Have you entered the temple of clean eating?

When did enjoying a decadent delight become a sinful pleasure or a guilty indulgence? How did being gluten-free, choosing organic foods or non-GMO options become a badge of honour? How does not doing so seem to put you in the same category as a thief or someone lacking a moral compass? Do I sound paranoid? Just listen to the preaching that is going on about food and you may begin to understand what I’m saying.

Food choices are now being looked at with the same judgement as other issues of morality. It is a very sad state indeed.  And these attitudes can carry significant risk to our emotional and physical wellbeing.

I think a term which strikes at the heart of it is clean eating. It’s one that I and many of my colleagues hate.

I have to ask: is the opposite of a clean eater, someone who is dirty?

Some of the concepts of clean eating may indeed be valid.  When we make food choices, yes we should be considering environmental, such as sustainability and its impact on the earth, along with ethical issues including factory farming and food waste.

But should we be embarrassed or  guilt ridden about everything we eat if it doesn’t fit into what others think you should be consuming?

People now wonder if asking for a bread basket at a restaurant could be a faux pas depending on the attitude of their dining partners.

Fear of food has become rampant.  Dairy products are just one example. As self-styled experts decree the dangers of dairy and extol the wonders of a growing list of alternatives, options such as cheese are avoided as if they were poison. It’s one thing for someone to go cheese-free out of a conscious decision based on certain criteria  to not consume dairy products but it’s another when those with eating disorders are now frightened to ever let it pass their lips as they’ve “ heard the latest”.

It’s not a new thing for a client with an eating disorder to eliminate choices such as cheese from their diets but it used to be that it was based on an their own personal  issues with certain foods. They  hadn’t been fed the myth that dairy products would result in bone thinning due to calcium loss.

Or what about the junk food eating client  trying to shed weight who tells me when I suggest cheese as a quick protein option at breakfast that he’s heard about the risks of dairy. Instead when he’s trying to “eat right”, he selects only a piece of fruit and is starving all day long. Rather than jumping right in to educate him on a range of healthy eating principals including the importance of breakfast and balanced eating, I need to first counter clean eating myths.

And this is a big job.

I do have to say, though, that the  issue of clean labels is an understandable one. Shoppers don’t want to feel as though they need a chemistry degree to read what’s in the food package they’ve picked up. Consequently food manufacturers are looking to shorten ingredient lists and include those consumers might be more familiar with. But some of the issues here are our own fault. If we want food items that last forever in our pantries, then those packages will need a long list of likely unfamiliar compounds.

It’s time to get back to healthy eating principals based on science, not on science fiction. While it’s true  that nutritional science is evolving and recommendations do change, it  doesn’t mean that we should be listening to preachers and evangelists about nutrition. They belong in churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and the like.

Let’s take back our food – the pleasure of healthy eating with  no guilt or shame or striving for perfection.


What’s your take on the term “clean eating”? Please share your comments in the section below.

Tags: , ,

Categories: Food Trends, Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

Get Enlightened Eater in your inbox

Subscribe to get the latest nutrition news, fresh recipes and more!

6 Comments on “Have you entered the temple of clean eating?”

  1. August 26, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Thank you, Rosie!!!! I used to suspect that it must be just me who feels the way you are describing here.

    Just last night, out for sushi after our Tuesday evening yoga-in-the-park class, I witnessed first-hand how simply choosing from a menu can turn into a high-drama performance. Almost everything on the menu was “bad”, according to one clean-eating yoga pal. That would be okay, if she hadn’t felt the need to be so loudly critical of every item listed on the menu. Then of course we had to watch her embarrassingly loud grilling of our server about every single ingredient in each choice (“Is the cucumber organic? How about the avocado? The yam?”) with much frowning and sighing in response to each unacceptable response. Oh, please…

    When her (small) order arrived at the table, we had to watch more picking and poking at each morsel on the plate as if every mouthful was torture – and quite possibly extremely dangerous to her health. Fear of food, indeed. Not to mention her unspoken eyebrow-raised reactions to what the rest of us were eagerly consuming! (And remember that this was sushi – not Kentucky Fried Chicken!) The worst of it was that there seemed to be no enjoyment of her food, no pleasure in eating, and no fun socializing on a beautiful summer evening with friends. Her focus was ENTIRELY on the food, very little of which seemed to pass her exacting standards. As you correctly say, it’s hard to see how such attitudes can contribute to anybody’s “emotional and physical wellbeing”.

    This kind of high drama performance is tedious. Thanks so much for calling a spade a spade!

  2. August 26, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    Carolyn, this is very sad indeed! And unfortunately, what happened at your dinner last night used to be a rare occurrence but now has become much more common and, alarmingly, completely acceptable to too many people! We need a return to sanity about food.

  3. August 26, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

    Thank you for this post (I came here by way of Carolyn T–hey, Carolyn!).
    Amazing how those two words can say and mean so much. Seldom is a fan of clean eating simply announcing a preference. Clean Eaters aren’t about, “everybody follow your food bliss; now shaddup and pass the quinoa.” No. “Clean Eating” is very much other directed: after all, without a point of comparison (usually other people’s food choices) and objects of shaming (other people)–what would “Clean Eating” be?
    And Clean Eating feeds on (see what I did there) and requires an audience, so necessary to hear (as in Carolyn’s example) the litany of peevish questions, or the detailed statements about the Clean Eater’s sensitivity and specialness– oh, what those “dirty” foods do to her (or him–though it’s usually a woman, and often, though not always, a white one)!
    And Clean Eating is based on inequality and superiority: I am more moral because I am disciplined,and willing to suffer (loudly) for health; I know more than you, my way of eating is far superior to yours.
    Food as sustenance, pleasure, meals to share and enjoy with others–that all goes. Food, eating, nutrition, becomes complicated–a thing to deal with.
    I know lots of folks who are on a particular food path, yet they don’t make it a thing. In contrast, Clean Eating acolytes ensure that their food, food issues, food opinions, food history, food planning occupy center stage. So there is also a big element of self-centeredness, too.
    Not fun.

    • August 27, 2015 at 7:05 am #

      Ursery, very well put- you have captured the clean eater perfectly!!

  4. August 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    Very interesting take on the subject, Rosie. Funny coincidence, I actually wrote a recent article on why I don’t use the saying “Clean Eating” as well. 🙂 Zoe from The Moderation Movement also did today. It’s wonderful seeing dietitians spread the word. 🙂

    Here is said article: http://www.joseesovinskynutrition.com/blog/why-i-dont-use-the-saying-clean-eating/26/8/2015


    • August 27, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

      Great minds think alike! We both wonder if the opposite of clean eating is dirty. Seriously though, thanks for your link – well said! I’m glad to see that “clean eating” is getting smeared! Yes, we need to get the word out there so that this movement towards shaming and guilting people into certain eating styles is not what nutrition is all about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: