What Does “Eating Healthy” Even Mean?!

Most of us desire to eat a healthy diet. But how do we define what “healthy” eating is?

Well, according to all the information I’ve read over the course of my adult life, it would appear to me that, in order to be healthy, we should all be eating a low fat, no fat, high fat, low carb, high carb, vegan, low cholesterol, whole grain, no grain, soaked grain, low calorie, sugar free, soy free, pork free, dairy free, gluten free, and whatever you do – don’t ever eat real butter…diet.

I’m not sure about you, but since this pretty much eliminates everything but asparagus, I’m left feeling a little bit hungry.

Why does there have to be so much conflicting information out there, and why is there generally significant research to back up each claim? I’ve even seen studies done to show that high fructose corn syrup is actually good for you. Are you kidding me?!

About the only consistent information I’ve seen in most dietary recommendations is the advice to eat lots of vegetables and to drink plenty of water. Yay, something we can all agree on. But where does that leave us in regard to everything else we should be eating?

I think there is much that we each need to figure out for ourselves, but I will tell you where I have landed on defining what I feel is truly healthy. Am I the authority on the subject? Good grief, no. I have done years of research and feel much peace about the foods I feed my family. But I’m just the mom next door who is having a bad hair day. As with everything, don’t just take my word for it. Check into it for yourself. Pray about it. Ask God to show you what is best for your family.

So how do I define what food is “healthy”?

I believe that real, whole food is healthy.

By real, whole food, I’m talking about real butter, full fat milk and cream, grains in their whole form, real fruits and vegetables, real meat, real cheese, real oils, real salt. Fruit snacks are not real food, nor are they really fruit. Strawberry filling in a poptart is not real.  Margarine is not real food. And on and on it goes when we look at the many processed foods that fill our grocery stores.   If I can’t recognize the ingredients in a product, it is possible that while it is perhaps edible, it should not really be considered a “food”. I trust food that has been around forever. Stuff like Cheese Whiz?  It was invented in 1953 by a food scientist.  Oh, and for the record – when I was looking up the ingredients in Cheese Whiz, I actually found an article proving its health benefits! See? Told you there was “research” to back up just about any claim!

I believe that it is important to maintain a balanced approach in our diet.

I realize that many of you have special dietary restrictions and must eat dairy free, gluten free, etcetera – so of course there are exceptions to this point. But I’ve tinkered through the years with eliminating certain food groups and I’ve got to say, I feel best when I’m eating a well balanced diet full of a variety of good, whole, nutritious foods. If I have a meal with roast, carrots, potatoes, gravy, green beans and a glass of milk – wow do I feel good. But, if I skip protein or vegetables in a meal, boy do I feel it. Balanced meals are so satisfying because our bodies have received a healthy balance of a great variety of needed nutrients. And shucks, now I’m hungry for a big roast beef dinner. ;)

I believe we can over-think it and make healthy eating too complicated.

Free range, organic, grass fed, soaked, fermented – what is best? What about eating low fat, low carb, or trying all varieties of diets in order to lose weight or to be healthy?  I just want to eat real food. I just want to focus on the basics. Nothing complicated. Nothing gourmet. Just real, whole foods that please my family and offer nourishment. I breathe a sigh of relief when I remember that all I really need to do is make my family’s favorite foods with the healthiest ingredients that I can get my hands on and my budget to work around. God knows my heart and my desire to care for my family in the best way that I can. I feel peace when I let go of the complicated questions I have about healthy eating, and instead simply let God be the true care-taker of my family.

How do you define “healthy eating”? I’d love to hear.

Comments

  1. Tracy says

    Well said!! Having been on Weight Watchers and done several different diets in my twenties and early thirties, I have never felt the contentment that I feel now, eating whole, real, God-made foods! Great post, Laura!

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  2. says

    amen! You’ve said it perfectly-so much that I had to pop over from mr reader to comment. :)

    I so agree that we have to balance doing our best eating healthy with God’s admonition to not worry about what we eat, wear, or live. Our focus needs to be on Him and not endlessly reading researching and preparing food. You have a good balance, which is why I’m a faithful reader- thanks!

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  3. says

    Thanks so much for this post! I try to do a little research before I make my choice and like you said you can find research to back up any claim. So I make my choices like you do using whole foods. My 3 year old grand daughter and I are still having the debate about the Poptarts she loves so much…Mamal won’t buy them anymore. We will be making the homemade ones in the coming weeks :)

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  4. says

    I just put my roast with carrots and potatoes in the crock pot before I sat down to read this! And yes it does sound good! I am gradually finding my way to healthier eating thanks in part to websites like yours. Although on my roast I am still using packets of seasoning from the store (you know, the ones where the main ingredient is likely MSG). I am just making small steps at a time. For me healthy eating is about balance and eating in a way that makes our bodies feel better not worse.

