There are some foods out there that are notorious for doing in diets. Labeled as “bad” or “off limits,” these foods have earned a bad rap for everything from excessive calories to diet-bombing carbs. The truth is, when it comes to a healthy eating plan that your clients can follow not only to achieve results, but also to maintain those results, no food should be off limits. In fact, guiding clients on the best ways to navigate every choice, including these foods that get a bad rap, can help set your clients up for success.
As low-carb diets have gained popularity, bread has become a guilty pleasure for many people. While it’s true that refined options should be considered a “sometimes food,” whole-grain choices such as rye and 100% whole wheat can provide essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, B vitamins and fiber. In addition, some research has indicated that sourdough bread is not only a viable option for gluten-free clients, but may have a more favorable impact on blood glucose levels.
With a reputation for being one of the biggest contributors to the infamous “Freshman 15,” pizza is almost always on the list of foods to avoid. While varieties made with cheese-stuffed crust and higher fat and sodium meats can pose health concerns, that doesn’t mean that all pizza should get a bad rap. Pizzas made with thin or whole-grain crust and topped with lean proteins and a variety of vegetables can make for a well-rounded meal as part of your client’s eating plan.
This high-protein food found itself on the “off limits” list for years thanks to high levels of dietary cholesterol. Egg whites became the standard and the yolk, rich in choline and lutein, was left to the trash. No more. Not only is the humble egg enjoying a resurgence in popularity because of its budget-friendly protein, it’s cholesterol content may no longer be a concern for the average person. According to the USDA’s Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:
“Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol, consistent with the conclusions of the AHA/ACC report…Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
For years beef has gotten a bad rap as a contributor to heart disease thanks to its saturated fat and cholesterol content. The most recent research indicates it may be more complicated. “If you look at people who eat unprocessed red meat, there is a relatively weak association with heart disease,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s not protective—and healthier dietary choices exist—but major harms are also not seen.”
While it is true that leaner choices such as fish, poultry and plant-based proteins should make up the bulk of your client’s protein intake, leaner cuts of unprocessed beef such as sirloin, round and loin can add much-needed iron in addition to high-quality protein. In addition, more and more research is delving into the health benefits of grass-fed beef and results suggest that it has an improved “fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content.”
Like bread, pizza, pasta, grains and just about any other higher-carbohydrate food, potatoes have been victims of low-carb diets. The truth is they don’t deserve the bad rap and can be part of any healthy meal plan when eaten in moderation using healthier cooking techniques, such as baking instead of frying. Not only are potatoes high in fiber, they are also rich in potassium and magnesium. Adequate amounts of magnesium and potassium in your clients’ eating plans are essential, as deficiencies in these minerals can result in muscle weakness, muscle cramps and even nausea.
While many people are quick to label foods bad, most dietitians recommend following a whole-diet approach that relies on moderation in all foods, even these foods with a bad rap. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics specifically states: “In contrast to the total-diet approach, classification of specific foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is overly simplistic and may foster unhealthy eating behaviors.” Set your clients up for success with this long-term healthy eating strategy that relies more on science and less on the hype.