Monday, May 7, 2012

Is Pudding Healthy or Unhealthy? The Dichotomy of Food Beliefs

Conjure up the image in your mind: a mother lovingly stirs a pot of warm milk on the stove, sweetened with sugar, flavored with vanilla or cocoa, thickened with farm fresh eggs or perhaps a bit of cornstarch. Mama makes the pudding for her children because it is good for them, they smile when they eat it, and it is sweet yet nutritious. Pudding... a nourishing food. Right?

I have always had that image of pudding in my head, even though the pudding of my childhood came from a Jello box and was usually scorched on the bottom from heat raised too high by an impatient mother. After all, who wants to stir constantly for 20 minutes? But the warm, creamy pudding was always a treat, and I thought it was good for me. It was made of milk, and milk was healthy. I adored the first bowl of warm chocolatey pudding just as much as I loved the last bowl a day or two later, chilled and covered with a thick 'skin' of chocolate. When I had children of my own, I continued the tradition by learning to make my own, homemade pudding from scratch. No Jello boxes here! I used freshly milked cows' or goats' milk to make all kinds of puddings: vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, rice. My kids gobbled it up and I felt good about giving it to them.

The mindset I have taken in the last few years is different. It's just not at all consistent with the old thoughts on not just pudding, but many foods. Things I used to consider nourishing and healthy are now labelled unhealthy and even harmful. And this dichotomy of thinking has been the underlying difficulty in my sticking to self-imposed 'rules' about eating. I have TOLD MYSELF that pudding is unhealthy. Yet I am not sure I believe it.

It extends to every ingredient, practically. Milk was *always* a healthy, smart choice when I was growing up and as I raised my children. Milk, it does a body good. It's fitness you can drink. Remember those slogans? A glass of milk gave you calcium and protein to build your body. Yet now, in our modern world, many many people are spewing milk-hate and anti-dairy messages because "cows' milk is for baby COWS" and "humans are the only animal that drinks the milk of another animal" or that "milk is not suited for adult consumption." I dunno, I am not really buying it. I still think milk is good for me. Maybe it's not good for everyone, certainly not for the lactose intolerant. But I still have that ingrained childhood voice in my head telling me that drinking a glass of milk is a GOOD thing for me and my kids.

Sugar? Evil! Right? At least it's the dietary scapegoat lately like fat used to be many years ago. Now they are saying that sugar is the *real* cause of heart disease... not fat. Sugar causes inflammation. Hey, it makes my joints hurt if I eat it. Or maybe if I eat it in certain combinations. Everyone was touting agave nectar a few years ago and now they are saying that is really bad for you. Artificial sweeteners were supposed to be safe and healthier than sugar but I don't buy that either. If you don't get pain from sugar like I do, is it *really* bad for you to have it in moderation? I give it to my kids... not nearly as much as most parents do, but yes, I'd sweeten a pudding with sugar and not even blink about feeding it to my children.

Cornstarch to thicken? Oh my. Have you seen King Corn? Corn is bad for you. Add some rice to your pudding? Big mistake! White rice, which I also was raised on and thought was a healthy choice, is now said to be a poor nutritional choice. But brown rice just doesn't work in pudding... not for me. Yet I revert back to my ingrained childhood feelings about something as simple as white rice: maybe it isn't so good for ME, but surely kids can burn up those simple carbs and need them for fuel. So I make my rice pudding and feel happy when the kids eat it.

So which is it? Is pudding a delicious, nourishing thing to feed yourself and your children? Or is it unhealthy?
Does it become unhealthy if, instead of being made by mama on the stovetop, it is bought pre-made in a plastic container with ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oil, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium alginate, artificial flavor, and artificial color? (thanks Jello)

Certainly I believe homemade *anything* is usually better than processed, since you control the ingredient list. But what would YOU feel your children? Are you one of millions of people who give your kids a pre-made pudding cup because it is primarily made of milk, and is therefore a better choice than many snacks? Do you eat them yourself, in regular or sugar free? Are you willing to overlook the 1% of ingredients that are not exactly nourishing in order to give yourself or your kids a 'healthier' snack? And even the homemade is suspect, as I explained above. Would you feel good giving your family homemade pudding, or is it yet another traditional comfort food that has become 'bad' for us?

And that is the problem for me. Is oatmeal healthy or not? Is whole wheat healthy or not? Is honey healthy or not? How about potatoes? Toast? Ham? You name it, there are people bashing it, studies saying it isn't good, books telling us never to eat it again. Everything but vegetables has become suspect in our society, to the point that your average person on the street has no idea what is good for their body and why. No one can agree, not even the nutritionists. And that's where my own internal conflict has come from: my own mixed feelings about these beliefs about food, what is healthy, what is not.

I do know I should not feel like I am poisoning myself if I have a bowl of Raisin Bran for breakfast, or a baked potato with my chicken dinner. It is time for a major overhaul of food beliefs for me... losing the insanity that comes with being afraid to eat what used to be the nourishing staples of ones' life. I am not talking candy bars and cupcakes and potato chips, here, which most people would agree are not particularly nourishing to the body (although perhaps, at times, to the soul); I am talking noodles. Beef. Vegetable lasagna. Eggs with bacon. And homemade pudding.

52 comments:

Diandra said...

This is a problem many people encounter when they start reading up on nutrition. A friend of mine was so scared for a while she basically ate nothing but apples and celery. Which is not exactly a helathy diet, either. (She has gotten over it.)

In my opinion, which is purely subjective, it is not those foods that make us unhealthy, but the overall lifestyle. People have been drinking milk and eating cheese for centuries, and it was a way to survive in times when food was not something you simply "picked up" on your way home. But until a few decades ago, most people also used to work really hard, physically, and move around a lot. There were less chemicals used in everyday things - less plastic, no artificial sweeteners, no "it looks like butter and isn't!". Most people also ate way less of the calorie-dense foods (sugar, fat, ... ). Vegetables could be grown in your own garden and conserved for year-round use. I think if we keep this in mind, keep moving and steer clear of of toxic materials, we should be fine.