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    Jen Reply:

    Becky… YUM! I might have to throw a roast in the crock pot now, too. :) Good for you taking baby steps to healthier eating. That’s how we did it, and we’re not perfect, but we eat so much better than we used to.

    I just wanted to tell you that I quit using those packet for my roast, and tried many different recipes… none of which wowed us. Then, I tried simple, and it’s awesome! My husband thinks I make the best roast now. All I do is liberally salt and pepper my roast, and throw it in with about 1/2 cup of water. That’s it! So good! We were blessed to find a local farm to purchase grass fed beef in bulk last summer. I’m sure the quality meat makes a difference. What could be easier (or cheaper) than salt, pepper and water? Best wishes!

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    Kathy Reply:

    I agree, simple ingredients make a great roast! I too gave up the MSG-laden season packets. Now I just put a little expeller pressed coconut oil in a Dutch oven, get it nice and hot, and throw in an entire onion that’s been cut in half, let it brown a little and remove to a plate. Do the same with carrots that are sliced in about 2-inch pieces. Then add the roast and onions back to the pot, throw in a clove or two of garlic, and a sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme. Roast for about 4 hours. Tender and super flavorful every time! Serve mashed potatoes on the side. Yum!

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    Jen Reply:

    This sounds great too, Kathy! I’ll have to give it a try. I’m always looking for more ways to get coconut oil into our diets. It really is amazing how simple ingredients are the best, and allow the flavor of whatever I’m cooking to shine through. I tried all kinds of crazy recipes for salmon fillets for a few years. We always liked them, but again, nothing wowed us. Then I did the same thing as the roast. I salted and peppered the fillets, and sauted them in a little butter/olive oil combo in my cast iron skillet. Best salmon ever, and the only way I cook it now. It literally takes about 8-10 minutes. Talk about fast food!

    Melisa Reply:

    We have discovered that EVERYTHING (okay, not eggs) is better in a cast iron skillet! I can’t believe I
    lived so long without one!

    Anonymous Reply:

    Even EGGS are great in a cast iron skillet!!! Ok, it has to be seasoned enough first to keep them from becoming a sticky mess! I turn my skillet on med and let it preheat with about a tblsp of coconut oil rubbed on the pan. After about 5-10 mins, the oil has soaked in and I have a non-stick surface. I then melt a little butter and add eggs and scramble. No messy pan! REALLY!

  5. Sandy says

    We’ve had excellent results in health with the Schwarzbein plans. Balanced, sane information. Some of us because of genetic heredity have to go very easy on certain grains (or skip gluten), but there are still plenty of wonderful carbs to eat in moderation. Otherwise you’ve hit the nail on the head. Eat real food-how hard is that?

    But believe it or not, not everyone agrees on the admonition to drink plenty of water. My father is a fan of a some internet quack “doctor” who says that we shouldn’t drink too much water because it’s hard on the kidneys. Crazy. I think this doctor’s goal is to constipate his readers and make them feel terrible so they think they need to order the doctor’s private line of snake oils.

    ~Sandy

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  6. says

    Yes! REAL food is healthy food. Genetically modified phood (gmo’s) is NOT food. God didn’t make gmo’s. They’re not healthy. They’re worse than anything processed and/or artificial ever could be. (They even become part of your intestinal bacteria, alter YOUR dna, and continue their function of making pesticides in your body!)

    So, whole food is important, but beware of it’s genetic make-up!

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  7. says

    I really appreciate this perspective. While I do agree with many of the tenants of the free range / organic movement, my husband is not totally sold on the idea. So we don’t tend to buy organic or free range especially since our budget is so limited. It can be frustrating to hear people tell me that anyone can afford organic if they are willing to make the right sacrifices. I have a child and one on the way. My husband and I have some serious student loan debt to contend with. I’m happy we’re at least eating healthy, but articles that focus only on healthy eating as defined by free range organic food only makes the rest of us feel like failures. Yes, I do let my daughter eat fruit cocktail canned in it’s own juices (no added sugar) during winter when other fruits are too pricey. I’ve been known to throw canned veggies and beans into a soup to fill it out. I make homemade bread with regular white flour instead of whole wheat. But I try to stick to a whole food philosophy as much as possible. I prefer homemade to prepackaged for almost everything. (I still can’t make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes instead of canned). Thanks so much for taking a balanced approach.

