I was watching Sunday Brunch at the weekend and Alex Brooker was the final guest, cooking the dessert. He talked about his wife cooking a courgetti (spiralised courgette spaghetti for those not up to date with the food trends) dish and how she was trying to eat healthily. At which point, Alex described a chicken and chorizo jambalaya he made which he now classed as ‘unhealthy’.
This isn’t an attack on the healthy food trend itself but it is a great example of what the healthy and clean eating has done to many of the general public. If you want to read my thoughts on healthy eating, click here to read Part 1 of my debate, click here to read Part 2 and here to read Part 3.
It is clear that the clean eating trend has created, for some, a binary classification of food, whereby food is either good/bad or healthy/unhealthy. This binary system does not do any favours for anyone who is trying to lose weight by creating feelings of guilt for eating foods which don’t fit someone else’s idea of ‘good’ or ‘healthy’.
Perhaps we should be using better phrases like ‘nutritious’ or ‘wholesome’. Alex Brooker’s dish of chicken and chorizo jambalaya is probably high in fat (from the chorizo) and used simple carbohydrates in the form of white rice. Dieticians would argue that this dish is not as nutritious as it could be; its nutritional benefits could be increased by bulking it out with pulses and vegetables and substituting white rice for brown rice.
For the younger generation who are so exposed to social media, we see people like Deliciously Ella and The Hemsley Sisters’ gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free recipes all over Twitter and Youtube itself has become saturated with recipes that feature chia seeds, avocados on toast and kale somewhere (or is that just Instagram?)
Take Jamie Oliver’s popular Foodtube channel. With 2.2 million subscribers, I counted around 10 videos where the first word of the title was ‘healthy’. I’m not adverse to this because Youtube is a tough world trying to get yourself noticed (the term ‘clickbait’ being used for a misleading title which is used to grab people’s attention so they click on the video to watch it) however I hate to think that the attractiveness of that recipe is simply because it is healthy.
The clean eating trend itself could definitely lead to a form of disordered eating. An obsession with eating foods which one considers to be healthy is now an eating disorder known as orthorexia nervosa. The tragic irony of orthorexia is that the complete restriction of their diet does more damage to their health than it does benefit. The prohibition of foods has spiralled from the perception of foods to be ‘healthy’.
And it doesn’t help that when you type in clean eating into Google, you get a ‘clean eating food list’ which claims to ‘put you on the path towards the positive change you deserve’. And I’m sure that an entire magazine dedicated to clean eating is in production in the US.
There is this sense that you have to be a young 20-something living in London with lots of money from your rich parents to be a member of the clean eating trend. This does create a lot of pressure on us simpletons to follow the trend yet people like myself just find the whole thing completely unbearable. The next time I see someone mention the fact that they had a vegan organic gluten-free kale smoothie with goji berries, chia seeds, raw cacao beans and Ryvita crumbs to make it really lifeless, I am just tempted to turn around and walk the other way.
And that’s why the article from The Guardian’s Catherine Bennett resonated with me so much. I, as a blogger, do feel that there’s a lot of pressure to produce stunning images of your avocado breakfast, your quinoa salad lunch and your grilled tilapia dinner when actually I don’t eat breakfast much, I don’t know what to do with quinoa and I am allergic to fish.
There’s pressure to post recipes which match the latest food trend except I live in a town away from large cities without a car to drive into Waitrose and find the latest product to hit the shelves. I’ve never tried coconut oil or used aquafaba in any recipe and I’m afraid I really don’t plan to either.
And how about this for a closing thought, raised by a friend of mine: the government-implemented Eatwell Plate doesn’t contain any coconut oil, goji berries or chia seeds. It has cakes, sweets and chocolate on it; why are we choosing to eliminate entire food groups from our diet when we already know that it can have detrimental effects on our health?
Of course we can’t forget that there are people with actual intolerances, sensitivities or allergies to things like dairy, gluten etc who have benefitted from the increased awareness. This post was not written to offend, simply to offer my own opinion over something that I myself have noticed recently.