What is Healthy? One youth's journey

Part 1 of a blog post by Melissa Walters, Nourish high school Co-op student


Healthy in a world like ours can be a roller coaster ride; we have constant influences from many different sources such as social media, tv shows and product advertising. This can leave you wondering, how do you know what is really healthy? I asked myself this same question on my first day at Nourish Nova Scotia.

 It was my first day at Nourish and the staff invited me to go on a walk to the grocery store down the road. As we explored the grocery store we walked passed a basket of squash and I was struck with curiosity, “ How do you use squash?” so I asked. They replied, “You can use spaghetti squash as an alternative to spaghetti noodles”. I never questioned the nutritional value of spaghetti noodles or anything else until that moment. This made me think, how do I know what I am eating everyday is genuinely healthy? That it’s the best option to be putting in my body? How can I use more nutritious foods as alternatives? Why is the word healthy perceived in a way that makes people look down on themselves? We create this image in our society where we all want to be healthy, but the only healthy we are talking about is extreme dieting and pills we can take to ‘get skinny quick’. I think healthy means something different to everyone, so ask yourself, what is healthy to you? How can we change society's perception? How can we change our own perceptions? After this experience I decided to find out for myself what is truly healthy. To find the answers I went to the internet, I met with Registered Dietitian Kayla Thomas and reflected on my own experiences.

Nourish has taught me that it’s not all about eating food that is advertised as healthy but eating foods that are nutritious and are truly healthy. Truly healthy means your body and your mind are fueled, you feel energized and are well nourished.  Companies will place anything on the packaging to get you to buy their product over another. Companies want money, and may not be concerned about your health. Some ways I learned from Kayla, the Nourish Program Coordinator, that companies can falsely advertise to you are by using words that can be misperceived. For example, we assume the word light means, low calories, less salt or low in fat. Most companies will advertise it as light but it actually may be referring to the colour or the texture of the product. Another example is the use of  “100%”. If it doesn't have 100% before whole grains or multigrain it is most likely processed with refined grains, and companies make you think it is the most nutritious option. When you can, choose foods still in their original form. For example, when you are going to hand your children a juice box, don’t. Give them an apple, it is the most nutritious whole form and they will get more energy from the raw food rather than the processed form. Choosing the most nutritious option can be difficult. Companies make it challenging to understand what we are putting in our bodies. When we recognize the product may have false advertising we have the power to turn it away and grab the more nutritious option.

Stay tuned in the new year when Melissa shares more experiences on her journey to discover “what is healthy”!

NewsKayla Thomas