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  8. Amanda says

    I feel the same way…I do feel physically better if my grains are soaked, but in the end, I give it to God and make sure that what I’m feeding my family doesn’t make me cringe but makes me feel good :-) It seems like anything in life to the extreme is not good – except for your love of God!

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  9. Allie says

    Thank you for putting this so kindly and stating that each family needs to go by how God leads them – not how other families do it. In my home we eat a grain, legume and plant based diet mostly and it’s worked wonders for us. I do eat eggs though and I am comfortable with that. Our bodies work well and adjust well to how we eat, just as others bodies work better on other diets. My daughter and I literally cannot digest dairy – it makes us very ill. I appreciate not seeing those who don’t eat like you attracked, which I’ve seen on other blogs written by “real” food eaters and I stopped reading anything they wrote. I love visiting here and tweaking recipes for our family. :) So thanks again for your kindness!

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  10. says

    I have had the belief for several years now that if God provided it for us, it is the best. How can it be that something made in a factory and called “I can’t believe it’s not butter” is better for us than actual, came from the cow, BUTTER? My mother-in-law would totally disagree. But for me, and my family, it’s simple. If it is a gift from God, it is good. Amen.

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  11. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the grace of this post.

    I really try to feed my family good, whole, real food – but when I spend much time on homemaking blogs I generally feel like I’m falling short because I do things like…buy tortillas instead of making them (I have a 17-month-old who will not tolerate Mom rolling tortillas for 45 minutes before dinner). Or because I don’t soak the whole-wheat muffins I make. It gets disheartening.

    What I love about this post (and your entire site!) is your gentle, do-the-best-you-can approach. I do believe that our intentions count, even when we aren’t perfect. So, thank you for this.

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  12. Erin says

    Whole foods all they way. If your grandmother and her mother were not eating it when they were young then it’s not real food. It kills me when I see Weight Watchers branded snacks (loaded with sugar and chemicals) being eaten by coworkers trying to lose weight. What ever happened to a piece of fruit or carrot sticks as a healthy snack.

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  13. mrs.p says

    I totally agree. Today, I went through all my food cupboards and threw away food. I end up with one and half garbage bags. I even threw away the pancake syrup (the one with the lady on ). I will be buying real maple syrup. Starting to make my kids there snacks. I ran out of microwave popcorn and instead of buying more. I bought kernal for the popcorn. Baby steps baby steps. Will be going grocery shopping at the end of the week. Lets see what new things will be in the cart. Right down I making a batch of steel oats for the week.

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  14. Janet says

    So good to remind us to listen to God about our specific needs. I don’t have the money to purge the bad stuff but am replacing it now with items that God made. I tend to think that if I can I buy it and see only ingredients God made (with seeds maybe) then it is healthy. That doesn’t work for when we are on the road but when we are home that works very well.
    Great Post.

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  15. Hiyas Quelle says

    Hi Laura!!

    I am quite new to your site and I am thankful for it. I am grateful for your very practical, easy to read and follow recipes and suggestions. Your site have encouraged me to go back to my roots! I am from the Philippines and grew up with my Mom and Grandma’s traditional whole food cooking. When I moved it here to the US 12 years ago, I just took everybody’s word (TV ads, grocery stores, etc) that packaged and processed foods are good for you. Didn’t check it out for myself. But thank be to God for your site and others, that have helped me realize what healthy food and eating is. I am a fan and will be checking your site A LOT!

    Thanks again and God bless.

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  16. Debby Pietrowski says

    Thank you for your post. I have been trying to improve the way we eat since my son was born. I finally borrowed Nourishing Traditions from the library, and I have been completely overwhelmed. It seems when I think I have it right I read something that contradicts it. Your post came with perfect timing. So I will just slow down, make small changes and do what works for us. Thank you. I still have not given up my daily can of Pepsi yet though (I known, but baby steps!) Thanks again for helping me to gain some perspective.

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  17. Brooke says

    You’re having a bad hair day too? ;) Story of my life!

    Thanks for writing this Laura. It seems like at least every other day I’m so overwhelmed with food in general. Whether it’s staying away from sweets that make me feel like crap after I eat them or trying to catch on my meals or stressed that I cannot buy everything Organic/F.R. It’s good to be reminded that God is in control and we just need to do our best.
    I do have to say that on this journey of eating whole foods – I do really agree with you on what REAL food is.

