clean eating

What is the “Clean Eating” craze all about?



What is the “Clean Eating” craze all about. Could the wellness trend be more damaging than healthy? As anyone who has read the Lifestyle section of any newspaper, ever used Instagram will know, there has been a revolution underway in the realm of healthy eating. Long gone are the days of buying microwaveable meals and ordering late night delivery without judgment or guilt. The advent of kale, quinoa, and chia seeds have conquered the world of cooking faster than you could say “Nutribullet.”

I feel like it’s time to clarify a few things. Namely: What does “clean eating” mean? First, allow me to explain that the phrase began with good intentions: It used to imply eating lots of wholes, real foods — veggies and fruit, whole-grains, animal and plant-based protein, nuts, seeds, and oils. It also meant that what you eat should be as close to nature as possible — minimally processed, not packaged, or originating from a factory. Cooking at home and finding right ingredients were encouraged.

"clean eating"
“clean eating.”

I do love that the original concept seemed to be a call to action for understanding the traceability of our food — begging the question, where does it come from? So, if “clean eating”  as a mindset reminds you to read labels, check sources, and understand what’s what about the food you eat, I’d encourage you to keep that part of it up.

Wellness has become such an integral part of our modern day understanding of food that it is almost impossible to avoid: supermarkets have increasingly grown “free-from” sections, and the number of sugarless, reduced salt or oil snacks are drowning out the usual crowd favorites of highly processed and sodium-filled products.

It’s undeniably a beneficial impact of the trend, providing consumers with increased access to and awareness of the healthy alternatives.

To be clear:

It’s not my style to bash anyone else’s way of eating — ever! Whether it’s a food trend, you’re trying, a healthier eating strategy, or a new diet. I’m pretty gung-ho about the fact that evidence-based opinions on what you eat are irrelevant unless you are actively seeking advice.

It’s also been linked to a health and lifestyle claim. “Clean eating” implies that any other form of eating and consequently the eater of it is dirty or impure and leads to that self-shaming and self-persecution. That is, if you’re not “clean eating,” the reverse is true: You’re probably sloppy, lazy, and making yourself sick. Not only does the phrase establish a hierarchical model for eating well, but it’s also yet another medium for food-shaming.

What I dislike the most: It disregards the lack of access that many of us face when it comes to finding perfect, farmer’s market fresh food. Frankly, it’s elitist. Adding to the misleading legitimacy behind the wellness trend is the elitism inherent in the practice of wellness. Instead of educating ourselves about food, we’re just buying into the attempt to be thin (above all else), green-juice loving, yoga-practicing, perfect pictures of health.

"clean eating"
veg out

My bottom line is this:

There are too many things that already make many of us — especially women — feel bad about ourselves. Nobody needs to take on the extra baggage of “clean eating,” also. But in a world with countless claims on products — especially food — it’s hard to know how to make the best choices.

So, below are five essential things to keep in mind when making healthful — not “clean eating” — food choices:

1. Veg out.

Repeat after me: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. When you can figure out how to make eating more veggies work for you, the obsessing about “clean vs. dirty” becomes irrelevant. Find a way that works for you and your family to eat more veggies, and do that. It doesn’t mean “eat veggies only” or “all the time”. It means making more of your meals veggie-based, and the other components of a truly balanced diet will fall into place.

2. Think “transparent” over “Clean Eating.”

"clean eating"
candy bars

You know what I love about candy? Candy accurately represents itself. No one bought a candy bar thinking it was anything other than a treat. Transparent is a word I wish would take off, because it essentially means being what it claims to be. Is your candy bar a candy bar, or is it pretending to be an energy bar?! If it’s the latter, put it back and go for the real thing.

3. Eat food, not food claims.

Brands make a lot of money by putting “health” claims on their products — some of which are legit, while others are ridiculous. Why are “eggs” suddenly “gluten-free? We derive better health from food, not merely from the nutrients that food contains.

4. Stop thinking of all packaged food as the enemy.

It’s easy for people (myself included!) to advise others by saying things like, look for a short ingredients list or ingredients you can pronounce on the packaging. There are some notable exceptions.

The best example: 100% whole-grain bread that is stuffed with tons of 100% whole-grains — that ingredient list can barely fit on the package! Plus, quinoa and amaranth (two of-the-moment ancient grains) are downright unpronounceable for some.

And some genuinely excellent packaged foods are doing their part to make it easier and simpler to eat well.

5. Embrace indulgence.

"clean eating"
embrace indulgence

Remember that indulging is a part of a healthy lifestyle. Obsessing about ingredients, reading about eating a “cleaner life,” and checking food labels continually is not. Because really, what is life without a good ole’ burger, a piece of cake, or French Fry once in a while?

Final Thoughts on “Clean Eating”:

“Clean eating” has been denounced by many scientists, doctors, and dieticians. “Clean eating” has been exposed as nothing more than a scientifically unfounded diet craze and a social media sensation. Similarly, many public figures have voiced concern over the links between “clean eating” and eating disorders.

Another frustrating thing about “clean eating” is that the phrase misrepresents scientific evidence on food ingredients. More and more marketers refer to their food products as “clean” or having “clean ingredient labels.” If your product is 90% full of a favorite version of oil or sugar, it’s still not providing consumers with healthful, educated choices. Don’t believe me?

I hope you found this article helpful. If you have anything that you’d like to share or any opinions on any of the content on my site, please do speak up. I look forward to your comments, questions and the sharing of ideas.

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Could The Wellness Trend Be More Damaging Than Healthy .., (accessed April 08, 2018).

What Is Clean Eating – Why Clean Eating Is Total Bs, (accessed April 08, 2018).

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