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What does "healthy" mean to you?

It seems to me that the word has become so over used as to become meaningless. To me it is following a reduced carb low glycemic index lifestyle. How many of us can agree on what it really means?
What does that word mean to you?

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    1. re: Brian S

      You don't think a perfectly ripe mango tastes very good? Or a fresh salad? I could go on. I think you are confusing "diet" with "healthy" if you interpret the word to mean not tasting any good.

    2. In terms of food, "healthy" to me means whole(some) foods, with little additives, in moderation, eaten in a way to provide maximum nutritional benefit.

      1. To me it means eating foods that are not processed. In other words, avoiding sugar, flour, and preservative-laden foods. Breads made from sprouted whole grains instead of flour. Foods sweetened with maple syrup, honey, or fruit juice instead of refined sugars. Meat that is free of additives like hormones or preservatives.

        40 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          Sugar = sugar. It doesn't matter whether it comes from maple trees, bees, fruit, beets, corn or sugar cane. If it ends in "-ose" it affects your blood sugar and your calorie intake the same.

          1. re: MakingSense

            That's true, but unless you are diabetic, a small amount of "-ose" won't hurt you if you eat it combined with some protein to slow down the digestion.

            1. re: pescatarian

              But a lot of people think that switching to giant glasses of OJ instead of sodas is healthy. They are consuming just as much sugar and maybe more calories. Better they should just drop the soda.
              Observe the little kids with the omni-present juice boxes. Sugar all day long.

              1. re: MakingSense

                I agree with what you are saying. I'm not advocating giant glasses (or even small glasses) of OJ or soda. I said that "a small amount" won't hurt you combined with some protein. A straight glass of juice is not good for you if you are trying not to raise your blood sugar, watching your calories and/or trying to lose weight. Juice should definitely not be the drink of choice all day long. I try to drink 2 litres of water everyday. I used to love diet coke, but I find that if I have the odd one it tempts me to have too much. If I am drinking a lot of water, I am less likely to drink too much of anything else (I like my coffee in the morning though).
                That said, if you are eating complex carbs, good quality protein and you include a little drizzle of honey, it won't hurt you.

                1. re: pescatarian

                  diabetic cookbooks i've read recently actually say that contrary to popular opinions, a small amount of sugar is not the end oft he world and using a small amount tastes better than using a lot of fake sweeteners. Ive seen some light fruit desserts that looked really good and were low in sugar and calories

                  1. re: choctastic

                    I think there's probably some truth to that. Look at it this way, if someone is eating a "sugar free" pie that's made with white flour and lots of fat (which adds to calories, which becomes fat in the body, which contributes to insulin sensitivity) than it's not good for you. However, if you were eating something with a small amount of complex carbohydrates (low sugar fruit, whole grains), small amount of fat, protein and a small amt of sugar or honey thrown in and you only eat a small amount of it, you are much better off than the "sugar free" offering mentioned above.

                    In general, moderation is key.

                    1. re: pescatarian


                      and for what it's worth, I personally think that any diet that contains a high percentage of vegetables is relatively healthy. even low carbers of my acquaintence have had a very hard time losing weight just subsisting on meat alone. in fact the only one that has lost a significant amount of weight did it by reducing portion size and eating veggies as well as a relatively small amount of meat. the atkins vitamins do make you feel better but as far as i've seen they don't appear to be a substitute for vitamins gotten the old fashioned way.

                      1. re: choctastic

                        absolutey, vitamin supplements have their place, but nothing beats the real deal for vitamins and nutrients and vegetables (a wide array from all the colours (red, orange, green, blue/purple)

                        1. re: choctastic

                          As a long term low-carber, I can't help myself, I have to say it - low-carbing should never be "meat alone." When I first went on Atkins (induction, the VERY strict first phase of what's largely considered the "worst" low-carb way of eating by those that haven't read the book) I was probably eating more veggies than before because you're forced to get creative. Low-carb is NOT low-veggie and I wish more people would read the books before calling what they're doing "Atkins."

                          OK, zealot-moment over. I promise.

                          1. re: shanagain

                            actually most of my friends were on doctor approved diets and i'm just saying that's what happened. i completely agree with you for what it's worth.

                            --oh and lest it seem like i'm picking on the low carbers, i know vegetarians who were healthy and those who were not. the difference? the healthy ones ate their veggies while the unhealthy ones ate (vegetarian) junk food.
                            - actually i take that back the ones that don't eat veggies don't necessarily eat unhealthily but they just don't eat veggies and that seems to make a difference.

                            i've read all the atkins books and i have to say that i can see why people think of it as a license to eat meat meat meat. the books i read only give fleeting lip service to the importance of eating vegetables. I think they do this in order to sell books because who wants to eat veggies if they can have a steak, right? on the atkins diet the books say to take nutritional supplements (diet revolution, chap 23,"Nutritional Supplemenets: don't even think of getting along without them!") and as far as i've seen, most people on this diet do need to take those supplements because they choose to eat meat and no veggies.

                            1. re: choctastic

                              I have to admit, one of the things that drew me to give Atkins a try was... bacon. To paraphrase a line from Dogma, a favorite movie, "No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than applewood smoked bacon." ;-)

                              And it is absolutely true that on Atkins, you can pretty much eat all of the meat you can handle (bacon, glorious bacon!). But in my experience, even non-chowish folks end up branching out into veggies in order to expand their options, if not their culinary horizons.

                              Go to any low-carb message board or recipe site and you'll find people using shredded broccoli stems ("broccoli slaw") as a base for alfredo sauce, or cauliflower gratins as a sort of mashed potato substitute, etc.

                              Let's face it, it's also pretty easy to eat your veggies when you're given carte blanche on butter, cheese and judicious splashes of heavy cream.

                              As for the nutritional supplements... frankly, I always suspected the addition of the chapter on nutritional supplements in the re-release of the Atkins book was in direct correlation to the debut of Atkins branded supplements. (Say what you will about the guy, he was no fool.) Of course it's hard to argue with - we all know we "should" be getting more of something or other. (Or at least are told as much on a daily basis by the Centrum folks.)