    Thank you for your research and wisdom that you impart on us. Thank you for your guidance and your website :)

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  18. says

    I agree with this post. For years, I got sidetracked and convinced myself it was too hard, expensive, etc to eat healthy. The biggest help to me has been to look at something and ask if someone 200 years ago would recognize it as food, which cuts out most of the processed and artificial stuff.

    I started asking myself that and trying to cook with fresh, simple ingredients. Not only have my husband and I lost weight and found that we have had more energy and less illness, but our overall food budget dropped and we find that we don’t have the cravings for fast food and junk food like we used to.

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  19. Sarah Michelle says

    I’ve been interested in nutrition since highschool. Our little 3 year old boy has rarely had any convenience food and had only had sweets a small handful of times. He loves fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m so thankful that my husband and I were into healthy eating before he was born, so we have no bad habits for him to break as far as eating unhealthy goes. In fact, our problem is getting him to eat anything other than raw fruits, veggies, and eggs. Occasionally he will do oatmeal and beans, but doesn’t seem to care for most grains and meat or cooked vegetables. As frustrating as it is, I try to remain grateful that our son eating “too healthy” is the only parenting obsticle God has given us so far.

    I love how you don’t critize those who are not as far along on their healthy eating lifestyle as you are. For the most part I’m very at peace where my family is eating wise, but have a few more things I want to work at such as raw milk…no access to it, so we settle for grassfed non-homogized when we do drink it, which is rarely. The only thing I feel any remote guilt over is going out to eat once a week, but we do nice sitdown places and order pretty healthy, so that’s a step above fast food I suppose. I personally would rather cook, but the husband grew up eating out a lot and enjoys going out to eat for dinner as a family every Saturday. Who am I to argue that? :-)

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  20. says

    I love this post so much! I just really started getting into real food, and it can be overwhelming learning about all this. Your conclusions seem to be my conclusions as well, although you know way more about all this than I do! Thankyou for all you do!

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  21. says

    You shared my heart. I believe in eating healthy, but with all the different studies that actually contradict each other it can be confusing. Ultimately whole foods, naturally raised or grown, and minimally processed (lightly cooked, ground, etc.) are ideal. I choose to stick with wisdom from the Bible, eat a variety of foods and take all these studies with a “grain of salt.”

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  22. Jennifer Johnson says

    I needed this reminder. One time I was trying to figure out what is best to be eating and I was looking at different “must reads” I had heard about. My head was spinning as some of them were contradicting each other. God spoke to my spirit and said that He doesn’t desire me to spend so much time trying to figure it all out and that fueling my body is not supposed to be as complicated as I was making it. He impressed upon me to eat foods as close to the way He made them as I can. I’m still a work in progress, but that was so freeing for me and something I continue to fall back on when another good/bad thing about food comes up.

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  23. Lois says

    Someone said it, you have a gentle, balanced approach. My definition of healthy eating is just like yours. Cook and eat in. It’s dangerous when well-meaning Christians make food choices a salvation issue. I read a brochure once from a group of “Christian Vegans” who claimed it was against God’s will to consume any animal products. They used scripture to back up their claims. All of the scripture used was before the fall. But anyway, let’s not make food a matter of division. (Romans 14). I don’t want to be judged because I eat glutin and soy products! And I won’t judge someone else who uses refined sugar.

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  24. Faith says

    I just wanted to say that God used this post to speak to me today and help me deal with some issues of confusion I have been dealing with for the last few days. Thank you so much for following Gods calling on your life, and I hope you have great Valentines day. God bless!

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  25. Teresa says

    Laura,
    God has gifted you with the talent of uplifting in your writing and I feel very blessed by it. We can become.in bondage by our struggles when we are trying to feed our family healthy. I try to simple remember man is the one who messes up– if he has intervend in our food supply by changing it -it is usually unhealthy. Stay with how God made it. I love how you describe your thoughts and how we all are only human.

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  26. Alyssa says

    Thanks, Laura, for this post…and thanks for being gentle in your encouragement towards healthy eating. I am VERY grateful that you don’t go on the offensive the way some other bloggers do..We are getting healthier, slowly, but surely…and there are some items that I can’t find an acceptable replacement for so we have decided that there are a couple of compromise items that we won’t give up…and I have also decided that I am NOT going to feel bad about it…I have four kids and I homeschool and we are working our way ‘out of the box’…that’s all I can do right now and we are thrilled with it! :)

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