Does "clean eating" equal healthy eating?
There’s been quite a lot of coverage over the past year about "clean eating" with claims of it being most effective for weight loss and improving wellbeing. Depending on which book or website you read there can be different interpretations of “clean eating”, some more extreme than others, but broadly speaking the general set of principles are to avoid processed foods e.g. canned foods, eat more natural, wholesome foods, avoid refined sugar, eat less meat and dairy, avoid artificial sweeteners and additives, cook more from scratch and some recommend going gluten free.
On the face of it, some of these principles are aligned with the Eat Well plate (Government healthy eating advice) and would encourage consumption of a more balanced diet. However, in practice they can be too prescriptive and encourage in some people “orthorexia” which is an obsession about healthy food and healthy diet. This obsessive behaviour can lead to unhealthy attitudes to food which can create longer-term health issues as your diet can fall short in some vitamins and minerals when you restrict food groups.
The other point on “clean eating” that concerns me, is that there is very little science behind some of the more extreme claims that are associated with following this type of diet e.g. you don’t have to worry about calories - which is in fact untrue if you want to lose or maintain weight – it’s all about energy balance! The majority of advocates of these principles have little or no nutrition or dietetics training and we believe that dietary advice should be based on principles that are science and evidence based.
Healthy eating is all about balance and ensuring that you eat from all the food groups as they all provide different vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are beneficial for short and long-term health and wellbeing. You don’t need to cut out dairy and gluten from your diet unless you have been diagnosed with an allergy or food intolerance by a health professional, in which case you should make sure that you get nutrients found in these foods from another food source. It’s not only refined sugar we all need to cut down in our diet, but any form of free sugars which includes honey, agave syrup and fruit juice. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have your favourite treats but control the portion size or limit how often you have them.
Our advice: you don’t have to be so restrictive with what you eat to achieve a healthy balanced diet that will improve your wellbeing.