Search #cleaneating on Instagram and you’ll find upwards of 30 million posts. But if you were to take a closer look at these posts, how many of them would contain processed food with labels that read “healthy”, “Gluten-free” or “All natural”?
The answer: a ton!
Last year, #kindbars was a trending tag on social media, along with #cleaneating until the FDA got involved and slapped the granola bar maker with a warning for misleading consumers. Even though Kind Bar fought back, this trend of misleading labels is happening so frequently that the FDA is now in the process of redefining the “healthy” nutrient content claim for food labeling.
Before you fall for more of those healthy marketing gimmicks, here are a few ways to vet your #cleaneating post before you share on social media.
Buy ingredients, Not plastic packages
True #cleaneating means eating foods that are whole when they arrive at the grocery store, nothing has been added to it, or taken out for that matter. The easiest foods to identify as “clean” are those that are on the perimeter of the grocery store – like unpackaged fruits and vegetables.
Meats offered on the perimeter are also the “clean” options. For the “cleanest” options, look for grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish at the meat counters. Regardless of what the labels claim, cold cuts and sausages are processed meats.
Be wary of Branding
Next time you’re browsing your grocery’s produce section consider this, do the apples have labels that say “100% real apples”? Does the sticker on a head of cauliflower read “Gluten-free”? They don’t have to.
Still, we know that completely avoiding the trickier inner isles is unrealistic, so here are a few tips to help you navigate them. Packaging is often where many aspiring #cleaneaters get duped. The front of packages can read things like “sugar-free”, “all-natural” or even “organic” to make it seem like a healthier choice up front. These package claims may sound great, but it’s important to note that these claims, even if they are FDA regulated, don’t necessarily mean that a food is “clean.” The truth lies in the ingredients list. Flip the package over and check for additives, preservatives and the like. If it sounds like some weird chemical you learned about in high school or you can’t pronounce it, put the package back down.
Make it a #cleaneating a lifestyle
Food marketing claims have you feeling frustrated? Don’t be! Where a lot of consumers go wrong with #cleaneating eating is they try and make it a quick-fix / fast way to lose 10 pounds / crash diet. But when #cleaneating first came onto the social media scene, that wasn’t the intent at all. It was intended to be a way of eating for life, not just a week before a beach trip. That being said, lifestyles take time, practice and support. Be patient with yourself! Ask for help if you need it!
Programs like Noom Coach can help you discern healthier food options with its color-coded labeling system. Healthier foods, like unprocessed whole grain bread are labeled green, while unhealthy foods, like energy and snack bars fall under the red label. Noom’s psychology-focused weight loss program also guides users to healthier choices, changing their behavior for sustained clean eating.
About the Author
Jennifer Major is a Registered Dietitian and the Clinical Lead for the virtual health coach Noom. She received her Master of Science and Nutrition Sciences from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.