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Clean Eating: what does it really mean?

Posted: Aug 3, 2017

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Clean Eating: what does it really mean?

Is it just me or is this whole “clean eating” craze getting a little out of control?

If you ask a handful of people how they define “clean eating” you will likely get several different responses. For some it means to eat gluten free or grain free, for others it means following a paleo diet that restricts grains, dairy and legumes or a plant-based diet that eliminates all animal products. Before I go any further I want to assure you that all of these eating patterns can be healthy and the most important thing when you’re deciding what to eat, or how to eat or when to eat is that you’re eating in a way that is enjoyable and sustainable for YOU.

 I do believe that the term “clean eating” started with good intentions. It was originally intended to mean eating minimally processed foods and including lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, all good advice. Unfortunately, it has morphed into something entirely different. The term “clean eating” is now thrown around as a way of assigning a moral judgement to food and somehow implies that if we are not “eating clean” that we are dirty or impure. More than that, this concept fails to take into consideration all of the reasons that people eat what they eat, including food environment, income and time constraints.

Another thing, I think that the concept of “clean eating” is misleading in a lot of instances. For example, honey and maple syrup have the same effect on your blood sugar and your health as any other source of sugar; coconut oil is still mostly saturated fat, just like butter; cold pressed juice is still a concentrated source of sugar with little to no nutritious value and vegan avocado chocolate pudding is still dessert. And yet, because these foods are listed under the health halo of “clean eating” we classify them as being good for us and we forget to be mindful about how often we include them in our diets.

So, here is how I see it; If you can make more meals from scratch at home, you should. If you can include more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains in your diet instead of processed and refined grains that would be great. Doing these things will have a positive impact on your health but feeling guilty about eating foods that don’t fit an arbitrary definition of “clean eating” isn’t going to help anyone.