Many of you will have seen the BBC One documentary ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’ and as a nutritionist with a qualification (not bought off the internet ;-)) I thought I’d share my thoughts on the #cleaneating phenomenon.
Eating Clean has taken over from veganism, raw food and Paleo in the ‘buzz diets’ of the last decade and you only have to take a look at Instagram to see how many people have jumped on the ‘clean’ bandwagon. But what does eating clean actually mean?
There’s no one set definition but clean eaters *generally* avoid the following:
any processed foods
The hardcore clean eaters will also not eat any animal products, grains and certain types of higher sugar fruit or vegetables. Others will eat animal products providing they’re organic, grass-fed or free-range.
So in essence, many of the concepts of ‘clean eating’ are pretty sensible – eat whole foods, avoid processed foods, and don’t drink too much caffeine or alcohol. All good so far.
What isn’t so good (in my opinion) is the use of the word ‘clean’. This implies that any food not on the ‘ok list’ is somehow dirty, sinful, unpure, bad, naughty and should come laden with guilt. With so many pressures already on us, do we really need to be feeling bad because we had a glass of wine after work or a slice of white non-spelt real toast for breakfast with actual bacon and actual ketchup?
And on the flip-side should we feel any purer, better, more worthy than others because we had a green smoothie for breakfast rather than a croissant?
Unfortunately I do agree with the BBC doc that the extreme clean eaters are suffering from a new kind of eating disorder (termed orthorexia) and due to the sheer number of followers it now seems that these obsessive habits have been normalised. So while I’m not saying that following the general principles of ‘clean eating’ is harmful, to stick to them so rigidly that you feel guilty if you don’t, to miss out on a social life because it doesn’t fit with your food plan, to harm your long term health for short term gains and to miss eating the foods you actually love, definitely isn’t good for your health or happiness.
While I may be guilty of posting #proteinbites #greenjuice on #instafood from time to time I would always hope that my message of happiness over denial and balance and moderation over strict rules is the one that shines through.
I’d love if we could ban the phrase ‘clean eating’ and let’s get back to focusing on enjoying the foods in a way that we know that will make us feel good now and in the future – whether that’s chocolate or cauliflower rice!