there, you can just intuitively eat and still be losing weight, if that’s your goal! Great post 🙂

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