9 Foods On Which I’ve Changed My Nutritional Opinion

acorn quash

I’ve learned a lot since I started studying nutrition back in 2002. Not just from grad school (though that formed much of my base knowledge), but also from independent research, visiting farms and food production plants, getting to know brands and laws/regulations, as well as reading books, blogs and magazines.

Thus, some of my nutritional opinions have changed over the last decade. These shifts fall into a couple of themes:

  • I’m no longer afraid of dietary fat
  • I almost always choose less processed foods over more processed ones, even if that means more calories, fat, sugar, etc.
  • I don’t count or pay attention to calories anymore. Instead I try to eat as many vegetables & fruits as possible, and use everything else in moderation…most of the time. I’ve found it’s actually easier to maintain weight and healthy habits when eating like this as opposed to calorie-counting.

Below are some of the foods I now eat regularly that I used to avoid.

whole milk yogurt

Whole Milk Yogurt

I used to exclusively buy nonfat and low-fat yogurt, but after tasting whole milk yogurt a few times and noticing how much more satisfied I felt after eating it, the lower-fat versions were not as appealing. And in many cases, whole milk yogurt only has 20-30 calories more per serving than low-fat, and since it tastes delicious plain, I avoid at least this many calories in flavors and sweeteners.

peanut butter

Full-Fat Peanut Butter

I’ve always loved peanut butter, but I used to use it more sparingly and carefully pour out the oil on top to slightly reduce the fat & calories in each serving. Now, I find peanut butter to be one of the few foods that can fill me up at breakfast and truly fuel me until lunch time. I generously lather it on a piece of whole wheat toast (just one) and stay satisfied for hours.

whole eggs

Whole Eggs

Years ago I used to make omelets, scrambles and salads with one egg and several egg whites. But now I just eat whole eggs. Not only does this reduce waste, it also boosts my nutrient intake, since egg yolks contain a significant portion of an egg’s nutritional value. Eating egg yolks means a few more calories and a little more fat, but if you’re buying organic, pasture-raised eggs, I believe this is a good thing. I find whole eggs to be more satisfying too.

whipped cream

Whipped Cream

I rarely eat whipped cream, but when I need it for a recipe or special treat, I buy the real thing (and usually whip it myself). At this point, I can hardly believe I used to buy non-dairy whipped topping for recipes and desserts, just to keep the calories lower. The ingredients in that stuff are hardly identifiable! As with all dairy, I make sure to buy organic/pasture-based heavy cream for whipping.

olive oil

Salad Dressings

I used to make vinaigrettes and dressings with a high ratio of acid to oil (like 3 parts lemon juice to 1 part oil). But honestly those don’t taste as good to me anymore, and now that I’m not afraid to eat a little olive oil, I’ve switched my formula to more like 1:1. The resulting dressings do have more fat, but I find my salads more satisfying now so I end up eating less. [Note: I still don't do the culinary recommendation of 3 parts oil: 1 part acid - I find this too heavy and greasy for light vegetables like lettuce!]

cheese

Cheese

I love how regular, full-fat cheese tastes and melts, so that’s all I buy now. Again, I buy organic & grass-fed varieties which are higher in omega-3’s than conventional cheeses, so that the fat I’m eating is more good fat than bad fat. I still save cheese for places where I can really taste it – like on salads & with crackers – and leave it off when I don’t really notice it – like on sandwiches. This helps me keep my cheese intake under control.

mayonnaise

Real Mayonnaise

This one kind of surprises even me. After using regular Best Foods a few times, I can hardly stand the taste of Light mayonnaise or of any organic/natural mayonnaise brands I’ve tried. Anything other than regular, full-fat mayonnaise tastes too sweet and tangy to me. I find that with the real thing, I only need a little. With the lighter versions, bigger portions are necessary to achieve the same culinary tasks. [Best Foods: Please start making your mayo with organic eggs! I'd be in heaven!]

whole milk

Whole Milk

When it comes to coffee and lattes, I go for whole or 2% (organic) milk. I love how creamy these taste, and I find I stay satisfied for SO much longer – it’s almost like having a meal rather than a beverage. For cereal and everyday uses, I still buy 1% milk because I like the taste and consistency.

organic milk

organic dairy

Butter

I used to buy Smart Balance Light, Earth Balance, or Light Butter. After pondering the question, “Who do you trust more, cows or chemists?” I now only buy regular butter. The big benefit is taste, but because I buy organic, pasture-raised versions – I think there’s a nutritional benefit too.

What foods have you changed your own opinion on? Have you seen any positive results from the changes?

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Comments

  1. I love this post, I am also coming around to this way of thinking and it makes so much sense. Loved seeing the pics with each point. Thank you!

  2. Such an interesting post!! I definitely agree with changing my opinion on dietary fats and going for whole foods over processed. Those have by far been the biggest changes in my diet over the past 10 years! I’m right with you on the full-fat peanut butter and salad dressings. I haven’t switched away from low-fat dairy products because I think the benefits of low-fat dairy have been SO engrained into my mind that it’s been hard to switch away, but I’ve been more and more convinced by things I’ve read lately to try to switch. I AM proud of myself for making the switch to organic dairy, which embarrassingly enough only happened a year or so ago. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love this! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Agree on all!

