Clean Eating~are there risks?


I was listening to NPR’s A Way With Words last week when the term “clean sandwich” came up. Host Martha Barnette mentioned the following: Some restaurants now advertise that they sell “clean” sandwiches. But that doesn’t mean they’re condiment-free or the lettuce got an extra rinse…. In the food industry, the word “clean” is taking on a whole new meaning. The word clean, as in clean food, has taken on a whole new life as a buzzword describing food free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, or added color. A restaurant chain now boasts clean sandwiches, and the topic is now covered by the magazine Clean Eating.” “Clean” has taken over the word “Green” & is gaining momentum. Green energy is now clean energy. Green eating is now clean eating. Are there real risks with clean eating?

This concept of clean eating has really taken off recently. A series of clean eating guide books & cookbooks, by Tosca Reno, started in 2007. It is said that she invented the clean eating diet based on her own experiences losing over 70 pounds. Here is a review of her book from 2016. WebMD: The Eat-Clean Diet: Diet Review  “It sounds so simple and so trendy. “The Eat-Clean Diet is a lifestyle way of eating that allows you to eat more, weigh less, and become the healthiest you can be,” says Tosca Reno, author of The Eat-Clean Diet series.” 

The Eat-Clean Diet: What You Can EatFoods allowed include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nonfat dairy, and healthy fats — preferably organic and eaten in proper portions every few hours.

The Eat-Clean Diet recommends avoiding all saturated fat, trans fats, overprocessed, refined foods — especially white flour, sugar, sugar-loaded colas, juices, and alcohol.

The bottom line: “The Eat-Clean Diet is a pure approach of healthy eating and exercise taken to the extreme. It is so structured, restrictive, and unrealistic that it may be difficult to follow long term. Take the questionable advice peppered throughout the book with a grain of salt, as there are lots of inaccuracies that are more opinion than scientific evidence. The best part of The Eat-Clean Diet is the motivation, nutrient-rich recipes, and meal plans that can help dieters shift toward including more healthy wholesome foods into their menus.” I looked at her cookbooks & they are very nice. 

Here are the guidelines from her website: Tosca Reno 

  • Eat Clean foods only: whole, nutrient dense, well-sourced and properly prepared Excellent. 
  • Avoid all refined foods including sugar, refined grain products and fats Good advice.
  • Eat several smaller meals per day spaced 21/2 to 3 hours apart (about 6 per day) Difficult to do if you are on the move.
  • Never skip a meal especially breakfast We agree with that.
  • Adjust portion sizes to suit your body and physical output Hmm, interesting concept. Not sure we can be unattached enough for that one 🙂
  • Combine healthy fats + lean protein + complex carbohydrates in each meal Ok, that works for “My Plate”.
  • Consume healthy fats, even those that are saturated Good.
  • Drink 2 – 3 litres of water per day  3 litres = 12.75 cups.

After reading her site I agree with the WebMD review. It is too difficult to follow because it is so structured. But, I do like her guidelines & her recipes are wonderful! 

Here is another point of view. According to the vegan website OneGreenPlanet: What is Clean Eating “In short, clean eating is saying goodbye to excess ingredients and getting back to the basics. Rather than focusing on the banning of foods like a diet does, the clean eating lifestyle focuses on making choices that naturally drive you toward consuming whole, unprocessed, unrefined, honest to goodness foods. Think of it as stepping away from the apple flavored Poptart, moving back to the applesauce, and then eventually back to the apple itself.” Dare I mention the Mediterranean diet here? 🙂

“Eating clean is among the more prominent buzz phrases being used in nutrition circles. Although you won’t find a textbook definition of what this means, there are countless ways to put this idea into action. It can be as simple as swapping out ingredients and making small changes or more complex with meal plans and lifestyle choices. For example, If you like to make fruit smoothies, try bumping up your veggies by adding a handful of spinach. Try and progress to multiple handfuls and get to the point where greens are the base of your mixtures. Eating more greens will also help cut down on saturated fat. This is another area where substitutions can reap benefits for body, heart and mind. When preparing salads with a mixture of brightly-colored vegetables, use nutritional yeast instead of cheese. You don’t have to ditch the desserts; many treats can be prepared with avocados, black beans or sweet potatoes.”

