Is it my imagination, or is everyone talking about “clean eating”?
I heard about this diet when my friend asked for advice on how to eat “cleaner”. My first thought was, “Clean eating? I wash my produce…isn’t that enough?” After digging into the meaning of this term, I found a lot of different ideas about what I had to do to “eat clean”. This is one of the [many] problems with clean eating and other fad diets; it seems that everyone is an “expert” and has their own ideas and advice.
What is clean eating?
The ultimate goal of clean eating is to eat a diet consisting of only “clean” foods. However, there is no agreement about what foods are considered clean.
For some, clean eating means following a plan similar to Health Canada’s healthy eating guidelines. For others, it means eating a raw, vegan diet and eliminating dairy, soy, and gluten. Unless you are managing a health condition - like celiac disease, which requires you to restrict specific foods – cutting out food groups can cause you to miss key nutrients in your diet.
Is clean eating based on science?
When researching this diet I found a lot of different ideas posted mainly on personal blogs, but found little in the way of solid evidence to back up these claims.
When considering changes to your diet, be sure to dig around for information from reputable sources and talk with a health care professional - like your doctor or a registered dietitian - about the evidence you find. It’s not uncommon for retailers to promote fad diets to increase sales of trendy foods or supplements. It’s good to be cautious when it comes to what you read, especially when it concerns your health.
Does clean eating mean that some foods are not clean?
I find that a lot of fad diets include words like avoid, abstain, or eliminate. These diets usually call out foods you shouldn’t eat and describe foods as good and bad. The term clean eating can make you believe that some foods are not clean. This type of comparison can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and puts extra pressure on eating.
Eating is so much more than what you put into your body. It includes your relationship with food and how it makes you feel physically and emotionally. There is room to enjoy all foods in moderation.
Are the claims about clean eating too good to be true?
With promises ranging from weight loss and anti-aging, to reduced inflammation, clearer skin, and detoxification it’s no wonder this diet is so popular!
While some people may be successful at following a certain diet, it does not mean that you will see the same results. It’s important to check the source of the information and make sure that what you are reading is based on good quality evidence and not simply a personal opinion or a marketing campaign meant to boost retail sales.
The bottom line:
I admit the intentions of the clean eating diet are pure (no pun intended). Where this diet falls short is that it cuts out too many foods and does not focus on the big picture of health. Instead of trying to follow a short-term diet trend, focus on making small sustainable changes as part of a balanced lifestyle. If you have questions about this diet, or any other nutrition question, call HealthLink BC (8-1-1) to speak with a registered dietitian for free. Or send them an email.
What are your thoughts on clean eating? Have you followed this type of diet? How did (or does) it work for you?
Author’s Bio: Soleina Maherali is a dietetic intern completing her internship with the Provincial Health Services Authority. She has an interest in health education and teaching, particularly within a pediatric setting. Her goal is to help parents and kids love food and eating as much as she does!
HealthLink BC: Healthy Eating Resources
Dietitians of Canada: Healthy Eating: Variety and Balance
Government of Canada: What is healthy eating?
Dietitians of Canada: Take the Fight out of Food – Food Fads