February 18


Are There “Bad” Foods?

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

February 18, 2019

minutes read time


Tell me if you’ve ever said this to yourself before:

“I can’t have that (food). It’s bad for me!”

If I’m being honest, I’ve probably said the same thing. And, if I’m continuing the honesty, I’m a little hypocritical when it comes to myself. I’ll tell myself I can’t have soda because it’s loaded with sugar. But I’ll tell myself a cupcake a week is okay.

Ummm…neither are amazing for my health. So why do I rationalize one over the other? Likely because we’re told constantly that soda is bad. But when’s the last time you heard someone tell you a cupcake is bad?

Probably never. Am I right? I’m right ?

Now, hold on tight because the next sentence is going to crush everything you’ve ever known about food and health. There are no bad foods.

Ya heard me! There are better options. But when it comes to health and weight loss, there are no bad foods. In this blog, I’m going to tell you why we feel that way, how those thoughts can sabotage your efforts, and how to change the way you look at food.

Let’s dive in!

Why We Place Foods in Categories

We place foods in categories because that’s what we’ve been taught to do. Just like with weight loss. We’ve been taught to focus on calories in versus calories out. It’s an old, outdated method that has no place in weight loss today.

Viewing foods as “bad” is outdated as well. There are no bad foods. There are foods that are filled with nutrients that feed our bodies at a cellular level. And there are foods that do nothing for us nutritionally but make us feel better mentally.

Common foods people view as bad:










These are a few examples. Everyone has their “bad” food. Mine is soda…for some stupid reason. When we view foods as bad, we place them on a pedestal thinking we can never have that food. In reality, we need to re-learn how to think about food.

Grab a sheet of paper and list all the foods you view as “bad.” Now, promise yourself you won’t view that food as bad any longer. Instead, view it as a food you can have. A food you can choose to have when you want. In moderation, though (a few times per month).

Negative Thoughts in Reference to Foods

Any negative thoughts are thoughts we tend to focus on. We obsess over them. And then we berate ourselves for having them. What people don’t realize is these are actually harmful to the body. They kick off the stress response and completely cancel out your weight loss efforts.

Here are some common ways you can tell if you have negative thoughts in reference to foods:


  1. place foods in the “bad” category.
  2. reward your hard work with food.
  3. punish yourself after having a “bad” food.
  4. tell yourself you’ll feel better if you have a nibble of (food).

These are classic signs of disordered eating. Note I didn’t say an eating disorder. Disordered eating is something many have, including myself (it’s something I actively work on). This usually comes from our eating history.

Most women have dieted on and off throughout their life. Many have heard their mothers, sisters, or friends talk about how “fat” they were or what diet they were on. When we are young, we are impressionable. When we get older, we act on these impressions.

We yo-yo diet. We eat poorly and then crash diet. Once we lose some weight, we eat poorly again. Notice I’m using “we.” This is a pattern I’m guilty of myself.

When we can finally ditch disordered eating, we can change our outlook on food. This isn’t something that happens overnight. Like everything else with nutrition, it’s a practice. And it takes time.

A practice I use a lot with my clients is discovering the underlying emotion to their eating. When you can pinpoint emotions that drive you to eat a certain way, you can address that emotion instead of covering it up with food.

Changing Your Thought Process

This is an important area. And one that many of us need to work on. Changing your thought process around food.

Here’s something I hear a lot. “I can’t go out socially because I can’t have any of the foods I want.” Yes, you can! You can have those foods that make you feel good mentally. Those sugary snacks we love so much. Moderation is key.

If you haven’t indulged all week…indulge! But here’s the kicker…there’s not beating yourself up afterward. You eat it and you move on. The mental berating we give ourselves is a huge part of the problem.

Instead of placing foods in the good or bad category. Look at them in relation to nutrients. With a plate of food in front of you, how will those foods feed your body? What will you get from roasted vegetables that you won’t get from a piece of pie? And vice versa?

So, take your list of “bad” foods you made a burn it! (Don’t burn your house down 😛 ) And promise yourself no more negative thoughts around food!

In the comments below, let me know one food you’ve placed in the “bad” category and what you plan on doing to bring it out!

  • Great blog Sunny! I’m thinking, what can I do to get out of the Red Zone of borderline diabetes before the damage is irreversible??
    Sugar and anything with flour or animal fat are on my bad list. Then, I find myself searching how to make something I truly enjoy healthier. Your blogs and podcasts are very helpful, along with Google or Alexa.

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