Swallowing Food Guilt

December 19, 2022

By Kim Rose, RDN, CDE

People who have diabetes can eat anything! Yes, fruits, vegetables and legumes, dairy products, grains and starches, and protein are all okay to eat, just as long as you do not have a food sensitivity or allergy! Media marketers that share inaccurate information have vilified certain foods and food groups and made them seem like the bad guys of grocery. The truth is, different foods contain a variety vitamins and minerals that have several different functions in the body, including growth, repair, and maintenance.

The best way to manage food guilt is to rewire the ways in which we think about food. Food is not good or bad; it’s without emotion. Food is designed to provide our bodies with various options for nourishment. These options not only taste good, but give us energy and a wide range of nutrients for the growth and proper performance of all our major body organs.

Food comes in many different shapes and forms. Some foods are fresh, frozen, and canned, while others are self-stable and may be a little more processed. While all foods have their nutrient advantages, it’s good to recognize some foods have a higher glycemic index than others. The glycemic index (GI) is the carbohydrate hierarchy or ranking of certain foods. GI rankings range from 1-100 (low to high). The higher the ranking, the more likely they are to affect your blood sugar levels.

Foods that have a low glycemic index are numbered under 55. Popular low-ranking fruits include berries, pears and apples, vegetables and legumes such as carrots, broccoli and peas, and grains and starches such as quinoa and rye. Foods that have a GI from 56-69 are considered to have a medium GI ranking. Popular medium-ranking fruits include pineapples and grapes, vegetables and legumes such as beets and lentils, and grains and starches such as rice noodles, brown rice and whole grain wheat bread. Lastly, foods that have a high GI (listed at 70 and above) include fruits such as dates and watermelon, vegetables such as potatoes, and grains and starches such as white bread and jasmine rice.

We didn’t mention any meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes. This is because these foods contain little to no carbohydrates, so no GI value is assigned to them. In other words, these foods do not considerably raise your blood sugar levels.

Not all foods are created equally, though. The higher the GI ranking, the higher its carbohydrate content. And when consumed in large amounts, highly ranked foods not only can raise blood sugar levels, but consequently create food guilt.

Food guilt is real and can happen due to several reasons. One example of how food guilt occurs is when you begin to think you’ve invested (finances, time, pleasure, etc.) in something you weren’t “supposed to” invest in. These negative feelings may arise from personal preconceived notions or mainstream diet culture. Diet culture is notorious for labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad.” And when these concepts are extended into our own thoughts and feelings, we may even start to see these so-called “good” and “bad” foods as extensions of ourselves.

Another way to manage food guilt is to seek help from a registered dietitian and a mental health professional. This can help to improve your relationship with food, and may also prevent the onset of disordered eating. And in this particular case, this appropriate counsel will give you the knowledge you need for choosing between “good” and “bad” fruits, which may prevent nutritional deficiencies.

So before you totally strike foods off of your grocery list, consider their usefulness to the body. Talk to your physician, dietitian, or mental health professional to get some sound advice on dealing with the emotions around food. Start giving food a chance – your body will thank you.

Written and reviewed by Kim Rose, RDN, CDCES