What Is Healthy Eating, Exactly? 10 Food Pros Weigh In

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You'd think a quest as straightforward as nourishing your body would be simple, but the deeper you go into the healthy food space, the more confusing it can be. Between a whole slew of different eating plans, alternative meats created in labs, natural sweeteners, and a new alt-milk popping up seemingly every week, it's a tricky space to navigate.

Here, ten dietitians, chefs, doctors, and fitness trainers in the wellness space reveal the healthy food motto they live by, serving as their True North no matter how the landscape changes. Keep reading to save their healthy eating quotes and mottos for your own future reference.

1. Healthy eating emphasizes food's origins as well as its nutrition

For Maya Feller, RD, CDN, healthy eating is all about balance—and pleasure. "Healthy eating for me means having access to fresh seasonal produce, responsibly farmed animal proteins, diverse beans and legumes, and ancient whole grains in minimal packaging," she says. "I choose foods in their whole and minimally processed forms so that I can create balanced meals that burst with flavor and color." She adds that she prioritizes buying food that's locally sourced to support smaller-scale farming and agriculture. "This pattern of balanced eating supports all systems within my body while promoting overall health," she says.

2. Healthy eating can have both physical and emotional benefits

Frances Phillips, a registered nutritional therapist specializing in skin and beauty-related issues, says that to her, healthy eating means being fed on multiple levels. "I’m a foodie so I want to eat delicious food, but I also want that food to benefit both my physical and emotional well-being," she says. "I focus on sourcing the best quality, organic ingredients where possible but my approach isn’t restrictive.”

3. Everything starts with a healthy relationship with food

Celebrity trainer Autumn Calabrese says that to her, healthy eating is about more than just food; it's about mindset, too. "Healthy eating starts with having a healthy relationship with food," she says. "I don't believe in eliminating food groups or even specific foods unless it's because of a dietary restriction or medical condition." She does, however, limit consumption of highly processed products. "This allows food to do what it’s meant to do: fuel our bodies and support them in their daily functions," she says. "When you look at food this way it’s easy to make choices that support your health."

4. Healthy eating is delicious—and colorful

As the chef and co-founder of Charley St, Dan Churchill not only feeds himself nourishing food every day, but dozens of others as well. "Eating healthy for me starts with taste," he says. "I always say that if the food doesn't taste good, nothing else matters." Besides tasting good, he thinks about how it looks on the plate too, making sure each dish is bursting with color. "Color indicates nutritional value, so the more diverse and colorful your plate, chances are the more vitamins and minerals you're getting," he says. "Finally, eating healthy for me always has a community aspect to it. I do what I do because I love to put a smile on someone's face through food."

5. Healthy food can be healing, physically and emotionally

"Real food is our greatest gift and I appreciate the nourishment it provides for our bodies," chef, Kintsugi Wellness author, and Well+Good Wellness Council member Candice Kumai says. "Real food is our medicine, our joy, our comfort, our preventative friend, and our real beauty product, all in one. Real food brings us together culturally, spiritually, and emotionally." Kumai also says that having access to healthy food is unfortunately still a luxury—but it shouldn't be. "I'm grateful to have access to healthy eating and clean water. We can also keep working with food organizations to help spread access to better nourishment and education through better food—this is what food and education can do for others, be of service."

6. Healthy eating doesn't have to restrict your favorite foods

Certified personal trainer and Mindsets Fitness founder Anka Urbahn says that for her, healthy eating includes quinoa and pizza. "It's all about balance," she says. "Few foods are either all good or all bad, so you can have your favorite sugary treat or a big slice of pizza—in moderation." Urbahn points out that we rely on food to be energizing and filling, and it's nutrient-dense, whole foods that do this the best. "Combined with regular physical activity, eating as close to nature as possible will fuel you up, give you more energy, make you super-resilient to stress, and improve your mood," she says. To her, this means eating a mix of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.

7. Healthy eating should make you feel good

DIAKADI-certified personal trainer Liz Letchford uses this litmus test when eating: How does it make her feel? "Before, I used to eat whatever was convenient, or whatever my friends were eating, despite how it made my body feel. Now that I am more in tune with my body, I choose to eat foods that will fuel a healthy digestion, good mood, and clear mind," she says. "The old adage 'you are what you eat' is true. The food I eat is literally going to give my body the nutrients and energy it needs to rebuild the cells of my body."

8. Healthy eating isn't the same as dieting

One misconception fitness superstar Kayla Itsines finds is that healthy eating and dieting are one and the same. “To me, healthy eating means consuming a wholesome, healthy and balanced diet. I do not believe in restrictive diets, but rather eating in a way that fuels my body with the nutrients it needs for the day ahead," she says. "I make a conscious decision to choose food options that make me feel good, support positive energy levels, and help me reach my fitness goals.”

9. Healthy eating is all about the long-term gains

While food satisfies obvious immediate needs, functional medicine doctor Elroy Vojdani, MD, considers how everything he eats will affect his health long-term—for better or for worse. "Healthy eating to me is being conscious of what I put in my body to maximize my long-term health based on my personalized risk factors and blood testing," he says. Dr. Vojdani says he has a history of irritable bowel disease and a family history of cardiovascular disease, so he eats a dairy- and gluten-free version of the Mediterranean diet. "This keeps my IBS at bay and manages my long-term risk of cardiovascular disease," he says. And if he eats something out side of his preferred eating style, he makes sure it's really worth it.

10. Healthy eating provides energy

For S.O.S. Food Plan and Build+Burn creator Ashley Borden, eating healthy isn't about restriction or counting calories, it's about getting the fuel she needs. "Eating well for me means that I’m feeding my body with foods that don’t make me crash, and keep my energy and my brain power going throughout the day," she says. "As an intuitive eater, I can feel the way that food affects my body starting, with my mind."

More people in the wellness space have been talking about intuitive eating. Here's what it means, and it looks like. Plus, how to enjoy food when you maybe know too much about nutrition

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