Having said this, the best way of finding out what is good for *you* is to forget all those frightening "This used to be good and now it isn't!" pseudo news, eat something and see how your body reacts to it. If sugar makes your joints hurt, it is not good for you. If low-carb makes you constipated, it is not good for you. If meat makes you feel energetic and satisfied, you should eat it.

MargieAnne said...

Hi Lyn. This is such a good post and you pose an important question. Knowing what is healthy must be a terribly dilemma for many parents.

As an older person and a New Zealander I grew up on farm fresh food and the processed food giants had little impact on our eating habits until after my children were grown up.

It was an easy matter for me to look back and realise naturally grown food is a good option. I have always been uneasy about the variety of food additives and why manufacturers use so many chemical processes.

Until recently most families in NZ ate homemade meals but now most mothers work outside the home so suffer from time pressures just as they do in USA and UK etc..

I am so grateful for cooking programs on TV because at least some people are being inspired to create meals from good food.

Another thing that's helped me has been faith in God, our creator. I believe we have been provided with all the food we need to eat healthy. I have looked back at what my grandparents achieved on their diet. They did not suffer from obesity nor did their generation appear to have many of the health problems we see today.

Two things stand out. They ate mostly fresh foods simply cooked and took pride in feeding their families. Nor did they go to the gym but they did plenty of walking.

I wish I could still buy non-homogenised, non-pasturised milk. We are blessed in that our beef and lamb are still grass fed and generally our veggies do not travel huge distances to markets.

Magazines and news programmes are full of extremes. Often the researchers release results gained from abnormal test studies. It's all very confusing if you try to listen to it all.

You have a better understanding than many people of how the science of food and nutrition works. Dare I add to your dilemma by suggesting you read Wheat Belly by Tom Naughton if you have not yet done so. I am yet to read the whole book but I do think it will give you much food for thought and maybe answer some of your questions.

Blessings.

Anna Down Under said...

There are only 3 species on earth with weight problems - humans, cats and dogs. Aside from our pets, most animals tend to eat what they were designed to eat. We don't. And we haven't for SO many years, so that's why these delicious comfort foods we were raised on FEEL like they must be good for us. They have so many happy childhood memories for many of us. so of course we don't want to believe they're bad for us. I'm sure the home made is generally better the the processed store-bought version, but in my opinion, it doesn't contribute towards achieving a healthy weight. Whether to eat pudding or not is most certainly a personal choice; all I know is I feel so much better sticking to plant-based whole foods.

Deniz said...

Way to go Lyn! I agree with you that (in general) home made foods prepared from good ingredients can't be a 'bad' thing.

Research findings can seem to provide so much conflicting 'evidence' it's hard to see what we should or shouldn't think...

But, as with so many things in life, I believe that moderation is the key to keeping things in balance.

Enjoy that pudding (now and again)!

Anonymous said...

I know what you are saying. I believe everything is ok in moderation. I eat fresh food and prepare our meals from scratch 90% of the time. The other 10% we eat out (at nice places), we snack, we eat chocolate and we have an odd beer / wine.
I think messages get confused with the "fad" diets, shakes are good for you, lots of meat and fat is good, bread is bad, fruit is bad because of carbs / sugar etc etc.
In the UK the best (healthiest) diet was apparantly after the war when rationing was still on - the diet was mainly made up of meat and veg, with home cooked puddings! Portions were not big and no/little fast food!

Anonymous said...

I think it is definitely a very personal thing and that NO ONE should be shamed for their food choices.

I still hold tightly to calories in/calories out simply because it works for ME. Nothing is off limits. Last weekend, I had a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, but my weight is fine because I kept an eye on the rest of my calories.

Maybe other people are harmed by certain foods and need to avoid them. I can also understand if people have ethical concerns when it comes to animals. But they need to understand that not everyone agrees or shares the same body type.

Anonymous said...

I like to think that home made pudding and other treats are okay. My grandmothers ate them and they lived to their eighties.I don't know about you, but a life with only brown rice and kale sounds dismal. Being reasonable is key. I think you do really well with picking healthy foods for your family. You're a good cook and they sound like they're thriving.
Like you, I have a weight problem that goes very deep, but my kids are okay. Thank God it isn't contagious, right? I love your blog because I'm so glad I'm not the only one who agonizes over these issues. We could be a lot worse off than we are.

Nmmumaw said...

I have to agree with the idea that demonizing certain foods has been taken to an extreme degree in today's health and wellness world.

I use artificial sweeteners, but I also use regular nutritive sweeteners. I usually top my homemade ice cream with a couple good spoonfuls of Japanese black sugar. I eat loads of soy in the form of tofu. I take in a hefty amount of saturated fat from my coconut products, and I add sesame oil to lots of my food. I readily eat white rice, and I don't shy away from white bread.

The only additive I make a conscientious attempt to avoid is trans fats. To my knowledge, they are one of the few ones universally accepted as deleterious to health.

I don't want to make it sound like people who avoid things I indulge in are paranoid or anything. Lots of people have legitimate sensitivities/allergies/intolerances. But I can't help but wonder if some of the Food Hatred stems more from the psychological need to make off-limits food easier to shun because they're "evil," rather than just something a person can't allow themselves.

Food for thought.

Kristi said...

Nothing you said is "bad" for you. The problem you and I have is portions. Some people an have a 1 1/2x 1 1/2 inch lie e of lasagna and not tough it again, ever. They can have. 2 oz of pudding and let go to waste if no one else eats it. You and I can't. You have. Een posting a lot of why cant I do this or this lately. It sounds like your inner child is trying to get what it wants, with a logical excuse. The problem is we don't eat logically. This is how we can gain almost 100 lbs in a year. Hugs, keep saying no.

timothy said...

in moderation all natural foolds are healthy, sugar however is NOT a food the human body is designed to process and it's increase in consumption is DIRECTLY correlated to heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc etc. waaay to long to quote but here's an over-view article
http://www.shareguide.com/sugar.html

Sarah said...

