We all know that the media must have a sexy, intriguing or disturbing label for any new eating plan that comes along. It’s well established that enjoying a mostly healthy diet is regarded as unexciting (too sensible, perhaps?) and doesn’t contain any of the extremes people are constantly looking for. Somehow, we’ve been beaten into submission to believe that if our eating patterns don’t involve some sort of exclusion, restriction or live-or-die rules, then we’re not doing it right.
Clean eating is the latest lifestyle to be attacked and quite frankly, I’m fed up of people always searching for the bad in everything. Like any lifestyle choice, which foods are “clean” or “not clean” will always be open to debate, and forum threads will rage backwards and forwards for days between people who have nothing better to care about. The discrepancy arises simply because people are entitled to their own view, and this scares many of them when there are no rigid rules to stick by.
Jamie Oliver recently said, “Real food doesn’t have ingredients, real food is ingredients.” So my interpretation of clean eating starts with this as a basis. I eat loads of fruit and veggies ― sometimes it’s organic from my local farm shop, and sometimes it’s from the wonky selection in the supermarket. I eat Greek yogurt and drink almond milk. If I buy packaged goods then I choose beans and tomatoes in tetra packs rather than cans, to avoid the higher possibility of BPA contamination.
I look for condiments with ingredients I can both pronounce and understand. Go-to treats like Nakd bars and Panna Chocolate are my preference over diet cereal bars and dairy milk. I consider these simple swaps to be cleaner versions of the foods I enjoy eating, and I’m not obsessed with seeking perfection at every or any meal.
So what’s so wrong with making these kinds of choices? According to the screaming headlines, clean eating is a “dangerous trend” with “dirty secrets” and it’s “fueling the rise of orthorexia.” I’m absolutely not belittling the issue of any kind of eating disorder; this is a serious matter that needs to be addressed, no matter the eating style. What annoys me is the constant need to seek out the most extreme examples of people who’ve adopted elements of that lifestyle in order to show “the dangers.”
The heart of clean eating is a diet high in fruit and veg with (depending on your preferences), good quality meat, fish, eggs, pulses, wholemeal grains, nuts and seeds. Eating these foods MOST of the time is NOT unhealthy. Let’s stop demonizing a healthy lifestyle just because it’s been given a label that’s open to interpretation. Considering a food to be clean does not automatically make another one dirty, instead clean eating is a conscious choice to understand what’s in the food you buy and eat, and since when has consumer knowledge been considered a weakness?
Imagine how powerful we could become as customers if we started looking at labels and cared enough about our health to question what’s actually in our favorite foods. We have the power to start a backlash against the companies who have no interest in our health, but a healthy interest in selling us pre-packaged foods filled with ingredients we don’t want or need.
Charlotte Moore is a freelance healthy lifestyle copywriting specialist at ThatCopyGirl.com She loves to eat, lift and laugh in copious amounts, and is always planning her next trip to California.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.