Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Three cheers for cake: the backlash against clean eating is here


Chia seeds, courgetti, cauliflower rice, bone broth: whether we like it or not, anyone with an Instagram account will have picked up on the millions-strong trend for #cleaneating that has taken the nation by storm over the last 18 months. 

And this partiality for so-called "wellness", which advocates ditching "unhealthy" foods such as bread, pasta milk, eggs and anything processed, is bigger than just beautifully filtered images of tempting-looking meals, with proof of the (sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free) pudding being seen in sales figures.

Spiralisers were crowned the bestselling kitchen gadget of 2015, with over 100 being sold every day at John Lewis' flagship store on Oxford Circus, while sales of vegetables such as courgettes, carrots and cucumber have sky rocketed

Gluten-free foods are no longer the preserve of specialist shops such as Whole Foods, with brands such as Pizza Express and Nestle introducing gluten-free recipes into the mix, while the free-from market itself is worth an estimated £365 million and predicted to grow by 50% in the next two years.

Clean eating sister duo, the Hemsleys, with one of their branded spiralisers

Clean eating sister duo, the Hemsleys, with one of their branded spiralisers

But the tide many be turning.

Carb lovers can rejoice with news that more and more bona fide foodies are questioning the concept of clean eating.

Ruth Rogers, who owns and runs the Michelin-starred restaurant The River Cafe, has today said she is worried the ideals of clean eating are putting an increasing pressure on women to cut out certain foods in order to feel "happier", "more energetic" and "a better mother".

She told The Daily Telegraph, "I think that puts a kind of pressure on women to achieve something through saying no, through restraint, rather than saying go and study the subject you love or live in a place that makes you happy or learn a language."

Michelin starred chef Ruth Rogers believes clean eating puts too much pressure on women

Michelin-starred chef Ruth Rogers believes "clean eating" puts too much pressure on women

Critics have suggested the concept encourages an unhealthy attitude towards eating - despite its much-hailed "healthy" credentials.

The extreme act of cutting out whole food groups such as gluten, as advised by many of the clean eating advocates, has actually been shown to damage health - unless you have a genuine reason for going gluten-free - i.e., you suffer from coeliac disease.

As Nigella Lawson said at Stylist Live, "[clean eating] is about banishing so many food groups that I think it does encourage an unhealthy attitude towards eating.

“It’s not the food, because I like all food - sometimes I’ll be very happy to have sweet potato and a bowl of kale. I just don’t like the term. I don’t like the view that that other forms of eating are dirty and evil and shameful."

Health experts have warned of the dangers of cutting gluten out of our diets

Health experts have warned of the dangers of cutting gluten from our diets

Joining the backlash is Great British Bake Off finalist Ruby Tandoh.

"All we're ever really told is that, if we do cut gluten out, we'll lose weight, have better skin and shinier hair. It seems like a miracle," Tandoh wrote in an article for Vice.

"We deserve facts, figures and thorough research ... from all of the wellness authors and bloggers who promise health transformations in the wake of a gluten-free diet."

Even Deliciously Ella, one of the UK's most prominent wellness bloggers with two bestselling cookbooks under her belt and a devoted following of over 860,000 Instagram followers, has distanced  herself from the concept of clean eating.

Writing in a blog post on her website, she said, "For me health eating is absolutely not a diet, it never has been and it never will be.

"I also don’t subscribe to the concept of healthy eating being about ‘clean eating’, I think it’s a really negative way to look at food, and I feel it’s a real shame that the concept of clean has becoming synonymous with healthy for some people: for me the two have nothing to do with each other. 

"I don’t think we should ever categorize what we eat into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – that’s never going to make anyone happy."

Chef Gizzi Erskine has also weighed in on the debate to recommend a balanced diet rather than one which is based on restrictions, telling The Daily Telegraph, "Nourishing your body doesn’t just mean raw ‘health’ foods; it’s about understanding balance and why we break up our plate into proteins, carbs, vegetables, fats."

In honour of the shift away from clean eating we've picked five of our most indulgent recipes to celebrate, below.

After all, if Nellie Wright can live to 109-years-old on a diet of jelly babies, perhaps we can too.


Why not have your cake and eat it, too?

Treat yourself with Stylist's five most indulgent recipes




Dream come true? A theme park dedicated to wine will open next week

Peloponnese greece lonely planet top teo european holiday destinations 2.jpg

Where to stay in Lonely Planet's top 10 European destinations


A Hello Kitty café is finally coming to the UK


Behold the avocado rose: our latest food obsession

Cauli .jpg

Cook like a pro: vegetarian recipes from London's hottest restaurants


Get ready: London's giant gin hotel will open next month


No men and jelly babies: woman, 109, reveals secrets of a long life


Ten sandwiches to up your lunch game in London

lemontreedwelling.com blueberry feta onion spring summer salad.jpg

Ten easy, fresh salads perfect for the spring-summer weather



How to buy bubbles: 8 incredible Champagnes under £30

Fantastic fizz

by Amy Swales
07 Dec 2016

Say hello to London’s first ever vegan fried chicken shop

Sounds impossible, is actually genius.

by Amy Lewis
07 Dec 2016

13 white wines that aren't Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

Sick of the usual suspects?

by Victoria Gray
07 Dec 2016

You can now get a full cheese board delivered to your door on demand

Bring. It. On.

by Amy Lewis
06 Dec 2016

11 hearty sandwich recipes that are better than a full Sunday Roast

Sandwiches are the new Sunday lunch.

by Amy Lewis
05 Dec 2016

These are the alcoholic drinks least likely to give you a hangover

Or, how to make the Christmas party season a bit more bearable.

by Moya Crockett
05 Dec 2016

The best low-alcohol swaps for your favourite beers, wines and spirits

Time for a booze-not-booze?

by Amy Swales
01 Dec 2016

Now Brexit is making our Christmas dinner more expensive


by Moya Crockett
01 Dec 2016

A 24-hour doughnut delivery service is coming to London

Best of all? They’re (kind of) healthy

28 Nov 2016

Form an orderly queue: cheese advent calendars are now a thing

What took the world so long?

by Moya Crockett
28 Nov 2016