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Clean vs Dirty Foods

Clean vs Dirty Foods

Please please let this stop already. There is no such thing as “clean” or “dirty” foods.

Again. There is NO such thing.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about people referring to food like vegetables, chicken, meats etc. as “clean” foods and then foods like sweets, chocolates, and chips etc. as “dirty” foods.

What they are trying to say is clean foods are healthy for us and dirty foods are unhealthy for us. Now they aren’t entirely wrong, but what is happening here is a bad relationship with food is developing. Food should never be looked at as “good” or “bad”. You never want to base what you eat around if it fits a certain criteria. You want to consume food that you enjoy that can get you to your goals. Just how long can you be consistent and adherent to a diet where you are forcing yourself to eat something you don’t like/enjoy purely because it’s “clean”?

What there is however is smarter choices and not so smart choices. An example could be say Steamed Chicken & Broccoli vs Spaghetti Bolognese. Now there is nothing wrong with either (assuming you accurately track them), but for some reason the spaghetti gets labelled as “dirty”. Why? It has protein from the meat, carbs from the pasta, fats from the meat & sauces not to mention a lot more vitamins and minerals. There is nothing wrong with that.

It is also a trade-off. If you are tracking your food and you just decide that you really want to have that burger from Grill’d. Then you can have that burger, HOWEVER, the trade-off will mean that you have far fewer calories for the remainder of the day which means less food. Is it worth it?

Some days it might be worth it, for whatever reason you just really want that burger, and if that means you get less food for the remainder of the day then so be it.

Another thing to think about is food volume. By sticking to the so called “clean” foods, these are generally quite calorie sparse, meaning they don’t have a lot of calories per serving. Now on the surface this isn’t bad at all. The problem lies in when we actually want you to start consuming more calories (see my post a while ago about Metabolic Adaptation), you will struggle to be able to eat more food simply because of the volume of food required. A great example would be 50g of spinach. 50g of spinach is roughly 8 calories. However, if you actually see just how much 50g of spinach is on a plate, it is quite a lot and would fill you up very quickly. Even myself when I was comp prepping had this in one of my meals, the only way I could manage to fit it in with the rest of my meal was to lightly cook it so it would shrivel up slightly, otherwise it was just too much food (And I was eating 3200 calories / day).

So please please stop categorizing food into these categories and go back to eating food you actually enjoy.


Article written by Timothy Steward

· UFQ Strength & Conditioning Coach

· UFQ Sports Nutritionist

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