This Food Writer Has The Best Reason For Not Using The Phrase “Clean Eating”

Photographed by Eric Helgas.
If you've ever had a conversation with anyone about nutrition and food, chances are that you've heard the term "clean eating." But what does it really mean to eat clean? The answer will probably depend on who you speak to (and there's really no official definition), but food writer Amy Palanjian makes a great point about why she never uses the words "clean eating." In a piece for The Kitchn, Palanjian says that although she and her family eat mostly fresh foods and produce, "clean eating" really isn't an accurate term for their lifestyle. For one thing, she wrote, it implies that there are "clean" foods and "dirty" foods, labels that put food into judgmental categories. "If I tell [my daughter] that I'm not eating something because it's not clean, she might think that this food is dirty," Palanjian wrote. "And, knowing her, she might refuse to eat something that she loves, which just seems like an unnecessary complication to the already complex ordeal of feeding little ones." Not to mention, she wrote, "It sends a not-so-subtle message that certain kids are more virtuous and pure than others simply based on what's in their lunch box — which is neither true, nor fair." And in addition to stereotypically "clean" foods being rather expensive, Palanjian makes the excellent point that restricting yourself to certain foods can create a lack of balance that could backfire in the long term. "Often, the more you restrict certain foods or food groups, the more likely it is that you'll overeat them when your defenses are down," she wrote. We're with Palanjian 100% — while it's great to want to eat more fresh produce, "clean eating" is a loaded term because it implies that certain foods are "dirty" and should be shamed. Not to mention, adhering to what you believe to be a "clean" diet could seriously throw your diet and nutrition out of balance. Also, processed foods (a.k.a. foods we don't think of as being clean) might not be as bad as you think. The bottom line is, there's no need to label foods as "good" and "bad" — and you really don't need to feel ashamed or to seek permission to eat foods that you enjoy.

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