Repost: Have you entered the temple of clean eating?

I’m sad to say that when I wrote this post a couple of years ago, I had hoped that the practice of clean eating would be a short-lived one but alas, it’s something that many people still strive for.  Here’s hoping that in 2018, food choices are made with both health (personal and planetary) and pleasure in mind and that morality is left out of the equation! Happy New Year!

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.

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Categories: Food Trends, Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

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

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