Ok, well maybe “lie” is a little on the strong side but intentional misconception hits it right on the head! Most of my coaching clients tell me that they eat “pretty healthy.” And, from what they know, they are. The reality of it is that most people have a seriously warped perception of what is healthy – thanks to the successful marketing of the processed food industry. Here’s a little story to illustrate my point.

This afternoon, I stopped by an “Art in the Park” fundraiser that was being held in my town. I strolled around looking at the various artists’ wares and realized it was almost 1:00 and I was a little hungry. There was a catering truck (I know, I know) there and, since I like to support the vendors at events like this, I went over to see what they had. Last weekend I went to a farm auction and I was able to get a delicious veggie wrap, so I was optimistic. Anyway, I went over to the truck and didn’t see anything that I would consider nourishing so I asked the gentleman “Do you have anything bordering on healthy?”  He couldn’t think of anything so he asked his co-worker.  Her reply was, “Well, the quiches are healthy.  They’re made with Egg Beaters!”  (Oh dear.)  She continued, “They’re in a pie crust (probably made with Crisco) and they’re really good!  They have bacon in them!”  Trying to use bacon as my polite out of this insanity, I replied “Oh, I don’t eat meat.”  Not to be dismayed, the caterer replied “In the past we’ve made them with that artificial bacon.  They still tasted good!”

I’m going to assume that the woman wouldn’t flat out consider quiche to be a health-food but compared to the rest of their deep-fried fare, this was the best she could do.  The part that inspired me to blog is that this woman, like many of my clients, thinks Egg Beaters are healthy!  I’ve never purchased Egg Beaters but experience has told me that when you take a food from nature, take out a bunch of stuff that is natural,  and add a bunch of chemicals to it, that does not make it a health food.  I left the art fair to go food shopping and, out of curiosity, found a box of Egg Beaters to read the label.  Yup, bastardized food product.  (sigh.)

I frequently quote Michael Pollan, author of Food Matters and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly Plants.”  That’s really all the nutrition advice anyone ever needs.  The problem is that they are confused about the definition of Food!  That, and they’ve been brainwashed by advertising and packaging.  So let me give you a few tips.

Does this look healthy to you?

Food comes from the earth, not from a factory.  It has ingredients that come from the earth, not from a factory.  Simple example: sweet potato.  Ingredients: sweet potato.  Complicated example: guacamole.  Ingredients: avocado, garlic, cilantro, lemon.  Do you see how all of those things come from nature?  Guess what; if it comes from nature, your body knows what to do with it.

One of my Nutrition professors gave me some advice that I continually pass on to people.  He said “Never trust anything that is written on the front of any food package – ever!”  Everything you need to know is written in two places: the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients.  Today we’re focusing on ingredients.

If it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably “food”.

I like to say “If it’s not a nutrient, why would you eat it?”  If it’s not a nutrient, your body expends energy and water trying to get rid of it.  Non-nutrient ingredients such as artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, are toxic to the body and serve no nutritional purpose.  One clue as to whether or not a food is nutritious is to see how long it takes you to find the nutrition panel and ingredients on their website.  Click, click, click, click, click – nothing.  It’s hard to find because they don’t want you to find it; they want you to see more of their marketing!  I gave up trying to find the ingredients on the “Healthy Choice” foods website (to make my case here).  I found the nutrition panel but not the actual ingredients.  Hmmmmm.

The moral of the story is that most people think they know what healthy is because their definition of healthy comes from marketing – from companies intentionally mis-educating you so that you feel good about buying their products.  To modify Michael Pollan, let me say this; “Eat nutrients.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  The word “food” confuses people.  To me, Egg Beaters, artificial bacon, and Healthy Choice entrees are not food.

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