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Why Dietitians Hate Buzzwords

Updated: Oct 27


In the medical world, clear definitions of terms are important. To be diagnosed with a disease, very clear criteria have to be met. When looking at a scientific study, all terms are explained and defined. This keeps everyone on the same page and limits confusion.

The mainstream diet world unfortunately doesn’t work this way. Popular diets often use buzzwords that have no real meaning. This makes people (including myself) confused and frustrated. Let’s clear up some examples of buzzwords here:

“Clean Eating”

I remember a few years ago working out at the gym, and I overheard a personal trainer saying goodbye to his client and yelling “remember to eat clean today!” as she walked out the door. I remember thinking, what does that even mean? Did he explain to her what “clean eating” is, or is it assumed that everyone knows? What is this elusive concept all about?

From what I gather, clean eating has nothing to do with making sure you wash your produce. Generally, people use this term to promote eating foods that have been minimally processed. People who promote “clean eating” often suggest avoiding foods that have long ingredient lists or ingredients that are hard to pronounce.

I agree that super-processed junk food should generally be steered away from, but this concept is just too unclear to really follow. Also, think about some of the recipes that you may have at home- there are a lot of very nutritious meals that contain a lot of ingredients. There’s no reason to stay away from these things!

“Super Foods”

“Super foods” are promoted to prevent cancer and other diseases or reverse the aging process. Yes, what and how you eat can help prevent disease, but ONE specific food is not going to do that on its own. Generally, blueberries, acai berries and chia seeds make these lists. Feel free to consume these foods, but if they’re breaking your grocery budget or you just don’t enjoy these foods, don’t sweat it.

“Detoxifying”

This term is definitely the one that irks me the most. When it comes to food, there’s nothing that’s going to “detoxify” you. A large part of the confusion is that the word "toxin" is thrown around a lot, but the term is somewhat vague. Save your $10 as no smoothie is going to “detox” you.

“Natural”

This one may be a surprise, but in terms of food, there is not an actual definition for “natural” at this time. This may change soon as the FDA makes a final decision, but for now it could mean anything the food company wants it to. Don’t make any assumptions of what is or isn’t in your food if it’s labeled “natural”. Also, remember, natural doesn’t always mean healthy: arsenic and snake venom are natural!

Why It Matters

Generally, these buzzwords can be seen as pretty harmless. It’s not like they’re promoting anything outright unhealthy. However, people are generally confused about what is good information when it comes to nutrition, and these words aren’t helping. You also may be disappointed by the lack of results they yield. You may be working really hard to eat “clean” and consume more “superfoods”, but this may not actually improve your health. It’s then easy to completely give up when you see your weight/cholesterol/blood pressure/etc. not change after trying all these things.


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