Good for You vs Bad for You

Good for You vs Bad for You

We’ve all had those days when we’ve ditched our plate of fries and crispy fried chicken and decided to start eating healthy. Although our decisions are well-intentioned, they often don’t stick.

That’s because restricting yourself to eating only certain foods is the wrong way to go about this. Instead, healthy eating should be about caring for yourself as a whole. This means choosing a diet that meets your physical, mental, emotional, and social needs.

This post demystifies the concept of “good” vs. “bad” foods and provides a better guide on healthy eating. You’ll also find several tips to help you lead a healthier lifestyle. Let’s dig in:

Getting the Facts Right

Most people describe foods as either good or bad. In fact, this is the whole premise upon which some weight-loss dietary plans are founded. While it’s true that some foods offer more health benefits than others, it’s wrong to label food in this way.

That’s because restricting yourself to eating only certain foods is the wrong way to go about this. Rather, healthy eating is about caring for yourself as a whole. This means choosing a diet that meets your physical, mental, emotional and social needs. 

When we demonize certain foods - and in some cases, entire categories of food (like carbs) - we’re going against holistic health and nutrition.

As explained earlier, the proper diet doesn’t only address physical needs. Instead, it focuses on an individual as a whole by addressing their emotional and social needs. This means finding pleasure in eating rather than constantly feeling guilty for eating something regarded as “unhealthy” or “evil.”

Besides, banning yourself from eating specific foods isn’t a sustainable approach to healthy eating anyway. If you’ve ever attempted to give up on a particular food item then you know how difficult it can be. 

Prohibiting something only increases your urge to consume it more often. Sure, you might be able to restrain yourself for a few weeks - a month if you’re very disciplined. However, trying to abstain indefinitely will be a hard nut to crack. Chances are, you'll give in to temptation at some point. 

So, follow a well-balanced diet instead of focusing on “good” food or clean eating. As for food items labeled unhealthy, you can consume them occasionally but only in moderation. On that note, what constitutes a balanced diet? This brings me to my next point.

The Components of a Healthy and Balanced Diet

A well-balanced diet incorporates different food groups in the proper proportions. You should eat specific foods in high quantities - like fruits and vegetables. Others, however, should be eaten in moderation - like those that contain saturated fat and sugar. The key is finding the balance, resulting in a healthy eating plan that is sustainable in the long term. 

The following chart shows the variety of foods you should include in your diet and their respective quantities:

The eatwell guide, depicting a plate divided into healthy categories: fruits, vegetables, starches, dairy and protein.

Here are a couple of guidelines that we can draw from this chart:

  • Fruits and veggies should make up more than a third of the food you consume - try to eat at least five portions every day. This can be frozen, fresh, dried, or juiced.
  • Starchy carbs like rice, bread, pasta, and potatoes should constitute just slightly over one-third. Whenever possible, look for whole-grain or high-fiber options. 
  • Protein sources - protein is another integral element of your food. In addition to being body-building foods, they’re also the most satiating macronutrient. This simply means that they keep you feeling full for longer. Examples include beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and more.
  • Dairy and alternatives - you’ll also want to include some dairy in your diet. If you can’t have dairy, consider substitutes like soya, oat, nut-based drinks, and yogurt. Dairy products are a complementary source of protein. Plus, they provide essential minerals like calcium.
  • Oils and spreads - contrary to popular belief, it’s okay to include oils and spreads in your diet. Just be sure to use unsaturated oils like grapeseed, sunflower or olive oil.

Foods to Eat Less Frequently and in Moderation

Now that you know what to include in your diet, here’s a list of foods that should you should eat in small amounts and only on occasion:

Added Sugar 
Did you know that sugar doesn’t have any nutrients? That’s right. Added or processed sugar has zero nutritional value except for the calories present in it. This includes white granulated sugar, corn sugar, corn syrup, and brown sugar.

Due to this, you should cut back on sugar consumption. Alternatively, swap the sugar for minimally processed sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.

White Carbs
Are you a die-hard fan of white bread, pasta, cookies, potatoes and pancakes? If you are, you should rethink your diet or reduce your intake.