Wow, this has been an internal conversation I've had with myself for a couple years now. Makes my head swim. I've got no answer for how to get out of it, but if you come up with something, please be sure to share.

I guess for me and my kiddos I'm trying to stick to: whole fruits, veggies, whole grains (yeah, my whole grain bread has HF corn syrup) and leaner meats. I do the best I can, with the best information I have available to me.

I know trusting in what *my* family did is a bad option: hello rampant obesity and type 2 diabetes. So, I'd rather accept the ever changing, but currently widely accepted food advice than buy into something I KNOW will make me and my kids sick. *shrug*

Great post. :)

lisa~sunshine said...

I've posted to you on more than one occassion about Orthorexia.. this DIPS into that.. I was here.. went from fat to worrying about all this CLEAN eating stuff.. when in reality.. it boils down to being fat because I OVERATE... Not because of a cup of pudding .. be it homemade or in a plastic dish.. I would feed my kids either one.. but that's the rule.. ONE.. no they can't have that and huge quanities of other things.. After they pick one thing like this.. then they pick something that is a fruit or a veggie.. or a one ingredient item..
From my experience.. yes I believe sugar contributed to bad health when it was consumed in LARGE quanities because fat was removed so it had to be added.. and I do believe that sugar causes a reaction to want more of it.. and that leads to the over eating which is what I think causes the health problems.. not the food itself but the binge/overeating that happens from it..
So.. I believe full fat milk is best because it has less sugars.. but it's more calorie dense so you must watch that part.. I believe regular pudding or regular icecream are fine.. but not 3 scoops of icecream on a waffle cone.. dipped in chocoalte.. covered in sprinkles.. with whip topping.. and gummy bears.. this where things seem to go for people.. and kids.. and I think this part stems from the quality of foods.. and how they are marketed.. and what we can get for our dollar.. which seems like more and I think we are trained to get as much as we can.. because economically.. it sounds right..

Rant done..

I think you are coming around and understanding that all the hoopla of the NET that puts fear into everyone.. and in turn just wants your money.. needs to be taken and meshed with your beliefs..

I believe I need to be a Happy person.. eat WHAT I want.. but I don't exceed calories and overeat.. I also need to move my body.. it's not a huge role in weightloss but it's huge for my health..

Finding a BALANCE.. that's key for me..

So.. eat your pudding.. just not the whole pot of it..

lisa~sunshine said...

Lynn.. I know you have been sick and I know you stopped exercise because of your own reasons.. but this has been traveling around the net and it's very inspirational.. I wanted to make sure you have seen it...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qX9FSZJu448

Colleen said...

Honestly what resolved this for me was reading actual research on the matter. Some of it I read through summaries by people like Lyle McDonald who have the academic background to translate the endrocrinology and nutrition science. Apparently the book "Good calories, bad calories" was written by a contributing author to the journal Science which is one of the highest ranked, peer reviewed journals for research out there, so that might be a good starting point. Rena Wing was a collaborator with my former research lab; she runs the National Weight Control Registry at Brown; they also research this stuff. Read the published science; most of it is available free through google scholar.

It took diving into the science of what your body actually *does* with food, and how the endocrine system responds, and especially how the endocrine system is likely disrupted after significant weight loss for me to "get" what was probably going on with my body. This literally took about 2 years of on and off reading. But much more satisfying than reading media translated garbage versions of science, because I got answers.

BTW I also figured out what 3 pro nutritionists couldn't, FWIW.

My conclusion was that I needed to cut carbs and calories more than the average person to lose weight/body fat, and focus on heavy weight training and moderate cardio. I also realized that for me, cortisol levels are probably the driving factor screwing up my insulin, leptin and ghrelin levels. Maybe with some T3/T4 thyroid imbalance thrown in for good measure. There are no good tests for any of this so it's just a theory but when I eat as if all of the above are true, I feel better and lose weight.

Look into cortisol and what happens to it under stress, sleep deprivation, and calorie cutting. Then read about what it does to metabolism and water retention. Also read about what sleep deprivation does to insulin levels and basal metabolism. It might answer a few questions for you.

Colleen said...

P.S. -

There is a huge difference between food *beliefs* and food *science.*


The science isn't 100% there yet so people choose a belief system instead to navigate these choices - that is understandable, and it works for most people.

Lynn, you and I aren't most people.

Teresa said...

Are you trying to give yourself permission to eat what ever you want? For me, the post reads that you are so tired of dieting you are going to eat what you want and not think about the actual foods chemistry or value......
Maybe I'm reading more into it but I feel like you are on the edge of a spell dearest Lyn.

Channie said...

I am really glad you blogged about this topic. It can be so confusing when someone is trying to eat healthier to figure out what to eat with so many conflicting studies out there. I decided early on to throw everything I knew about food out the window and I choose my foods with one thing in mind, "What is going to fill me up and make me feel good." I find just going by those two things, it is quite easy to make choices on what to eat.

Amy said...

Oh Lynn, I'm so with you on this one! I am so confused with what is and isn't hype. I have seen the excellent things the South Beach Diet has done for my bloodwork, but now I'm questioning if I should look at the whole inflammitory fad.
And as far milk goes, it is that little bugger lactose that is of concern, anything that ends in "ose" breaks down into sugars in the body. Then again, that's my sugar-fear talking! ;)

Tiffany Campiotti said...

I know exactly what you mean. It has gotten to a point that it's frustrating to eat anything anymore, because someone says it's bad for me. However, I've decided only I can decide what's good for me and what isn't. I eat based on how things make me feel. I stay away from things that trigger bingeing and make me feel yucky. I don't feel bad or guilty giving my kids treats once in a while and do my best to feed them a wide variety of foods. If they had a weight problem I would probably tweak it a bit more, but for now I let them be. It's enough to make you crazy though. Good luck finding the path to what works for you!

Anonymous said...

I think there's way too much focus in the dieting world on particular foods being instant-death poison that you absolutely cannot eat a bite of ever, and other foods being magic health miracles that you must eat whether you enjoy them or not. I don't honestly think it matters all that much exactly what you eat, as long as you are not eating way more junk than your body needs (and you probably have a fairly good sense of what is really, truly, inarguably junk), and as long as you're eating a sufficient variety of foods to get the vitamins and nutrients you do need.

