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Why There’s No Such Thing as “Good” or “Bad” Food

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bradley U chapter.

Diet culture is a catch-all term for a belief system that values control, thinness and specific appearance, and is a pervasive aspect of our lives. In a world where celebrities boast diets that are more and more extreme, and social media influencers advocate for restrictive calorie counting, diet culture feels inescapable.

One of the most insidious and under-discussed aspects of diet culture is labeling. In diet culture, food can be boiled down to either “good” or “bad”. The complex chemical makeup of every food, the unique nutrition it can offer, its association with different cultures, and its role in celebrations— all of this nuance and complexity goes out the window. 

Viewing food in this clear cut way is tempting, especially as people struggle with body image issues.  But by labeling food as “good” or “bad”, we assign a moralistic value to it. This moralistic value encourages us to judge others and ourselves for the food we choose to eat. But you’re not a good person for eating kale, in the same way that you’re not a bad person for eating pizza. We shouldn’t tie our self esteem to the foods we eat. When we base our self worth on perfection, we are bound to spiral the second we eat something “bad”. 

The truth is, there is no such thing as bad food. While there are foods that are more nutritious than others, that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing to indulge in foods you love once in a while. Additionally, making food “forbidden” makes us more likely to want to eat it. It’s better to view foods as neutral. On the flip side, you can also have too much of a good thing. If you eat a lot of one kind of vegetable because it’s “good for you”, you miss out on balanced nutrition and can even hurt your digestive system. 

Additionally, focusing only on calories takes away from the importance of holistic health, which involves caring for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Holistic health says that food is more than just fuel, which is what diet culture wants us to forget. If you bake cookies with your mother’s recipe because it reminds you of your family and makes you happy, then cookies are good for you. If getting pizza with your friends allows you to share laughter and love, then the pizza is good for you, too. All food has a purpose and place. This is what diet culture wants us to forget. Food is communion. Sharing food is a way humans bond, its a way we share and pass down cultures, its a way to create memories. If food is helping you do that, how could any of it be bad? 

Charlotte Tolly

Bradley U '25

Charlotte is a third year UX design major with a passion for art and writing. In her free time, you can find her baking, reading, or spending time with her friends.