What is a healthy diet? The answer will vary depending on who you ask. Everything from the food pyramid with a “balanced” diet from all food groups, to the calorie counting Weight Watchers to the carb limited Low Carb diet. All of these groups have their own definition of what “healthy” is.
I think it’s easier to agree on what unhealthy is. Very few would disagree that fried foods (carbs + fat) or desserts/donuts/cakes (carbs + fat) are not the best food choice. But to actually agree on what we should eat is much more difficult.
We have the Food Pyramiders that insist that we have to eat from all food groups as an “unbalanced” diet is bad. They advocate a lot of fruit, vegetables and “good” grains (= high in fiber) and a small amount of “healthy” fats (= vegetable fats). Meat should be served in small portions and chicken is preferred over beef and pork due to the lower fat content.
While excessive use of sugar is not encouraged, the emphasis for low fat is more important. We can see their influence on the food industry on a daily basis. Fat free or low fat everything. Yogurt where the fat has been replaced by sugar and the end result is higher calories than plain, full fat yogurt. Or, fat free cheese that has no resemblance to the original product any more. Not to mention the oxymoron of low fat margarine.
The minimal amount of fat allowed should be “good” fats; olive oil, other vegetable oils and fish oils. Butter and lard are shunned citing the high saturated fat content. This despite that nobody has actually shown that saturated fats are bad for us. All studies looked at saturated fats with carbs, and then just blaming the fats without even considering the carbs. This fact has not yet been acknowledged by this group.
For weight loss, the Food Pyramiders recommend portion control and exercise. It’s all about calories in and calories out. We can see how well this has worked by just looking around us. This has been the mantra for the last 30 years and people have just gotten heavier.
Then we have the Lowcarbers. For many of them, anything and everything is allowed as long as it has a low carbohydrate count. Fat is not limited, nor the type of fat. Any type of meat is allowed as is low glycemic vegetables.
Many that start out on a low carb diet initially are looking for low carb versions of high carb foods. Enter Frankenfoods. The label Frankenfood is typically given to a food item which is trying to emulate a high-carb original by replacing carbs by some chemical and/or fiber. Artificial sweeteners such as sugar alcohols is a typical example. Sugar alcohols have theoretically very low carb count and are used to sweeten coffee and make lowcarb desserts.
The food industry has responded here as well, even though there are less low carb products now than just a few years ago. I think many of them disappeared as no matter what chemical conoction they used, they just didn’t manage to make them taste good.
So what is a healthy diet for me? Now eating low carb and maintaining my weight loss for 5 years? Even though I don’t always adhere to it 100%, I try to stay with the basics; meat, fish, vegetables. No calorie counting. No limit on fats, but I don’t add any either. The only dairy I eat is hard cheese and the only grain is rye crisp bread. These last two are not good for weight loss for many people, me included, but I can get away with it in maintenance.
I don’t like processed foods. If it has a list of 30 ingredients where I only recognize two or three, it is not something I want to put in my body. I also find that it doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as home made foods.
I don’t drink diet soda or other artificially sweetened drinks. I do use splenda, davinci or stevia on occasion. Perhaps once per month at the most. It’s not because I don’t have a sweet tooth. Or, rather had a sweet tooth. I lost it after lowcarbing for some time. I used to have a serious Snicker’s bar habit. Now, fruits and berries taste sweet enough for me without any artificial addition. Diet soda is sickening sweet. I had a taste of ketchup yesterday night for the first time in years, and that was much, much sweeter than how I remember it.
If a food is sugar free, carb free and/or fat free, has no nutritional value and only contain chemicals, what would be the purpose for me to eat/drink it? For me, food implies that it will provide nutrition for my body.
But that’s my personal preference. I would never berate anybody for using artificial sweeteners or drinking diet soda. If that helps them to stay on the diet and to lose weight, more power to them. I would however suggest that if weight loss comes to a halt, it might be a good idea to limit the use of these before abandoning the diet altogether.