The amount is the key to health benefits

By Bobbie Randall

April 24, 2014

One of the most used phrases a dietitian repeats is: There are no good foods or bad foods. Any food can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan. It is the amount of any food that labels it healthy or unhealthy.

I do want to exclude food that has not been properly handled, cleaned, prepared or cooked. Cross contamination and improper cooking temperatures can make even the smallest amount of the healthiest food a bad food. The five second rule does not exist. When a food lands on the floor the bacteria do not count one mississippi, two mississippi, three mississippi, four mississippi and five mississippi until the germs jump on the food to make it a bad food and unsafe to consume.

There are foods that can be eaten in excess without major detrimental effects. Most of them are nonstarchy vegetables. Onions and garlic, either cooked or raw, are fabulous foods for your body. The amount of oil that they are pan fried with can affect the total calories that they provide but still onions and garlic are not bad foods.

Dark green leafy vegetables are often underrated. Salads made with romaine, green leaf, arugula, and butterhead lettuces are nutrient dense. Greens, such as kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage and even broccoli contain antioxidants and cancer fighting nutrients. Swiss chard and spinach are in a class of their own with excellent nutritive references. So called worthless weeds like, dandelion leaves, red clover, plantain, watercress and chickweed play a valuable role in a healthy salad. They are only bad foods if soil and dog dirt is not washed off properly.

Herbs are jackpot freebies with no calories but plenty of nutrients that improve taste, flavor and health. Cooking spray oils fit into this category. A quick squirt of oil can add an iota of nutrients, a smidge of calories and keep food from sticking. They are definitely jackpot freebies.

For years dietitians have been warning and forbidding fats in the diet. The decades of eating a low fat, not fat diet are over. It is not the fat that will kill a person it is the amount.

In fact there are some foods that are high in fat that are actually nutritionally beneficial. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat but also manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, pantothenic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. Adding a few avocado slices to a sandwich or a salad is beneficial but eating a cup of guacamole adds too many calories.

Nuts, seeds and coconut calories add up but the nutritional goodness can’t be beat if consumed in a small amount. There are no good foods or bad foods, only healthy and unhealthy amounts of foods.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator and a registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at or 330-684-4776.