Healthy Eating

Is (insert food du jour) Good for Me?

The synergy between food choices is important to consider, both on the farm and on the table.

Updated 10/2020

I work with National Pork Board and other farmer-led organizations,. This post is inspired by my thoughts on how amazing agriculture is, with contributions and synergy we seldom pause to reflect upon. In a world where it’s easy to get caught up in the hurry, taking a moment to see the full story is essential.

Is (insert food du jour) good for me?

balanced eating plant based

I get asked this question regularly, about foods from all five food groups. Usually, people expect a yes or no, and often, they seem to assume they already know what my response will be.

Would it surprise you to know that my answer is more likely to be a question back?  There are many ways to eat healthfully, and the synergy between food choices is essential to consider, both on farm and on the table. If we choose a lean meat and pair it with a refined grain, we must get fiber elsewhere. If we choose something high in sodium, we need to balance it with lower sodium choices. It’s a constant dance of pairing foods to deliver on taste, nutrition, convenience, budget, and more….and this is just from the nutrition perspective.

We have always thought about food. Originally, we thought with concern if there would be enough to survive. With agriculture, we could focus on specific details because farmers provide our safe, affordable, nutritious food supply. This is where the story starts.

Is meat good? Both fresh and prepared meat play an important role in meals around the world. Before refrigeration, cured meats were critical for survival. Safe and nutritious to help get us through winters. Salt was essential from a food safety perspective. Once refrigeration became available, fresh meat, like lean pork tenderloin and sirloin, allowed for nutrition without added salt. Our choices expanded.

If you dig into details beyond protein, which is one of the simplistic filters people use, meat offers a bioavailable, diverse source of many nutrients, including iron, zinc, Vitamin B12, and several others that aren’t as plentiful in other foods. In addition to being nutrient-rich in and of itself, it can help boost the meal. For example – did you know that combining iron-rich plant-based foods with animal sources of protein (and sources of Vitamin C) can help improve iron absorption?

If we choose to skip a specific food, we must make up the nutrients. It’s that simple. The “good for me” question is really about choice. It requires deeper consideration for all that each food does for us, and how to get what is missing if we don’t eat it..

A “healthy diet” is one that helps us prevent and/or manage chronic disease, supports physical/mental success, respects cultural and personal preferences, considers the farmer, considers our personal needs and tastes.  Wise choices provide as much nutrition as possible for the calories we are consuming paired with enjoyment.

What will you choose to achieve this?

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.