The Word “Healthy” Has Lost Its Meaning

This week I read the usual assortment of posts, advertisements, articles, op-eds, stories and emails describing various products, recipes and produce as “healthy.” Hundreds of examples flood my world on a weekly basis. How is anyone supposed to know what the word “healthy” means anymore?

What’s the problem? “Healthy” doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s been co-opted by the food industry, and from there it has become so firmly entrenched in our daily language that it’s more or less lost its value. The media, in particular, uses it extensively. This week alone I saw it used in reference to peas, milk, chocolate, granola, dog food, cookies, gluten-free flour, grocery stores, and that was just the beginning. Not just that, but food is not “healthy.” It is, rather, “nutritious.” Eating nutritious food is an essential part of being healthy. To be specific, it’s not food that’s healthy, it’s us.

If you’re trying to make the right choice at the supermarket, which is what our entire supermarket experience now consists of, don’t allow the word “healthy” to sway you. The word has become more or less meaningless, at least when applied to food. Substitute the word “nutritious,” as in “Is this food NUTRITIOUS? Is it rich in NUTRIENTS? Will it NOURISH me?” That’s a better way to figure out what you’re looking for.

Here are a few examples: In the produce section, where nutritious is mostly a given, look at a pile of fresh spinach and say, “Yes!, that is nutritious food.” And peaches, apples, avocados, onions, grapes, plums, cucumbers and tomatoes. Fish is nutritious, so much so that a new public health initiative has been announced to encourage pregnant women and children to be sure to eat two servings a week. In other words, make sure to have fish on your family’s menu at least a couple of times a week. Eggs, especially ones from chickens that eat bugs and worms and grass, are nutritious. Not healthy. The chickens who laid them are healthy. The eggs are nutritious.

Beans are nutritious, as are olives, [whole] grains and nuts. They supply loads of nutrients.

If you see the word “healthy” on a package, put it back. Nourish yourself with nutritious Food, packed with nutrients because that’s how nature made them. Stay away from “enriched,” and “fortified,” and “healthy.”

6 thoughts on “The Word “Healthy” Has Lost Its Meaning

  1. Great post. Advertising has stolen important words that belong in the context of an article written by someone who truly knows ie a dietitian or person in the medical field. Your guidance in looking for items that list NUTRIENTS on the package will keep people “healthier” that’s for sure. Beth Havey

  2. Where can you get eggs that are grown locally? I have a friend to has chickens, but I cannot get eggs all of the time. Is there a local farm or market you can suggest? Once you see those golden yolks of fresh eggs it is hard to go back to pale yellow!

    • Where are you located? Is there a farmer’s market you could check out? Or ask the local supermarket/grocery what they know about the eggs they carry. No one can trick you — the highest quality eggs have yolks so yellow you could practically call them orange.

  3. Plus, the word “healthy” in terms of a grocery store makes me compare it to a “standard” grocery store, as in if this is a “health food store,” what does that make its counterpart? A junk food store? Why are we so graciously supportive of shops that provide us a majority of food which is devoid of nutrition?

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