What Does Clean Eating Mean to Dietitians?

March 27, 2015 10:02 AM

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As a college professor, I hear about diet trends fairly early and often. Many of my students love the idea of “eating clean,” but I find that most of them struggle to define what it actually means. Indeed, “clean eating” is a term that has no official definition, leaving it wide open for interpretation. Some of my colleagues dislike the term and avoid using it, because it implies that this way of eating is somehow more virtuous, or that some food is “dirty” (and therefore, bad). Dietitian Marsha Hudnall, who is president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run – a healthy weight loss retreat in Vermont – explains that her hesitation to use the term is because it ultimately sets a lot of people up for unrealistic expectations about eating. She finds that the term encourages an all-or-nothing kind of thinking about food, and sometimes even contributes to an overall fear of food, which stands in the way of being healthy.

“Since there is no scientific consensus on the definition of clean eating, I define a clean eater as someone whose diet consists of 80 to 90 percent whole foods, 80 to 90 percent cooking and preparing their foods from scratch, using minimally-processed foods and including superfoods in their diets.”...

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