Pudding is probably not health food -- sugar is not that useful to a body, and while milk contains vitamins and nutrients it also has a lot of sugar and calories. Many people would rather not drink calories, since they don't tend to be filling. But that doesn't mean milk is pure liquid evil. If you can budget for it, metabolically speaking, and you like it, I don't see why you can't have some sometimes.

And a homemade dessert can be satisfying and nourishing, in more ways than one. If you find making it, serving it, eating it to be deeply satisfying, yes, you absolutely can have it sometimes. But that's true of almost anything. Even a Twinkie once or twice a year isn't the end of the world, if you've really got a thing for Twinkies. I'd rather have a homemade dessert every couple of weeks than pick up a packet of Oreos from a vending machine every day on my break.

The problem, I've found in my own life, is when these occasional foods become the norm. On Monday I have my occasional pudding, on Tuesday my occasional pizza, and before I know it I'm crowding out the foods that aren't made mostly of sugar. I try to avoid that. But I don't think splitting hairs over whether eating a tomato is accepable is productive. (That actually happened to me. I used to eat cookies and such for an afternoon snack, and then started having a home-grown tomato instead. It was lovely. Then someone told me tomatoes "weren't a free food." [I was not following Weight Watchers or any other plan -- just substituting something healthier for an unhealthy snack.] I was about ready to chuck the tomatoes and go back to cookies -- if nothing I did was going to be good enough, why try?)

There are things I can eat in moderation and things that send me down a spiral of badness, and the latter aren't generally worth it, even when I budget for them and try to eat them small quantities. You probably already know if pudding is one of the latter for you. But otherwise, I think moderation (quantities are meaningful, even of good, healthy, homemade food) is key, and that almost anything can fit within that framework.

Margaret said...

Hi Lyn,

You really echoed the thinking of a lot of us. Milk? Highest source of saturated fat in the average diet. Fish? Mercury! Shrimp? Even worse...mercury and lead. Veggies? E.Coli and salmonella. Etc.

But really what it is, is avoidance of the real problem. Because theses exact same questions exist when you are cruising around in the 170's. It's just minus the intense frustration and misery.

Believe me, I've lived this story my whole life.

I got so bad I was driven to do something I'd never tried before (and I'd tried it all...Medifast included): math.

I took ten years of food journals, meticulous food journals with portions and calorie counts and my calculator and started figuring. What I found out was that I weighed one pound for every nine calories I ate per day. Eureka. (It was a real eureka moment, btw.)

Because the numbers didn't lie. When I ate 2000 calories a day (on average) I weighed 220. When I ate 1700, I hung around in the 188 range.

The reason this was so helpful to me is that there is not much difference in eating 2000 vs. 1700. It's only 300 calories - half one peanut butter sandwich. But the effect of those 300 calories - over time - was forty pounds. (I'm 5'4")

This also gave me an eye-opening attitude adjustment. For me to gain 100 pounds was only an extra 900 calories a day. That's nothing. 2 slices of pizza is more than that.

So, my suggestion is don't worry about health. Look at the numbers. Maybe you have a faster metabolism and can eat 10 or 11 calories per pound, or maybe slower and 8 is right for you. But it will take the mystery (and misery) out of the equation.

Best,
Margaret

Vb said...

Kristi, Coleen- nail on head.

Lauren said...

Wow, this is an excellent topic. The mixed messages are absolutely confusing! I agree with the comment that food choices are personal and no one should feel judged or ashamed of themselves for what they eat. However, it's no secret that humans have distorted our natural diet to an unrecognizable state. I think some people can tolerate pudding, white rice and lasagna in moderation and maintain a healthy weight--but for a large percentage of the population, "eating moderately" will not keep weight off. I am sure you're familiar with Dr. Barbara Berkeley (who blogs at Refuse to Regain) and the Primarian diet. I feel like it's a hard pill to swallow, but I know that for ME, as someone who cannot tolerate the standard American diet and gains weight easily, wheat, grains and sugar cannot be part of my regular diet. Especially not while losing. In fact, eating these things in moderation often proves so difficult that I would rather eliminate them entirely. I sometimes ask myself the question, "Does this food at all resemble what an early human would eat?" If the answer is no--and pudding, bread, and refined rice all fall into that category--it's safe to assume that food is a creation of the modern Western diet. I'm not trying to preach, as I honestly believe food choices are extremely personal. I just think it's easy to feel like foods should be okay because they're the norm and we grew up with them, but the "norm" is what led to an absolutely unprecedented obesity crisis. Maybe Grandma grew up on pudding, but it was probably a large chunk of her caloric consumption for the day, not to mention the hours of back-breaking work she did. We simply cannot compare ourselves to previous generations; our health has deteriorated and our lifestyles have completely changed, not to mention how our food has been altered and chemicalized.

Andra said...

I've been on a journey of learning about which foods are truly nourishing. A very simple guideline that I've learned is "would my Nana or Mamooch (my great grandmother) have recognized this as a real food?" My Nana lived until 99 with little health problems nor much of a weight problem.

Homemade custard made from fresh milk, pure chocolate or real vanilla, a bit of sugar or honey and fresh eggs to thicken is NOT unhealthy when eaten as a rare treat.

Nina Planck's Real Food: What to Eat and Why and Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions are two great places to start when learning about what is truly nourishing to our bodies and why industrial food is making us fat while keeping us malnourished.

Lauren said...

