Clean eating - fact or fiction?

How disappointing. In a bid to expose a few pseudo science diet scams in the USA , Dr GIles Yeo in Thursday night's Horizon tarnished the reputations of some of the UK's pioneers of healthier eating, and for the general public it may have potentially raised more questions about how to approach healthy eating than it answered. Shame on you BBC. 

As a registered nutritional therapist who supports people with personsalised dietary advice based on the most up-to-date information available, I believe healthy eating is both a science and an art, and was irritated by Dr Yeo’s attempt to discredit the ‘clean eating movement’ - which, whilst flawed, deserves praise for the huge amount of much-needed awareness it’s brought to healthy eating in recent years and for inspiring the nation with innovative new ways to cook and enjoy ’real food’. 

I appreciate there is a risk that a small subset of clean eating followers will follow a little too closely the personal ’stories’ of today’s fashionable figures, some of whom do extol the benefits of cutting out food groups and in doing so may make the mistake of confusing the personal philosophies of unqualified healthy eating heroes for evidence-based nutrition advice or investing heavily in extreme plans. I also realise that with gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan being thrown into the media limelight, there is potential for additional confusion around what constitutes healthy eating at a time when the general public is still getting to grips with the mixed messages already out there surrounding sugar, carbs and fats (side note: science evolves constantly and even the government guidelines are often based on outmoded / ‘bad science’). 

However, I think its important to keep an eye on the big picture - and in the overall health landscape I perceive the role of Ella and other high profile people of that ilk (and this includes males with similar approaches such as Joe Wicks and James Duigan of Clean & Lean fame who escaped criticism on last night’s programme) to be generally a positive one. I see them as advocates of a healthy lifestyle, and promoters of cooking from scratching, encouraging us to ditch processed foods and inspiring new ways for us to get more vegetables into our diets.

So what if their recipes sing the virtues of kale, spiralised courgettes, turmeric, sauerkraut, quinoa and chia seeds. We now know how to 'clean up' a burger or a brownie by making it from fresh wholesome ingredients at home. These are ‘real foods’ and I love the important message of basing the best part of ones diet on unprocessed, fresh food with a good balance of vegetables. 

And the ‘real food’ message of ditching processed foods and embracing simple, uncomplicated natural ingredients is the big simple message I think that the experts and media alike needs to convey to the public - alongside raising awareness that when one does need nutritional support in refining your choices for your personal needs and health situation, as opposed to simply trying out some colourful new recipes, there are credible, knowledgeable nutritional experts out there and a way to help you learn to eat healthily and intuitively, whilst avoiding commercially driven scams or going to extremes. 

So a sexy title brought the publicity to Thursday night’s show, now I just hope the audience did not make the mistake of confusing the con-men with the women who encourage us to ditch process foods and inspire us to enjoy real food.