The Harm of Labeling Food ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’

We often find ourselves categorizing food into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This labeling not only oversimplifies the complexity of our nutrition but can ruin our relationship with food. Let’s dive into why labeling food like this is harmful and then check out some strategies on how to combat this.

The Pitfalls of Labeling Food Good and Bad

1. Promotes a Negative Relationship with Food

When we label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we assign moral value to what we eat. ‘Good’ foods are praised for their health benefits, while ‘bad’ foods are demonized for their potential harm. This creates so much guilt or shame when consuming foods deemed ‘bad’, fostering a negative relationship with food. Not helpful!

2. Fuels Restrictive Eating Patterns

Labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ often leads to restrictive eating patterns. We may feel compelled to rigidly adhere to consuming only ‘good’ foods while completely avoiding ‘bad’ ones. This mindset can result in an unhealthy obsession with food choices, leading to disordered eating habits.

3. Ignorance of Nutritional Complexity

Assigning simplistic labels to food overlooks the nutritional complexity of different food items. Foods exist on a spectrum, offering a variety of nutrients and benefits. Newsflash: Nutrition is ENTIRELY greyscale! Labeling ignores this nuance and fails to recognize that balance and moderation are key components of a healthy diet.

4. Contributes to Food Shaming

Labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ extends beyond personal choices and can lead to societal food shaming. Those who consume ‘bad’ foods may face judgment, perpetuating unrealistic standards of dietary perfection and fostering a culture of food guilt and shame.

Shifting Your Perspective

1. Practice Mindful Eating

Instead of categorizing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, practice mindful eating. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and savor the flavors, textures, and experiences of each meal. Mindful eating encourages a nonjudgmental approach to food, promoting a healthier relationship with eating.

2. Focus on Nutrient Density

Rather than labeling foods, focus on their nutritional value and how they nourish your body. Aim to incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Emphasizing nutrient density over moral labels promotes overall well-being and balanced nutrition.

3. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself and recognize that dietary perfection is neither realistic nor necessary for good health. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging that occasional indulgences or less nutritious choices are a normal (and very fun) part of life. Allow yourself to enjoy food without guilt or judgment.

4. Challenge Food Myths and Stereotypes

Educate yourself about nutrition and challenge common food myths and stereotypes. Question what you see on IG and TikTok and seek out evidence-based information from reputable sources, like a registered dietitian nutritionist! By becoming informed consumers, we can make empowered choices about our diet without succumbing to restrictive thinking.


Labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ oversimplifies the complexity of nutrition and contributes to negative attitudes towards eating. By shifting our perspective away from moral judgments and towards mindful, balanced eating, we can cultivate a healthier relationship with food and ourselves. I challenge you to embrace a more greyscale understanding of nutrition and strive for self-compassion, mindfulness, and informed choices in our dietary habits.

In conclusion, the harmful effects of labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are evident. However, by adopting a more mindful and compassionate approach to eating, we can break free from restrictive thinking and develop a healthier relationship with food. Let’s embrace balance, moderation, and self-compassion in our dietary choices, and move away from the damaging cycle of food labeling!

In Good Health,

Lindsey Hudsmith, RDN 

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