You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard the term “clean eating” being bandied around by diet advocates and eager adopters. But what does it mean?
There is no official definition.
Depending on your personal beliefs and food philosophies it can mean anything from avoiding meat, dairy, or grains to eating a 100% organic diet. The only universally consistent principle seems to be the avoidance of highly refined or processed foods.
The term is often used in conjunction with other diet buzzwords- “paleo”, “primal”, “caveman” and “wholefood” diets. This complicates the issue even further, and illustrates nicely that even the die-hard followers of these diet movements cannot clearly explain the differences between the various terms.
And now, like with every other diet trend, the food marketers are jumping on board. Lion Dairy and Drinks have released a new range of lower sugar soft drinks, called Hopt Soda, which has the quite meaningless tagline “Drink Clean.” I’ll hand it to them- it’s probably the most on-trend marketing puffery I’ve seen this year. It’s an implied health claim without actually being a health claim. If anyone challenged them their legal team could simply argue it means the product is hygienically prepared.
It probably sounds like I dislike the term. But that’s not entirely true. If anything I’m jealous that the credible nutrition experts, such as registered dietitians and nutritionists, didn’t come up with it first.
As I dietitian myself, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a dietitian who doesn’t promote an eating pattern that focusses on natural whole foods such as fruit and vegetables, and recommends minimising highly processed foods.
Effectively, this version of “clean eating” is what dietitians have been recommending for decades. We just haven’t had the marketing panache to give our dietary messages a buzzword that can be adopted with a cult-like following.
Maybe we can come up with the next one?