Clean Eating
The Eat Clean Diet by Tosca Reno

The Eat Clean Diet plan, a new book by Tosca Reno is gaining popularity - for good reason! Clean eating is not a new concept and does have many benefits - Dietitian Juliette Kellow takes a look...

Diet Review - Clean Eating by Tosca Reno

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

The Eat Clean Diet

The idea of 'clean eating' is the latest buzz in the nutrition world. But what does it involve and will it help to shift those pounds and lose weight? Dietitian Juliette Kellow investigates Tosca Reno's Eat Clean Diet...

With A-list celebrities such as Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman reportedly being fans of the 'Eat Clean Diet', it's no surprise that more and more of us are starting to think about ditching 'dirty' foods from our diet in an effort to shape up and improve our health.

The concept of clean eating isn't a modern one. Its roots are actually based in the natural foods movement that took America and Europe by storm in the 1960's and 70's. More recently, Canadian mum-turned-fitness expert Tosca Reno, has popularised clean eating, selling more than a million copies of her Eat Clean Diet book.

The concept is simple - avoid eating anything that is:

  • refined
  • processed
  • contains artificial ingredients
  • grown using chemical fertilisers or pesticides
  • bred with the help of hormones and antibiotics

The result - a diet packed with fresh foods in their natural state.

So what does the Eat Clean Diet involve?

Quite simply, clean eating is about going back to nature for our foods - swapping processed and refined foods for ones that occur naturally and have little, if anything, added to them.

This means eating fresh red meat rather than meat products like sausages or ham, brown rice rather than white rice, and oats rather than sugary cereals.

Effectively, it's about ditching anything that's been 'tampered' with along the food supply chain and instead eating foods in their fresh, natural state.

Fitness guru Tosca Reno has created 'The Eat Clean Diet'. This follows the basic principles of clean eating so encourages the avoidance of processed foods such as

Tosca Reno's plan recommends eating six times a day to stimulate your metabolism and prevent hunger. Her menu's combine lean protein-rich foods and complex carbs at each meal, having 2-3 daily servings of healthy fats, drinking 2-3 litres water a day and depending on fresh fruit and veg to provide fibre, vitamins and minerals.

She also advocates eating sensible-sized portions and avoiding supersizing.

Will the Clean Eating Diet Help Me Lose Weight?

As is always the case, eating clean will only help you shift those extra pounds if you take in fewer calories than you need so that your body draws on its fat reserves to provide it with sufficient energy to function properly.

In theory, even with a clean diet you could still eat more calories than you need and so gain weight, for example, if you were to eat a lot of unsalted nuts and seeds. However, this is less likely because fresh, natural foods tend to be more satisfying than processed ones and so help to prevent hunger pangs that leave you needing to snack.

Many foods in their natural state are lower in calories compared to when they’re incorporated into a ready-made product – for example, 100g lean pork contains just 147 calories whereas 100g pork sausage contains 357 calories. This means it’s easier to stick to a lower calorie intake on Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean diet plan, which should mean weight loss.

The clean eating diet requires you to put your own meals together, which ultimately gives you total control over what goes into them, helping you to plan and stick to your daily calorie allowance and achieve your weight loss goals.

So are ‘clean’ calories better than ‘dirty’ calories?

To start with, a kilocalorie (which is what we usually call a ‘calorie’) is simply the term used to describe a unit of energy, in the same way as kilograms describe a unit of weight and metres a unit of length.

For example, a kilogram of potatoes weighs the same in the supermarket as it does in your kitchen. Similarly, a metre in the hallway is identical to a metre in the bedroom. The same goes for energy – a kilocalorie in an apple is exactly the same as a kilocalorie in a doughnut.

However, the way these foods are processed in our bodies can ultimately affect how hungry we feel and therefore have a potential indirect effect on our overall calorie intake.

For example, an apple contains natural sugars, fibre and vitamins. The fibre helps to slow down the absorption of these natural sugars into the blood stream, with the result that energy is released slowly and steadily so we feel satisfied for longer and don’t feel tempted to snack.

In contrast, a doughnut contains few nutrients but lots of fat, added sugar and processed carbs thanks to the white flour it’s made from. These carbs and sugars are absorbed rapidly providing a quick blood sugar high followed by a sudden drop that’s likely to leave us feeling hungry and tired and reaching for another snack to pick us up again – and that means more calories and less weight loss.

