Diets health

Healthy Eating: The girl next door

Last week I was asked to come in and supply teach for a few high school classes at my wife’s school.  When the kids found out I was a dietitian, they inevitably began peppering me with questions.  Maybe it was the hormone-charged environment, but at that moment a thought struck me.

Healthy eating is a lot like the girl next door.

The girl next door is easy to dismiss.  She’s not nearly as flashy or exciting as the most popular girl in school and while she may be attractive, rarely would someone ever describe her as “desirable”.

While I was speaking with these kids, most of their questions focused on the latest fad diets and supplements.  It never ceases to amaze me how many new diets are out there that I’ve never even heard of.  When I started talking about trying to focus on healthy eating patterns rather than dieting, I could see their eyes glazing over.  It was like “Yeah, yeah, we all already know about THAT, but we want to know about these other things”.  They had little interest in discussing tried and true healthy eating behaviors.  Healthy eating’s not sexy.  It’s not flashy like going “Paleo” or “Gluten-Free” or nearly as exciting as boosting your health with the latest “super food”.

And to clarify, I’m not only dumping on teenagers.  This is a societal issue.  In my experience adults do the same thing.  Probably even more so.

You see, like the girl next door, everyone already knows about healthy eating.  It’s a known quantity.  From a very early age kids are taught the hallmarks of healthy eating – things like the 4 food groups, making low calorie choices and avoiding high sodium foods.  I’ve never encountered a single person who isn’t aware that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is healthy.  Yet for some reason, people are always overlooking the simpler approaches in favor of flashy alternatives when making dietary changes.

It’s a bit of a “grass is always greener” type of phenomenon.   The “known quantity” quality of healthy eating can never compare to the “hot” new diet or supplement.  I get that there’s something inherently appealing about being an adopter of a trend before it becomes mainstream, but here’s the thing, flashy and exciting is not always better.

At the end of the day, healthy eating is pretty reliable.  It may not be new or exciting, but it works.  Whether your goals are losing weight, lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure or just living a long healthy life the research behind healthy eating is pretty definitive.  And frankly, if people focused more on healthy eating rather than looking to the next quick fix, we wouldn’t have a lot of the issues we do right now.

So do yourself a favor.  Choose healthy eating.  Like the girl next door, deep down you know that it’s probably your best chance to be happy.

*originally published on on December 13, 2013

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