Like many professionals in the field of nutrition and wellness, I moved away from labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ several years ago. You might think you understand the rationale behind this shift, but in this post, I’ll dive into three key reasons that prompted me to abandon these labels.

Stay with me to the end to uncover the approach I’ve embraced in place of this dichotomy. No peeking! In the process, you may find a new perspective on food that could become a guiding principle in your own journey with nutrition and health.

Background: My Relationship with Food Labeling

Let’s hop into our time machine and revisit some of my early days in the nutrition world. Picture it: the year was ~2013, the sound of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop filled the airwaves, and I was deep in my journey in becoming a registered dietitian, still in school, eager to make a difference.

That era was marked by a surge in diet culture, with every health magazine and TV show preaching about ‘superfoods’ and ‘foods to avoid.’ It was a time when the world of nutrition seemed black and white, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. I, like many others, found myself swept up in this tide, categorizing foods based on these rigid standards.

Fast forward, and my perspective on food and nutrition hit a critical turning point. The realization dawned that the strict labeling of foods was not just limiting but also detrimental to the overall understanding of nutrition and wellness. Here’s why.

5 Reasons Why I Don’t Label Foods as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ Anymore

Reason #1. The Ethical Challenge of Food Categorization

Sorry to start off with such a heavy topic, but when you consider labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ you also have to consider the broader impact it has on our mindset and relationship with food. 

For me, moving away from these labels was crucial in promoting a healthier, more inclusive approach to nutrition. It’s not just about what’s on our plates; it’s about creating a positive food environment free from guilt and shame.

This shift in perspective was significant for me. By rejecting these labels, I found a more compassionate and understanding way to talk about food, both with myself and with others. The book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch has been a pivotal resource in this journey. This groundbreaking work delves deeper into the nuances and ethical implications of food categorization, advocating for a more mindful and body-positive approach to eating. Their insights were eye-opening and helped solidify my stance on this issue.

Reason #2. The Financial Reality of Diet Labeling

When I first jumped into the world of nutrition, the cost of following a diet with strictly ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods was not immediately apparent. But over time, I noticed that not only was it emotionally taxing, but financially too. The premium on ‘superfoods’ and the cost of avoiding ‘bad’ foods can add up significantly.

There is hidden financial burden of such dietary practices. Certain diets, which rely heavily on expensive ‘good’ foods and supplements, can be a substantial financial strain compared to a more balanced approach.

While I understand that some people might choose these paths for a variety of reasons, I’ve found that incorporating a more varied, less restrictive diet is not only more financially sustainable but also still nutrient-dense in the long run. Instead of splurging on expensive ‘superfoods,’ I now focus on affordable, nutritious alternatives like in-season vegetables, diverse legumes, and whole grain staples.

Freebie Alert: If you’re curious how to begin to see food as neutral, while still acknowledging how they can impact our energy, health, and more, download my Food Neutrality handout. This will offer insights and exercises for navigating food choices without guilt or shame.

Reason #3. A Shift in Perspective and Approach

The personal reason behind my shift away from labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ came down to a fundamental change in perspective. I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the rigid dichotomy of food categorization. It felt too simplistic and, frankly, limiting in the complex world of nutrition and personal well-being.

The moment of realization came when I observed the negative impact these labels had on not just my own mindset, but also in others. The guilt and stress associated with ‘bad’ foods, and the moral superiority attached to ‘good’ foods, were creating an unhealthy relationship with eating. This realization sparked a desire for change—a change toward a more compassionate and holistic approach to nutrition.

I started delving deeper into the principles of intuitive eating, exploring how our relationship with food is intricately tied to our emotions, culture, and personal history. I embraced the concept of food neutrality, recognizing that food, in its essence, is a source of nourishment and joy, not a moral compass.

This journey wasn’t just about adopting a new tool or strategy; it was a transformative process that reshaped how I viewed nutrition and health. I engaged in continuous learning, seeking insights from various nutrition philosophies, and integrating them into a more nuanced, empathetic approach.

Now, as a registered dietitian, I advocate for a balanced perspective where foods are not enemies or heroes but part of a diverse table that makes up our diet. This shift has not only reinvigorated my passion for nutrition but also allowed me to guide others towards a healthier, guilt-free relationship with food.

Reason #4: Embracing Authenticity Over Conformity

One of the more challenging reasons for moving away from labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ was the realization that keeping up with the prevailing trends in the nutrition field is not my primary responsibility. For a considerable period, I felt a sense of duty to align with popular nutrition narratives because I believed it was expected of me.

