Megan O. Steintrager
Lately it seems as if you can’t open a newspaper, magazine, or online publication without seeing panicky headlines with phrases like “must-avoid ingredient,” foods “that can make you sick” or “that will kill you,” additives that are “banned in other countries,” “scary,” or “dangerous,” and so on (these are all real examples of recent news headlines, by the way—Google “food killing us” for more).
Sure, there’s reason to worry (or at least educate yourself) about many things associated with food (trans fat and antibiotic resistant bacteria come to mind), but I worry that all this worry is what’s going to make us sick. So, in conjunction with Healthy Eating Doable Challenge #12: De-Stress Your Diet, I asked licensed nutritionist, author of Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About, and Epicurious contributor Monica Reinagel to weigh in on food matters we could all stand to chill about. Read on after the jump for her advice on what to take off your worry list.
5 Foods to Stop Stressing About
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup: Noting that this is one of the places that “we worry too much about quality and not enough about quantity,” Reinagel says, “We obsess about high fructose corn syrup but if you’re keeping total added sugars low, it just doesn’t matter.” See Epicurious’ Doable Challenge #11: Reduce Your Sugar Intake for more details on why the amount of added sugar in your diet matters much more than the type.
2. Refined Grains vs. Whole Grains: Here’s another quality vs. quantity equation, says Reinagel: “We get all sanctimonious about whole grains (brown rice, sprouted bread, whole wheat spaghetti) and then forget about portion size. In truth, portion size matters more.” For ideas on whole grains to consume in reasonable portions, see our Doable Challenge #10: Eat More Whole Grains.
3. Pesticides: Obviously Reinagel is not suggesting you seek out pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, but she cautions against cutting back on healthy produce because you’re worried about chemicals: “We worry about pesticides on fruits and vegetables but—unless you’re pregnant or under five years old—the benefits of eating more produce (whether organic or not!) far outweighs the possible exposure to pesticides.” And if you’d like to narrow your worry to the dirtiest produce, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.
4. Occasional Overeating: Reinagal says not to worry about busting your calorie budget every now and then for special occasions, adding that it’s how we eat most of the time, not every now and then, that really matters (and that means the other way too: occasional healthy eating doesn’t help much if your overall diet is poor). She prefers we all mind our “nutritional grade point average,” and focus on how we eat most of the time rather than worrying about getting a C, D, or even an F every now and then. See Epicurious’ Comfort Food Recipes for Splurge Days or Any Day for recipes for a good grade point average.
5. Becoming a Wheat Zombie: While books like Grain Brain and Wheat Belly decrying modern wheat top The New York Times Best Sellers list and Paleo Diet followers and others recommend avoiding grains, Reinagel says it’s time to quit “worrying that wheat will eat your brain.” Reinagel takes on the theory that grains contribute to migraines, dementia, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and other diseases and problems in her article Are Grains Killing Your Brain?