What if We Are Asking the Wrong Questions About our Food?

 “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 which we can talk about another time), read on for my picks. I’m not kidding. They may seem so simple that it’s hard to imagine they are useful. But they are. I like to find the easiest way to make the most impact. The Average American falls short on fruits, vegetables, and dairy  and overeats added sugar, fat, protein foods, and grains.  Ask yourself these questions (based on the food groups and current understanding; www.choosemyplate.gov), and you’ll be on a good path to better balance and the mix of nutrients your body needs to manage your health and weight.  Really. (Please note that if you choose to opt out of certain food groups for personal reasons and/or need to because of allergies, click through the links provided to get more ideas on how to navigate and still get the mix of nutrients you need and/or leave me a comment/question below so we can get at those details too. Like I said. Complex. But totally do-able.)

  1. Daily: Did I eat fruit today?
    • Weekly: how many of them were whole and deep, vibrant colors (the more color, the more nutrition, typically)?
  2. Daily: Did I eat vegetables today?
  3. Daily: Did I eat dairy today?
    • Weekly: How many of my choices were full fat or low fat/fat free?
  4. Daily: What were my fiber-rich grain choices today?
    • Weekly/daily: How many whole grains did I eat?
  5. Daily: What protein did I eat today?
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 for a very particular reason 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. It’s ok. Do the best you can. Get informed from people who know what they are talking about. And remember that part of the fun of life is the discovery of things you didn’t know and course correcting with fun new information.

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

smart phone