In a world where we are bombarded with messages about what is “healthy” and what is “junk,” figuring out how to feed yourself and your family can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, resentment, and regret. My goal is to end those negative feelings about food. So, I wanted to give you a glimpse into what I, as a health food blogger and health coach, really eat on a regular basis. In doing this I think you will find that I am not as healthy as you think and I’ll share why I’m OK with that.
“Oh! Well, then I shouldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night!”
This is a response I often get when people find out that I am a food blogger and health coach. And it always makes me a tiny bit sad and just a smidge self-conscious. Why? Because it shows that some people worry that I am going to judge them for their food choices. It betrays the shame people feel about what they are eating. It is yet another reminder that, in our culture, food and morality often go hand-in-hand.
More and more, the message seems to be: if you aren’t eating “healthy,” then you are failing. If you eat sugar-laden treats, drink soda, have chips, buy fast food, or depend on processed foods, you are poisoning yourself and anyone else you might be feeding.
But over the years that I have worked in this “healthy” food world, I have grown to believe more and more that this sort of thinking about food and eating is more damaging than eating any of those “bad” foods.
So, to help you to find balance and joy in eating, I wanted to share some of what this health food blogger really eats on a regular basis.
My Journey from Health-Obsessed to Health-Adjacent
When I was a young mom trying to figure out how to feed my growing family, I sought out advice from various healthy living blogs and quickly became overwhelmed by the conflicting and confusing messages: don’t eat wheat; sugar is poison; don’t eat dairy; only eat organic; include x, y, and z superfoods in your daily diet; drink one glass of red wine a day; never drink wine; drink one cup of coffee a day; coffee will destroy your adrenal gland and you’ll never have energy again; the list went on and on.
It got to a point where I would go food shopping and feel paralyzed, even in a health food store! And, what was worse, the anxiety was causing me to revert back to my days of disordered eating.
So I made a conscious decision to let go. Yes, I was going to continue to find fun ways to make my diet healthier. Yes, I planned to include more fruits and vegetables and cook mostly from whole ingredients. But I was not going to deprive myself (or my family) of foods that we truly enjoy or feel guilty about any of the foods we ate. In other words, I found a balance.
Once I found this balance for myself and my family, I knew I wanted to share my vision of a different way of eating with others so that they too could realize how accessible and life changing simple cooking can truly be and how eating does not need to be something that is contaminated by guilt, regret, or judgment.
What This Healthy Food Blogger Really Eats
Yes, I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and home-cooked foods, but in the interest of life balance, taste, and desire, I also eat foods that some would label as “bad” or junk.” Here are some things that this health food blogger really eats that might surprise you:
I eat sugar
There is sugar somewhere in my diet every day. There is some in my chai, I often have a handful of chocolate chips after lunch, and I enjoy having something sweet after dinner.
What’s more, my kids do too. Not because I finally gave up on some battle over sugar, but because I felt it was more important to allow them to learn how to listen to their own bodies and manage their sugar intake than it was for me to ensure they had a “clean” diet.
In the end, while I know that sugar isn’t the best for me physically, enjoying what I eat is incredibly important psychologically and if that means that I have some foods with sugar in them each day, that is worth it for me.
I drink alcohol
I usually have a glass of wine in the evening. Sometimes two. And when I go out for a grown up night, maybe even more (although this is less and less true as I feel crummier the next morning than I used to, so it has become less “worth it”). I enjoy the ritual of capping off the day while sipping on some wine and I love chatting over a glass with friends, and so, for me, it is a worthwhile part of my day.
There are refined carbs in my house
White pasta? Yup. White rice? Yes. White flour? You bet. Do I also have the whole grain versions of all of those things? Absolutely. But we enjoy both in our house.
Why do I not serve exclusively whole grains? Because there are some things that just taste better with refined carbs or a mix of the two (homemade pizza dough, risotto, cakes, and pasta dishes with lighter sauces all come to mind). I also sometimes appreciate the faster prep time that comes with refined carbs. Plus, I am married to a Brazilian who might divorce me if all the white rice disappeared from our dinner table.
There are processed snacks in my cupboard
No, I don’t buy Doritos or Cheetos every week (although we do enjoy those on occasion and I don’t judge anyone who has them on the regular!), but there are often pretzels, corn chips, or potato chips in my pantry. Why? Because while I also often make stove top popcorn, bake whole grain muffins, and have been known to make crackers from scratch, my family enjoys both the convenience of these snack foods and the taste of them. And, for me, that balance and enjoyment is worth it.
Lessons Learned By Letting Go of the Rules
What have I learned from all of this? For me, the greatest realization was that once I stopped feeding myself from a place of rules and restriction, I started enjoying my food more. I savored it more. I was more relaxed about it.
And the coolest realization of all: now that I’m not feeling deprived anymore, the foods that I naturally choose (most of the time, at least) are the healthier options. I believe this is for two reasons: 1) because through this process I have become more attuned to what my body and heart need, which, it turns out, is most often the more nourishing foods and 2) because now that I know I can have the “junk” foods whenever I want, I no longer feel deprived of them and, therefore, don’t obsess over them or feel the need to binge on them when they are available.
So, please, next time you talk to me, tell me all about the McDonalds or the microwave pizza you ate and also share with me the recipe for the amazing vegetable soup you made from scratch. I want to hear it all and honor it all, because that is what food should be about.
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