There is no magic nutrition wand. Good nutrition is a lifestyle, not a rule book. It’s a moving target for every person, since every day is not the same and there are constantly new foods and new choices. No single food will make or break your health, when eaten in moderation. As a mentor dietitian once told me, “I never give my patients meal plans because I want to teach them how to eat, not what to eat.”
My philosophy that every food fits a healthy lifestyle — there are parameters, though. Portion size is one of those. A person can’t gorge on less nutritious foods daily and expect to be healthy. A few chips with a sandwich at lunch, though, or a small bowl of ice cream occasionally, are fine. If you don’t have nutrition-related health problems or metabolic disorders, there is no need to strictly prohibit any particular food.
The question, “Can I eat __________?” will often be met with, “That depends.” It depends on several factors: what else you eat and how much, how often you eat that food, how much exercise you do, the health risks you may have, and what you’re trying to achieve, among others.
Nutrition can seem paradoxical: It is not black-and-white, but it is also much simpler than how it is generally perceived. A varied diet of foods from each food group is a great general rule of thumb, and figuring out the details is where things get a bit trickier. That’s what dietitians are here for, to help give clients the tools to navigate the choices available in a world full of food. So even though there is no magic nutrition wand we can wave over you, and I won’t tell you what you can and can’t eat, conscious decisions about food choices can lead to a healthier, more nutritious lifestyle.