This sense of obligation was compounded by my presence on social media, where I frequently shared insights and advice on nutrition. I felt as if I had to maintain a certain image or stance to meet my audience’s expectations. It was a classic case of being more focused on pleasing others than being true to my evolving understanding and beliefs about nutrition. 

However, a significant personal development occurred when I began to prioritize authenticity over conformity. I realized that being true to my values and beliefs, even if they diverge from mainstream trends, is more important than fitting into a preconceived mold. This shift in mindset was about no longer being a ‘people pleaser’ but instead, focusing on what I genuinely believe is best for health.

This transition was liberating. It allowed me to explore and advocate for a more nuanced and individualized approach to nutrition—one that doesn’t rely on strict labels but instead considers the unique circumstances and needs of each individual. Embracing this authenticity has enabled me to connect more deeply with my audience and offer advice that truly resonates with their personal journeys toward health and wellness.

Reason #5: Embracing a Weight-Neutral Approach Works Better

Okay, here’s why we’re all here. The approach I’ve embraced is a weight-neutral philosophy in my online community. The reason? It aligns more closely with my core beliefs about health and nutrition, especially in terms of application and overall well-being. And even better, is evidence-based for health support. Here’s a link to IE studies.

Below are some of the features I love most about this approach:

Empowerment and Support:

This approach empowers members to explore their relationship with food in a supportive environment. It’s about giving people the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions about their food intake, free from the pressures of diet culture. The community aspect means everyone’s journey is validated and supported.

Inclusivity and Accessibility:

A weight-neutral approach means everyone is welcome, regardless of their body size or diet history. This inclusivity is crucial in creating a safe space for learning and growth. The platform’s design ensures easy access to resources, making learning both engaging and convenient.

Comprehensive Education:

The community offers resources on various aspects of nutrition, from mindful eating to meal prep. This comprehensive approach to education ensures members are well-informed and able to make choices that are best for their individual needs.

Interactive Learning:

Interactive sessions like Q&As, workshops/seminars, and daily prompts make the learning process dynamic and engaging. It’s not just about reading or watching content; it’s about actively participating and applying the knowledge in real-life scenarios.

What I Do Instead of Labeling Foods as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’

As I mentioned, I’ve now shifted to embracing and teaching the concept of food neutrality in my weight-neutral community. 

This approach works far better for me and the members of my community for several key reasons:

  • Fosters a Healthier Relationship with Food: By moving away from labeling foods, we cultivate a more balanced and stress-free approach to eating. This helps in reducing food-related anxiety and guilt, leading to a healthier mindset around food.
  • Encourages Mindful Eating: Without the pressure of categorizing foods, we focus more on how foods make us feel, their nutritional value, and our body’s cues, encouraging a more mindful and intuitive approach to eating.
  • Promotes Inclusivity and Individual Choice: This approach respects everyone’s unique dietary needs and preferences, acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all in nutrition.
  • Enhances Knowledge and Empowerment: The community provides comprehensive education on various aspects of nutrition, empowering members to make informed food choices based on knowledge, not fear or misinformation.
  • Supports Overall Well-being: By focusing on a holistic approach to health, rather than just weight or diet, we support the overall well-being of our members, both mentally and physically.

Remember, shifting to food neutrality is a journey, and it might take time to fully embrace this approach. But the freedom and peace of mind it brings are well worth the effort.

This approach aligns perfectly with the ethos of my business and the needs of my community. It’s a refreshing and empowering change that has brought about positive transformations in many lives, including my own.

That’s a wrap!

In conclusion, I’ve shared with you my journey away from labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and towards a more neutral, balanced perspective. It’s clear that this approach not only benefits our relationship with food but also promotes a healthier mindset overall. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Are you ready for a fresh perspective on food and eating? Join our weight-neutral community and embark on a transformative journey towards food neutrality. Click here to dive into a supportive environment where you can explore and grow. Click the image below to discover more and be a part of this positive change.

Since the inception of Unlocked Nutrition, I’ve been passionate about guiding individuals away from restrictive diets and towards a more balanced, fulfilling relationship with food.

Let me help you navigate this journey with compassion and understanding.

Got questions? You’re not alone. Reach out to me kat@unlockednutrition.com, and let’s start a conversation. We’re also active and ready to engage on social media on Instagram, so feel free to connect there.

For more insights and tips, check out this related blog article of mine – Problems w/ Diet Culture. Let’s unlock the joy of eating together!