                              At any rate, I wasn't disagreeing with your assessment of your friends diets, just pointing out how frustrating it gets when people (not you) assume that we Atkins-type folks aren't allowed veggies and fruits, which for a while was a very popular, widespread misconception.

                              1. re: shanagain

                                The veggie/fruit allowances weren't entirely confusing for me..it was the high fat content that was allowed. All that cheese/butter/bacon/beef a week seems at odds with the best advice given to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  It does seem at odds, but truly isn't. Basically, Atkins allows the fat because the diet promotes benign dietary ketosis - note, NOT diabetic ketoacidosis - where your body converts both dietary and stored fat as energy. Of course not all lower carb diets promote ketosis, but Atkins specifically does, which explains the amount of fats allowed. The truly surprising thing to me was the drop in bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which basically act as "glue" for cholesterol.

                                  I guess what made it most surprising is that in about '92 I had borderline high cholesterol after 2 years of doing the whole "low fat" thing.

                                  I think some of us are just more sensitive to glucose, and have wondered if there's any truth to the "blood type diet" because my body just reacts positively to low-carb, and negatively to a traditional higher-carb diet.

                                  (BTW, I'm now feeling ridiculously guilty for all of the cakes I've been baking lately. LOL)

                                  1. re: shanagain

                                    We must come from the same factory, shanagain. My body seems to react positively to a high protein/low carb diet and doesn't seem to hear any advice from the latest "nutrition" news. It reacts the same way to fruit juice and soda, fructose and sucrose all seem to be glucose. Whole grains tend to be my preference but my system treats them the same as any other carbs. I have to consider them special treats.
                                    Ultimately, my body isn't a test laboratory for the latest dietary theory so I have to live and eat by what works for me not anyone else.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      Maybe that's the best definition of healthy - knowing what your body needs and feeding it accordingly.

                                      1. re: shanagain

                                        that sentiment is exactly what I meant when I wrote my original post.
                                        food that I love, that loves me back.

                                        no doubt, personal health is diff for all of us.

                    2. re: pescatarian

                      And if you are craving citrus, eat an orange! You'll get the benefit of the fiber. I love the La Croix sparkling waters, esp. the lemon and the orange. I frequently start my day with some. No sugar, etc. Just very finely carbonated water the bubbles are really tiny like in really good champange)and natural flavor. Delicious icy cold and so thirst quenching.

                    3. re: MakingSense

                      Also, I don't see anywhere in my comments that I advocated drinking giant glasses of OJ. However, it should be noted that unlike soda, fresh-squeezed OJ actually has nurients that are good for you, where sugar is simply empty calories.

                      Why don't you try responding to what was actually written, rather than what you think was written.

                      1. re: Josh

                        What you wrote was: "avoiding sugar, flour..." except for certain types of which you approve such as "whole grains" and "maple syrup, honey, or fruit juice."
                        High carbohydrate diets with heavy use of sweeteners, however wholesome their sources, can contibute to obesity if calorie content is not considered. Sugar is sugar with or without a dose of vitamins. All of them affect glycemic levels in ways that can lead to diabetes which has become epedemic.
                        I used the example of OJ because many schools have recently banned sodas in an effort to combat childhood obesity, replacing them with juices that can have an equal or greater number of calories than soda.
                        Yes, kids may get more vitamins, but the aim of combatting obesity, and the diabetes that can sometimes accompany it, has been sabotaged.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          If concerned about glycemic levels, it's helpful to know and account for the difference between the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load. The Index only measures the glucose response per gram of carbohydrate, skewing the results. For example, it rates carrots in the same range as sucrose and honey. A person would have to eat a lot of carrots to cause that effect. There are a number of factors that contribute to a food's glycemic effect, hence the creation of the Glycemic Load, which takes the composition of the whole food into account, revealing, for instance, the contribution fiber and liquid has to the glycemic assessment. There are many sources of info online; you can see charts and read more by David Mendosa here: http://www.mendosa.com/gi.htm

                          1. re: BellaCalabrese

                            I recognize the difference. I wish we could all switch from sugary snacks to carrot sticks more often.
                            I was contesting Josh's assertion that it was healthy simply to make the switch from "bad" refined sugar to "good" sugar such as honey or maple syrup. Both of those would have the same effect on load, as well as calories intake.
                            My argument is that it's healthier to reduce the consumption of added sugar from whatever source.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              I agree it is healthiest to reduce all sugar consumption, but there is a contradiction in what you're saying. Some sweeteners are in fact healthier than others. They range from 0.9 on the GL Index up into the 80s, and vary calorically. The choices you would make depend on your concerns, i.e., flavor; calorie count/weight loss; blood sugar spikes (which affects everybody's health, not just diabetics and those with cancer); nutrient benefits. Sugar has nutritionally empty calories, perhaps worse, according to "Sugar Blues," which says it depletes nutrients. Other sweeteners have some benefitsm and/or do less harm. Chosing those that don't spike the blood helps wean a person from cravings for sweets, including carbs, and other foods high on the GI Index. In other words, whatever the reason, if the objective is to reduce sugar consumption, it helps to choose sweetners wisely.

                              1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                I don't dispute what you say in the least. You are extaordinarily well informed, far more educated on this that the average. Therein lies the problem.
                                I was talking about a far less technical issue - that of marketing and how it has affected the average consumer's perception, leading to a switch from one type of product to another without a concommitent decrease in overall consumption of sugars.
                                By touting benefits in so-called "healthy" sugars, as well as whole grains, marketers have created demand for new or reformulated products. Although these products actually are often little different from the "non-healthy" versions, many consumers have come to believe they are. Shelf space has increased and sales volume has skyrocketed. Some kids seem to exist on juice boxes, granola bars and flavored yogurt.
                                Overall consumption of all types of sugars has increased as has obesity, especially among the young, and diabetes is a growing epidemic.
                                I understand that even artificial sweeteners may increase the craving for sugar. Sugar of any kind may be more of a dangerous drug for our society than just a sweet treat. Substituting one for another won't help unless we learn to reduce overall consumption rates.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I couldn’t agree with you more that all sugar consumption is dangerous and must be reduced, but I differ with you in the value of substituting healthier alternatives. Sugar addiction is so powerful that not letting people know their options is like asking smokers to quit without mentioning the patch or cessation programs. "Just say 'no'" campaigns only work in limited numbers. I know I had a hell of a time fighting the sugar blues before learning my options.