Great post! The mixed messages about food are defintitely overwhelming. I agree that food choices are extremely personal, and people should never be made to feel judged about what they eat. However, it's hard to deny that humans have altered our natural diet beyond recognition. Today's wheat, sugar and grains simply did not exist even a thousand years ago. Evolution cannot take place in that amount of time, so it's safe to assume our bodies are still accustomed to eating like early humans: plants, lean meat, fruit, nuts. I'm sure you're familiar with the work of Dr. Barbara Berkeley (who blogs at Refuse to Regain). There are some people who can eat pudding, rice and lasagna and not gain an unhealthy amount of weight. But a quick glance at obesity rates will tell you they are the exception. Eating these foods in moderation is a slippery slope, and data shows that most people will gain weight on these foods, even in moderation. How else could people like you (and me), who know SO MUCH about nutrition and exercise, end up gaining all our weight back? Over ninety percent of formerly overweight people gain some or most of their weight back, because they think they can eat "normally" again: The same foods that led them to become overweight in tbe first place. Personally, I find complete elimination much easier than the constant battle of wondering how much I will allow myself to have, and if I will be able to stop. It's easy to think these foods aren't harmful because they're so pervasive, but that's a fallacy of logic: Just because something is everywhere doesn't mean it's not a problem. And look at Western culture's obesity epidemic: It's a problem. We can't compare ourselves to Grandma, because that pudding probably made up a quarter of her daily calories, not to mention the hours of back-breaking work she did or the fact that our food has been genetically and chemically altered, bearing little molecular resemblence to Grandma's milk and wheat. Like I said, I would never make someone feel badly for what they choose to eat, but I know that for ME, eating these foods moderately contributed to my weight issues. I have never been a binger and exercise regularly, yet I've been up to 100 pounds overweight in my 28 years. Avoiding these foods entirely frees me from the constant battle with myself. Maybe a small portion of the population can eat these foods, but the belief that they aren't extremely addictive and poorly tolerated by most only perpetuates the myth that there's nothing wrong with the Standard American Diet.

Anonymous said...

You could drive yourself crazy over thinking this!

Lindsey said...

My current working definition of healthy is foods which support my health goals. If it does not support my health goals, it is not healthy, regardless of it's "content." Your body can tell a difference between foods that are good and not good. When I eat sugary bread I feel heavy but not full. I feel a lump in in my stomache. It does not feel good. When I eat squash and zucchini with a little olive oil I feel full and refreshed. It feels good. Therefore it's healthy. Trust your body's feelings.

Anonymous said...

"The problem, I've found in my own life, is when these occasional foods become the norm. On Monday I have my occasional pudding, on Tuesday my occasional pizza, and before I know it I'm crowding out the foods that aren't made mostly of sugar. I try to avoid that."

This is the crux of the issue. Your homemade pudding, as described, sounds delicious. But it is a dessert, and not a source of significant nutrition for your body. Giving it to your kids as an occasional treat in a modest portion is fine. Offering it when kids are already getting plenty of low-nutrition "treats" like chips, candy and fast food would be doing them further disservice. I am not implying this is how you feed your children, but I see a lot of arguments about allowing kids a decadent treat when their regular diets are already full of junk.

Is your homemade pudding "bad"? No, because its made from real ingredients that are at or close to their whole source. Should it be a regular staple in your life? No.

You have mentioned before that your parents both had many health complcations and were also overweight/obese. I hope you can keep that in mind when your brain wanders back to the "comfort food" of your childhood, which you seem to address pretty regularly.

Anonymous said...

Calories. If you can't Limit portions, then don't eat trigger foods as often. Or at all. Maybe a few times a month or year. Depends on you. I think you're making things harder than they need to be :0

Anonymous said...

Things also seem to trend in and trend out with time. Right now Paleo is on a rise, years from now low fat might be popular again.

Taryl said...

I just have to choose. In my life, pudding and sweet treats have never been nourishing, but they are enjoyable! They don't help my kids grow 'big and strong', as I tell them, but we can still have them as treats. The bulk of our diet is tasty, but simple, nourishing fare. That's things like home baked bread and oatmeal, yes, but also lots of salads, roasted meat, fresh fruit and cheese and nuts. Healthy, simple, energy-packed food. I limit the things that are high insulin triggers as much as I can in their diets, as I know they (like me) are going to be prone to obesity and don't need any help down that road, but their metabolisms are still healthy and a little homemade kamut porridge isn't the end of that.

For me, the messages are simpler. Whole foods that digest slowly and give me energy without inflammation or cravings. That means fairly low carb and biologically mild foods - no yeast (I am personally allergic to is), grains, sugar, and most dairy. That's it. As far as I am concerned, those are SMALL restrictions. I can have these foods on occasion (like my anniversary this past weekend) but my daily fare needs to be more nourishing for my body, and that means not making me ill or ravenously hungry.

I am reall grateful that there isn't a big conflict in my head on this. I have read and researched tons of dietary information and it is straightforward to me that whole foods that don't cause insulin spikes (the only way fat can be stored is in the presence of excess insulin, so keeping that level lows prevents the metabolic shifts that go with excess energy and subsequent storage). That means I get as much protein as I crave (usually 80-100 grams a day, max), lots of satiating and smooth fat, and the carbohydrates I relish are those from vegetables, fibrous and low-sugar fruits, and the occasional non-inflammatory starch like rice or sweet potato.

Easy peasy, no moral conflict. And in the meantime I get decadent fare like pepper/mushroom/onion/cheese omelettes, coffee with real cream, wine-braised short ribs with carrots and onions, avocado smoothies, you name it. And if I really want a treat, almost anything from noodles to cakes can be made in a tasty but non-craving-inducing lower carb fashion. Almond flour and surprisingly tasty ;)

For me, the Perfect Health Diet was exactly the right fit for maintaining, and Atkins-Paleo-ish style works well for losing (whole foods, ketogenic... Specifics are not particularly important), as does the hCG protocol. I am not opposed to tweaking as needed, either, especially in maintainence. But I do try to keep the longings, justifying, and moralizing out of food choices as much as possible - I think it would cause me unnecessary conflict and stress, as it may be doing to you, as well. I have realty had to divorce the food-is-love mentality I grew up with, and adjust it to nourishing-is-love, which has very different implications.

Claire said...

I didn't read the other comments, so sorry if I re-state anything.

This is what I have come to believe about food: It's best as close to raw as possible. The more processed it is, the more toxic to our systems. If you have a family history of certain diseases/illnesses, you must first eat a diet consistent with holding off those problems. That might look different for different illnesses. Sugar was never intended to be an everyday indulgence, and is something our bodies can do without. Artificial sweeteners are absolutely toxic (despite what the FDA says), and should never be consumed.