  5. What kind of oil is Best Foods mayo made from? I have a hard time finding a mayo with a quality oil. Most have soybean oil as the #1 ingredient. :(

    P.S. I found your blog via The Lean Green Bean and happy I did. Great post!

  6. I used to go for the lower calorie versions of foods. I still do with yogurt out of habit, but I buy real cheese and real butter. I don’t buy the shredded cheese because I can hardly taste the flavor. I buy and eat them in chunks so I can really get the flavor.

  7. I have also recently changed my opinion about butter! I love cooking with it, especially for sauteing veggies or caramelizing onions. It makes everything taste so delicious that there’s no need for sugary sauces!

  8. Hi, I came across your blog from The Lean Green Bean Beans Bytes :)
    I like that most of what these foods have in common is more fat – but they’re more filling so you end up eating less of it. I often tell myself on the way to the grocery store that I WON’T buy that low-fat dressing or cheese because I know low-fat doesn’t mean better for you, but once it’s in front of me, I find the lower calorie approach more appealing.
    Knowing that you find them more filling and satisfying though should help me take the step to choose the standard or at least 2% milk-fat versions of the foods I like. Great post!

    • Thanks for reading, Amber! I think different approaches work for different people. If it’s harder for you to eat small portions of high fat foods like cheese, dressing, etc. then it might be worth buying low-fat or reduced-fat. But if you are the type to just eat until you’re satisfied (on most occasions) then the higher fat versions may be healthier, more satisfying and tastier :)

  9. I LOVE this! I agree with so many of these!

  10. Great post, Amelia!

  11. Courtney Echols says:

    I love this post, Meels. I’m in agreement with you on ALL of these!

  12. What a great post! I really love that you don’t mind changing your opinion with the introduction of new information. My diet has changed with all the dietary trends over the years, too, even when instincts tell me that the natural “real” food is always better than something cooked up in a lab.

  13. I loved your post. Over the past few years I have made similar transitions. Coming to the realization that less calories/fat does not necessarily mean a healthier food has been a long process. I remember the days of trashing my yolks to make an egg white omelette! I cringe at the thought now! How could I possibly throw away those beautiful rich yolks, that provide so many nutrients?! I equate fat-free with gross these days, I find that store-bought, fat-free/light salad dressing and fat-free cheese is very unpalatable. I also used to use smart balance, thinking that was so virtuous… I now proudly cook my pastured eggs in real organic butter, the taste is amazing. I LOVE that stoneyfield whole milk yogurt! Thanks for the great post. Here’s to real, whole foods!

    Claire

  14. Amelia @i_heart_kale says:

    Amelia, have you ever made your own mayonnaise? It’s SO easy and incredibly delicious! Best is that it can be made in a mason jar with an immersion blender or in the vitamix/ blender. I make my own strictly so I can control the kind of oil I use. Plus, if you’re feeling fancy you can try out flavored oils and make some pretty tasty aiolis for sandwiches. Mmm! Love your post.

    • I should totally do this! I used to make mayo for clients when I was a personal chef, but have been too lazy to do it for my own family…so silly. I love the idea of flavored oils for different aiolis!

  15. I love this so much Amelia! That is exactly how I think too. It’s amazing to go back and think of how I thought of food just 2 years ago. I love how much more educated I am now and that I can give my family the best nutrition possible.

  16. Amelia, I strongly agree with your philosophy and on all of these products! I firmly believe that if you eat well the majority of the time (fresh vegetables, lean proteins, etc.) then you can eat and use these products in full-fat form and not be concerned. It’s when we eat all those processed foods on a regular basis and don’t fill our bellies with healthy goodness that we would need to use low-fat or no-fat versions – and why suffer through that when healthy food can taste soooo good! I would never eat food that doesn’t taste really good, I’m too much a foodie not to. But I love the feeling of great health and I love that I can have both!
    Thanks for the great article, I’m off to tweet it!

  17. And ps…HOW CUTE is that photo of you and your family?? I feel so lucky that I get to meet you in just two weeks!!

  18. Wow … this is just a fantastic list! I found the link from Megan (TheLyonsShare) and it is so true … I have been using the label ‘chemical soup’ to describe so many of the ‘healthy’ things we were taught to eat for weight loss, and instead my habits look very much like your list at the top. Fantastic stuff.

    Oh – and on whipped cream those ‘cream or oil’ commercials definitely drive the point home. And generally what we do is make our own fresh whipped cream (cream, sugar, vanilla, mixer and 2 minutes!) … and surprisingly it tastes NOTHING like ‘cool whip’!

    Thanks again!

  19. Fantastic post! I have come to this same conclusion about food. I love to eat real, whole foods versus those that are highly processed with tons of chemicals added. I share several of the same feelings as you, ie. I love whole or 2% milk as it helps me stay full longer. Even though this option has more calories, I intake fewer in the long run because I do not eat as much :) Thank you for sharing this.

  20. What’s your beef with chemists? You realize that everything is a chemical, right?

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