                                  As you point out, even health fiends and chowhounds can be confused about sugar. That’s what concerned me about your post, “If it ends in "-ose" it affects your blood sugar and your calorie intake the same.” All “-oses” may feel like they have the same effect on you, but they are not the same. High fructose corn syrup differs significantly from table sugar, honey, Splenda, agave nectar, and other alternatives that can help people reduce sugar intake and make healthier sweetening choices.

                                  1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                    HFCS is glucose - the end product of all the other sugars after your body metabolizes them, huh? The stuff is bad news. It's just a quicker way of getting your fix.
                                    Substituting healthy alternatives is fine unless people believe that simply substituting is enough. Consumption of all types of sugars - including the so-called "healthy alternatives" has continued to rise. This has led me to the opinion that people are not using them to wean themselves but have been persuaded that they can continue to consume sugar as long as it is a "healthy" type.
                                    You and I may have reduced sugar consumption but the statistics are showing that consumers in general are making different choices.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS,) like all carbohydrates, breaks down mostly into into glucose. But technically, we can't say it "is" glucose. First corn starch is processed to get glucose and then again to wind up a glucose-fructose mix, with the later being 40-90%. HFCS and fructose are particularly insidious because they wreak havoc with appetite control. They inhibit the release of leptin, the hormone that tells your body it's full, and they don't stop the release of the hormone ghrelin, which sends out requests for food.

                                      The increase in sugar consumption, especially HFCS, is truly alarming, which is why the World Health Organization is waging a campaign to get people to reduce sugar intake to no more than 10% of calories. You're right that too many people use health claims (that are often mythical) as an excuse to indulge sugar cravings, but at least there is growing awareness of the problem and availability of healthier alternatives for those of us who seek to use them rationally. And, just this month, The Center for Science in the Public Interest won two major court victories forcing Kraft and Cadbury Schweppess to stop using the term "natural" to describe their HFCS-sweetened products, Capri Sun and 7-Up.

                                      I'm grateful for the progress; I remember when major cities were lucky to have one "health food" store, and organic produce was rare and dear. Now that dates me!

                          2. re: MakingSense


                            If someone drinks juice rather than pop, their body is satisfied for nutrients (at least some..) and cravings for food/calories should diminish. Ever eaten calorie laden, nutrient-poor food all day and wondered why you were still hungry later or the next day? Lack of nutrients - a protective mechanism for your body. THAT is what contributes to obesity - food cravings which are actually NUTRIENT cravings from your body.

                      2. re: pescatarian

                        According to my friend who is diabetic and uses an insulin pump, it is no longer about sugar, but carbs. She eats sugar just like the rest of us, but counts her carbs whether it's a sweet treat or a piece of bread.

                        1. re: wyf4lyf

                          Carbs = Sugar, Sugar = Carbs, therefore she is watching both her sugar and carbs and all of us should be careful with white refined sugar, flour, because it spikes our blood sugar a lot more than complex carbs combined, especially when combined with protein when consumed. However, I would imagine she would need to be more vigilant due to being diabetic.

                      3. re: MakingSense

                        Yes! but we already agree on that. Getting my mother to understand that in feeding her diabetic husband was like pulling teeth. Pouring that great big glass of oj each AM 'cause it was so good for him, NOT!

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          That is certainly true, however foods that are pre-packaged and produced with refined sugar tend to have more sugar in them than healthier alternatives. It's not simply about not using refined sugar, but also about reducing sugar intake.

                          1. re: Josh

                            This is true of openly-junk foods. The really deceptive foods are those that are marketed as "healthier alternatives" yet have high levels of fats, sugars and calories such as granola bars, "power bars," trail mixes, some granolas, some flavored yogurts, whole grain cookies and crackers, organic snack foods such as potato chips, smoothies, gatorade, etc. Some of these products have more calories than the less healthy alternatives or people add them to an already adequate diet as an elixer.
                            Marketing has led many consumers to believe that "healthier" equates to a "get out of jail free" card on personal responsibility for monitoring their own moderation.

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            You mean REFINED sugar is refined sugar. That is sugar without anything else in it. Sucrose is made up of fructose and glucose molecules.
                            Natural cane sugar, like honey, maple syrup, fruit sugar, all have other minerals, perhaps vitamins and other flavoring elements in it.
                            I stopped using WHITE REFINED SUGAR 20 years ago. Now I use a NATURAL SWEETNER without SUGAR in it. It is many more times sweeter then sugar and NO calories, which means only a few specks are all that is needed in your coffe or tea, if you desire sweetening. It is a plant from the Amazon region called Stevia, as an extract is a white powder. It is the preferred sweetner, since there are NO chemicals detrimental to the body in it, as you find in artificial sweetners, which happen to be addicting and cause aftertastes..

                            1. re: nutrition

                              Refined white cane sugar is pure sucrose without vitamins, mineral or flavoring elements. Fructose (fruit sugar), like honey and maple syrup, is a different type of sugar.

                              Stevia has been banned as a food additive in the US by the FDA since 1991. It may be sold as a dietary supplement. This is controversial but it is the fact, It may be your preferred sweetener but you cannot call it "the" preferred sweetener, and many do find an aftertaste as with other derived sweeteners.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Strange, it is on the store shelves, everywhere! Of course, the sugar industry doesn't like it. It is healthy and NON addicting like sugar and chemically produced artificial sweetners with side effects.

