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Are We Asking the Right Questions About Our Food?

Part of the fun of life is the discovery of things you didn’t know and course correcting with new information.

Updated 11/2020

 “Low carb”

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy contain carbohydrates.

“Gluten free”

Gluten free foods often have more calories than their counterparts.


An organic cookie is still a cookie.

The three examples I’ve given above are just a few of the latest ways people seem to be trying to make sense of food and expedite their grocery shopping and food choices.

What if they aren’t the right thing/only thing to think about?

The thing is, each one of these topics merits a conversation with a nutrition/agriculture expert.  As a dietitian, I have had countless conversations about each of these (and more) on their own and sometimes, together.  They are important. They are also individual discussions that need a deeper conversation based on your personal needs and values. They are also not the only thing we need to think about. And unless you have celiac disease and need gluten free, they may not be the primary or right thing to focus on to get to where you are trying to go.

There are 38,900 items in a typical grocery store.  There’s pretty much no way one person  (not even a dietitian) can know the intimate details of tens of thousands of products and their packaging. It’s no wonder people want an easier way to navigate.

What if we are simplifying the wrong thing? 

What if your goal is to watch your weight and/or manage diabetes or heart disease?  Food is a complex topic, but it’s manageable, so don’t despair.

If I had to pick one question per food group to help you get in and out of the store confidently choosing great options for yourself and your loved ones (in addition to label reading), read on. They may seem so simple that it’s hard to imagine they are useful. But they are – I like to find the easiest ways to make the most impact. 

Ask yourself these questions. Please note that if you choose to opt out of certain food groups for personal reasons and/or need to because of allergies, you’ll want to learn how to navigate and still get the mix of nutrients you need. How? Talk with a dietitian like me, stay connected to your doctor about your choices and/or leave me a comment/question below so we can get at those details too.

Questions to ask yourself daily and weekly:

  1. Did I eat fruit today?
    • Weekly: how many of them were whole and deep, vibrant colors (the more color, the more nutrition, typically)?
  2. Did I eat vegetables today?
    • Weekly: how many of them were red, orange, green, or beans?
  3. Did I eat dairy today?
    • Weekly: How many of my choices were full fat or low fat/fat free?
  4. What were my fiber-rich grain choices today?
    • Weekly/daily: How many whole grains did I eat?
  5. What protein did I eat today?
    • Did I eat fish twice this week?
Delicious fish dish I had when travelling internationally. #yum

There are about a gazillion more questions you can ask. I love questions. Let’s just make sure that you don’t get so nervous about not knowing every detail that you give up or start to choose things that might not get you to where you want to be.

Do you know exactly how your smart phone works even though it impacts the environment? Probably not.

Do you drive the most fuel efficient car and know exactly how whatever you drive works? Guessing no. (I don’t know exactly how my car works but I walk alot and chose to live in close proximity (walkable) to train, grocery store, and other things but that’s another story about balance.)

Do you know how they made your favorite shirt or pants and what the impact is on the environment? Maybe not.

Do the best you can. Get informed by people who know what they are talking about.

What will be the thing you get more informed about this week?

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.