Is It Time To Stop Talking About All Foods In Moderation?

An article in ‘ABC News Online’ caught my eye recently, it was entitled: “Clean Eating: the good, the bad and the unhelpful”.

Now ‘Clean Eating’ is a very simple concept promoting real, whole foods but also emphasising the need to be mindful of the origins of that food and of the pathway the food has taken to reach your plate.

Understandably, at the Whole Way we like this idea. We completely agree that a diet rich in plants and whole foods is the best choice for health. We believe that we should always consider the impact food production has on our environment and be compassionate to the animals with whom we share this planet. Hence my interest in the article.

The author of the ABC article consulted with Rebecca Reynolds, a very well respected, academic nutritionist, who is repeatedly quoted in the article. Rebecca makes quite reasonable points about the pros and cons of Clean Eating but often reverts to ‘standard nutritionist advice’. It is this standardised form of advice which I find counterproductive.

Whilst it is completely unfair to pull quotes from the text, I will do so anyway, but I would encourage you to read the article in full if you have time (link at bottom of page).

1. ‘Healthy eating is much more balanced and reasonable and doesn’t demonise certain foods’

Suggesting a balanced approach to eating is very confusing as healthy eating is in truth unbalanced. The best option for most of us to eat huge amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, masses of whole foods like lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds, small amounts of animal based foods and no ‘junk food’ or ultra-processed foods.

We desperately need to demonise certain foods. There is nothing nutritious about fizzy, soda drinks like Coke but there is plenty of evidence that these drinks are extremely harmful. They need to be demonised. So too a whole host of heavily processed foods full of toxic, additives and artificial chemicals.

2. ‘The old adage of everything in moderation, still reigns supreme”

Everything in moderation? We don’t recommend smoking in moderation. We don’t recommend Cocaine in moderation. So why would you recommend unhealthy foods in moderation. What does moderation mean anyway? It’s entirely relative, what is a moderate amount of chocolate? One square or one bar?

3. ‘A ‘mostly-sometimes’ balanced approach is the way to go”

What happened to rarely and never? I would suggest you never drink Coke, never eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and never eat a Big Mac. I would suggest you rarely eat cake. Cake is for Birthdays so eat cake on your birthday and only on your birthday.

4. ‘It’s unrealistic, particularly for people who don’t have loads of money’

Eating healthy food does require effort. It takes more time to shop. It requires more care and consideration when choosing foods and preparing and cooking good food involves a certain amount of energy and endeavour. With care, eating healthy food need not be expensive, but even if it does cost a little more please remember that what you eat is probably the single most important aspect of your life. Is the physical and mental health of you and your family really less important than the car you drive or the size of your TV?

What about Orthorexia?

Rebecca has a special interest in orthorexia, which apparently is a fixation on righteous eating and she is worried that Clean Eaters may develop orthorexia. She is concerned that being pre-occupied with the right or wrong foods can have serious detrimental mental and physical consequences. I would politely suggest that in the vast majority, a mindful, considered approach to which foods are right or wrong is highly likely to lead to much improved physical and mental health. Being a little obsessed with what you put in your mouth is likely to be really good for you.

The title of the article that stimulated this diatribe included “the good, the bad and the unhelpful”. The article itself certainly includes some good but also some bad and quite frankly, a hell of a lot of ‘unhelpful’.

Some real tips for eating well…

If you want to eat well:

  • Become a little obsessional about your food choices.
  • Eat an unbalanced diet stuffed full of plant based, whole foods. Don’t eat these in moderation!
  • Demonise unhealthy foods. Cut out soft drinks, junk foods and poisonous, toxic ultra-processed crap! Never eat them.

And finally, be prepared to spend a little more time and effort and even a little more money on eating well. Make your health, your top priority.

The original article is available here: Clean eating: the good, the bad and the unhelpful

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