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Tara Dunker

Tara Dunker

If you’ve ever talked to a dietitian, you’ve likely heard some version of the mantras “all foods fit” or “everything in moderation.”

 Why do dietitians (including myself) insist on repeating these ad nauseum? Because they’re true.

 Why do you feel like doing a full body eye roll every time you hear them? Because they’re vague, and arguably, unhelpful. So, let’s get more specific.

 All foods fit

 With a market determined to demonize certain foods or whole food groups, remember that someone, somewhere is profiting from consumer fear and confusion.

One fun example of this comes to us from Jimmy Kimmel Live, in a little YouTube clip called Pedestrian Question—What is Gluten? If you’re looking for a laugh, watch it.

To summarize, a Kimmel staffer takes to the streets of Los Angeles to ask the question, “What is gluten?” Kimmel kicks off the clip by saying, “People are very anti-gluten, which bothers me because I’m very pro-pizza.”

He elaborates that while some people can’t have gluten for medical reasons (this would be referring to Celiac Disease), a lot of people in L.A. don’t eat gluten because someone in their yoga class told them not to.

An uncomfortably funny three minutes ensues, where all four interviewees confidently profess their avoidance of all things gluten, only to waiver seconds later when asked what gluten is and why they avoid it.

With the market being saturated with conflicting messages and misleading labels, it’s no wonder consumer fear and confusion is at an all-time high when it comes to food. But if you remind yourself that all foods fit into a healthy eating pattern, you can start to base your decisions on facts, instead of fear.

By doing this, you’ll start to see the true and lifelong value of balance and variety.

Striking a balance means eating for nourishment and enjoyment—both of which play a key role in health. You don’t need to be perfect, or cut out any foods, because you have the flexibility to adjust your intakes from one meal to the next to achieve overall balance.

Variety is the spice of life—right? It can’t be a coincidence that this saying is food-related. Avoid boredom by eating a variety of foods from the different food groups, and a variety within each group, for overall health and enjoyment.

Everything in moderation

One of the reasons advertisers have found success in pointing the finger at certain foods and food groups is because consumers have lost sight of how distorted portions have become.

Consider, for example, if you had today’s portions of the following: 1) breakfast—a six-inch bagel and a 16-ounce coffee with sugar and milk, 2) lunch—two slices of pepperoni pizza and a 20-ounce pop, and 3) dinner—a chicken Caesar salad and a 20-ounce pop.

In one day, you would consume 1,595 more calories than if you had eaten the same foods at typical portions served 20 years ago.

That amount of excess calories is astounding when you consider that the total daily recommendation for a moderately active adult is anywhere from 1,800-2,800 calories. And research shows, many adults struggle to move from sedentary to moderately active on most days—myself included.

Not only is cutting out specific foods and food groups misguided, it’s unsustainable. And when a piece of nutrition advice is both misguided and unsustainable, you’re being set up by a market that stands to profit from your failure to be perfect.

Don’t play the perfection game. Instead, focus on balance, variety, moderation (read: smaller portions of the foods you love) and enjoyment. 

That’s what your friendly neighborhood dietitian means when they say “all foods fit” or “everything in moderation.”

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If you have any further questions, please contact Tara Dunker at 402-223-1384, tara.dunker@unl.edu, or visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu.

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