Letter: An unwholesome definition of healthy

Yale Dining does a commendable job of providing a variety of options in the dining halls that help to promote students’ health and well-being. However, the article “Dining plans health fest” (Jan. 12), provides misleading information about the healthiness of our food choices.

The article implies that a diet including fried food and cheesy potato skins is not a healthy one. As a firm believer in intuitive eating, I do not think this is true. Instead, I hold that every food has a place in a healthy diet, not just those in the salad bar. There are no good foods or bad foods.

My real problem with the article, however, is Yale nutritionist Karen Doughtery’s “Tips For Eating Healthfully at Yale.” According to her, we should “go vegetarian twice a week. Vegetarians are 20 percent thinner.” I thought the tips were for eating more healthfully, not becoming thinner.

And thin does not necessarily equal healthy. According to a 2009 article in The Journal of Nutrition, “a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower muscle mass index than is an omnivorous diet at the same protein.” More dangerously, a 2009 study released by the American Dietetic Association showed that while vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese, “current vegetarians may be at increased risk for binge eating with loss of control” and have an increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. Similar studies have shown that adolescents who have symptoms of eating disorders may adopt a vegetarian diet as a weight-loss method because it is a socially acceptable way to avoid eating certain food groups.

In addition, Doughtery’s tip of using a small plate to “trick your eyes” is not eating healthfully either: it is using a small plate. Eating a piece of pie on a small plate is the same as eating a piece of pie on a medium or large plate. Tricking your eyes may influence you to serve yourself a different amount of food initially, but it does not impact the healthiness of your choices. Moreover, if you’re hungry from not eating enough, you may get a second helping or eat a snack later in the day.

Although I appreciate Yale Dining’s commitment to its students, providing this kind of information is not acceptable.

Kimberley So

Jan. 13

The writer is a junior in Branford College.


  • Disappointed with YDN

    This is a shameful letter to include in a YDN issue. I’d hope that editors at least check the references made by the writer before publishing.
    The writer claims that the ADA study showed that vegetarians have an increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. Cunningly, the writer takes careful precautions to not include this statement in quotation marks. This is precisely because the study shows that FORMER vegetarians are at the risk.
    This is not an innocent error; the writer goes on to – completely irrelevantly to anything in the article – cite studies that show that those with eating disorders may adopt vegetarian diets. Not only is this a ridiculous attack on vegetarianism, this has absolutely no relevance to anything discussed. Why would such a letter be included in the YDN?

  • YaleStudent

    I want to second the entirety of this letter. I was beyond disappointed when I returned to Yale after break to find this list of nutritional eating habits — “healthy,” the poster claimed — that was instead seemingly plagiarized from one of those online weight-loss ads. Vegetarianism should be a moral or ecological choice — not one based on our nation’s unhealthy fixation on body image.

    If Yale wants to promote healthy eating, then it should do so correctly: Encouraging students to eat a variety of nutritious foods until they are full and satisfied — quite the opposite of small plate trickey.

    Moreover, and this is somewhat unrelated, but Yale Dining has a dearth of non-meat proteins. Occasionally, there is tofu; occasionally there are beans; but the diversity of choices is limited, especially when comared to the variety of meats every night. Before Yale starts attcking meat as unhealthy — immoral, perhaps; but unhealthy an omnivorous diet is not — it needs to beef up (pardon the word choice) its alternative protein offerings.

  • following up from #2

    I agree with the comment about the wide range of meats compared with non-meat proteins. Egg and cheese dishes could appear more often. Cheese mostly appears in dishes combined with meat. Why not treat it as an ingredient, instead of as a condiment?

    The nutritionist’s attitudes to food would be appropriate for Yale Feedlot Management, not Yale Dining.

  • dk

    What is YSFP’s stance on this issue? Surely healthy eating is compatible with both sustainability and deliciousness. I suspect that the amount of meat served isn’t. Half the time it is wasted by poor preparation, same with half of the junk in the salad bar.

    And if Dougherty thinks we can trick ourselves by using a smaller plate, she’s calling us idiots. That’s usually not a good technique for educating.

  • Grad Student

    More vegetables. Smaller portions. Vegetarian now and then. That sounds like a healthy diet to me.

  • why publish this…

    This letter is total garbage. The author’s theory that every food has a place is complete b.s.: every person who has studied nutrition understands that you can still be healthy while eating certain unhealthy foods, though eating none at all would definitely be optimal. Trans fats and saturated fats are always bad for you: the less you eat the better off you are. Yes, this would include fried food and certain highly fatty cheeses.

    Finally, the main reason that this shouldn’t have been published is its primitive grasp of logic. Yes, if you eat the same amount of food on a smaller plate you are no better off. The point is that eating on a smaller plate leads to you putting less on the plate to begin with! This article is a clear example of either how starved the YDN is for op-ed writers or how miserable the opinion editor is at selecting pieces fit for publication.