Clean eating has called into question in recent years, yet followers claim it has transformed their lives. So is clean eating a good thing? Is it simply another dietary trend, which leads to a lack of vitamins and minerals?
In its purest form, clean eating is about eating nothing but whole or lean foods. Think vegetables, fruit, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains. Clean eating recipes are typically low in sodium and sugar.
Recent trends for the likes of avocado, quinoa and kale could be contributed to the clean eating phenomenon. Devotees, who are typically fanatical in their adherence to the diet, praise the benefits of a range of fashionably healthy ingredients. Including spirulina to acai and bee pollen.
But is it a good thing?
But it’s a trend that has in recent years been criticised. In 2015 Nigella Lawson expressed ‘disgust’ at the clean eating trend. Referring to it as a form of body fascism. She said: “I think behind the notion of ‘clean eating’ is an implication that any other form of eating is dirty or shameful.”
And she’s not alone. A host of other food experts have criticised the diet in the last two years. Even Ella Mills the food writer behind Deliciously Ella, who was once described as the ‘Queen of Clean’ has actively distanced herself from the phenomenon.
On a BBC documentary Horizon: Clean Eating – The Dirty Truth which aired in January this year, she said clean eating used to mean healthy, fresh, home cooked… “Now it just means diet. It means fad.”
Irish-based celebrity chef Rozanne Stevens agrees. She describes her approach to cooking as based on ‘whole food’ as opposed to ‘clean eating’.
What’s the alternative?
“Clean eating is a generational thing and is closely linked to Orthorexia – an obsession with eating foods that are considered healthy,” she says. “I think the clean eating movement has been spurred on by social media,” she adds. “It has been largely taken up by people going to extremes and attempting to eat a perfect diet which is a dangerous obsession in itself.”
“I don’t take a moral stance on labelling food ‘good’ or ‘bad’,” she adds. “There are healthy, nutritious foods that should still be enjoyable, and also foods that you enjoy for indulgence not their nutritional value.”
But she does make an exception for fizzy drinks and anything containing trans-fatty acids, which she says are actively ‘bad’ and contain no nutritional benefit whatsoever.
“Instead I think we have to take a common-sense approach to both food and food portions.” She recommends eating a balanced diet of whole food that includes fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, pulses and small portions of meat, fish. “In my line of work, I find following a completely vegan or vegetarian diet can be too restrictive. My recipes are rich in plant ingredients with smaller quantities of good quality meat, dairy etc.”
She says a whole food diet does not have to break the bank or include fancy ingredients. Her recipes she adds can be accomplished with little effort.
Planning is key
But’s important to plan ahead to avoid eating fast food. If you do feel the need to indulge in some chocolate or crisps try weighing out the portion. Or eating only small amounts at a time.
“It’s all about balance,” she says. “It’s ok to eat processed food on occasion. But the majority of the time it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
“Not only is it not good for your body but it tastes delicious. Which means you will start to enjoy your food a lot more. Eating should be an enjoyable experience. We should savour every bite.”
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