​Food Neutrality: An Alternative Approach to Food

Food neutrality offers a refreshing perspective compared to what we have seen in the last 30 years of fad diets. Food neutrality is an approach to eating that promotes a mindful relationship with food, free from guilt, judgment, or rigid restrictions. What does that look like?

Food neutrality is the belief that no food should be labeled as good or bad. Instead of adhering to strict rules or diet plans, food neutrality encourages individuals to listen to their bodies’ natural hunger cues, honor their cravings, and enjoy a wide variety of foods without shame or guilt. It can enhance body awareness, improve relationship with food and reduce emotional eating. 

Notice the word- belief.

I truly believe this. My personal take is that all actual food offers some sort of benefit and overconsumption on any one particular food is discouraged. HOWEVER…

This is where my perception is unconventional- I don’t think that all “foods substances” that are sold in the grocery stores are indeed food. For example, I will never offer candy at the dinner table, red dyed foods, or pop and energy drinks. Just because these are sold in a grocery store does not make them food. 

The definition of food is “a substance consumed that provides nourishment and sustains life”. If something does not do that, or literally does the opposite of that, I would not consider it food.
The CFIA ( Canadian Food Inspection Agency) set guidelines of what a food is, what food additives can appear in foods and their upper limits … but who is holding these manufacturers accountable? There was a targeted survey done by the CFIA where a “variety of domestic and imported bakery products, beverages, chips/crackers, dried mixes, frozen desserts, oils, sauces and sweets were sampled between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 to examine brightly coloured products potentially containing added colors such as Allura Red and Amaranth. A total of 391 sampled products were collected and tested for up to 43 different food colours.” Why is this important?  Because “The presence of non-permitted colouring agents may pose a health risk to the consumer, as some are potentially damaging to DNA and carcinogenic”(CFIA, 2021). I believe red food dye, or Allura Red upper limit is 300p.p.m….some of these food samples detected 4500p.p.m – how many “samples” or portions are kids eating?

CFIA indicates that “Food colours exceeding the maximum level of use were detected in 9 of these samples (4 different products). Non-permitted food colours were found in 4 palm oil samples (3 different products) and 1 hard candy sample; while, 5 samples contained permitted food colours/levels without a declaration of use in the list of ingredients.” Check out the survey here: https://inspection.canada.ca/DAM/DAM-food-aliments/STAGING/text-texte/food_colours_selected_foods_1665559974270_eng.pdf.

These are literally doing the OPPOSITE of nourishment. So, that is just a glance at my logic why I don’t think some substances sold as foods are indeed foods, and should be avoided. But most of them, are great – including many of those that diet culture has demonized for years like bread, ice-cream and chocolate.

To help young children cultivate intuitive eating habits, offering a variety of foods to allow them to figure out what they are craving from the selection. I understand that I am privileged to have the opportunity to provide a variety of food and perhaps this is not an option for everyone, as food security affects at least 2.1 million Canadians as of 2021 (Breakfast Club of Canada, 2021). I am eager to dive into this topic for the next post. 

The point is “healthy eating” (whatever that’s means) can look different to different people. Nutrition requirements can be achieved in many different ways- and most foods (with the exception of a handful out of thousands) can provide nourishment in some way.

Most importantly, figuring out what your family values most when it comes to food- is it cost, taste, longevity, convenience, quality, local, source, tradition, culture, religion etc….and create a repertoire of foods that match your values and needs so that you can guide the younger generation to make mindful eating practices.

Red candies will not be in our repertoire… but cupcakes will show up here and there.