#cleaneating: an exploration of the clean eating trend as presented on Instagram
Background: Instagram is a photo and video sharing social networking platform which features popular content relating to food and nutrition. One such trend is clean eating, which prioritizes the consumption of whole foods while avoiding processed foods. Objectives: This exploratory study of #cleaneating Instagram posts sought to characterize foods that are commonly labeled as “clean”, explore user feelings and perceptions of “clean eating”, and identify social trends and ideas associated with “clean eating”. Methods: Qualitative inductive analysis was conducted using public content posted to Instagram. Images, associated text captions, and other related hashtags from 150 #cleaneating posts were included in the data set. Analysis was conducted until a point of data saturation was reached, at which point no new themes emerged from the data. Results: Images were categorized into three main types: those featuring food (61%), people (27%), and meme/other (12%). It was discovered that the #cleaneating hashtag was associated with other diet/lifestyle trends such as #vegan and #keto. A common theme emerged from the data of clean eating being associated with weight loss and exercise. Another identified theme was promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Conclusions/Importance: This study illustrates that the clean eating trend is an extremely popular trend and provides base information for subsequent research. Guidelines and recommendations of clean eating are vague and lack scientific evidence. This study provides insight into current food and health trends, which lends itself for use in clinical or medical settings as it is crucial that registered dietitians and other health professionals are aware of the health information being shared on the internet.