If you’ve been on social media, visited a trendy cafe, or have gone to a grocery store, you may have noticed the significant amount of food products labeled as, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free, etc. Many consumers believe that dairy-free, gluten-free or grain-free products are healthy options for them, but in reality, this might not be the case. Labels like non-gmo, raw, locally grown, and organic have also caused a lot of confusion around what healthy eating really looks like over the years.
According to Diane Welland, M.S., R.D., author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Clean?”, clean eating is described as “choosing foods that are natural and wholesome—particularly foods that are free of chemicals, additives and preservatives, and refined, processed ingredients”. Clean eating is another fad diet that promotes the belief that in order to be healthy you should consume unprocessed foods and exclude grain, gluten, and/or dairy products. This diet markets off of the idea that whole unprocessed foods are better than food products that have a plethora of ingredients listed on their labels. Certain food products that are labeled as “free” might not be the best choice financially. Many of these foods tend to be more expensive due to the complex process of producing the food item, as well as the use of expensive ingredients and specialized facilities. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive or restrictive! Because being healthy is subjective, and is different for everyone, you don’t have to exclude so many of these foods in order to achieve health.
As previously mentioned in my last blog post, diets don’t work. Dieting might seem like the perfect solution but instead it leads to restriction and stress around food. Although clean eating is not marketed as a diet, it is important to uncover some of the claims that have led consumers to believe that these foods are better for them. For example, you may have heard to avoid buying foods that contain ingredients you cannot pronounce or do not recognize. The truth is most foods you find at the grocery store are processed in some way (whole wheat bread, baby carrots, chopped nuts, granola bars, crackers, etc.). Although products with fewer ingredients do provide more nutrition, it is important to remember that not one specific ingredient or food product you buy will be detrimental to your health. I encourage you to find a balance and recognize what is important for your nutritional needs. In some cases, clean eating has led to an obsession around food. Our behaviors around food are impacted when we label food as “good” or “bad”.
You might be wondering, who actually benefits from dairy-free, gluten-free, or grain-free options? These options are best suited for those who have an allergy or intolerance to these foods. Consult with your doctor or an allergy specialist if you are concerned about any food allergies.
The reason for this post is not to make you believe that certain food products are bad for you. It is to show you that social media and advertisements have done an excellent job in promoting fad diets within the food industry through the use of labels on our food products. And as a consumer, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish how to eat healthy when there is conflicting information about nutrition. Learning about what foods you enjoy and eating mindfully, without restriction, is a great place to start in order to create a healthier relationship with food. You don’t need the approval of so many labels on your food in order to dictate whether you are eating healthy. A clean eating diet is not superior and does not always cater to everyone.
Written by Pamela Gomez Fernandez and Karina Nava