Column: A closer look at clean eating trend
Last month, Horizon had a programme looking at clean eating.
While I must confess to having not watched the programme yet, it keeps the term clean eating firmly in the media and in the mind of the public. So many people ask me about clean eating and what it actually is.
The truth is, there is no medical definition of it which should instantly raise any concerns.
I am not against “clean eating” however, I am against the term itself and the pressure that is associated with eating clean. Essentially, clean eating is the avoidance of processed food, which I absolutely agree with.
However, the labelling of food as being good, bad, clean or dirty, does nothing to help an already very confused population and an increasing number of eating disorder sufferers. The pressure on social media to post pictures of your “clean” meal is rising and a quick glance through Instagram shows just how many people there are who are obsessed with clean eating and gym selfies, making many people feel inadequate.
Part of my job is to educate people on what to eat and it is something I am truly passionate about.
The confusion in this area is huge and information is everywhere, but the inaccuracy and misreporting is very high, meaning what you are reading about in the papers, online and on Facebook may not be scientifically true at all.
There is still a huge amount of conflicting evidence in many areas of nutrition. Recommendations should be made by professionals who are fully qualified and who have done their research and looked at all the facts.
Clean eating very much feels like it’s the latest fad and sometimes it’s portrayed as being incredibly strict, restrictive and obsessive. With no medical definition, it’s open to huge interpretation and varies massively depending on what you read and who you follow.
Ultimately, I believe that eating less processed food would have huge benefits to our health, but should never be detrimental to mental health. So here is my take on it to help you get a bit clearer on foods you might choose to reduce and those you might choose to increase.
Avoiding processed foods as much as you can has huge health benefits. However, it is not always possible and sometimes we choose to eat these foods and we should never feel guilt for eating something. Feeling guilt is a negative emotion, which often triggers us to repeat the behaviour again and get stuck on a cycle of behaviour we don’t like and want.
Eat a wide variety of different colours and foods, especially vegetables and some fruit to give you the biggest range of antioxidants. Antioxidants are really important in helping to reduce the risk of cancer. They’re also a rich source of vitamins and minerals which are vital for improving our health.
Base your meals on high protein foods rather than on carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cereal and rice.
Protein is more filling and less processed, especially if you choose foods such as oily fish and white fish, lean meat and pulses or lentils.
Try to limit drinks such as fizzy drinks and shop bought juices as well as excessive caffeine.
There’s no harm in two or three cups of tea/coffee per day (ideally without lots of sugar), but most people would benefit from more water.
Ultimately, we all have to find a way of eating that is healthy and works for us.
Food is something we should enjoy, not scrutinise every last mouthful we eat and worry about all the time.
If you’re making changes to your diet and lifestyle, be patient.
It won’t happen overnight and very often something extremely strict is harder to stick to long term.
So make changes each week and stick to them, creating new healthy habits.
If you have a day you feel was less healthy, move on and start afresh the next day rather than going back to old habits or carrying on.
Always focus on the positive changes you have made.
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