Food & Fitness After 50: Scary Foods

1200px-The_ScreamNo, this isn’t about Halloween. It’s about all of the crazy headlines that pop up every time I’m online.  Whether it is the stories that appear on my web browser or that populate my Facebook or Instagram feeds, they all have the same theme. “Don’t eat this food because it will: (a) kill you, (b) cause belly fat, (c) clog your arteries, or (d) all of the above.

In the last few days, here are the headlines I’ve seen:

  • Why you should never eat bananas for breakfast
  • The 5 worst foods for weight loss
  • The 3 unhealthiest foods you can eat
  • Seven foods you had no idea were sugar bombs
  • The 11 foods nutritionists would never, ever eat!

Arghhh….it is maddening.  We all know these headlines are clickbate that generate revenue for all involved, except you, the reader. It gives you anxiety about your food choices and can lead extremes of eating; either you limit your food choices from fear or you throw up your hands and say, “I’ll just eat anything I want because it’s all going to kill me!” I can tell you I NEVER click on these stories so I can’t tell you why you should never eat bananas for breakfast (which is just plain silly) and the “nutritionists” I know might eat less of some foods, but unless they have a health condition, like Celiac disease or diabetes, they don’t go to extremes in their food choices.

The other thing I dislike about these headlines is that the focus is on a single food. I can guarantee that no single food found in the U.S. food supply will kill you (unless contaminated by a virus or bacteria that shouldn’t be there), travel to your belly to be stored as fat, or clog your arteries. What is important is dietary patterns; what you eat over the course of a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, is much more important than consumption of a single food. Last year during the holidays everyone was complaining about the “bad” food choices they made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. My young niece Aku, wisely said, “It’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that is the problem; it’s what you eat between New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving that is!”

SAM_3396What dietary patterns are best? There are many that are healthy, such as the DASH Eating Plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diet. But, many people know the terms without knowing that the “diets” are all about the combination of foods that contribute to their health benefits. Many know about the Mediterranean diet, but they think eating at the local Olive Garden is the same as eating Italian food. Real Italian food is made with fresh, simple ingredients and doesn’t come with unlimited bread sticks and salad. Here’s a photo of a real Italian pizza; fresh tomato sauce, and small amounts of fresh mozzarella cheese. It is not a cheese-stuffed crust with 5 meat toppings.

So, don’t fear your food; if you like ribs, enjoy them at the tailgate party,  just don’t eat them every day.

Balance and vary your diet, too. If you know that the family dinner will be heavy and high in calories, eat light that day or the next day.

Eat more veggies: roasted, steamed, grilled, stir-fried, or oven-baked. Just don’t fry them all of the time.

Snack on fresh fruit in season. It is the original fast food. Fall is the time for crisp apples and juicy citrus fruit, so enjoy.

And one more thought. If you choose to be vegan, gluten-free and eat only organic foods, that is your right and your choice, but please don’t lecture others that what they choose to eat is inferior. I loved this exchange between a dietitian and and her friend. When offered a slice of cake the friend said that she couldn’t eat it because it wasn’t “clean” and would harm her. The dietitian replied, “It’s banana bread; not heroin!”

For more tips on dietary patterns that are recommended for adults 50+, see Food & Fitness After 50.