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The dirt on clean eating – by guest expert Kasey Bateup APD

Watch out Paleo, there’s a new diet on the block, and this one is all about clean eating; and no, it has nothing to do with scrubbing your vegetables or using soap on your salad. Dietitian Kasey Bateup investigates and gives us the scoop.

About our expert:

Kasey is an Accredited Practising Dietitian working for Nutrition Australia ACT Division. In this varied and stimulating work environment, she provides nutrition expertise across many community nutrition projects. This includes working closely with ACT school canteens to implement the National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines; developing nutrition curriculum for primary and secondary schools; delivering workplace health and wellbeing programs; nutrition policy development and liaising closely with local Government.  We’ve loved having her as the February Sub of the Month.  Check out her full bio here and connect with Kasey on Twitter @KaseyBateup or Pinterest.

This topic has gone so mainstream there is even a “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Clean” book…I’m not kidding. But before we get ready to drop the ‘f-word’ (fad diet) and dismiss this as the macrobiotic trend revisited, it is important to get the facts on clean eating, including the dirty ones.

Clean eating 101

The clean eating movement is not new, rather like in the world of fashion it has simply been reinvented with a shiny new badge. Clean eating is all about choosing foods that are as close to nature as possible. This means consuming largely unprocessed foods, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat, fish and poultry, and reduced fat dairy. What makes ‘clean eaters’ different from other health conscious folks is that they try to avoid all highly processed foods; think white flour, refined rice, margarine, condiments and canned foods.

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Clean eating basics

  • Meals and snacks should serve up a trio of healthy carbohydrates, powerful protein and essential fats.
  • Eat three small meals and two substantial snacks to avoid extreme hunger and overeating at the next occasion.
  • Let fresh vegetables take centre stage and make sure that they fill up half of your plate.
  • Organic and non-genetically modified produce are preferred, but not essential.
  • Avoid foods with an ingredients list that contains more unfamiliar ingredients than familiar ones.
  • If what you put in the microwave comes out a ready to eat meal, with no preparation required, put it back.
  • Forget about kilojoule counting. Instead make every mouthful count by choosing nutrient dense foods and drinks rather than energy (kilojoule) dense options.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Get physical, (with or without the Madonna soundtrack), on most days of the week.

A day in the life of a clean eater

Equipped with her cleanest recipes, US Registered Dietitian, Janel Funk from Eat Well with Janel has created a week long clean eating meal plan for Attune Foods. This is a snapshot of clean eater’s daily intake:

Pros and cons of clean eating

Firstly, I love the concept of consuming foods as minimally processed as possible. However, in a world where many people struggle to meet the recommended daily serves of vegetables, the idea of only consuming fresh or organic may be a little unrealistic. The rules may need to bend to include frozen and salt reduced canned varieties.

Secondly, I really dislike the word ‘diet’. Ironic isn’t it that my chosen career path led me to become a dietitian? To me diet means that there is a finite end point, and once you have reached that point, and achieved your goal you can go back to eating as you once did. This is why I like that people who follow the clean eating lifestyle, see it as exactly that, a lifestyle not a diet, and that gets the thumbs up from me.

Clean eating is an environmentally conscious way of eating. There is less food packaging, less carbon offsets in production factories, a  focus on eating locally and choosing in season produce, which all contribute to a more sustainable food supply system.

This lifestyle in it’s purist form may not appeal to those who struggle to gulp down breakfast in the morning, as it requires organisation, meal planning, food preparation and cooking skills. Then again, most healthy eating endeavours do.

Finally, the focus of clean eating is about consuming real food, without gimmicks or spruiking unnecessary and often expensive supplements.


For further information about clean eating, visit:

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Clean” by Diane A. Welland, MS, RD

Or you may also like the Scoop post on Redefining Detox by Stephanie Langton with links to another article in Today’s Dietitian plus Michelle Dudash’s RD new book Clean Eating for Busy Families.

Editor’s comment:

Thanks Kasey, great scoop and so fab getting to know you.  I think it’s interesting that the top pinterest searches for clean eating are all chocolate recipes!  Hmmmm.  I’m keen to hear what our lovely readers think?  Do you like to label a lifestyle?  Does it help build motivation and community? Is this an approach that works?  For you or your clients? Or not? What’s your definition of clean eating?

  • Great article Kasey and agree, everything that is old is new again! For any new ‘fad’ way of eating (or diet) you need a new angle on it as ‘eat foods in a mostly unprocessed state’ doesn’t really have the same cachet attached to it than ‘clean food’. Am sure there is a good market for a hybrid of clean food, raw food, and slow food people to get together and come up with a shiny new love child.

  • Jane Mills

    What about if you make your own bread? Or buy sourdough from a bakery that uses no preservatives or bleach?

  • Janel

    Thanks for the shoutout! If “clean eating” means people eat more whole foods, fruits and veggies, and less processed junk, I’m happy to call it whatever they want! But totally agree – the fad aspect of it has to go.

  • Sarah

    Is there a reason why the “snapshot” doesn’t include any meat or animal products? i though clean eating included this?

  • Kasey Bateup

    With thanks Tim! Absolutely, I don’t think there is anything about this approach that we haven’t seen before, but there is a certain charm that I associate with the term ‘clean eating’; clean, fresh and healthy. Now that’s a love child I would like to see!