I also believe that the Standard American Diet is killing us. I believe the majority of our diets should be fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with some fish and occasional meat. The Food Pyramid we grew up with led to higher and higher obesity in the U.S.

I ALSO believe that to lose weight, one must focus mostly on diet, not exercise. It is too easy to get injured or have life circumstances that prevent you from exercising, but eating is almost always in our control. Exercise is very good...I'm just saying, exercising so that you can eat more is NOT a good idea, and nor is counting on it for weight loss.

I am slowing changing my views on eating, having about 60 pounds left to lose. I am not exercising regularly at this point, but have lost 12 pounds in the past 5 weeks.

It is absolutely worth it to read about vegan and vegetarian diets, and eating clean and whole. Although I do not have a vegan/vegetarian diet, I have instituted many of the things I've learned from reading Dr. Fuhrman's books, as well as many other resources. I realized a few years ago that weight loss books were barking up the wrong tree most of the time by manipulating the food instead of the dieter. I take from the books what I believe to be true, and leave the rest.

Lyn said...

Very interesting comments and thoughts. Another complexity to add is the varied nutritional needs of children/people within the same family; giving calorically dense foods to an underweight child has a different impact on their health than giving the same foods to an obese child, even if they are "nutritious." Other health issues can impact those choices as well.

One clarification for "anonymous" ... my father was never obese (or even close) and ate quite healthily generally speaking; his one health issue was heart disease which was a direct result of smoking from a very young age.

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling and by no means have all the answers (far from it) but once when I was going to a nutritionist, she had a list of foods you could eat for weight loss. You can guess what was on there: fruits, veggies and lean protein. No bread, pasta, cereal etc. A friend who was with me asked angrily, "Are you saying that I can't make pasta and meatballs for my family? Are you saying that I am making bad food?" The nutritionist replied "I'm not saying what you prepare is not nutritious, but it's not for WEIGHT LOSS." The point I'm making is that pudding isn't bad for you, but if your goal is to lose weight, it probably won't help. If you eat bread responsibly, it's not bad either. But if you are trying to suck the weight off as quickly as possible, there are some foods that could help and there are some foods that could make it take longer if you indulge in them. You just need to look at the food and think "Is this good for weight loss?" before you consume it. But having a baked potato should not send you spiraling. Amy

16 blessings'mom said...

You're gonna get a pow-pow-powerful good good feeling from Cheer Cheer Cheer-i-os! Yeah, childhood food memories. My mother made pudding for us, too. And the Real popcorn, which we skated along the bottom of the pan in...margarine. We never had butter. It is hard to separate good feelings and pleasant memories from food. I eat oatmeal every morning, whole oats with peanutbutter and blueberries. I wonder if oats are evil, and if the peanutbutter is slowly killing me. But I am mostly strict the rest of the day, and I love my bowl of oatmeal so much, I don't want to change it. Fresh fruits and veggies, lean meat, low-fat dairy...that stuff has to be good and healthy. I hope. I think as long as you stay away from processed foods and eat in moderation, you will be fine. (I say as I finish my handful of Veggiesticks, which are about like real veggies as margarine is like butter) I am confused about milk too though. I have it in my oatmeal though, and half and half in my coffee. Thank you for this post. It is obviously something that lots of us struggle with. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I think it is REALLY easy to fool yourself when you are obese. (I AM obese BTW). For healthy, regular weight people maybe homemade pudding isn't a "bad" thing. For someone who thinks 300 times a day about how much they wish they could lose weight (me, you, most obese women I know), people who experience joint pain, headaches, high blood sugar, syndrome x... we are just absolutely fooling only ourselves if we think that pudding is "ok" in any way shape or portion. Even made from scratch it is not natural to eat that sort of food. Our bodies are not designed to eat high sugar/fast sugar foods. I wish you would go back and read your really on plan Medifast days and read your posts about how amazed you were that you didn't hurt and that you didn't have headaches. You experienced that at the weight you are now. But not eating half on half off, treats now and again as you do now.

I think it is very easy for US (obese people in general) to forget that normal healthy weight people 1) have energy, 2) don't feel joint pain consistently, 3) don't feel body shame all the time. To trade that for pudding... even if homemade and "wholesome" seems ridiculous if you think about it.

Having said that... I eat pudding. But when I do it, I know that it is wrong and not beneficial... that I am trading a small moment of pleasure for a lifetime a disgust/shame/and physical pain. I hope you are stronger than I am, and can leave the pudding alone no matter what "wholesome" ingredients are in it.

PaulaMP said...

I feel like I'm always blathering on about the same thing but here it goes ... I think we overthink it to a debilitating point. I'm old enough to have been slim in the 70s, and I can tell you in a nutshell why I was thin. Portions were SMALLER, especially in restaurants. Nobody drank their calories in the form of giant smoothies and Starbucks. If you ate out you weren't ordering appetizers (like we need to get an appetite?). Dessert was truly a special occasion only. We walked everywhere and got loads of exercise, now everybody has to drive to the corner. I know the food industry has changed things, but can that really account for everybody being huge today, my guess is perhaps it has a small effect but it isn't responsible for 50-100 lbs overweight. You can't go anywhere without food and drink being on offer, our local mall now has candy dispensers and pop machines every few feet. Do we really get dehydrated walking from the car into the mall? The oldest among us (parents/grandparents) never ate like this which is probably why they are still alive today in their 90s and even 100s but not many foods were off limit to them, especially bread, rice, pasta etc. Now those foods are poison? I'm just not buying that. It's all about moderation.

Anonymous said...

processed foods have become a part of many of our daily diets. it's very hard to avoid them. but very simply, the only good food for us out there is made from whole, non-GMO, organically grown or produced ingredients, from scratch by you or someone you know. period. as far as i'm concerned, the rest of it IS poison. i don't even trust the processed organic foods anymore. and i'm not a model eater, by the way. just learning how to be one.

