As the new year gets started, everyone is pushing their favorite diet or deeply felt convictions about what constitutes healthy eating. Because there are so many different ideas about what a healthy diet is, it can lead to passionate debate and harsh words. I've often felt that talking about what you "should" eat is about as contentious and peaceful as talking about what you should believe about God. Even the religious don't agree on that.

With all of that turmoil in mind, I thought a post about points of agreement could be helpful. Whether you are a raw food eater, a paleo dieter, or a low-carb or high-carb food indulger, the majority of us agree on many important things. It is nice to acknowledge those agreements, instead of just our differences. (Ironically in a post about agreeing, I am fully aware that even these points can be hotly debated. Yet, after reading a lot of different health food writers and hearing from many alternative care doctors, the majority agree on the following — including vegans, raw foodies and paleo food promoters).

1. Fresh food is where it's at

While we may have different opinions about eating meat, or dairy, whether you should cook your food, or how much fat you should consume on a daily basis, the majority of us agree that fresh, unprocessed food is an important part of anyone's diet. Getting ourselves in the kitchen working with "real food" ingredients instead of simply opening cans and packages is something that we all should aspire to do. That's a good goal that we can all unite around.

2. Avoiding chemicals in food is good

While there are a few notable exceptions, the majority of us agree that eating food that has been grown (or raised) with the least possible amount of chemicals is important. A fairly recent study found that children who ate conventionally grown produce had significant amounts of pesticides in their urine. Children who switched to organic food had a dramatic decrease in pesticides in their urine. With the many concerns surrounding pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals, a noble cause to unite over is removing toxins from our children's diets and our own.

3. Genetically modified foods shouldn't be part of a healthy diet

Going even further, not only are some crops sprayed with pesticides, but also many are engineered at the gene level to produce their own toxic pesticides. Why do we think that is safe to eat? Others are engineered to withstand high amounts of pesticides and herbicides (amounts that would wilt the normal plant). We can unite to get GM foods at least labeled in our marketplaces, if not removed completely.

4. Our health and our food choices go hand-in-hand

Those of us who try to eat a "healthy" diet do so with the assumption that what we eat affects our general health. While we may or may not think that we can control all areas of our health, we can agree that what we eat makes a difference.

5. We are all unique, and different approaches can be taken for good health

While admittedly many of us have strong opinions about the general principles of a healthy diet, I think most of us can agree that there are many diets that can be healthy. In that same vein, what is the best diet for one person may not be best for another. When you consider intolerances, genetic background and the unique make-up of each person, it is hard to assume that the exact same foods are going to work the same way in different individuals. We are unique, and our "best" diet is going to be unique too.

While even the above is going to be debated by some, I think it's important to step back from the dietary passions and acknowledge what we can agree on. When we recognize our similarities and not just our differences, we can work toward common goals — and that is always a good thing.

Related posts on MNN:

MNN tease photo of vegetables: Shutterstock
5 principles that vegans and paleo foodies can agree on
Sometimes we see only the differences in health philosophies. Let's look at some of the common threads instead!