Tony Ferguson: Transform Your Well-being: Foster a Healthier Food Relationship through Nourishment

The concept of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ foods has been around for a long time and has had some detrimental effects on our relationship with food and our bodies. If we think of a food as ‘bad’ and we eat it, does that mean we are bad for eating it? Of course not but labelling food in this way can lead to feelings of guilt when we eat it.  And we are going to eat it!

Instead, a healthier relationship with food stems from seeing foods simply as… food. Not good or bad. Just a way that we can provide our bodies with the energy and nutrients it needs while also providing opportunities to socialise with friends and loved ones and feel the enjoyment that comes from one of the 5 senses of the body – taste! 

Instead of splitting food into just two different categories, you could think about them more on a spectrum from very nutrient dense at one end to less nutrient dense at the other. Nutrient density is simply a measure of the nutrients a food contains in a standard size. A standard size could be a regular portion or something more consistent such as 100g.  So, if you compared 100g of orange with 100g of rice crackers, you would find that there are more vitamins, minerals and fibre in that 100g of orange compared to the 100g of crackers.  That doesn’t make rice crackers bad but rather you may find yourself feeling hungrier sooner on the crackers than you would on the oranges. They are still yummy and could be very satisfying with a bit of guac perhaps.

Then when looking at your usual pattern of eating, your overall nutrition will be determined by the balance and density of nutrients in your food. So, if you are mostly eating McDonalds, you may find yourself lacking in energy and health.  And if your diet is mostly nutrient dense foods, then it won’t matter if you throw in some fun foods into the mix. Fun foods are those that are light on nutrients and usually heavy on ‘yummy’. And everyone needs a bit of fun in their lives! Just like our work life balance, we wouldn’t be much fun if we just worked all the time. Likewise, we would find it hard to eat socially and find joy in food and eating if we were limited to just the most nutrient dense foods. So, to get the most out of our health and lives, try to keep the balance heavily skewed towards the nutrient end of the spectrum with a bit of fun thrown in regularly.

I think we all can think of examples of fun foods, but what about nutrient dense foods? Although there will be no prize money for getting it right, some examples of nutrient dense foods includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, legumes (e.g. beans, peas and lentils), unsalted nuts and seeds, dairy foods and lead meats and chicken.  The way that foods are cooked can also make a difference to nutrient density. For example adding large amounts of sugar, saturated fat or salt to nutrient dense foods may change their nutritional balance and push them down the leader board.

So instead of focusing on removing bad foods from your diet which is likely to leave you feeling deprived (e.g. FOMOOF – Fear of Missing out on Food), try looking for opportunities to swap in more nutrient dense foods such as changing to a wholegrain bread, extra veg instead of the extra meat, yoghurt instead of ice-cream etc.

So please ignore the temptation to believe the mis-information out there claiming that this food or that food is going to solve all of your weight issues or give you the summer body you have always dreamed of.  If it seems too good to be true.. it probably is. There have never been more diets and weight loss claims than what we have experienced in our own lifetime. And instead of everyone walking around in bikinis showing off their slender muscles, we are having the same weight concerns we always have.  So instead of focusing on weight loss, focus on the goal of nourishing and moving your body as best you can most days of the week to feel better (on the inside). The impact this has on your weight is just a bonus.