                                1. re: nutrition

                                  Your use of stevia as a sweetener is your own choice. I only object to your use of misrepresentations and imprecison of language to portray other sweetners and other people's choices as less worthy than your own.
                                  Informed consumers should fact-check but may, indeed most, do not.
                                  Even a simple check of a basic source like Wiki can give a great deal of information to those who want to inform themselves about all the alternatives for sweetening their lives.
                                  No one needs to get testy about what other people choose. Facts will do.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    It appears you are reading a great deal more into this, then there is.

                                    You can also do a research on the use of chemical additives and artificial sweetners as to their detrimental effects on the body. Many people use far too much just like refined sugars. And few will look up or research beyond the articles put out by the marketing departments in newspapers and popular magazines.
                                    Your are free to use anyone, that you wish!

                                2. re: MakingSense

                                  I like stevia theoretically, but have problems with the aftertaste, so I only use it when it can be overpowered. I use Splenda a lot, but that too has an aftertaste. If I want something with a more transparent sweetness, I go to Agave Nectar, which has a very light flavor and doesn't spike blood sugar. It's only major shortcoming is caloric: 60 cal./Tbsp., but I find that a little goes a long way.

                              2. re: MakingSense

                                That is not true at all. I am friends with several doctors, all of whom have told me without a doubt that the body digests sugar from fruit very differently than in other forms, such as table sugar.

                                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                  Do you realize that most doctors never took even one nutrition class in medical school?

                            2. I doubt we could get everyone on Chowhound to agree on what color the sky is..

                              To me a healthy diet(which I dont always follow) is:

                              a balanced diet: meat, fish, veggies, grains, dairy, etc.

                              1. My vision of healthy eating stems from my mother and my childhood. I wasn't allowed to eat candy very often, or have snacks before dinner, but I could eat fruit whenever I wanted in whatever quantity.

                                When my mother cooked meals, they always featured lots of fresh, stir-fried leafy green vegetables. And her meals were not very fatty and didn't have any heavy sauces, so the flavors of the fresh produce, meat, or fish always stood out.

                                My mother unconciously followed the Food Pyramid recommendations. So to me, healthy means including lots of fresh fruits and veggies in your diet with whole grains and lean protein. But also, only eating what you naturally feel like and not forcing yourself to be "healthy". And since I never grew up eating dessert, I don't really have a sweet tooth!

                                1. I agree with you, Candy. It seems to me as though "healthy" is the new euphemism for "diet." Although what Josh says makes a great deal of sense, I suspect that most often when someone on the home cooking board is asking for a "healthy" version of a recipe what they really want is lo-cal. I'm a firm believer in eating real food in moderate quantities. Ain't no one gonna convince me that cassoulet isn't healthy.

                                  1. Healthy is a meaninglessly subjective term. If someone uses it to describe what they want, it's a great way for them to get frustrated. I would embargo the use of the word with regard to diet, it's that bad.

                                    1. As someone with a tendancy toward high cholestrol and high blood pressure, "healthy" means foods that are low in trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Luckily, I love veggies. I don't eat much beef. My protein comes from poultry, fish and beans.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: AnneM

                                        As another someone who trended toward risky cholesterol & triglycerides for years, "healthy" for me is more about watching my carb intake.

                                        I started low-carbing in '99 to lose weight but continue to keep my carbs - complex and otherwise - in check to keep my blood lipid profile nice and healthy. (I've kept that 35lbs off since 2000 and also found that I possibly never even *had* the IBS I was diagnosed with, I'm just carb-sensitive.)

                                        I'm now definitely an "everything in moderation" gal, but moderate the carbs more than anything else. This is really the only hard time of year for me, because I have this weird nesting-syndrome tendency to bake like crazy when it's cold.

                                      2. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, wild fish, meat and poultry that's not injected with hormones. Basically just wholesome, natural foods. I think cake can be healthy in moderation if it's homemade from the right ingredients.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Lucia

                                          That's pretty much my take as well. Relatively minimal processing and natural ingredients.

                                        2. Moderation in everything (but especially for salt, fats and sugars), plenty of fiber, lots of water, limited red meat, lots of fish, vegetables & fruit, home cooking vs prepared foods--all balanced with exercise, limiting stress, and getting enough sleep.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            That sounds about right to me. I would add a little laughter too, I think it keeps people healthy and young.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              This is a very old thread, but Sam is right. Unfortunately, 95% of U.S. citizens do not eat this way. Maybe in Latin America they still do.

                                            2. Hearty appetite for food and life, enjoying every minute and every bite, but exercising moderation in all. Personally, that goes hand-in-hand, because if I overindulge in anything (fat, salt, alcohol), my body says "the hell are you DOING?". So I "enjoy" exercising my body, my mind, and my appetite.

                                              1. Let's face it: We all know that highly processed crap is just that. The farther you get from real food, the less healthy you're eating. This has nothing to do with calories, really, that's another issue. If you eat a chicken pot pie from the freezer case, you are far from the healthy meal of freshly prepared chicken with fresh vegetables. I consider a bite of high-quality chocolate, along with a couple of toasted walnuts, to be a far healthier snack than a handful of Doritos. But then, I never did buy into the "Margarine is better for you than butter" nonsense.

                                                1. Eating healthy can be a lot of different things, and I'm not even going to try to give a definition of what I think it is because it couldn't possibly be the only answer.

                                                  But, for the time being, eating healthy for me means making myself eat my 5 fruits and vegetables a day, with at least three of the five being vegetables. Whatever I still have room and desire for after I fulfill that requirement, so be it.

                                                  Judicious amounts of pork belly, steak, dark chocolate, whipped cream, vanilla, butter, fried chicken, and marmalade on toast aren't going to kill me if my stomach is already pretty full from all the fat free low calorie vegetables.

                                                  1. The food I choose has to entice me to stick to my guidelines. I eat very healthfully at home, within reason when out. Living in one of the country’s gourmet health-conscious food centers -- makes a huge difference.

