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Are There Good Foods and Bad Foods?

There are no good foods or bad foods. You have no doubt heard this for years. I contend that there are bad foods. We all know there are foods that we should not eat or at least should not eat very often. Would that not constitute a bad food? Why can’t we say that a coffee drink made with whole milk, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream that has 900 calories is bad? Because it has calcium from the milk? Come on, aren’t there better ways to get calcium. Would that coffee drink loaded with sugar and fat not fall into the bad category?

An half eaten doughnut and a cup of coffee placed together

A fellow nutrition warrior, Melinda Hemmelgarn, has put my feelings into words in a way that uniquely expresses what I have felt for year. She astutely brings up the MOST important question. Who keeps saying there are no bad foods? Most likely it is those who purvey the very foods we may classify as bad. Here, in part, is what Melinda has to say about the good food bad food debate:

“I for one, will stand up and say that I believe that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods. Good foods are sustainably produced and contribute to our health. They are produced without harm to the environment and abuse to farm workers. Bad foods harm the planet and hurt people. For example, canned foods that contain BPA residues, chocolate harvested by child laborers, or fish that is contaminated with mercury or pesticide residues would be considered “not good” to eat in my book. I file them under “bad” for a range of reasons that include social and environmental injustice…

We have to think: who owns the message that there are no good foods and no bad foods? If I were making “cheap” food with ingredients that contribute to chronic disease, or used harmful chemicals in their production, then I surely wouldn’t want some nutrition educator going around and calling them “bad.” But hey, a rose by any other name…

I see my job as helping clients and students think “beyond their plates.”…

Call me a heretic but after 30 years in this business I feel comfortable calling out the “bad” players.”

We may not agree on which foods are good and which are bad. Since there is precious little we do agree on in the nutrition community disagreement is nothing new. Perhaps debating which foods are bad would be a better debate than saying none are bad at all. What do you think? Can you label some foods as bad?

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