Anyone who is present on social media (Instagram in particular) has most likely heard about clean eating. It’s a fashionable food trend loved by fitness advocates and the social media elite. A clean diet usually consists of plenty of organic fruit and vegetables, no carbohydrates or refined sugars. Though clean eating has widespread supporters, critics have damned the trend as another bad relationship with food and encouraging unhealthy habits that are ultimately damaging.
What is Clean Eating?
The concept of clean eating is that food is as close to nature as possible. As a result, such a diet would mainly include a lot of whole and plant-based foods produce, whole-grains, protein, nuts, seeds and oils. The main aspect of all these foods is that they are minimally processed and not from a factory.
What Does it Involve?
Clean eaters often encourage home-cooking to avoid overly processed food. Using good quality ingredients, eating regular, balanced meals with healthy snacks in between is the way to function on a clean diet. It can be interpreted differently for each person, but these are the basics.
The motivations of clean eating appear harmless enough. Essentially, it encourages making healthy choices as part of an overall lifestyle that aims to benefit long term. But clean eating can be taken to the extreme like anything else and that’s where it can be dangerous.
Concerns Over Obsessive Behaviour
Obsessing over what foods can be consumed can be damaging. Young people are particularly susceptible to such trends and are more likely to have self-image issues. Although making healthy, long-term choices at a young age can be beneficial, young people who undertake a clean eating diet risk missing out on nutrients that are important for their development as they grow.
Whilst the phrase clean eating may have been well intentioned, there are concerns that it is encouraging negative relationships with food. By labelling certain foods as “clean”, it creates the impression that foods not included in the diet (like chocolate and fast food) are “dirty” or “bad”.
What’s more, the people who offer such dietary advice are usually social media influencers and not all are properly trained nutritionists with qualifications. Nonetheless, people still follow these influencers because they appear as the ideal that should to be aspired to, therefore following what they do will achieve that.
Good Intentions Can Be Taken Too Far
The trend of clean eating most likely had the best intentions behind it. Maintaining a balanced diet will benefit health long-term. However, the claims made by clean eating advocates aren’t properly backed up so should be approached with some caution. Each person has their own dietary preferences and needs. Indeed, people should eat healthily but cutting out foods that aren’t labelled as “clean” isn’t a healthy approach to food. Being healthy isn’t just limited to the food that is consumed, it is also the relationship with that food. Cutting out and not enjoying food will only lead to potentially damaging effects to both the body and mind.