                                                    I’m not fussy about ratios except to keep caloric carbs down. Roughly it’s 1/3 protein, 1/3 dense carb, 1/3 veggies or fruit, along with a little Omega-3 oil source, in 3 meals and 2 snacks, proportioned similarly. I eat more than 5 servings of (preferably fresh, local, organic, colorful) fruits & vegetables, including berries and crucifers and dark leaves; complex carbs with little or no processing; lean protein; approx. 2T of Omega fatty-3 oil or equivalent from flax seeds, avocado, nuts; 64 oz. H20; 25 grams of fiber; vitamins & supplements for insurance. I consider the Glycemic Load and also eat fiber with sugary foods to slow their breakdown. I try not to have more calories than my body burns, which is only 1200-1500, so I have to pack in the nutrients. I often have either water, soup, nuts or something that will satiate 20 minutes before a meal, the time it takes to register in the body.

                                                    At home it’s all low-fat, low sugar, low salt (my weakness.) No frying except eggs; broth often substitutes for oil. I try to avoid transfats; high-fructose corn syrup; highly-refined or -processed foods (including such “health foods” as rice cakes & popcorn.) I also avoid ingredients that include lots of chemicals or sugar in the first five ingredients. I choose free-range hens and mostly cold-water small fish, preferably from Alaska. I eat little dairy except for NF yogurt, cheese as a “spice”

                                                    I’m good, but I’m not that good. I definitely like very decadent treats. A healthy diet allows me to have them. I’ve never eaten as well or deliciously as when I’ve paid careful attention to nutrition.

                                                    1. To me, it means moderation and an emphasis on non-processed foods.

                                                      That said, I normally avoid foods with a lot of added fat or sugar. (Notice the word "added" - fruit is fine, as are nuts, avocados, etc.)

                                                      1. You know, everyone is talking about what is and isn't healthy to eat, but if you exercise everyday, you can eat just about anything you want.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: chipman

                                                          Not true. It takes both a strong heart and a balanced diet to keep a person healthy. Take the atkins diet for example -- yes, the dieter can exercise all they want and eat all the fatty foods they want, but when they exercise, because of the lack of carbs, they burn muscle. They lose lbs. in water. It's not as simple as exercise. Nutrition is just as important as exercise.

                                                          1. re: chipman

                                                            I think you have a point, but it depends on what exercise you do and your muscle:fat body mass ratio, which depends somewhat on genetics and age. Some people think adding a 30-minute leisurely stroll every evening will do it. That's not enough for me, although it might do it for a young, lean or lucky person.

                                                            For me to maintain the kind of muscled physique where I can eat whatever I want and look great requires 6+ hours in the gym weekly doing relatively intense weight lifting and aerobics, as well as walking as much as possible (probably an hour a day total). And that was before I turned 30 and had a baby. But I do like to eat :)

                                                            1. re: chipman

                                                              Sorry, that's bulls***. I run 6 miles a day, do weights every other day and yoga once a week, but none of that will give me vitamins and fibre if I eat junk food all day.

                                                              Sure, I probably won't get fat, but skinny doesn't mean healthy.

                                                              1. re: chipman

                                                                Have to agree. This is complete bullsh*t. Everyone's body chemistry is different. Not to mention, you can exercise all you want, but if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. And no matter what the rest of your stats are like (heart rate, cholesterol etc.) carrying extra weight is injurious to your health.

                                                              2. Healthy = does more good then harm, on balance, in combination, in moderation and in the general sense.

                                                                1. Healthy eating to me means an emphasis on 'whole foods' as close to their natural state as possible. ZERO artificial sweetners/colors - as they -Splenda, Aspartame - are being linked to Anxiety/Depression etc..

                                                                  I use Sucanat or honey/maple syrup as sweetners.

                                                                  Zero trans fat - I use olive oil and rice bran oil.

                                                                  Minimal packaged goods and and mainly organic produce/dairy products.

                                                                  Good Whole Grains/quality COMPLEX carbs - Brown rice/potatos

                                                                  Regarding carbs...having lived in Italy and watching svelte Italian women eating pizza drenched in olive oil...it ain't what you eat people (although good pizza dough doesn't equal Twinkie)...it's how yer a** is glued to the sofa perhaps....All I'm saying is they walked a whole bunch more than many of us do here in the states...Having traveled much...it's interesting to me how the USA leads the way in the fake sugar/unnaturally low carb intake...

                                                                  Lastly, for me - no other animal products.

                                                                  1. All food is healthy if taken in judicious amounts.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                                      I'm sorry, I disagree. Overly processed, refined food is not healthy for you in any amount. It may have other redeeming qualities, such as enjoyment factor and taste (which do count for something), but not healthy.

                                                                      1. re: pescatarian

                                                                        One should distinguish between refined and processed. Refined food can be nutritious in the sense of having basic nutrients more bioavailable; for millennia, white flour would have been considered more nutritious than whole flour for that reason. Ditto simple sugars. The issue with refined food is moderation and balance; refined food becomes problematic in excess when taken without sufficient fat -- that's why low-fat diets with high amounts of simple carbs made such a mess of the American diet scene in the 1980s; if you had a normal amount of fat to slow down the absorption of the sugars, it would be less of a problem. I realize there are many carb-phobic folks, but the fact is that simple carbs have sustained human life over most of its history -- the problems is not simple carbs but how diet-crazed Americans tend to undermine themselves with them.

                                                                        Processed food (beyond mere refining) is more of a problem.

                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                          Though refined flour has a long history, that doesn't mean it's the healthiest choice now, in very different times with radically different diets. Historically, people had more physically active lives, and ate more vegetables that gave them, among many things, larger amounts of fiber than today's grossly inadequate diets. A lot of money is going into the coffers of those who make certain remedial products to relieve the conditions created by the lack of fiber, which could be greatly alleviated by eating complex carbs, drinking sufficient water, and exercising. I find it is not easy to get sufficient fiber, 25-30 grams daily without the added fiber benefit in complex carbs, especially on a low-calorie diet. I look for every source possible and can't imagine what I'd have to resort to if I were eating refined carbs instead.

                                                                          While oil can slow absorption of refined carbs, it comes at a high caloric cost, making complex carbs and acids better alternatives for the job. Because refined starchy carbs are absorbed more quickly, they spike blood sugar and cause cravings for more carbs and sugar, whereas fiber can slow absorption as many as 18 hours.

