Is This Healthy?

by Kim on November 8, 2012

The other day, I saw this amazing-looking recipe on Pinterest for a baked oatmeal casserole. On the ingredient list: oats, brown sugar, raspberries, chocolate chips, and ripe banana.

casserole Yum. Pinned. (If you want to see what else I’ve pinned, you’re welcome to follow me.)

Although the recipe is labeled gluten-free, nowhere does it say anything about it being “healthy.” However, judging by the mini brouhaha raging in the comments, many people expected it to be. I’m guessing that one of these healthy-eating fallacies was to blame:

–Gluten-free = healthy.

–Recipes involving oatmeal = healthy.

We all know that neither of these is true (right? you’re on board with that?), but it’s easy to let our brains be tricked.

I liked this lady’s no-nonsense response to all the feather-ruffling:

“OMG!! This looks amazing!! BUT!! What is all this stuff in here about it not being healthy??…Have we become such freaks about all this that we have to alter recipes past recognition rather than accept ‘everything in moderation’ as acceptable??…Just make the recipe, enjoy the work the author put into it and say thank you!!”

Now, for the record, I wouldn’t necessarily give this recipe the Healthy Breakfast of the Year award either. And if I make it someday (ideally, when I’m able to eat milk and eggs again), I might try some of the tweaks and substitutions mentioned in the comments. But the point is that the recipe never claimed to be healthy in the first place, and yet the Health Police had to roll in and shred it anyway.

All this inevitably leads to the big question that’s truly up for debate: what IS healthy?

healthy heart(source)

When I first started getting interested in “healthy living” (whatever that means), I did a lot of “fake” eating. I was more focused on the goal of creating lighter versions of high-calorie foods than of eating healthier foods in general. Things like mayo, salad dressing, fish sticks, cheese, and bread seemed fine as long as they said “fat-free” or “lite” somewhere on the box or bottle. (Anyone else think it’s funny that some marketing guru one day decided to misspell the word “light” and now it’s more or less part of our official English vocab?)

Now, my focus has shifted more toward “clean” eating. So more fresh, whole foods, less packaged stuff, shorter ingredient lists, and fewer chemicals. But that doesn’t mean I’d never buy a box of fish sticks again (that probably sounds random, but I loooove fish sticks). And you know I’m not giving up chocolate or wine anytime soon.

Fitnessista wrote a great post about this a few years ago, in which she described “healthy” as “imperfection.” So not being afraid to skip the gym or eat fast food now and then without going bananas about it. Appreciating good food, cutting ourselves slack, and just living life.

The best we can do is take all the information we hear about what “healthy” means, pick out the pieces that make the most sense for each of us, and balance those things with the little indulgences that make our lives fuller and happier.

Just as the words “perfection” and “obsession” won’t necessarily put you on the road to health, neither will those brain-tricking keywords like gluten-free, vegan, or natural.

This is the key our grocery store (Copps) uses to help people identify what’s “healthy”:

wellness (source)

I think it’s intimidating and confusing. To be truly “healthy,” do you want your foods to have ALL of these? Which combinations = healthy?

Oh! And listen to this. I was just at Copps yesterday and saw a sign describing a new program they’re initiating, where they’re actually going to attach A SINGLE NUMBER to each of their foods to indicate where they fall on the Healthometer. So a steak might be a 26 and an orange a 4. I have no idea how this will work, and I’m worried that it might just cause anxiety rather than providing education. I mean, we know a steak isn’t as innocent as an orange, right? So is this just a big guilt campaign?

Has anyone else seen a program like this?

What does healthy mean to you?

heart

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky November 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Another great blog post Kim ! I share your frustrations with all the different labels and systems of indicating where foods are on the “Healthometer”. Our local grocery store also has developed a number system which sounds like it would similar to the one your store is developing. http://www.hy-vee.com/health/nuval/default.aspx
This system called The NuValĀ® System scores food on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher the NuValĀ® Score, the higher the nutrition. It’s that simple so they say :)

Good luck!

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Kim November 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Yes! That must be the same one we’re getting. I’ll have to research it more, but it has to be pretty complicated!

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