September 5, 2020Categories: Eating Styles
You've probably heard the term "Clean Eating." What does it mean? Is there some official definition?
Like many other trendy diets such as Paleo, Low Carb, Keto, etc. there's a lot of variation to it.
Basic Simple Definitions:
You'll find some definitions that are loose and more in line with old fashioned common sense, where people try to cook with food that's as close to how it's grown in nature as possible.
You'll also find other extreme definitions where it's tightly defined with many restrictions that go far beyond just close to natural food. The restrictions can include no grains, no sugar, no meat, etc. They'll also include a lot of expensive superfoods and supplements almost as a requirement.
Uses of the Term:
I tend to use the loose definition. I like getting foods as close to the way it grows in nature. Any variation beyond that I would not classify as clean eating. For example, I eat grain free, but not because it's not "clean." I eat that simply because grains don't agree with me.
When we pick up an eating style we have to remember that there's rarely a term that will cover all your eating choices. This new phenomenom of trying to name how we eat with one single word puts us in an unrealistic box.
If we want to eat clean, and gluten free, and low oxalate, there really isn't a word to describe that. And in reality, there shouldn't be.
100 years ago if you'd asked someone what diet they ate they'd probably look at you like you had green horns coming out of your head. Diets were only for very sick people, used only by doctors, or medicine men. Regular people just ate regular food.
I suspect that many who have some strange definitions for Clean Eating either have some eating disorders, or have fallen for the trap of wanting to have only one word for how they eat. If they have things that shouldn't really be labeled as clean eating, they'll stick it in anyways, and insist everyone else should also. That leads to a lot of confusion for people who are looking into it.
I choose to have a few different things that guide me in how I eat, and I don't worry about if I have several words to describe it.
Keep it Simple and Easy to Define:
The idea of Clean Eating is fairly simple, and everyone can strive for it to whatever degree suits their life.
Organic would be a logical thing to include in the clean eating term.
Grass fed, pastured, non grain fed beef would be included. There may be stages of getting all the way to this. You may have to start with grass fed organic. Some people won't know where to find everything right away, so getting all the way there takes time to find sources. Also, people may not realize how some food is made. As they learn more they can make different choices.
Fresh vegetables would be preferred over frozen or canned. There may be times you need to have frozen or canned, but eating fresh most of the time is doable for most people.
Making your foods from scratch rather than canned or packaged or premade meals. This can take a change in habits, but the more you're able to do this, the more artificial food additives you'll be able to remove.
Technically anything from the point of picking the food is a form of processing (and even before then if you include what's done to the land during the growing season). The way I think of it is to reduce the steps that have to occur for me to get the food. For some things it might be quite reasonable for there to be a small number of steps. I'm just going to try to keep them to a minumum.
For some people this is a process they need to get the hang of, and they won't go as far when they first start. They might switch to the organic version of some foods before they go all the way to making it themselves.
Making Progress Over Time:
If you don't want to be dogmatic, and are happy to make progress over time, then working towards less processed foods, and more clean foods is perfectly fine.
Some of the people who don't like the concept of clean eating think that the opposite of clean is dirty and that anything not deemed clean is deemed to be dirty. I don't think that was the original intention of clean eating movement, though unfortunately this criticism is so easy to use due to the common use of dirty and clean to describe the contrast between the 2 words.
That's why the use of the Clean Eating concept hasn't grown for a while now. A more common term now used is Whole Food. Since the word Whole Food doesn't have a literal opposite, it's become a useful way of describing almost the same thing. I personally am also glad it doesn't really get definitions attached to it that don't mean something else, at least so far.
Whether you call it clean eating or whole food, you can choose to make different food choices over time. Each person will make different choices based on what they believe and the info they have at hand.
If you're interested in expanding what you know about food be sure to check out our Kick It Up section where you'll find a variety of topics, from different ways to think about the human diet, all the way to how to take back control of your food and your diet.
Learn, eat and enjoy!