Clean eating is becoming an increasingly popular trend in today’s society. However, many who eat clean are often confused by the lack of progress.
Clean eating – What is it?
If you ask ten people, who consider themselves clean eaters what the term “clean” means, you will get different answers. The answers may include responses such as no processed food, low-fat, low sugar, low calorie, low glycemic index, only foods our cavemen ancestors ate and a variety of other answers.
However, as you start to question their definition of “clean” more specifically, the definition often starts to fall apart.
“Healthy” and “Clean” differ depending upon an individual’s goals.
For example, many protein bars are high-protein, high-fibre, low-fat foods made from things like dairy and grains. However, these are processed foods. Is this clean?
What about popcorn? A standard serving of plain popcorn has similar fibre and protein contents to a potato with a lower glycemic index. Is popcorn a clean food?
What about high-calorie baked goods made for those following a “Paleo” diet? Theoretically, Paleo diet only uses ingredients that our ancestors ate (although I doubt they were baking bread and cookies with them in their caves), but the calorie and fat contents are often high. Are these clean?
As you can probably see by now, this line of questioning eventually results in an extremely small list of foods that are acceptable to eat. Also, to note that this small list also differs from person to person who either dislike certain foods or have allergies.
Therefore, for a dietary approach to be successful long-term, it needs to be more flexible than viewing foods as “good” or “bad.”
Focus on Calorie Content. Not Food Source
Those who follow a clean eating approach base the success of their diets on their ability to consume clean foods while avoiding non-clean foods. Such an approach occurs without regard to calorie content.
Similarly, a highly frequented restaurant recently began advertising that all their foods would be clean by year’s end; however, many of the muffins, cookies, scones, sandwiches, panini’s and even salads on their menu are 400-500 calories or more each.
Ultimately, body weight change comes from the balance between the number of calories consumed and the number of calories expended. With many foods commonly viewed as clean, but containing a large number of calories, it’s not surprising that many wonders why they aren’t losing weight and progressing towards their goals when following a clean eating approach.
Many foods that are typically considered clean are high in calories. For example, nuts contain upwards of 200 calories per 1oz serving. Compare that to 1oz sweet potato (approximately 25 calories) or 1oz blueberries (approximately 15 calories) and it is clear that calorie content of clean foods may differ greatly.
Energy balance (not the food source) determines body weight change. Therefore, examining the calorie content of a diet is vital.