  • Kasey Bateup

    Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment. Yes clean eating can include lean meats and dairy products. This particular day has focused on plant based protein sources, however you will find other examples at

  • Kasey Bateup

    Sounds very clean to me Jane! Try to include whole wheat flours where possible 🙂

  • Kasey Bateup

    With thanks Tim! Absolutely, I don’t think there is anything about this approach that we haven’t seen before, but there is a certain charm that I associate with the term ‘clean eating’; clean, fresh and healthy. Now that’s a love child I would like to see!

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thanks @bc139ef6044abbac7d776965e2e9d183:disqus! Delicious meal plan too!

  • Helen

    The basic idea of fresh whole food seems like a good one to me, and I think for most people these simple principles will be really helpful. The focus on lifestyle rather than ‘diet’ is so right on the money – I hope we’ve all finally gotten out of that mindset of diet as a temporary quick fix? Or is that wishful thinking?

    Maybe I’m playing the devil’s advocate a little here, but the ‘low fat dairy’ part puzzles me. There’s an added layer of processing, and dairy fats have been shown to be nutritious; my understanding is that they are generally beneficial and protective and that the ‘dairy fats are bad’ and in fact the whole ‘animal fats are bad’ (so let’s toss in lean meat there too) notions are outdated science based on poor quality studies. Though I could well be guilty of cherry-picking my literature on this, so I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts. (for example – – again not experimental but interesting; )

    Likewise the whole grains – current research about wheat and gluten in particular suggests that maybe we should stop viewing this as an all-inclusive food group and be far more selective. A vegetable-rich diet should provide sufficient resistant starch, so I question the inclusion of nutrient-binding bran (for example: )

  • Camilla

    Completely agree Kasey…it’s certainly nothing new but whether it’s termed ‘clean eating’ or not I will certainly be encouraging my future clients to follow such a lifestyle!

  • Sanaa

    Kacey, Great article, so well written . I love how you have mentioned ‘organisation, meal planning, food preparation and cooking skills’ as a requirement. As the saying goes, If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

  • “cleanfeet”

    Well done Kace and Em for this. Nice work, keep them coming.
    Personal experience alert – but have had only negative experiences with the words ‘clean eating’ as has been associated with carbo-phobia (gym). Again just personal experience which Ive fought hard to debunk.
    Much prefer ‘healthy eating’ or ‘optimal eating’ instead of ‘clean’ but that is personal preference. Whatever gets people eating well is what is important I guess.
    PS I cant reply this directly from HootSuite Em, is that an error in my technology/ iPhone, or am I just tech-incompetent :s

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thanks for your comments Helen. Here’s hoping that ‘lifestyle’ approaches are to stay and we move away from ‘fad this and fad that’.

    RE the low fat dairy, yes there is added processing, but in this case the processing reduces the level of saturated fat, which has long been associated with increased risk of developing heart disease. The recommendation to limit our intake of saturated fat is supported by our National 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines. To refer to the full publication visit:

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thanks for your comments Camilla!

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thank you so much Sanaa. I love that! “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, I haven’t heard it before, but it is especially true when it comes to healthy eating.

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thanks for your comments “cleanfeet”, the term ‘clean eating’ certainly is a buzz word at the moment, and I’m sure it means different things to different people. I like healthy eating also, but clean eating just sounds a little oo la la!

  • Heidi – Apples Under My Bed

    Nice job! I like the concept of “eating clean”, after all it’s less processed & focuses on wholesome foods. I do however tend to find many young girls using “clean eating” as a way of masking disordered eating – not in every case, but it can be quite common. When you cannot break away from “clean eating” and eat a little dirty every now and then, there’s a problem.
    Heidi xo

  • Kasey Bateup

    Absolutely agree Heidi! Thanks for commenting.

  • Holly

    A lot of the clean eating recipes I’ve seen use coconut oil as their main oil for cooking, I think this seems a little odd when it’s a plant source of saturated fat!

  • Joe

    Hi Kasey great piece 🙂 It seems clean eating diet is another name for the Paleo diet, just without the historical inaccuracies and dramatization. They’re all saying the same thing – eat whole, natural foods, rather than food-like products. So both “diets” are win-win in my opinion.

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thank you for commenting @Joe. You might be interested in Ashleigh Jones’ article on the Paleo diet 🙂

    Kind regards

  • Kasey Bateup

    Thanks for commenting @Holly. I would have to agree, it is not a fat that I personally recommend to clients, on the basis of limited evidence supporting healthful claims.

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  • Kitty

    I am currently in recovery from an eating disorder but feel this clean eating “has” to be followed as it’s the healthiest? Is this true?

  • EmmaStirling

    Hi Kitty whether you aim to eat “clean” or not there are many factors that make an eating plan healthy. The key is to find a balance that works for each individual and takes into account any meical advice as well. Best wishes Emma

  • Shannon

    I think that the language we use when talking about food can be incredibly influential. By categorising foods as “clean” or “unclean” we begin to associate emotions and guilt with eating…which can potentially lead to more negative health impacts than, say, eating a croissant every now and then… I wrote a blog on the issue and I would love to know what you think!

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