BistroMD Health Library

Get excited about reading again with fun and interesting tips from our experts, including The M.D., our dietitians, and our fitness expert. In our health library, you will find all of the information you need to achieve your goals of making a healthy lifestyle change. So, start reading and start losing!

Health Tips

From tips on how to lose weight effectively to ways to combat boredom eating, this collection of informative articles covers a wide range of health topics that matter to real people, like you.

How to Pick Food That’s Good for You Like a Dietitian Would

Find out how registered dietitians determine if a food is good for you or not. Learn how these experts in nutrition navigate the grey area that is "healthy food."

How to Pick Food That’s Good for You Like a Dietitian Would


Dietitians often get asked "What are the healthiest foods?" Unfortunately, there really is no direct answer. The concept of "healthy" is shaded in a gray area, without a clear cut black and white division. Fortunately, there are ways dietitians determine what foods should be consumed more than others. Ultimately, dietitians facilitate easier ways on how to decide if a food is good for you or healthy.

How to Decide if a Food is Good for You

Nutrient Content

The nutrient content can often be determined by the color, although a big bowl of Fruit Loops or bag of Skittles does not exactly make the cut. Natural, vibrant fruits and vegetables certainly make the list of "healthy" foods relative to their high nutrient concentration. Vitamins and minerals found in fresh produce are critical in carrying out normal body functions. When grocery shopping, start at the front and shop the perimeter of the store. Fresh produce, lean proteins, and dairy products can be found most in these areas. Avoiding weaving in and out of the aisles can reduce the impulse to purchase chips, frozen pizzas, and soft drinks.

Food Labels

Generally, fresh produce does not have nutrition or ingredient labels. Although the best foods for you are typically in their raw form, packaging should not dictate whether or not the food lands in your grocery cart. Take full advantage of the nutrition facts and ingredient labels to further decide if a food is healthy.

Nutrient Facts Label: The Nutrition Facts label can be confusing. The example below is a guide to better understand and make sense of those numbers.

Ingredient Label: The ingredient label can be just as essential as the nutrition facts label. The ingredient label is simpler to dissect, especially with a couple pointers. When choosing foods, for items with the smallest ingredient list, or five items as general reference. Go for products with recognizable ingredients. If the ingredients are unfamiliar or fairly lengthy, try to stay away from that product.

Don't Be Fooled

It's important to not fall into the health buzzwords such as items labeled as "gluten-free" and "sugar-free." Gluten-free and sugar-free do not necessarily mean healthy. Purchasing gluten-free items is reassuring for those living with a Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Eliminating gluten within the diet also limits important vitamins and minerals. If dieting, sugar-free items could help with sugar and calorie control. However, consuming sugar-free foods does not equal "calorie-free" and their intake should be limited to its serving size. The additions of sugar substitutes and alternative sweeteners may provoke unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.

The Best Decisions

The best decisions when it comes to foods is keeping nutrients high and the consumption of high fat and sugars low. Although calories should not be obsessed over, it is important to understand and keep them in check. Get comfortable with the nutrition facts and ingredient labels as they are valuable tools in aiding in food choices. Ultimately, enjoy food. Start appreciating food regarding its origin and preparation. Start to value fresh ingredients and how their intake nourishes the body.

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