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What Does 'Healthy' Food Really Mean?

What is a "healthy" food? Everyone has their own opinion! "We used to believe sugary cereals were fine, as long as they were fortified with certain vitamins and minerals [according to the Food & Drug Administration's definition]," I told Tom Costello, NBC Nightly News Correspondent on the NBC Nightly News on May 11.

But that definition was based on 30-year-old standards when "low fat" was the science of the day. And today, "some of the healthiest foods on the planet are high in fat," I told Costello on The Today Show on May 12.

Katherine on The Today Show talking with NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello
Katherine on The Today Show talking with NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello

The FDA sets standards for labels indicating the food's fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and nutrient content, and whether or not a food qualifies, and can be labeled as: "Healthy." Since nutrition is an evolving science, some of those standards have changed, and the FDA is in the process of revising them.

For instance, when a company produces a product, say, a granola or a snack which contains nuts - which we know today are healthy, but high in fat - the word "healthy" cannot be on the label, as the FDA guidelines have not caught up with today's science that some fats are actually good for you.

But that does not mean that we should trash everything we ever learned about. It is still important to balance our lives with fruits and vegetables, exercise, and keeping our calorie needs in mind. Healthy fats, such as those in nuts, avocadoes, olive oil, salmon, and certain fried foods and dressings, are important, but that isn't a license to binge, or ... to fear and abstain from any foods containing sugar - fruit, 100% fruit juice, sweet vegetables like carrots, milk, and yogurt (even with fruit on the bottom!).

Balance is everyting! Eating sugar-free is just as unhealthy as eating fat-free. Avoiding foods containing any hint of sugar, and even natural sugar, I believe, will be the next diet fad you'll want to avoid!