The Roundup -

Healthy Is Hard To Define


When it comes to selecting the foods we eat, nothing seems more confusing than choosing “healthy” options. We are constantly bombarded with information about food products, nutrition and ingredient information on the news, social media and Pinterest. If you find yourself confused by “healthy” options, you aren’t alone.

Over twenty years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) narrowed down a definition of “healthy” that was allowable to use on food packaging to mean foods low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and contain at least 10% of certain nutrients. But that was in 1993, and food and nutrition science has come a long way since then.

The 1993 definition of “healthy” focused mostly on total fat content, which is an important part of nutrition, but nutrition science has shown that the type of fats contained in a food product tells more about its “healthiness”. For example, according to the 1993 FDA definition, foods that we now accept as healthy, such as nuts, whole grains, and salmon, would not meet the criteria of healthy foods as accepted n 1993. We now know that these foods contain the “good fats” called unsaturated fats, that nutrition science shows may reduce your risk of heart disease. In contrast, the “bad fats”, the saturated fats, can build up in your body and cause weight gain, high cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. In short, it is clear that not all fats are created equal, and the 1993 definition of “healthy” isn’t particularly consistent with current dietary recommendations.

So what should you be eating? Nutrition science suggests that one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to diet. Specific recommendations for nutrition will come from your health care provider and will be based on your specific health conditions. For example, providers may recommend a diet low in fat and sodium for those at risk of heart disease, or a diet high in folic acid, found in beans and dark green vegetables, for pregnant women.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends having a balanced diet consisting of foods from all of the five food groups. This mean choosing whole grains, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and unsaturated fats. Nutritionists currently recommend managing portion size as a means to promote health, and eating fresh, unprocessed foods when available. Fresh foods are more likely to be rich in fiber and other nutrients as well as lower in fats and sugars than processed foods.

For more information, check out the Richland County Nutrition Coalition Facebook page at, and the Pinterest page at


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