                                                                          Refined carbs are more likely to convert to body fat than complex carbs, requiring one to compensate through reduced caloric intake, nutrition and/or exercise for their indulgence. In order to keep sugar from increasing body fat, it can be absorbed no faster than it is burned for energy. The less a person exercises, the less they can afford refined carbs.

                                                                        2. re: pescatarian

                                                                          Think of unhealthy foods as EMPTY calories!

                                                                        3. Having been raised on Twinkies, Devil Dogs and a wide variety of fascinating luncheon meats (my parents were devoted chow-hounds) I can attest that enjoyment and good taste cause the brain to secrete sufficient endorphins to compensate for any less-than-yummy chemicals.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: beevod

                                                                            I'm glad you feel okay, and hope your luck continues. But, with all due respect, 1 is not a statistically significant number, and anecdotal evidence is just that: anecdotal.

                                                                            1. re: beevod

                                                                              That's like saying the endorphins released when smoking a cigarette make up for the effects of carcinogens in your body. Don't get me wrong, I wish I could be a regular smoker and live a healthy life, but I haven't figured out a way to do that yet. Same goes for overly processed, chemicalized foods. A little once in a blue moon will do no harm. A lot will.

                                                                            2. My take on healthy eating/drinking is simply, not to die from it or die from without it.

                                                                              Something that happened this week, Jan. 12, 2006, that people take for granted. Yes, you can over drink on water and die from it.

                                                                              Be surprised how many times I request a soft-drink, and all they have is diet crud. Then someone insists I drink water. Like you nuts, I am highly susceptible to hyperhydration, and all I get that "whatever look". Hint is that I need my sugar fix and fast or something unhealthy will happen.

                                                                              (Hyperhydration: aka- Water Intoxication)

                                                                              1. I don't know,my grandma and grandpa ate pork,govenment cheese and
                                                                                mac and cheese most of there life,they do eat fruits and vegis with it,my grandpa is 90 now and my grandmas about 80 and there both in pretty good shape.
                                                                                The bible says your food is your medicine.I'd say aligning yourself with gods blessings,putting your trust in him and forgiving others would make you a healthy person.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: billjriv

                                                                                  Very good viewpoint. Overall health is not gleaned simply from raw numbers of calories, carbs, fat and protein, refined this and overly processed that. Just sitting here tapping my keyboard is slowly wearing my fingers out, but I am here to use my body and it is here to be used. so what are you gonna do? Attitude is a HUGE factor

                                                                                2. Moderation, variety and avoiding a lot of additives.

                                                                                  I have a vegetarian friend who says healthy is having at least three different colors on your plate.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                    So Lucky Charms is a healthy breakfast? :)

                                                                                  2. When I love the food and the food loves me back
                                                                                    that's healthy!

                                                                                    1. To me, healthy eating means:

                                                                                      *An emphasis on vegetables, with meat served in smaller portions than the vegetables
                                                                                      *Avoiding deep-fried foods
                                                                                      *Eating fish at least twice a week
                                                                                      *Eating foods that are minimally processed
                                                                                      *Eating fresh, and preferably organic, produce
                                                                                      *Eating whole-grain bread, rather than white bread
                                                                                      *Eating brown rice, rather than white rice
                                                                                      *Eating one or two pieces of fresh fruit each day
                                                                                      *Reducing sodium content of food
                                                                                      *Using only olive oil or canola oil for cooking
                                                                                      *Controlling portion size
                                                                                      *Avoiding junk food

                                                                                      1. Don't forget a regular diet of plankton and krill.

                                                                                        1. Do you happen to have any recipes for plankton and/or krill? My cookbooks seem to ignore these organisms, perhaps because of their miniscule (microscopic?) size. If I am not mistaken, marine plankton eaters consume vast quantities of them in order to obtain a meal.

                                                                                          My fish monger does not feature these items. Can you steer us to a retailer who does carry plankton and/or krill? And, those recipes would help a great deal.

                                                                                          1. Healthy is the opposite of sickly.
                                                                                            A healthy diet consists of fresh unprocessed and unrefined foods without chemical preservatives, or additives.

                                                                                            1. Eating healthy to me means consuming things which CONTRIBUTE to, as opposed to taking away from, the quality of my life. These include:

                                                                                              - Produce that has not been genetically modified or sprayed with chemical pesticides.

                                                                                              - Food that has not been overly processed. IE: brown rice, whole grain, steel cut oats. (Not white bread, white rice, rolled oats, etc.) Carbs which fall into this category naturally fall into the lower ranks of the Glycemic Scale.

                                                                                              - Animals which have not been injected with antibiotics. If I were to eat meat soaked with said antibiotics I develop an immunity to the antibiotics. This doesn't really mean much until there comes a time when I need antibiotics and my body has already developed an immunity to the meds since I've been dosing myself with the antibiotic soaked fried chicken and ham I've been ingesting every year.

                                                                                              - Animals which have not been fed hormones. When you're a corporate farmer, fat animals yield fatter bottom lines. Funny thing is, when you ingest the hormones along with their flesh - the hormones in turn make you fat.

                                                                                              - Food free of evil trans fats. Partially hydrogenated anything didn't exist a 100 years ago. This is a man made substance that our bodies simply can't handle. The not-so-stupid folks in NYC banned it....for good reason. Why hasn't your city followed suit?

                                                                                              Please ask questions.

                                                                                              If there's one thing I've learned in my young life, it's this: No one has me and my family's best interest at heart except for me. The industry's out there to make a buck, even if it's at the expense of me or my family's health.

                                                                                              Find out exactly what it is you're putting in your mouth and on your family's table. Before it's too late.

                                                                                              1. It's interesting to see everyones thoughts on health. So much incorrect information on what is and isn't healthy is spouted by many people. People jump on the bandwagon every time a new article comes out saying some food is bad or it's a new miracle food.

                                                                                                I wonder what the outcome will be with trans-fats? While a lot of research points out they are bad, there is also research which contradicts those findings. I wonder which side is correct? The same goes for other fats, carbs, sugars, cholesterol, etc.

