Look on Pinterest or search for recipes, and you’ll find loads labeled as “healthy”. I’ve recently been moving away from the word in the pursuit of real health.

I have nothing against living a life that focuses on living well and promotes health. I’m a dietitian, that’s what I help people do!

The problem is when that goes to extreme levels and negatively impacts living. What does that look like? Not being able to eat-out for fear of there being appropriate food to eat; spending hours in the grocery reading food labels to make sure everything meets a specific criteria; labeling unacceptable foods ‘poison’, ‘toxic’, or the like, when they’re not actually. And there’s the opposite end of eating past the point of comfort and not honouring your own tastes when a food is labeled healthy. 

What makes something “healthy”? Look at some recipes and it seems to be anything from following a specific (weight loss) diet, including an ingredient that has health benefits, or excluding any particular ingredient. 

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being…”

Food does so much more for us than just keep us well or  provide nutrients. It helps us socialize with others, practice religion, celebrate joyous occasions and offers support during sadness. But this multi-purpose isn’t portrayed when a food is labeled as “healthy”.

Dictionary.com defines nourishing as promoting  or  sustaining  life,  growth,  or  strength. I recently used this word when counselling parents on how to feed their family. When I explained it to their 10 year old, I gave the example of how he might have some chocolate cake to celebrate a big accomplishment, or cupcakes at a birthday party. While they may not have vitamins and minerals, they served the purpose of making a happy celebration even more exciting. Spaghetti and meatballs for dinner may not be as joyous; they provide nutrients for growth. Both scenarios feed and sustain us in different ways. Both are just as important for our wellness and well-being. 

Moving away from “healthy” and towards “nourishing” has helped solidify my belief that all food fits into a balanced lifestyle. It allows for less black and white thinking around food, as this demonstrates numerous benefits beyond the nutrition facts label. Now when I see the word “healthy” describing a food I’m concerned about what it’s lacking or how it’s contributing to a skewed version of healthy living (read: diet culture)

Ready to join me on reclaiming the word healthy? These books are great resources to help you raise children that are well nourished and have a positive relationship with food.