It seems like everywhere you turn, you will find food with special labels such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, Halal, Kosher, Keto and the list seems to go on. What’s the deal? What has happened to us that we seem to have a need to categorize our food to such a degree?

True, there is more awareness about food sensitivities and allergies. We are getting better at connecting the dots of what often feels like elusive and intermittent symptoms. Recognizing this was a huge turning point in the health of my son at an early age.

We also live in a world where we have become quite health conscious. While I believe this to be a good thing, I also see the drawbacks. We are becoming more selective and divisive about the food we will and won’t eat and sometimes it is extreme…even for me. Some of these things absolutely make sense and other times, I wonder if we have lost sight of the big picture.

I will fully acknowledge that there are certain health conditions that benefit greatly from sticking to a strict menu. I am in full support of using food to support our health. Sometimes this does mean avoiding certain foods in favour of the greater good. If you fall into this category, I applaud you for the realization that food matters. I encourage you to stick with it and to keep an open mind, observing and listening to your body.

What I am struggling with started here…

I was shopping with my boys. We happened upon a bottle of water that proudly proclaimed it was gluten-free. Water has always been gluten-free. Why do we feel the need to state the obvious? I fear that when we give special labels to items that clearly don’t require such a label, we encourage people to disregard labels or warnings when they really count. Tell me about the last time you encountered a fire alarm in a public place. Did you make haste and exit, or did you figure that it was probably a drill or a malfunction? I am not suggesting that we ignore fire alarms in the least…in fact, next time you hear one, I urge you to act. I merely wish to point out that the world has set us up for multiple warnings and rules about seemingly everything that has led to overall desensitization. I fear we may miss something important when it really counts.

I also recently chatted with someone who shared the opinion that carrots are the worst thing to eat. They didn’t know anything about my profession and I chose to just listen. Their reasoning is due to the carbohydrate value in a carrot. I wondered if they knew about the available fibre, beta carotene, vitamin K1, potassium and anti-oxidants? It really isn’t just a rumour that carrots help eyesight. The beta carotene converts to vitamin A which nourishes your eyes.

What about the organic label? While I too want to eat foods that have been minimally sprayed, one must consider the source. Is eating organic apples from across the ocean really better than eating conventionally grown local apples?

My concern here is that we’ve become so selective with our food choices that we have constructed a myriad of rules that are hard to abide by. At times it may be warranted, however, most of the time it just adds to the stress of our already full lives.

I speak with people on a regular basis who have an unhealthy relationship with food. Their food choices have the power to make them feel like they are a good person, successful and worthy of love and respect or like a complete failure. Here is the deal. Regardless of whether you eat kale or not, that tells me absolutely nothing about the type of person you are, how loving you are towards others or your level of integrity.

I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the years and the story is often the same. In some shape or form, food holds a place of authority over their lives. My friends, may this not be so.

May you take a moment and consider some of your beliefs about food. I ask you to critically think it through. If you get stuck and want to know what I think, let’s chat. I’m up for a friendly debate.

Don’t let your food choices become a form of religion with rules and regulations to follow. Keep things simple. Eat real food – lots of plants. Drink plenty of water. Above all else, enjoy your food…with others when you can.