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What is Real Food? A Simple Starter Guide

Nourishing your body with real food sounds like a great idea, but where do you start? Understanding what real, traditional foods are (and what they are not) is key. 

What is Real Food

Follow these guidelines that our family uses to help decipher the foods that are healthy and energizing as well as foods to avoid.  Plus, learn how real food can improve gut health, help stabilize hormones, calm children’s anxiety, and facilitate weight loss.

Let’s Be Real

I know that changing the way your family eats can be a challenge. It can also be overwhelming to figure out what is healthy and what is safe. My Real Food Journey started with an awareness that the food we eat can directly affect our health. I care about the quality of the food supply including the dangers of added chemicals, GMOs, and food dyes and how this affects our environment and our own bodies.

What are real traditional foods

Simplified, real foods are nutritious whole foods directly from nature, from the ground, or from our oceans, lakes, and rivers. We can think of them as traditional foods our ancestors ate a few hundred years ago. They are foods one could gather, grow, or hunt. A real food diet avoids processed foods and artificial additives.

Start here with Real Food specifics:

  • Fruits & Vegetables with an emphasis on seasonal, local, organic if possible. Includes fresh herbs
  • Beans & Legumes soaked to aid in digestion
  • Meat, Poultry & Seafood ideally grass-fed, pastured, wild-caught, humanely raised without antibiotics/hormones
  • Whole Grains with an emphasis on ancient grains such as einkorn, spelt, oats, and kamut. Also, applying ancient practices such as sourdough bread. Rice in moderation.
  • Nuts/Seeds raw and organic when possible. Make crispy nuts to aid in digestion.
  • Dairy ideally grass-fed, full-fat raw or unpasteurized if possible
  • Milk Alternatives
  • Eggs from chickens who have been raised on pasture, roaming free in sunlight, eating insects
  • Oils & Fats Unrefined, virgin, cold-pressed, organic including olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, tallow & lard
  • Sweeteners natural and unrefined honey, maple syrup, dates
  • Beverages including Water, Tea, Coffee, Kombucha, fresh pressed juices

Here is a more complete list of real foods to stock your pantry, refrigerator and freezer

Real food has numerous health benefits, or stated another way, does not contribute to sickness and inflammation the way processed food does. These nourishing foods support healthy gut bacteria, maintain stabilized blood sugar levels when eaten in the right combination, contain minimal toxins, and are organically nutrient dense with the appropriate amount of enzymes to facilitate digestion. And an added bonus! They are sustainable for our environment.

What is not Real Food?

The past 70 years has revealed a shift in the American diet, some call this new way of eating the Standard American Diet. The change occurred with the Industrial Revolution, which brought about many positive conveniences and necessary modernization of meeting supply and demand challenges. But along with convenience came processed foods and meats with lots of added sugar, preservatives, and chemicals as well as refined grains and fats processed to be far from their natural state. These foods are void of vital nutrients and many cause inflammatory responses in our body.

What is NOT Real Food?

  • Industrialized oils such as canola, corn, soy, vegetable, safflower, and sunflower oils (highly processed)
  • Refined sugars and sugar substitutes including xylitol, cane sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose
  • Packaged/prepared foods (with ingredients you can’t pronounce or more than 5 ingredients)
  • Natural flavors
  • Genetically modified foods (GMOs)
  • White flour
  • Synthetic vitamins and supplements

There are many gray areas when starting to make the switch to a real food way of eating. My philosophy is “know better, do better”. It’s okay to take this one step at a time and make the shift slowly. It’s A LOT, and may take some time to alter tastes, routines, and habits, especially if you are changing your children’s diets too! One step at a time. Making one small change really does make a difference.

What is not Real Food

How to get started with real food

The first step is to understand that this is a process. We have been on a real food journey for over 10 years, and we abide by the 80:20 rule. This means we eat whole food meals/snacks at least 80% of the time and we give ourselves grace when we need to. We are real people who have better self-discipline, focus, and available time in cycles just like everyone else. That being said, the best way to get started is to take that first step. Wherever you are on this journey, let’s move forward together. I was once in your shoes, feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start. I’m hoping these ideas/resources will be helpful for you.

Here are some general ideas to get you started:

  • Join our community (follow the blog and comment to find support)
  • Sign up for my monthly tips via email
  • Check out our Facebook group and/or follow me on Instagram
  • Sign up for a CSA (to get monthly local fresh produce)
  • Head to the farmer’s market
  • Shop the outer edge of the grocery store
  • Purchase grass-fed beef or a pastured chicken
  • Simmer some bone broth
  • Remove a snack or food that you know is not real from your grocery list

the mental shift

A deeper understanding of what is happening in our bodies when we eat helps to influence behavior change. In general, most people choose not to smoke because we know the harmful affects. A similar mental shift can occur with food choices.

Another mental shift is to focus on all of the beautiful foods I can eat so I’m not dwelling on what I am “missing out” on.

This may not be the path of least resistance at first, but it’s WORTH IT! I will honestly say that my kids eat 90% real food daily and truly love it. Start incorporating one real meal per week as you start the journey or 1 real food snack per day. That’s a start! That’s the first step. And I’m cheering for you. I’m here to walk with you. Whether you want to jump right in or gradually shift, let’s wander the path together, arm in arm. It’s much more fun with a community, with a friend who is just there with you for support..

“When it becomes a revolutionary act to eat real food, we are in trouble.”

Mark Hyman

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