There’s also good scientific evidence to suggest that in order to feel satisfied, we need to consume a certain amount of food each day – regardless of the type of food it is. So for example, to get 100 kilocalories we could eat two apples (around 200g in weight) or two fifths of a jam doughnut (around 30g in weight).

Put simply, 100 calories of apple is likely to leave us feeling far more satisfied than 100 calories of doughnut simply because we’ve eaten a much greater quantity of food – the latter will almost certainly leave most of us reaching for more food with the result that we take in more calories.

So to clarify, clean eating is different from a low calorie diet?

Clean eating isn’t a low-calorie diet as such. If you want to lose weight, you’ll still need to stick to a reduced-calorie intake.

The main difference is that you’ll get most your calories from ‘clean’ nutrient-rich foods, meaning you’re much more likely to feel full from a smaller amount of food, or be able to eat more food for the same calorie amount. This makes it much easier to stick within a reduced calorie allowance and lose weight.

For example, instead of eating a 100-calorie reduced-fat chocolate  bar that contains little in the way of nutrients, you could have a medium-sized banana; instead of having a pot of low-fat fruit yoghurt that still contains added sugar, you could have a pot of low-fat natural yogurt with fresh berries; and instead of having a 400-calorie ready meal, you could have a grilled steak with grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, salad and a few homemade potato wedges.

What's the benefit of eating clean?

Eating a 'clean' diet means you fill up on nutrient-rich foods whilst avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and additives. As a result, your whole body - from top to toe - should benefit.

Eating a diet that's packed with vitamins and minerals, full of starchy, high-fibre carbs and low in saturated fat and salt will help

  • improve skin, hair and nails
  • prevent conditions such as anaemia and osteoporosis
  • feeling tired, sluggish and irritable
  • lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers

Fresh, natural foods tend to be nutrient-rich foods. In other words, they are packed with protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants - great for optimal health and helping protect us from disease. In contrast, many refined or processed foods are low in nutrients but packed with added sugars, saturated and trans fats and salt, which are all linked to disease.

Many ready-made foods also include additives such as flavours, colours and preservatives. Although these are considered to be safe according to health experts, in many cases they're not ingredients you'd naturally find in foods.

Is clean eating the same as a raw diet?

No! A raw diet, as the name suggests, means you only eat foods in their raw state. With the 'eat clean diet', as long as you are buying fresh, unprocessed foods, you can still cook them. This means you could still enjoy a chilli made from fresh lean minced beef and vegetables with brown rice, or a roast chicken dinner.

Do you have to eat organic foods?

Clean eating isn't actually a strict diet with lists of foods to avoid and choose. It really is up to each person to choose how far they want to take the concept of 'clean'. For example, some people might consider oatcakes, cheese and canned tuna in water to be 'clean', whereas others would consider them to be off limits.

In terms of choosing organic , there's certainly some synergy between clean eating and 'green' eating. Many people who eat clean prefer to choose organic foods (although a restricted number of pesticides and chemical fertilisers can still be used in organic farming).

Other 'green' issues that are often included as part of 'clean eating' include:

  • consuming less meat
  • choosing seasonal foods
  • opting for products that are sustainably sourced
  • buying meat and chicken produced to high animal welfare standards
  • buying locally produced food
  • skipping imported products.

But ultimately, it's up to each person to choose how 'clean' they want to go.

Dietitians Verdict:

The concept of clean eating works very much on the theory that 'you are what you eat'. So in the same way that you'd use top quality petrol in a sport's car to make it perform at its best and prevent it from breaking down, you should do the same by filling your body with good quality fuel.

It stands to reason that our bodies are more likely to break down or become damaged if they're constantly fuelled with low-grade food - with the result that signs of illness or disease start to be seen.

Effectively, the 'Eat Clean' diet follows the principles of healthy eating - fewer processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt and more fresh, natural foods that are rich in nutrients. As a result, it's hard to argue with a style of eating that nutritionists and dietitians have been recommending for many years.

For further information read The Eat-Clean Diet recharged! By Tosca Reno (Robert Kennedy Publishing), £10.07 from

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