Why “clean eating” is destined for failure
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 (and what to do instead)

I always cringe when I hear the words “clean eating.” Read on to learn why this style of eating is always doomed for failure and what you can do instead to truly elevate your current eating habits and feel less guilty about your food choices.  

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nutrition expert Andrea Holwegner on AM770

Listen to Andrea speak about clean eating here:

What is clean eating?

While there is no firm definition of what clean eating is all about, clean eating articles, magazines and social media posts are generally associated with consuming a diet of highly nutritious foods.  

Clean eating posts are usually full of so-called trendy superfoods like kale, quinoa, avocado, kombucha tea and bone broth. If you check out the images online associated with clean eating you will find a wide range of selfies that showcase abs, muscles and many sculpted bodies drinking green shakes.    


What is the problem with clean eating?

To me “eating clean” means that you are labelling your intake as clean or good foods which then labels other food choices as “dirty” or bad foods. Clean eating often means striving for perfection. This is unnecessary, often demotivating and leads to feelings of deprivation and failure.

You won’t see white foods, sugar or potato chips on clean eating posts. You often won’t see carbs, unstylish plain meals that your family might actually eat or a diversity of meat choices (outside of boneless skinless chicken breasts). You also won’t see images that showcase the wide range of body shapes and sizes that define health. These bodies may have cellulite, stretch marks, curves and non-hourglass shapes.

The most sustainable eating plans for good health, energy and help to move you to your personal best weight help you balance out a wide range of foods – both nutritious options but also those that we eat for non-nutrition reasons which is a normal and essential part of life.


What should we do instead?

  1.  Shift your mindset to #balancednotclean

Food choices do not need to be thought of as good or bad. Food is just food. We eat for different reasons, not simply to add nutrients into your body. Move to a philosophy of balanced, not clean.

Eating fully = healthfully + soulfully

  • Healthful food choices are those that are chosen for geeky nutritious reasons to keep your body healthy and fueled with good energy.  
  • Soulful food choices are those chosen for fun, taste and social enjoyment.
  • These best sustainable eating plans help you to figure out how to balance both healthful and soulful food choices. One without the other is destined to be unsustainable, unenjoyable and unhealthy.

There are no bad foods, only bad diets. It’s all about choice. Nothing is off limits. Just like budgeting your finances, you need to develop the skill and awareness of spending and saving where it counts. Similar to our bank account, what we choose to spend on is highly individual. There will always be key basic needs we must spend on (similar to a basic level of nutritious foods that need to be consumed for health and productivity in our day). Then we have some money left to spend on fun stuff (just like we have some calories left to spend on soulful foods chosen for taste and enjoyment rather than any type of nutritional need).


  1. Remember there is not just one diet that is best for all

As with most things in life, one size does not fit all.  Be wary of any diet plan that says there is one way to eat that is superior. Scientific evidence does not suggest this is the case. You can be healthy following a wide range of eating plans (including both eating meat or as a vegetarian).

The best food plan is the one you will actually follow

Here are 5 examples of diet plans doomed for failure:

  • If you despise legumes and love meat, then a strict vegetarian diet is clearly not for you.  
  • If you are a carb lover and want to support sustainability efforts for the planet then a Paleo plan certainly isn’t your best bet.  
  • If you have a chronic dieting or eating disorder history, a system that meticulously has you tracking points or numbers in your smartphone can increase obsessive thinking and steal the joy away from a healthy food and body relationship.  
  • If the eating plan you are following relies on a rigid schedule of daily shakes, bars, potions or supplements you must buy from a certain so-called “expert,” expect boredom and inflexibility to become an issue very quickly.
  • If you must cook and eat differently from your family, chances are meal planning and healthy role modelling to kids will become a problem.


  1.  Before following ANY eating plan ask yourself 3 questions

Success starts in first taking some time to reflect on what type of food plan will work best for you and then determining if a book, website or hiring a health professional is in alignment to include this and has the professional education and training to help with this. Answer these questions:

  1. What do I enjoy eating based on my food preferences and culture?  
  2. What will realistically work for me based on my time, budget and cooking skill?
  3. Are there any health and medical concerns or family food preferences that I will need to consider?

If you are trying to sort out the best diet to follow for weight loss to help move you towards your personal best weight then you may be interested to download a copy of my resource “What Eating Plan is Best for Weight Loss?”: [thrive_2step id=’22687′]Click here for link[/thrive_2step]

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Contact us if you would like to set up an appointment to determine if one of the Registered Dietitians on our team that offers individual nutrition counselling is a fit for your goals.  

For more information about our Calgary nutritionist services visit: dietitian nutrition counselling or find out more about our upcoming Online Nutrition Course starting again soon: online nutrition course.


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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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