                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                                                  JMF, so true...hard to know what's good science and whats junk.

                                                                                                  Perhaps the professionals/researchers should refrain from sharing their "proven" science so quickly with the media, medical journals, etc. Far less people would jump from one belief to another if the information was solid.

                                                                                                  Incorrect information often has a traceable/original source. We, the consumers are led in all kinds of circles in the name of good health.

                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                    I agree that there's a lot of back-and-forth as to what's healthy and what's not. Still, I'm always more suspicious of man-made (ie, chemical) ingredients like trans fats than things that occur in nature.

                                                                                                    Sure, there are poisonous things in nature (like certain mushrooms) but the majority of our food-related problems come from us humans messing about with the food supply.

                                                                                                    1. re: piccola


                                                                                                      this story pretty much reflects my p.o.v. (especially the "rules" at the beginning)

                                                                                                  2. re: JMF

                                                                                                    There has been evidence that trans-fats are bad for you for decades. I haven't seen any research that contradicts those findings.

                                                                                                    1. re: pescatarian

                                                                                                      JMF, I don't want to push the OP too much 'except to say that I agree w/you.. much is being reported about trans-fats being bad for us but if its been the case for decades its only recently that food companies have advertised their healthy vers. or even changed their product recipes. It's a confusing health message for consumers.

                                                                                                      This article discusses NY's recent ban on trans-fats http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16051436/ As you can imagine, this ban is not popular among restaurant owners.

                                                                                                      At the same time the company Entenmann's announced moving their plant out of NY soon after the ban.

                                                                                                      If we're reading health & dietary mags, articles, reports sure we're getting information that promotes those views but sadly the overall reporting & research given to us is full of contradictions.

                                                                                                      Not to mention the number of articles that have passionately warned consumers of sugar is good/bad...coffee good/bad...whole wheat/whole grain...meat good/bad..etc.

                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                        I've been avoiding partially hydrogenated foods since the 80's. Food companies were slow to jump on it just as cigarette companies were slow to jump on cigarettes being bad for you.

                                                                                                        In terms of changing views, scientists learn more and more as time goes on. It's everchanging but that doesn't mean we should disregard everything we read because it might change. The key is to be an informed buyer and not jump on a bandwagon that marketing people have contrived.

                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                          Well put chowser and no way was I suggesting consumers were disregarding anything. The information we aren't disregarding is both contradictory and confusing a good deal of the time making it much more difficult to determine what is key to an informed buyers good health.

                                                                                                          Nor did I combine the topic to smoke/not smoke with health labeling or reported information.

                                                                                                          Thanks for your reply.

                                                                                                  3. Healthy= Fresh vegetable, fruit. Fresh wild caught fish. olive and vegetable oil. Moderate comsumption. Regular exercise.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: hughnguyen22

                                                                                                      Even those should be in moderation--like everything.

                                                                                                    2. "Healthy" is not a word I apply to any one food per se. I avoid labeling foods as good or bad. The word "healthy" applies to any food that I eat in moderation. For example, the Twinkie I eat once or twice a year is healthy for me.

                                                                                                      1. If it is fruit or vegetable related, e.g. strawberry Jarritos, banana pudding, asparagus bisque, guacamole, etc. Also Diet Dr. Pepper, because apparently that has prunes in it or at one point had prunes in it and is therefore "health soda".

                                                                                                        1. I guess just trying to eat more whole grains, more veggies and fruit, less red meat and more chicken and fish, but all in moderation. I take my vitamins and try to eat well when I can.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                                                            I think healthy is paying attention to what you eat. We have so much control, read labels, make good decisions but still enjoy.

                                                                                                            1. re: Alica

                                                                                                              Ditto, still indulge, have fun, eat good, but just eat smart as often as possible

                                                                                                          2. To me, eating healthy is going wheat-free and dairy-free, adding more colors to my plate and totally eliminating processed snack food. I did Dr. Joshi's Holistic Detox a few years ago and it really did change my attitude towards food. I learned that I feel A LOT better when I eat super-healthy. However, I am pretty bad at choosing feeling good long-term over the immediate gratification of a Caramilk bar (which I buy in bulk to celebrate my students' birthdays). Oprah recently had an episode on "extreme life extension", and there was this guy who ate like, three pounds of salad at lunch, so I've tried to double my lunchtime salad intake since then. It's going well. I also ate a Tim Horton's Key Lime donut after school... which was probably not the best idea. All that being said, my unhealthy is a lot healthier than most people's healthy!

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                              Eat unprocessed foods, and you're good to go.

                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                I would say the vast majority of my diet is unprocessed, but I think I still have to make positive choices. Unprocessed for some people would be potatoes, rice, orange juice and grapes.

                                                                                                                1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                                  I don't think there is anything innately negative about the foods you mentioned. Many traditional diets contain good deals of rice. A diet high in rice content has contributed to Japanese longevity. It's the more modern diet with bread and processed foods that is a problem.

                                                                                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                    Don't the Japanese primarily eat white rice, a processed product?

                                                                                                                  2. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                                    All vegetables, fruits, grains, and pulses are unprocessed in their natural state. Put them in a canned, boxed, or frozen meal and you have something else altogether.

                                                                                                              2. "It seems to me that the word has become so over used as to become meaningless"

                                                                                                                I agree with the OP. No further comment is necessary.

                                                                                                                1. It's meaningful to me only in the sense of a whole diet over a significant period of time. Sum of its parts.

                                                                                                                  1. Interesting topic!

                                                                                                                    I don't quite understand why people think of healthy food as "low carb". I'm originally from Asia, and we consume a lot of rice over there - a ton of carbs. And we're known for being pretty healthy. The thing about carbs is that carbs = energy, so to utilize that our bodies have to burn that energy off. So it's a matter of exercise, really.

                                                                                                                    Of course, "healthy" depends on the individual too. There are things to consider like allergies, health conditions, etc.

