“Clean eating.” That phrase goes right up on the shelf with other expressions dietitians do not really enjoy. What does the phrase even mean? Does it mean you don’t eat dessert? Does it mean you only consume farmers’ market fresh produce? Does it mean you don’t eat pancake mix? Or other refined grains? Or gluten? Does it mean you wash your food so it gets all squeaky clean? See where I’m going here?
If you ask one person and they will give you one answer. If you ask another person, they may say something different. You then turn around and throw the question back in my face. “Steph, how do you define ‘clean eating’?” I don’t. Personally, I think the term is bogus. It is a buzzword. It is a fad to make you think you have to eliminate certain foods to be the best and the fittest athlete ever and that is just not true. In fact, the concept can spiral in the opposite direction, creating a negative and unhealthy relationship with food, instigating guilt and unnecessary shame.
Yes, we should all generally adopt a healthful diet full of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and good fats, but there is also room for whatever food you love. For me, that means I make room for cookies. Do I eat cookies every day? No. Is my diet perfect? No. Is anyone’s diet perfect? Probably not. I don’t even think I could tell you what a “perfect” diet is. Not possible, just don’t even waste your time. If you’re an athlete trying to take your performance to the next level, don’t embark on a crazy-strict approach. It will bite you in the rear end soon enough. Pull together a plan, allow for flexibility and by all means eat cookies (or insert favorite food for “cookies”). And remember that your plan might be different than your teammate’s plan. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will be ideal for everyone.
Food gives us nourishment. It fuels us. It is also emotional. We are human and that is how we roll. There are no “quick-fix” miracle solutions out there to make you the ultimate athlete so try not to get caught up in the latest diet trend. I have no magic wand (believe me, I would not keep that a secret). The field of nutrition may be a tad complex but practically speaking, it should not be difficult with peculiar rules. Science says a diet based on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and good fats is how we should set the foundation of eating, so get there first regardless of whether you are an elite athlete or novice taking up a new sport.
I challenge you to rid your mind and your life of food rules. Stop trying to “eat clean” or whatever the hot trend is today. Take a scroll through your social media feeds and if you are inundated with countless posts promoting various food fads that make you believe one way or another is ultimately how you need to fuel yourself, simply unfollow. Likely, those posts are not helping you to set a solid and healthful foundation without zany food rules.
Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your take on the concept.
If you need more guidance, check out Athlete Nutrition Rx. Athlete Nutrition Rx is performance nutrition information you can trust. It’s about science, not fads. We embrace a food-first philosophy without restrictions. There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods nor do we instill an “eat this, not that” approach. We provide you autonomy with guidance to help you optimize your performance. Sign up for your free trial today. https://rittersp.com/nutritionrx