avocado, spice, oil, orange, tomato with text overlay: Good Foods? Bad Foods? Part 2

Good Foods Bad Foods Part 2

Happy Wednesday everyone! Last week, we talked about our need to stop looking at foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and looked at how we can set ourselves up for success when it comes to eating by looking at foods as falling on a continuum of ‘Eat More,’ ‘Eat Some,’ or ‘Eat Less.’ Since we only got to the first two areas of the continuum, we’re taking a look at the last one, ‘Eat Less’ this week. We’ll also look at how to put our continuum to practical use.

The ‘Eat More,’ ‘Eat Some,’ ‘Eat Less’ Continuum

As we talked about last week, looking at foods on a continuum rather than as foods that are/are not allowed helps us get away from the “all or nothing” mindset that so often trips us up in our wellness journey. It can reduce some of the stress we can feel around our food choices, and give us a tool to make healthier choices most of the time (and not feel bad when we occasionally choose something less healthy).

We covered the ‘Eat More’ and ‘Eat Some’ areas of the continuum last week. This week, let’s take a look at the last part of our continuum, Eat Less.

Eat Less

The foods we may want to include as part of ‘Eat Less’ segment of our continuum are foods that don’t support our wellness goals. They may have more fat or calories, or they may have very little, if any, nutritional value.

That doesn’t mean they’re “bad” or that we can never eat them. It just means that we may want to eat fewer of the foods that fall on this area of our continuum.

Here are some foods we may want to include on this portion of our continuum:

Proteins

These proteins are the ones that are higher in fat and/or more processed than the whole, minimally processed foods we want to eat most of the time.

The things we might want to eat less of are things like fried meats, fried chicken nuggets or wings, high-fat ground meat, processed deli meats or hot dogs, high-fat sausages, protein bars, things like Slim Jims, and high-mercury fish.

Carbohydrates

The carbs we may want to include in our ‘Eat Less’ part of the continuum are those that are highly processed, have little-to-no nutritional value, and often contain lots of added sugar.

We may want to eat fewer of these types of foods: Cereal bars, fruit juices, flavored milk (and those lattes), canned, dried and pureed fruit with added sugar, pretzels, pastries, muffins, cake, cookies, crackers, soda, foods with more than 10 grams of added sugar, chips, French fries, etc.

A lot of these ultra-processed foods also contain a lot of fat, so it’s helpful to mindful of both the carbohydrate and fat content when we’re choosing these types of snacks.

Fats

These fats are the ones that may be high in saturated or trans fat, or are highly processed. As we know, saturated fats can raise our LDL (or bad) cholesterol. Trans fats are even worse, as they can both raise our LDL and lower our HDL (good) cholesterol. If you want to know if your food contains trans fats, just look for the words ‘partially hydrogenated.’

The fats we might want to include here would be things like bacon, breakfast sausage, butter, margarine, processed cheese, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, marinades and dressings that contain these oils, fat-rich foods with more than 10 grams of added sugar, and shortening.

Remember, Eat Less Does Not Mean Never Eat

A lot of the foods we include here, especially the ones that are high-carbohydrate, high-fat combinations like pizza, pastries and donuts are highly palatable, which means we could very easily be tempted to overeat them. Since they’re also calorie-dense, we could end up eating a lot more calories than we want to if we’re not careful.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can never have them. We just have to make conscious decisions about what and how much of these foods we want to eat.

As we talked about last week, labeling foods as ‘bad’ or making them completely off-limits, saying we can never eat them, may work for the short-term, but it can set us up for failure in the long-term.

So once we’ve designed our personal food continuum of ‘Eat More,’ ‘Eat Some,’ and eat less, how do we make sure we actually put it to use?

Last week, I mentioned that we’d talk a little about a system for dealing with those foods that can be problematic for us.

Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light, Go!

One pretty simple way of dealing with this is a ‘traffic light’ system. If you think about a traffic light, what does the red light mean? Yep, you got it – stop. Yellow means proceed with caution, and green, of course, means go.

If we think about our ‘Eat More,’ ‘Eat Some,’ and ‘Eat Less’ as the green, yellow and red lights on a traffic light, we may find it easier to stick to eating those foods we want to eat more of and less of the ones we want to be much more cautious about eating.

Let’s look at our red light foods first.

These would be the foods we identified as needing to go on our ‘Eat Less’ area of our continuum. They may have landed there because they don’t support our goals, or perhaps because we always overeat them. You know — those foods that once you open the bag, you can’t stop eating until the whole thing is gone.

