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What is healthy?

It may not mean what you think it means.

“You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.” -Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

This line from one of my favorite movies seems pretty appropriate.

Healthy. We throw this word around in all kinds of ways. Related to food, to exercise, to lifestyle, etc. But…what does it mean? Most people don’t realize that it is defined by the FDA for food. Yes – there is guidance for the ability to call a food “healthy”, which levels the playing field for any food you may encounter in the grocery store.

It may not align with what YOU personally think is healthy. It may not be inclusive enough of the many ways we use it to describe other things related to our lifestyle, either.

Why, you ask, does this matter?

If you use a word that can mean lots of things but you don’t articulate which way you mean it, you could have a really weird conversation because the person(s) you are talking to may think you mean something totally different. Your conversation could take an odd turn down a rabbit hole.

From a medically relevant perspective, what current science says is “healthy” for the general public may be WAY off for an individual. Case in point: you have a digestive disorder of some sort that impacts your relationship with fiber, nuts, seeds, gluten, lactose, or a variety of other things. There are loads of reasons why “healthy” is in no way the same thing for every single person on this planet.

Don’t judge a person by what they choose to eat.

Don’t assume that what is good for you is good for everyone.

Don’t assume that someone isn’t interested in their own health or that of the planet by what is on their plate.

Have grace and kindness when talking to everyone about their food views.

Food is for nourishing our bodies and minds and there are all kinds of wonderful choices for each person to select for their personal needs.

Have no judgment on what people choose to eat because the only one who really knows what is “healthy” for you is…YOU. With the help of your medical team as appropriate, of course, with a nod to science behind “all” the things that impact our health and our food needs, we can all find our path to “healthy”.

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.

4 replies on “What is healthy?”

Wow… What is healthy?
Kim this is my favorite of all you have ever shared. It reminds me of an ancient saying that translates: “From a pure spring flows pure water”. This refers to our physical, mental and spiritual being….. health 😊
Thank You!

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