By Taylor Carr, MS, ISSN-SNS, PN1


There are no bad foods. You may be thinking what do you mean there are no bad foods?? Can I really eat candy bars for dinner and still send my project? This statement is one that can bring strong emotion and certainly a lot of questions. The good food vs bad food debate is a hot topic in the world of nutrition right now. In this article, I am going to dive into this particular mindset of nutrition and offer an alternative mindset that we at Climb Strong hold fast to.

If you are someone who has spent the majority of your life sorting foods into “good” and “bad” categories, this idea of breaking that mindset can be daunting. We live in a diet culture of “yes to this” and “no to that.” #CleanEating day vs #CheatDay dieting is still a thing.

Diet culture talks about foods as if they carry some sort of inherent morality compass of “goodness” and “badness.” It’s almost as if we ourselves are good or bad depending on what foods we choose to consume. In reality, the only time food should be considered “good” or “bad” is when we are thinking about how it reacts in our body.

For some individuals, bread is not good. That doesn’t mean that bread is unhealthy. It means that their body does not respond well to bread. It may be that they are gluten intolerant. It may be that they have an allergy to wheat. Again, this doesn’t make it a “bad” food, but a food that is not right for that individual person.

Eggs have always been a controversial food. For lots of people, they can be a great source of complete proteins, vitamins, minerals, and some cholesterol (to help with hormone production). For others, however, eggs can be harmful for their already high cholesterol levels or their inability to completely absorb the proteins. Same food, different outcome based on the individual.

Also, it is important to remember that too much of anything, even “good” food, can become unhealthy.

Here is what we tend to think:


Good: lean meat, vegetables (especially dark greens), legumes, etc

Bad: cookies, fries, white bread, chips, frozen meals, etc.


Before you start to think we’ve lost it, I have to pause to say that, yes, there are obvious differences between these two lists. Just because we stand by the idea that there are no “bad” foods, that does not mean that we do not understand the clear nutritional differences in each category. So why would we at Climb Strong not categorize these less nutrient-dense foods as “bad?”

First of all, there is not one particular food that is bad for all people in all situations. Let’s take fruit snacks for example. Many people would look at these as a “bad” food because of the way they are processed and loaded with sugar. This snack may not be the best option for someone with Type 2 Diabetes, but it could be just the right amount of sugar to help fuel someone in the middle of a big adventure in the mountains.

When we start to consider every aspect of our lives and not hyper-focus on how we categorize foods, we start to look at our overall eating patterns and not demonize specific foods. There are lots of folks who tell me they have to abstain 100% from certain foods or they know they won’t be able to control themselves. They believe that if they open themselves up to “bad” foods, even one time, they will spiral out of control. And they’re sort of right… if they’re abstaining all together. Research has recently suggested that when an individual is abstaining from certain foods and they are shown negative messages about the food, the dieter is suddenly overcome with intense cravings for that food.

It’s true that a lot of us could restrict certain foods for a while, but sooner or later those cravings will overwhelm our system and we probably won't be able to resist.

Hear me say, it is fine to want to limit or remove certain foods from your diet. But is it because they are “bad” or because you know you will overeat them causing you to stray from your nutrition goal? There is a huge difference there.

Another reason we at Climb Strong say there are no “bad” foods is because food is far more than fuel. It serves multiple purposes and pleasure is certainly one of them. Food is connection, it’s culture, it’s celebration. When you are able to view food in this light, you’ll be able to really get down to the nitty gritty of your eating patterns. You can look beyond the food and discover why you tend to overeat certain foods. You can think about your environment around eating and why foods are okay in moderation in one place, but not in others. I encourage my athletes to write these things down. If you are someone who has considered tracking your nutrition intake, but are intimidated by it, I encourage you to start here:

Food/Feelings Journal thoughts:

Write down everything you eat or drink for a week or two (or longer if you love it). Then start to think about how you feel while you’re eating. Who are you with? Where are you? How did you feel after your meal? Was the meal satisfying?

Not sure where to begin?

We have training plans available for any level athlete!

And when the answers in your journal aren’t what you expected or really want to see, be kind and honest with yourself. Really evaluate your behavior and intentions with the foods you eat, and give yourself grace when it isn’t aligning with your goals.

Lastly, there are no “bad” foods because foods are on a continuum. If you are trying to build muscle mass, your food is going to look far different than someone whose goal is fat loss. Having “good” and “bad” food categories does not allow for personalization. It’s quite isolating.

No bad foods does not mean eat whatever you want. When you place foods on a continuum, you say, “I am going to eat more of this” or “I’m going to eat less of this” based on foods that serve you and your nutrition goals. Unlike having a rigid list of “bad” foods, this allows your diet to remain contextual. You’re not eliminating anything, you’re simply eating foods that serve your body best for certain circumstances.

Instead of demonizing certain foods, ask yourself, “What is this food doing for me?” Sometimes it is working to fuel you for your day at the crag. Sometimes it is bringing back old memories of a loved one who has passed.

Instead of categorizing foods as “good” or “bad,” try:


  1. Adding a large variety of whole, minimally processed foods to your diet. 
  2. Get lots of rest, drink plenty of water, strength train regularly, and do the things that bring you joy


Happy Eating!




Taylor has a dual Masters in Sports Nutrition and Strength and Conditioning. She also holds a certification through Precision Nutrition and is a certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Taylor got her climbing start on the beautiful granite of North Carolina. She has since moved to Lander, WY with her husband to be a nutrition and strength coach at Elemental Performance + Fitness.

Taylor works with athletes of all backgrounds to educate and instruct proper food fueling and nutrient timing. Taylor believes that with a functional nutrition plan, every athlete is able to better reach their unique climbing, fitness, and lifestyle goals. She is also passionate about helping individuals heal their relationship with food. Taylor offers one time consultations, monthly custom plans, and long-term coaching.



1 Comment

  1. Jerry Kripal on August 29, 2023 at 7:57 pm

    Do you know that humans can not digest/assimilate cholesterol. Intake of dietary cholesterol affecting one’s serum cholesterol is a total myth. For some strange reason only rabbits & chickens are able to absorb cholesterol through their digestive tract.

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