Real Food. It’s a term that’s thrown around a lot these days in the healthy living community. If it’s not keto (don’t get me started on where that’s gone) or clean eating (a term I used in the past, and have moved away from), it’s “JERF” (Just Eat Real Food). But what does ‘real food’ actually MEAN? It’s a question I get asked a lot from confused mamas, trying to do the best for their families; especially if they’re on the journey of ditching diets and just trying to find a healthy balance, while still enjoying nourishing foods. And I realized, I’ve never truly spent the time defining real food- and what real food means to me, as a holistic nutritionist, health coach and most importantly, mama trying to nourish my own family. So as the dust settles from the back to school craziness and we’re all starting to fall into a routine, I’m devoting this month to digging into what real food is- why we should all choose a more real food-centric lifestyle, and how to make the transition seamless. Today I thought I’d start by broadly defining real food, and why we can all make shifts towards enjoying more real food, no matter what foods we choose to eat.
If you haven’t already joined us in the Healthy Mama Life Community over on Facebook, go ahead and join us! We’re spending the whole month breaking down what Real Food is, and sharing our own journeys to a real food lifestyle.
WHAT is real food?
There are many definitions of what ‘real food’ means.
Here is mine: Real food is food closest to the form it’s found in nature. Food from the farm, the earth or the sea. It’s about choosing one-ingredient foods instead of poring over ingredient lists (with some exceptions, of course) and therefore naturally choosing foods highest in nutrients. It’s about (mostly) making food from scratch, ditching the packages in favor of the flavor of fresh foods.
Real foods are: ???? Veggies- as many as your heart desires. ???? Fruit, ???? natural meat and poultry, ???? fish, and/or ???? minimally processed vegetarian proteins, ???? starches (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, winter squash), ???? grains and legumes, ???? healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, fatty fish/fish oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, olives, nuts and seeds in their whole form and high quality dairy), ???? natural sweeteners, sea salt or Himalayan salt and health-boosting herbs and spices. (We’ll dig into more specifics, in an upcoming post).
A good rule of thumb? If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it’s probably not a real food. (Except for acai. Who can pronounce acai?!)
There’s a caveat, here: and that’s what real food eating is NOT.
Real food eating is NOT a religion.
Real food eating is (certainly) NOT a diet.
Real food eating is NOT a list of eat-this, don’t-eat-that.
Real food eating is NOT meant to make you feel guilty.
Read food eating is NOT restrictive (really).
Real food eating does NOT look the same for everyone.
Real food eating is front loading your family’s diet (diet: eating style) with simple, whole, fresh foods.
It’s definition is broad, because it is open to interpretation.
Your balance of real food is likely different than mine.
What your family feels comfortable including in your real food eating is up to you.
Real food eating is not meant to be restrictive. It is a gentle reminder to do right by your body by choosing nourishing foods, first.
If you want to choose sprouted toast and eggs with spinach for breakfast, kale salad for lunch, roasted chicken and veggies for dinner– and oreos for dessert, that is a-ok. Or maybe you’d rather homemade chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe you don’t even like dessert and would much rather enjoy a nice handful of chips. Maybe you’d prefer a weekly frappuccino instead. Friends- your balance is YOUR balance.
All real food eating is, is a slow transition to choosing foods that nourish YOUR body and allowing for guilt-free enjoyment of foods that might just nourish your tastebuds, too.
WHY eat real food?
WHY are we front-loading our eating with real foods?
Because real foods are the foods we were intended to eat.
It’s REALLY easy to get caught up in the dogma of fad diets. Diets that entice you with cure-all foods and diets that promise lasting health, glowing skin and six pack abs, if you only cut out 90% of the food you’re eating now. But our bodies were not meant to survive on only a few foods; on energy bars, skim milk and sugar-free substitutes. There is a reason we lose our energy when we’re ‘dieting’. Our body isn’t meant to process chemicals- it’s meant to process FOOD.
Real food goes hand in hand with traditional foods. Traditional foods are foods that were consumed throughout history before the modernization and industrialization of the food supply.
Foods that have been processed lack basic nutrients needed for optimal health, enzymes for digestion, antioxidants for protection against cell damage, pre and probiotics for gut and immune health.
Real foods are naturally more nutrient-dense, providing our body with the building blocks it needs to stay healthy, energized and vibrant- whether we’re 10, 30, 50 or 100.
Foods in their whole form- the way God created them- have nutrients intact, that the body can RECOGNIZE and ASSIMILATE easily, and they work SYNERGISTICALLY (together) providing us with energy and protecting us from disease.
Take fruit juice, for example. Though fruit juice comes from a whole food (fruit) it has been processed– removed from the package it comes from in nature, and concentrated, and often pasteurized- so it has a much different effect on our body (blood sugar, especially) than a whole piece of fruit, packed with fiber and enzymes to balance blood sugar and reduce the acidic effect on our bodies.
There is NOTHING inherently bad with fruit juice. It’s just something to get you thinking about why choosing the WHOLE form of foods (real food) is beneficial.
Real food eating gets back to the basics. It reminds us of the foods our bodies were designed to eat, and nourishes from the inside out. It’s not dogmatic (though unfortunately some do make it out to be), I truly believe it’s meant to be a philosophy and not a decree.