                                                                                                                    To me, personally, I agree that truly "healthy" food is unprocessed. I work at Trader Joe's so luckily food without preservatives or chemicals like high fructose corn syrup are available to me. I love fish too. :) Fish is extremely healthy and yummy! So are tomatoes.

                                                                                                                    I believe in a balanced diet - meat, veggies, etc. The human body needs protein, carbs, fat, etc. Basically "healthy" = less overeating, more exercise.

                                                                                                                    1. Um...it won't kill you if you eat it everyday?

                                                                                                                      I just generally think of meals as healthy like a balance of everything but I don't think about it much.

                                                                                                                      1. For me the answer is very simple.
                                                                                                                        Healthy is variety...anything at all, in moderation.
                                                                                                                        In other words, the exact opposite of how most Americans eat.

                                                                                                                        1. I may have a less popular idea of the word. To me healthy is "real", meaning i do think that butter and cheese and all that stuff is healthy. Like Michael Pollan said "food that my grandmother would recognize"

                                                                                                                          1. To me, healthy is eating what I want. What I want = What my body craves = What my body needs. If I don’t get enough meat, I crave a big juicy steak or a burger. If I don’t get enough vegetables, I crave vegetables. If I don’t get enough cake, I crave cake ; ) But that’s just me.

                                                                                                                            Also, Good for my taste buds = Good for my soul = Good for my health!

                                                                                                                            I realize that’s overly simplistic but I’m fortunate to have been brought up on a balanced, home-cooked diet, so that’s what I crave. I very rarely crave overly processed foods or pseudo-foods (like margarine) and most of my cravings are moderate (as in, a small amount will satisfy me so I would never eat steak for 3 days in a row or eat a whole cake, or eat a whole pint of ice cream, etc.)

                                                                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: soniabegonia

                                                                                                                              Sound like a good approach! But I'd eat steak for three days - but it would be starting and finishing one steak over three days (maybe once a year I'll sit down and eat a whole steak all at once).

                                                                                                                              1. re: soniabegonia

                                                                                                                                No one NEEDS cake. If you think your body is telling you that it does, you need a reality check. If you crave a Double Bacon Cheddar Burger, that doesn't make it "healthy." The occasional indulgence of an unhealthful craving is just fine (I like burgers and cake, too), but to claim that just because you want to eat them makes them healthy is nuts.

                                                                                                                                P.S. I don't know anyone who craves margarine.

                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                  Hey, pika! I think the first begonia paragraph was to shock and the second to re-balance the universe.

                                                                                                                                  But you did toss in a hilarious retort!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                    Haha, perhaps you missed my winking smiley (that's shorthand for "i'm being tongue-in-cheek here and I thought I'd throw this in as a light-hearted aside). I don't NEED cake, I "need" cake, get my drift?

                                                                                                                                    Also, I still say that it's perfectly healthy to have an occasional slice of cake to satisfy a craving that, left unsatisfied, would have driven me to desperation -> extreme sadness-> depression. Because my cravings, while moderate in quantity, are fierce in intensity.

                                                                                                                                    And the question was "what does healthy mean to YOU?" and I was only answering for myself, not others. I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to follow their every craving if it doesn't work for them. Works for me.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: soniabegonia

                                                                                                                                      i did miss the wink. Sam's powers of observation are keener than my own. No surprise there.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: soniabegonia

                                                                                                                                        I'm right there with you, Sonia! In fact after the earthquake in San Francisco in '89 a friend of mine had her nutritionist tell her she "needed" ice cream. Her point being it would fulfill her emotional needs and that those tie in with our nutritional needs (I'm sure some will point out how that can go awry)
                                                                                                                                        Personally I've found that as I've moved away from the no dairy, no fat high carb lifestyle my cholesterol numbers have gone down and I have become leaner. Don't know why. Just read the book "What to Eat" (I think that's what it's called) by Nina Planck and found it made a lot of sense. I've always been a proponent of chicken skin and fat and now have reason to keep eating that way.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: soniabegonia

                                                                                                                                          i thought your reply was very sound and healthy... i have recently embraced the ideal that being a healthy eater is being an intuitive eater. i have really begun to let go of the whole "good" /"bad" food concept and allow my body to guide my food choices, including cravings. i think depriving ourselves of our cravings (be it out of a desire to lead a "healthy" lifestyle, dieting, or simply fear) backfires - hence, the epidemic of overweight, obesity, and eating disorders in our society.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                          I think you have to make healthy changes in your life that make you crave things that are good for you. I am a vegetarian, when I travel I crave tofu and the healthy delicious way I cook at home.
                                                                                                                                          I think when you say "I crave cake" it does not really fall into the "Healthy" catagory, it is pretty much how most of Americans eat, whatever they feel like with not much thought.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                            But I know what soniab means. I had a craving for a potato the other day. Big mashed potato with sour cream, but then Last week I wanted seafood and another day squash zuchinni. I cooked up pan sauteed 2-3 zuchinnis and just ate those.

                                                                                                                                            If I crave a double bacon cheddar, I would have it.. Meaning healthy to me is trying the best I can to eat good and try to watch foods I eat. That doesn't means when my body craves something I eat it. I had my potato, no butter, but I did have low fat sour cream, zuchinni, yes but cooked in pam, s/p and seasoning. So I don't think cravings are bad and our bodies do tell us what they need. If it is cake, sugar. I don't go out and eat a whole cake but I may make some brownies, no icing, but just a brownie with some vanilla yogurt which will satisfy my craving. And my burger may be a single, burger my way, some extra veggies, turkey bacon and cheddar and that works too.

                                                                                                                                            I don't over compensate just try to eat good with possible. I still eat eggs for breakfast but I may poach one over toast or an English muffin, but sometimes my body craves yogurt or cottage cheese so I have that. I think there is something that your body craves what it needs. Don't go overboard, but just give it a bit of what it needs.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                              Sometimes when you crave sweet things it might be because you need sugar. Like blood sugar levels are low or something like that I wasn't really paying attention in class. but anyways fruit should do but cake tastes better!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: AngelSanctuary

                                                                                                                                                Anything that is tasty, and won't poison you.