LHA said...

What a very interesting post and discussion. There are so many good points made here. All of them have merit, and different things work for different people. There is no debating that.

Just adding one more voice: I do limit my unhealthy food eating to a minimum. I have learned over the years (decades really) that there is no way I am going to eliminate some of my favorite foods forever. When I do eat something like dessert or lasagna, I keep the portions small, enjoy what I am eating and DO NOT feel guilty. I try to concentrate on a daily basis on foods that are good sources of protein like fish, eggs, poultry and a little red meat from time to time, along with fresh vegetables and limited fruits. Grains or dairy products are all right but I don't seem to need much of them or even want them if I am eating the other foods.

The very, very biggest thing I have had to change to lose weight is how much I eat of any food. I really try hard to only eat when I am hungry and that has been an eye opener! By eating only at those times that I am really hungry (I still slip up on this sometimes) and concentrating on the foods mentioned above, weight loss has been easier than it ever has before.

Thanks, Lyn, for getting a great discussion started and thanks to all who commented. Excellent reading!

Anonymous said...

Most of the foods I eat I don't have to question or worry about. Things like fruits, veggies and lean protein. Other things like whole grain, dairy and treats I eat sparingly and just try to make better choices.

Good luck in sorting this out!

Anonymous said...

Basically agree with PaulaM. Although I wasn't born until the mid 80s, I remember a time before EVERYONE was walking around carrying a Starbucks "milkshake in a cup" and desserts or pizza were a treat, not an everyday thing.

"Specialty" foods need be consumed on a "speciality" basis, at least for me. This doesn't mean never but it also doesn't mean I can eat pistachio pudding everyday of my life. I would really like that, though.

Karen said...

I thought you had established that eating processed sugar and wheat were both triggering overeating and causing joint inflammation?

Is eating processed sugar and wheat worth giving up the positive things in your life? For some , it may be. Dont loose focus of the goal. It's totally up to you.

If pudding triggers then it it's unhealthy for you. Jelly beans trigger me. That food is unhealthy for me. Even in moderation. One jelly bean. Unhealthy. For me. doesn't really matter what one jelly bean means or does for others.

IMO Go toward the positive. The answer is not in the comfort food. Safe travels. Karen P

Ps life is totally do-able without jellybeans. ;)

JT said...

I agree with many of the comments... It feels like someone is trying to put us out of stuff that has always been healthy and good for our bodies. I too believe that the big problem lies in the overall lifestyle as Diandra commented. People are not exercising enough, eating too much of what isn't good. Even fruit and vegetables, which I eat regularly, they are not as healthy as they used to be. When I was younger I would eat them "straight from the trees or farm", now they are all injected with hormones (and god knows what else) to make them grow faster, prettier and bigger...of course they don't taste that nice many times and obviously don't give you the amount of vitamines and minerals that they used to... It's reallt sad... One they I will have my own greenhouse and I will grow my own veg and hopefully I will by some land with fruit trees :). Honestly Lyn, in conclusion, you don't have to avoid any food at all. Moderation and variety is the way to go. All the best

Vickie said...

If you are asking, and I am not sure if you are: All of the things you listed at the end, are indeed things I no longer eat.

That is assuming you are making the vegetable lasagna with noodles. If you are making it with all vegetables and a very small (sprinkle on top) amount of cheese, then that one I will eat on occasion. It is the essence of lasagna, not actual lasagna. I say that essence with a smile.

I do not consider a white or red potato to be a vegetable. A potato to me is a starch. Ditto corn, peas, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. I will eat a serving of squash or sweet potato on occasion for lunch with lean protein and green veggies, but I view them as a starch when I do.

Pork and beef went years ago (for my whole house actually). My son and husband and I will still eat fish or turkey breast or chicken breast. My girls went vegetarian many years ago.

I stopped eating processed, even if it is in the food category (noodles, bread, etc) and not in the non-food category (potato chips) many years ago also.

To be honest I stopped because simpler was so much easier.

If something has one ingredient I know how to think about it and I know what I am getting.

If it has more than one ingredient, then that involves a lot of tracking and figuring which I do not like to have to do.

Another factor with processed for me is that it is not realistic for my taste buds. It is too good to be true in a sense. Or not naturally occurring in another sense. And then my taste buds are looking for that, instead of looking for green veggies, lean protein, my real food.

The combination of salt, sugar, baking powder or baking soda has a definite impact on my WANTS. Even if it is 'healthy' like whole grain. And then makes it difficult to have realistic expectations for what I need to eat to feel good and to maintain my weight. I do not like to have any food hassles in what I want nor what I have to figure.

I eat real (not quick) oatmeal every day for breakfast but I do not add anything to it (I eat with light soy or skim cows milk). I also eat a egg beaters omelet with a whole small avocado and 2T of salsa (yes, I consider that processed and it is one of the few processed I eat). I eat all of that every day; it is about 500 calories. It serves me well for my morning exercise and also makes the rest of the day easier food wise. Breakfast is my largest meal. dinner is my smallest meal usually with lean protein and green veggies.

I personally do not add sweetener to anything I eat. So the controversy over artificial or real and what kind has no impact for me. No one in my family adds sweetener to anything.

Vickie said...

I did not change everything I ate on the first day. Things changed very slowly over the years.

I do not feel I have given up one thing. What happened is my taste buds changed HUGELY and now the things I eat are what I want to eat.

The inside thinking and the outside actions changed so they are in harmony (for me). when they were not in harmony, I was pretty miserable, I felt made about my actions and what I was doing to myself. That is a horrible feeling for me. when I am doing what is best for me, then I have inner peace. My actions have to match my thinking.

All of my secondary conditions (asthma, acne, migraines, joints, GI, etc) went away when I cleaned up my food and dropped my excess weight. And as you know that is very reinforcing. I hurt all the time before and now I still hurt on occasion, but when I do, I am looking for WHY because it is the exception not the rule.

Again, not all this changed on the first day.

The food part started with a game. It was the grocery cart game. In the beginning I was looking to see what non-food I had in my cart. Things like potato chips (as you mentioned). And then later with the game, I was looking for what was a starch.