The other things that might be red light foods are those you’re allergic to or can’t digest easily.

Again, these aren’t necessarily things that you can never have, but they are things that you want to stop and think about before you eat them. The easiest way to deal with these types of food is not to have them in the house. That way, we’re not tempted to eat them when we get tired, hungry, or are just looking for a quick snack.

As an example, my Hubby and I choose not to keep ice cream in the house most of the time. It’s not so much that we have problems overeating it; it’s just that as long as it’s there, we’ll have a serving every night. If it wasn’t in the freezer, we wouldn’t even think about it.

So…. we just choose to go to our favorite ice cream place and get a single serving on those days we really want some ice cream.

Next, let’s look at our yellow light foods.

Our yellow light foods will likely fall on our ‘Eat Some’ area of our continuum. We may be able to eat them moderately most of the time, but run into problems when we’re feeling tired, hungry, angry, etc. They may also be those foods we can eat in moderation at a restaurant, but when we have lots of them around at home, we have trouble controlling ourselves around them.

To deal with these, we may want to buy them in smaller quantities, put them in a place that’s hard to see or reach, or just limit those foods to the ones we choose to eat when we go out.

Last, but certainly not least, let’s look at our green light foods.

Our green light foods are those foods we want to eat more of. These are the things that support our goals, give us more nutritional ‘bang for our buck’ and make our bodies (and our minds) feel good.

Most of our green light foods are going to be those whole or minimally-processed foods we have on our ‘Eat More’ part of our continuum. These are the ones we want to have plenty of, and we want to make it convenient to grab them and go.

For some suggestions to make it easy to choose these green light foods, check out the post 8 Ways to Make Healthy Behaviors Convenient.

Now that we’ve looked at our final area of our ‘Eat More,’ ‘Eat Some,’ and ‘Eat Less’ Continuum and have a system to put it to use, it’s time for our Wellness Wednesday questions.

This week, let’s ask ourselves:

Teal background with white conversation bubble that reads, "Which foods do I want to include in my 'Eat Less' area of the 'Eat More' 'Eat Some' 'Eat Less' Continuum? What are my red light foods? My yellow light foods? My green light foods?"

Taking the time to actually do our continuum and put it to use can help us make it easier to eat well and set us up for success with our goals. It may be a little time-consuming initially, but can save us time (and grief) in the long run.

How do you feel about the thought that there are no bad foods? Do you think using the combination of the continuum and the traffic light system could be helpful for you? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Beans, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, avocado, and other vegetables with text overlay: Good Foods? Bad Foods? Part 2

Sources:

The Essential Guide to Food for Health, Nutrition, and Fitness Coaches, www.precisionnutrition.com

Weight Loss Specialist Course, National Academy of Sports Medicine, www.nasm.org

11 comments

    1. Thanks for sharing Melinda! It sounds like you’ve found a system that works for you, and that’s what’s important. Our bodies (and eating environments) are so different from person to person. That’s why what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I’m happy to hear you’ve found something that makes it easy for you to eat well. I hope you’re staying as well as possible sweet friend. Sending hugs your way!

  1. Hi Terri, I’ve just lost nearly two stone on the 5/2 diet and no foods were bad foods they were just ate in moderation. I’ve followed lots of diets but I found this one the easiest and I think it’s because I could always have a little of whatever I fancied. Great post xxx

    1. Thanks so much Bar, and congratulations on your weight loss! Like you, I find it easier to stick with my healthy eating goals when I know it’s okay to have the things I really want. Stay safe and well sweet friend! Sending hugs!

  2. This was great Terri. I like the analogy of using the traffic light in conjunction with foods. Never looked at it that way. Great advice. I think I’ll give it a shot!

  3. Fab food articles, Terri!
    I’ve been vegetarian most of my life. However, my main motto re: food is – You are what you eat!

    1. Thanks so much Resa! I’m glad you’ve found what works for you when it comes to food, and your motto is certainly spot-on. 😊 It’s amazing what a difference eating whole or minimally-processed foods can make in how we feel. I hope you’re staying safe and doing well sweet friend. Sending hugs your way!

  4. Love the traffic light analogy Terri! I have done this recently with hot dogs & bacon. Both hubby & I enjoy a hot dog or a bacon & egg meal.
    But both these meats are high in nitrates which isn’t good & we’ve found affects our tummies if eaten too often, so we now have these as a treat every now & then.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    1. Thanks so much Jennifer! Like you and your hubby, we like to have hot dogs and bacon from time to time, but we really limit them. I hope you’re doing well and staying safe sweet friend. Blessings to you!

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