This makes more sense. Make a start by slowly increasing your vegetables & fruits in your meals, thus guiding you towards a balanced, plant based way of eating. Their recipes are simple & tasty. Worth a look.

So what happens when it is taken to the extreme & becomes too restrictive? In the UK, the National Osteoporosis Society did a survey of young peoples diets. The charity surveyed 2,000 adults, including 239 under the age of 25 and 339 aged 25-35. BBC Health: Dairy-free diets warning over risk to bone health “A National Osteoporosis Society survey found a fifth of under-25s are cutting out or reducing dairy in their diet…..The charity’s survey suggests that many young people seek dietary advice from bloggers and vloggers on the internet.” This article is talking about clean eating & becoming vegan.

Unfortunately young people look to the internet for answers rather than professionals, like a dietitian. Being vegan is a big step. Learning about the basic nutritional requirements to maintain a healthy body is a must with any diet but especially one that is restrictive. In this case cutting out dairy.

“A spokeswoman from the British Nutrition Foundation said: “While it’s not necessarily dangerous to cut out dairy from your diet it’s important to ensure you get enough calcium from other sources.” The people surveyed didn’t balance their diet enough to continue to get the calcium needed. This is especially important to younger people who are still developing their bone health. The survey showed that 1/4 of the teens in the UK consume less than 400 mgm of calcium a day. 1000 mgm a day is the minimum requirement for that age group. 

“Dairy tends to make the biggest contribution to our calcium intakes and so this needs to be replaced by other sources such as bread, cereal, canned fish, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables as well as choosing dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium.” Check out my topic page for Calcium sources.

I see no risk associated with this idea of eating clean, as long as it is a way of saying that you are going back to the basics of eating a whole food diet. It isn’t a new concept just a new buzzword. We should be grateful, because this means going out to eat will be healthier. A clean sandwich sounds good now!

From Clean Eating Magazine ~click on link for more recipes~ A Better Monte Cristo Sandwich Ditch the traditional butter-fried Monte Cristo for a healthier, tastier take. Sautéed turkey, pear, baby spinach and low-fat Swiss spare the fat but not the flavor” 

Serves: 4,  Hands-on time: 15 minutes,  Total time: 15 minutes


  • 1 lb turkey breast scallopine (thinly sliced turkey), cut into 4-oz pieces
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 2 tbsp skim milk
  • Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 slices whole-grain bread
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 4 1-oz slices low-fat Swiss cheese


  1. In a small bowl, season turkey with 1 tsp oil, oregano, salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey and sauté until light golden at edges and fully cooked throughout, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg whites and milk. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Set aside.
  4. Spread about 1 tsp (adjust to taste) Dijon mustard on 1 side of each bread slice and place, Dijon side up, onto a flat work surface. Layer equal parts spinach, pear and turkey onto 4 slices of bread. Top each stack with 1 slice cheese and another slice of bread, Dijon side down, pressing gently.
  5. In a medium nonstick sauté pan, heat remaining tsp oil over medium heat.
  6. Using a spatula, carefully dip 1 side of a sandwich into egg mixture (egg mixture should go about halfway up the bread slice when immersed). With your hand on the top of the sandwich and spatula underneath, carefully flip to immerse the other side in egg, then gently transfer to hot pan. Sauté sandwich, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes total. Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Nutrients per sandwich: Calories: 420, Total Fat: 7 g, Sat. Fat: 2 g, Omega-3s: 160 mg, Omega-6s: 1,270 mg, Carbs: 34 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 53 g, Sodium: 750 mg, Cholesterol: 105 mg

TIP: Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and use it to transfer dipped sandwiches to sauté pan.

From the magazine: Clean Eating Recipes Check out the latest Clean Eating recipes­–featuring whole, unprocessed foods–to help you stay on track from morning till night. From gluten-free dishes to clean vegetarian recipes, we’ve got loads of meals that are low in calories and sugar but high in protein, essential nutrients and healthy fats – like our Hungarian chicken polenta recipe, our cheesy butternut squash bake recipe, and our decadent chocolate pudding recipe. Trust us, eating clean recipes like these will help keep you on track.”

 Now when you are asked what kind eating style you follow, you can say; “clean eating the Mediterranean way!” Until next week…Mary 🙂