My husband eats nearly the same as I do. The kids are in various stages. They do see food and non-food. They still eat some non-food and keep it in their own rooms. their food cleaned up very slowly over time. And no fence was built over it. I set an example and started educating them. It did not change on the first day. They eat with better choices than most weight loss bloggers (honestly).

My 14 year old is like your daughter will be. She barely remembers McD. The older kids remember it, but would 'die' before they went there now.

Everything is one tiny step at a time. And we can only change ourselves.

Anonymous said...

In general, I'm agreeing with others on moderation...and it does depend on other choices you might make for your children. Have they just gotten back from a soccer game? Spent the day in? Are they at a healthy weight for them? It.'s not black and white for me, each choice must be made in context.

underneath the bunker said...

It's interesting, I never thought before that pudding MIGHT be nutritious! I always assumed it wasn't really good for you, but I think I thought it wasn't that bad for you either. A neutral food!

Anonymous said...

Wow, a lot of comments on this one! Pudding is as healthy as ice cream, if you are counting on the milk used to make it as being nutritious. Same as anything else, keep it in control and it won't blow out a day's worth of sugar/carbs. The problem I find is it can be a gateway trigger to "ruining" the day, and then the week, the month and the year, so then I might as well eat everything. Same as the other white carby stuff, it turns on my need to feed. In your previous post, Lyn, you say that you need to get under control and that maybe counting calories will be helpful or needed at this time. Then in the next post here you sound like you are sick sick sick of it all and just want to eat like your dad did and be healthy. Your dad probably did not have metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance that is more than likely something you are dealing with. Men can also handle a lot more calories than women can in a day. Just my observation, kind of sounds like you are swerving on the road. It's human nature, we all deal with these thought patterns, but doing the same thing and expecting different results is Einstein's definition of insanity. I wish I could eat like my slim adult children, they don't have to deal with my body chemistry issues. But that is life, we are all made differently and we all need different things to be our best selves. Comparing ourselves to others makes who we are, what we are and what we need specifically, less important and therefore it lowers our self respect. What we need as individuals is most important to each of us, so that we can give the best of ourselves to others.

I'm hungry girl. The only way I can eat carby stuff is to limit the meal to once a day, so that my insulin and hormones are not all fighting in my body all day long. It does help me to not eat ice cream, cookies, cake, chocolate all day long, but I still have to be careful as it can wreck my evenings and my body pays me back with awful pain and depression. This is just my solution, it does not work for everyone. All I'm saying is we really need to listen to our bodies and find our own unique solutions, and try our best to remember at every meal what we need, not what others can have. :)

Jennifer McNeely said...

I find it so enlightening that this post inspired so many responses! On its face, its silly. Pudding of course is not good for you, but not really that bad either, if you eat it occasionally. The thing is, we are talking really about Food addiction. When you are addicted to food, you dont have normal responses to it, the truth is any diet that doesnt address the underlying issues will fail ANY DIET. I have found detoxing helpful but only when I am ready for the aftermath! Rage, Depression, etc. Why? A temporary side effect of withdrawal. AND whatever you've been running from comes smack in your face. I propose that it is OK TO KEEP RUNNING if you are not prepared for whatever reason... but try to be honest about what is going on. but no "healthy" or unhealthy options really make a dent here. Truth is to lose weight its (hard to remember exactly but..) something like 70% food, and 30% exercise? It is what it is, and we can make it something else, but still, here we are.

Margaret said...

So, we can break the great pudding debate into three basic solutions:

1. It's calories that count.

2. Find what's right for your personal journey and do that. (vegan/vegetarian/gluten free/low carb...etc.)

3. Everything from the industrial food chain is bad regardless of weight. (Sugar, flour, etc.)

I'm in camp one. But mostly because the soul-sucking misery of carrying the equivalent of a fat eight-year-old on my back every step of every day is too high a price to pay and I know camp one works.

However, if this were a debate, I could argue either two or three might work as well. Maybe the answer is to choose and go for it. Conquer analysis paralysis.

Best,
Margaret

Princess Dieter said...

For you, the only question that matters is: "Is this a healthful food for you to eat for YOUR health conditions and weight loss needs and specific food weaknesses?"

That's the only one that matters. You're the only one that can answer it.

For me, an occasional sugar-free pudding is a nice treat. BUT...sometimes, I want 2 and 3 and 4 of those little cups of pudding (No, I don't make it at home. I'm lazy that way.)

If my mother were alive and made rice pudding for me, I'd have some. The occasional treat. FOR me, occasional is key. If I have it a lot, I want too much and I will set myself up for a long-delayed binge. No question. Sugar is not my pal.

I can answer it only for me: Pudding is a junk treat. It's a junk treat for me if it has sugar and is made from regular milk (cause of those sick, messed up factory farm cows) and if it makes me want a lot more. Period.

If I made it with honey, raw or organic milk, real flavors (not "flavorings"), and had a modest portion, then I'd say it's one of the nicer desserts.

But let's face it, kids have way too much sugar and crap at their disposal these days. If homemade "sounder" pudding was going to be a small portion treat after a meal, I say graet. If it was just gonna add to the pile of junk they already eat, "Hello future obese person!"

You know what your body can't handle. Answer the question for yourself.

i should be full said...

I love this post because it gets to the heart of something that I have struggled with for my whole life: individuality.

I believe that unless you are drinking bleach and eating Comet "unhealthy" is relative to the individual.

My niece eats only four or five different foods (none of which is a fruit or a vegetable) but her doctor declares her perfectly healthy, with bloodwork to prove it. My son has a gluten intolerance so what might be a healthy choice for someone else, like 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Bread, is a destructive choice for him.

I am a food addict and can binge on anything from cookies to salad so for me "healthy" is, at least in part, about quantity.

Food beliefs are deeply personal, often rooted in childhood, and relative to an individual body's ability to digest and process.

Thanks for the reminder of how subjective this all is and that finding one's own path of physical and mental health and following it is often the most constructive choice.