What is “healthy” food? Every day, it seems, a new diet plan/book/pill/procedure comes out redefinining “healthy” food. It can be bewildering. So I’ve decided to figure out how I choose what’s healthy in this often confusing, conflicting-advice, environment.
I came up with a simple system of figuring what is healthy (I should eat regularly) and what is not (I should eat occasionally). I’d love to share this new initiative with you. Perhaps it will help you make sense of your food choices.
I’m a simple guy. Food choices aren’t. Making a food choice entails considering calories, carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and, oh yeah, taste. I want to make it simple for myself so I put each food into 5 catagories, based on a star system.
1 Star Foods Only on your honeymoon. OK, not that rarely, but once in a great while. Think yearly. On vacation, holidays treat, etc. These foods have little nutrional value, but, c’mon everything deserves at least ONE star.
These star rankings are not designed to be a diet. There are no points to count like Weight Watchers (which, by the way, despite some shortcomings is a solid program). These stars only serve as a guide. It is up to you to figure out how to balance each of the star foods into your diet. (Hint: the more 4 & 5 stars the better)
How I determine star ranks
Everyone has their own opinions on what makes a food healthy. Here are mine in descending order of importance:
- Calories: I don’t strictly adhere to calories-in/calories-out theory, but calorie count is a quick way to assess the healthfulness of a food.
- Ingredient List: The longer the list, the more processed. More processed, the worse for you.
- Carb count: Most processed junk kills your waistline because of processed carbs. Avoid carb loaded fare.
- Macronutrient ratio: The better the balance of fat, protein, and carb, the higher the score.
- Vitamins, Minerals, & Antioxidants: The more of those three a food has, the higher the rank.
- Taste: Obviously, this is purely subjective. But a better tasting healthy food will be more likely to be eaten.
- Dietary role: How often a food can fit into a healthy diet gives it a higher ranking. This is similar to the taste consideration.
- Organic Status: Eating organic helps the environment and decreases your exposure to disease causing chemicals. More important for some foods than others.
I understand other health professionals may disagree with my assessments. Fine by me. Again, the purpose here is to give broad categories so food choices aren’t as difficult, not to nail down the number one best and worst food.
Every Thursday I’ll rank 5 more foods. I welcome your comments or criticism.