The Dirt on Clean Eating
Over the past few years the term "clean eating" has become a common phrase. Clean eating can mean wellness, weight loss, health, detoxing, dieting, and many more. From bone broth to spiralizing, from gluten free to raw food and from bullet juices to smashed avo on toast, this is now the culture that is "clean eating". While the term is heavily used in social media, there has never been any agreement on what defines clean eating.
The core principles of clean eating are: eliminate processed food; reduce salt intake; eat more vegetables; choose whole grains; eliminate refined sugar; reduce alcohol. For some, you also need to be gluten, dairy, and soy free and to eat raw. And if you want to be completely "clean" you should probably be vegan, too.
Some people find it difficult to understand why dieticians and doctors are against the clean eating when obesity is on the rise. However, some clean eating is sensationalist promotion of non-evidence based, and extremely restrictive lifestyles that demonise everyday food essentials. And that can lead followers into having a sense of shame and failure for not eliminating "unclean" foods 100% of the time.
Here below are some scientifically proven good ideas, with their scientific disproven ideas.
- Consume less processed foods; Processed foods are poison.
- Reduce salt intake; Eliminate salt from your diet.
- Reduce sugar intake; Eliminate sugar from your diet.
- Stick to whole grains; Demonise all affordable food staples.
- Reduce alcohol intake; Avoid socialising due to your diet.
- Eliminate gluten if you're intolerant; Eliminate gluten.
- Eliminate dairy if you're intolerant; Eliminate dairy.
Everyone eats. Everyone thinks they're an expert. Everyone is shifting the blame from over indulgence to food being "dirty" or being intolerant. If you drank too much wine and got a hangover, is that because you over indulged or intolerance. The same goes to if you ate too much bread and gained weight, do you blame over indulgence or intolerance/ "dirty" food.
When you're talking about "clean" or "dirty" foods, it can feel like you're talking about good or bad. If you consume 5-6 meals per day, you're consuming 35-42 meals per week. Eating 35-42 meals low in sugar, and salt, high in fibre, gluten free, dairy free and raw can be difficult. If you are following a lifestyle similar to this and you deviate from these foods, any decision you make is out of bounds. Any decision you make is a bad decision. Living like this may not make you happy. A diet with foods being restricted means that you cannot deviate from the foods you're allowed without feeling bad. When you feel bad from the decisions that you're making, it becomes easier to through in the towel and "start again tomorrow". But tomorrow never comes. Tomorrow will always stay tomorrow unless we make the right food choices TODAY.
There are no foods that make you healthy, and there are no foods that make you unhealthy. The term health encompasses more than just food. We need to look at diet that we can stick to LONG TERM. If you cannot stay eating the foods that you're eating now long term, then your results will not be long term. A diet needs to full of good foods that make you feel good, but every diet will have bad foods that make us feel good too. The sentiment underlying this new cult isn't a bad one. Most of us would like to be healthier. But we can't expect social media to let us know what healthy is. The overwhelming advice from the people who know a lot about nutrition and dietary health doesn't seem to have changed much over the years; everything in moderation.
Take home message.
Eat the foods that you enjoy, and make you feel good. Control the quantities by tracking your food in your food diary. Eat a wide variety of foods, try new foods, and take pleasure in the foods you enjoy. Make an effort to include most food groups. Combine this with the structure of regular meals, snacks, your food diary, and you are covered. Eating "well" not just "clean" is really that simple. The key to health isn't hiding in a fad diet or elimination regime. You are not going to find in, as if by magic or luck, at the bottom of a packet of activated raw almonds, or as a prize from weight loss, gym time or the latest detox. Eating well is eating intuitively, with pleasure and without shame. Whatever the "clean eating" industry may tell you, you have the secret to health already. You've had it all along.