Also known as refined carbs, these foods are highly processed to the extent that their natural fiber is removed or altered. This is contrary to whole carbs, which are only minimally processed, enabling them to retain their natural fiber.

So, if you’re hell-bent on including white carbs in your diet, keep them to a minimum. Otherwise, swap them with the whole-grain versions.

Meats With High-Fat Content
I know how tasty cold cuts and pigs-in-a-blanket varieties of meats usually are. Unfortunately, they also contain high amounts of saturated fat and sodium.

This is why you should only eat a small portion of such meats. To clarify, I’m referring to processed meats like bacon, ham, hot dogs, pepperoni, etc. Alternatively, you can substitute them with healthier protein sources like fish, skinless chicken, beans, and soy.

One ingredient that doesn’t get as much attention as it should is salt. Ideally, we should consume just 1,500 mg of sodium daily, or 2,300 mg at most. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most of us. Using 1 ½ teaspoons of salt in our meals on any given day translates to 3,400 mg of sodium. This is almost twice the recommended intake. 

Our bodies need sodium to carry out certain functions (like balancing body fluids). However, too much of it can cause a spike in blood pressure. Plus, it increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Top Tips for Healthy Eating

Nourish Your Gut
You probably don’t know this, but the gut is vital to your overall wellness. Thousands of good bacteria that impact your digestion reside in the gut. This is also where some of the brain’s neurotransmitters - like dopamine and serotonin - are produced.

Considering this, it’s essential to incorporate foods that boost gut health, specifically foods rich in probiotics. Think yogurt, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut or Kombucha.

Eat More Fish
Another trick to eating healthy is incorporating more seafood into your diet. Fish isn’t just an excellent source of protein. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids - essential nutrients that not only fuel your body and improve your cardiovascular health. 

Not the biggest fan of seafood? You can get creative in how you integrate it into your diet. For instance, these tasty-looking burgers are made with spiced salmon and some watercress, and then sandwiched between two large buns. Plan to eat at least two portions of fish weekly. 

Most people are mindful of the foods they eat. But only a handful remember to hydrate. This shouldn’t be the case as our bodies rely on fluids for many functions; from lubricating joints to regulating body temperature and eliminating wastes. 

By now, you’ve probably heard the traditional advice of drinking eight glasses of water daily. However, the amount of fluids one takes varies. It’s based on factors like activity level, metabolism, and climatic conditions. Generally, you should take between 9 and 13 cups of fluid daily. This includes other beverages like smoothies, coffee, tea, and soups. 

Plan Your Snacks
One reason why many of us end up eating too many unhealthy snacks is because we don’t plan. So when hunger kicks in, you reach for the closest snacks available-  which are typically loaded with saturated fat, salt or added sugar. 

Examples of these snacks include potato chips, soft drinks, fried foods and ice cream. While these snacks are great for boosting your energy levels, they’re not satiating. This means you’ll feel hungry again after such a short while. 

To avoid this situation, plan your snacks the way you plan your meals. Aim for high-protein, low-calorie snacks as they’ll keep you feeling full for longer. Think frozen Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, canned salmon, chia pudding, tuna salad just to mention a few.

Brighten Your Plate
This isn’t just about making your plate look visually appealing to get those Insta-worthy pictures. The more colorful your plate looks, the more extensive the selection of fruits and vegetables. This automatically means that you’re getting a more diverse selection of nutrients. Here’s a brief breakdown illustrating how color impacts your diet:

  • Red fruits and veggies - contain high amounts of antioxidants like lycopene, which prevent cell damage.
  • Orange and yellow fruits - these bright-colored foods are rich in minerals and vitamins like vitamin A, zeaxanthin, lycopene, flavonoids, potassium, and vitamin C. 
  • Purple and blue fruits - these contain a unique antioxidant called anthocyanin. This nutrient offers multiple health perks, such as antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects


Healthy eating is not as simple as consuming the foods regarded as good and eliminating those deemed bad. Instead, it’s about finding the right balance. In other words, eating a sufficient amount of the healthy food items while cutting back on the unhealthy stuff. 

Other hacks that will help you lead a healthy lifestyle include hydrating, incorporating more fish into your diet, nourishing your gut, eating colorful meals and planning your snacks in advance.

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