Good Food and Bad FoodIs There Such Thing as Good Food and Bad Food?

There is a growing amount of focus on “obesity” in American culture.  Phrases such as “the war on “obesity”” are commonly used by media outlets (DePhillis, 2013). In 2013 “obesity” was officially categorized as a disease, and in 2012, the New York City board of health passed a ban on sugary drinks in containers over 16 ounces in an effort to help thwart the ““obesity” epidemic,” (Pollack, 2013 and Lerner, 2012). People often have an idea that there are foods that are good and foods that are bad. This is evident in the way we talk about food. Chips are labeled as “junk food,” fast food as “unhealthy,” and other foods are simply labeled as “bad for you.” On the other side, there are several foods which are labeled with positive words and phrases such as “healthy,” “good,” and “pure.”

Please note, the terms “obese” and “obesity” have been criticized as weight stigmatizing and imprecise. Although we use the terms to quote others’ work, “obese” and “obesity” are terms that Center For Discovery rejects.

What is the Difference Between Good Food and Bad Food?

Nothing. Foods should not be thought of as good/bad.  Every food, no matter its categorization, provides nutrition and sustenance to the body.  Therefore, there are no “bad” foods.  Some people may say that certain foods are not nutritious.  However, if you were to look at the nutrition facts, the amount of protein, sugar, carbohydrate, fiber, etc. would not read zero.  The food still provides these nutrients. Our bodies need protein, fiber, sugar and even fat to survive. Some foods, it is true contain higher levels of protein or fat than do other foods. However, people should be eating a variety of foods to get all of the nutrients and vitamins that they need.  We aren’t meant to eat the same foods for every meal.  When food intake is varied, and foods are eaten in moderation, eating a food high in sugar or fat will not negatively affect our health. Too much of anything, including the good foods, and including water can be harmful to our bodies (Ballatyne, 2007).  All foods should be eaten in moderation. All food is fuel is for our bodies.  There are is no good food/bad food distinction.  All good is good, because all food nourishes our bodies. This is a foreign message for most people. The message that foods are good or bad is constantly being given through books, fitness trainers, television shows, celebrity diets, the internet, and law makers. The problem is that this message leads to restriction and food restriction is often a sign of disordered eating.

Many of the clients I work with view food as either good or bad, and the foods in the “bad” category are often a source of anxiety for them.  Those foods are avoided to the point that if there was nothing else to eat, they would rather go hungry. Their body, then, does not get any fuel at all.  The message that foods are good or bad is not helpful. Likewise, the message that banning certain foods will make people healthier is both untrue and unhelpful.  Health is about more than just what you do and do not eat.  This message may be making us less healthy by limiting the variety of foods we eat and contributing to disordered eating, (Hauser, 2012).

What is the Alternative to the Good Food/Bad Food Mentality?

The idea that food is fuel, that all food will nourish the body, and that variation and moderation are important keys to nourishing the body well.  In order to break free from this mentality, we must change our language around food.  Pay attention to whether descriptions of food are positive or negative.  Counteract the many messages from the media by saying to in response, “Food is fuel!” Remember that no matter what you are eating, it is providing nutrients for your body.  All food is good food, so bon appétit!



Ballatyne, Coco. “Strange, but true: Drinking too much water can kill.” Scientific American. June 21, 2007. 3 August, 2013.

DePhillis, Lydia. “’Looks like the U.S. is winning its war on childhood “obesity”.” Washington Post. June 12, 2013. 3, August 2013.

Hauser, Annie. “Are anti-“obesity” programs causing eating disorders?” Everyday Health. January 27, 2012. 3 August 2013.

Lerner, George. “New York health board approves ban on large soda.” CNN Health. September 14, 2012. 3, August 2013.

Pollack, Andrew. “A.M.A. recognizes “obesity” as a disease.” New York Times. June 18, 2013. 3, August, 2013.