Words have an ability to evoke emotions and feelings, and those who specialize in marketing exactly know how to trigger those responses. Reconsider the use of these phrases, and regain a healthier outlook around food.


Imagine you’re walking down a grocery store aisle searching for a bag of popcorn. Amid several options, your eyes land on one that says “guilt-free” on the bag. You might think to yourself, “Well I don’t want to feel guilty after eating my popcorn so this must be the best choice.”

You grab the “guilt-free” option and keep walking.

Has this ever happened to you?

If you answered yes, then that marketing technique has paid off. The language used to describe what you eat matters, and it can make you feel a variety of emotions including guilt, shame, or superiority.

The language may even influence your buying decisions.

Here are 11 nutrition and diet-related words to be aware of, and why it’s important to avoid using it for a healthier mind.


The term “clean eating” has no official government-regulated definition — as opposed to organic or gluten-free, both of which have specific parameters and guidelines. To some people, clean eating may mean eating more whole foods, while to others it may mean avoiding certain products. Because there is no lawful definition and there are so many different interpretations of clean eating, use of the term should be avoided.

That’s because the opposite of clean implies ‘dirty’. So, if you aren’t eating clean, are you eating dirty or unclean? While this may seem innocent, this may actually establish feelings of superiority when eating “clean”, then subsequent guilt from not eating ‘clean’ food.


Bread, pasta, beans, frozen and canned fruits and veggies, canned fish/meat, sauces and all dairy foods are also considered processed. In fact, most foods have been handled in some way before they get to your mouth. However, this doesn’t make them inherently worse for you in any way.


Food is neutral, and no one food is morally superior. Putting foods into categories of good and bad might make sense in your brain, but it may also complicate your relationship with food.

Fearing foods, feeling stressed about eating them, or compensating are not healthful behaviors, and these often come up when you label foods as such.


Some people often cite a lack of willpower as to why they chose to eat something. However, the will to eat is one of the most powerful responses in the human body — and rightly so, as we must eat to live.

If your willpower is draining, it may be time to check in with yourself rather than berating yourself. Ask yourself: Are you hungry? Tired? Bored? Stressed? What do you really need in that moment? Taking that time to be curious without judgement is a way to practice self-compassion.


Calories aren’t something to be feared; they are vital to our survival, yet the word has been stigmatized as something that is ‘bad’ for you.

Ultimately, calories equal energy, and plus,  low-calorie options are often less satisfying. Can you replace “energy” for “calories” when you talk about food?


Food should not be guilt-provoking. If you eat something and feel guilty for doing so, then there may be some unexplored food rules that need addressing. Remember that health is not only about what you eat.

It should also meet your emotional, social and mental needs.


Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy and include foods such as grain products, legumes, dairy foods, fruits and veggies — all of which are important food groups.

Low-carb diets may be popular right now, but that doesn’t mean avoiding carbs is the best option for you.


When it comes to food, you don’t need to cleanse, detox, or otherwise remove toxins from your body because your liver and kidneys do that for you. Be wary of products claiming to do so, as they are often not backed by science, are extremely low in energy and nutrients, and may even cause harm.


If you feel like you need a cheat day or a cheat meal, then that might mean your dietary pattern the rest of the time is too restrictive. Only allowing yourself to eat certain foods on a specific day may set you up for feeling guilty or ashamed if you eat them at other points throughout the week. It may also cause you to feel out of control around those foods.

Give yourself permission to eat what you’re craving throughout the week, and they won’t seem as highly desirable.


Food is awesome, but it’s not medicine. Be on the lookout for any food labels that claim to alleviate everything from digestive symptoms to allergies, to pain and improving energy levels. These sweeping claims are often just a clever way of marketing a product.


When it comes to nutrition, trusting your friends, family, or the random man on the bus is problematic. By nature, humans are extremely individual. There is no one-size-fits-all nutrition or exercise plan.

Remember, just because something “worked” for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for you.

By taking the negative and positive connotations out of food language and making it more neutral, nutrition can seem less confusing, stressful and guilt-provoking. Keep in mind that pleasure and satisfaction from food is just as important,

And true health addresses the whole person, not just what you eat.

Adapted from the original article.

Rose Mattson, MS, RD is a private practice dietitian who runs a Salt Lake City-based nutrition practice, through which she sees clients both locally and virtually. Specializing in Intuitive Eating, sports nutrition, and digestive disorders, Rose’s mission is to help people find satisfaction and joy in eating all foods, without unnecessary restriction or deprivation. When she’s not working, you can find her outside in the mountains, at the local farmer’s market, or scoping out the most delicious meals in the area.


  1. This is an awesome review about mindset and healthy lifestyle. I agree that everything related to food, fitness and a healthy lifestyle starts with the proper mindset. We should be careful about the phrases and thoughts we nurture in our mind, since this could affect our relationship with food, health and fitness. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should not be a hurdle. Being healthy is a journey to be enjoyed. I share my top secrets to stay consistent and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. https://bit.ly/2TApUuE