- Real food is any food that is found living in nature - any food that grows from the ground or from a tree, as well as animal foods.
- Real food is minimally processed and as close to its natural state as possible.
- Real food nourishes our bodies, provides us with energy and protects us from disease.
- Real food does more than keep us alive - it helps us to thrive!
|Cooking up some healthy, whole foods!|
Speaking of Oreos...refined foods like cookies, crackers, candy, cereal and chips have been so highly processed that they have been stripped of most their nutrition. Your body has to actually go into its nutrient stores to metabolize these highly refined foods. So, not only do they not provide nutrition, they are actually stealing the nutrients you have built up in your body while pumping you full of both natural and artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. Those really aren't things I want to be putting into my body.
|A typical grocery haul.|
I'm not saying that any type of processing is bad and you should only eat foods right after you pluck them out of the ground. Salsa, tomato sauce and even Lara Bars go through some type of processing before they make it to the grocery store, and you will definitely find those in my cart! The focus should be on food quality, looking for foods with the least amount of ingredients possible, knowing about proper preparation and pretty much always avoiding refined sugar, vegetable and seed oils, msg, hydrogenated fats and anything artificial. In my class, I have a list of four questions that I advise people to ask themselves when purchasing foods at the grocery store. And, lucky you, I am including them here in a handy image that you can save to your phone or pin to Pinterest so you can reference it during your next shopping trip (I'm thinking this gummy bear wouldn't pass the test)!
While it may initially seem confusing or overwhelming to learn to read food labels and avoid refined foods, once you get the hang of it you can take a quick glance at a food label and know whether or not it is something you want to eat. Just today, I picked up a jar of roasted red peppers, which I would not expect to have any weird additives, but the third ingredient listed was sugar. Back on the shelf they went!
You definitely want to pay attention to the whole foods you purchase, as well. We all know by now the importance of buying organic produce that hasn't been sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides. Organic food can be expensive, though, and you may not feel like you have it in your budget to spend the extra money. I usually tell people to focus on purchasing organic varieties of the Dirty Dozen first and foremost. There is even an app so you can easily pull up the list at the grocery store. If you prefer to buy all organic, I think that is great! But, I don't want for anyone to feel that this has to be all or nothing. Do what you can with your resources. Any step you take toward introducing more real foods to your family is a step in the right direction. I recently attended Jillian Michaels' Maximize Your Life Tour and she said something so smart that I have never heard anyone else say before. If you can't afford to buy organic, just avoid the Dirty Dozen altogether. Focus on the Clean Fifteen, which are the fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residues, which generally means the conventional varieties are safer.
When it comes to meat, eggs and dairy, grass-fed and/or pasture-raised, organic varieties are going to be the best of the best. Bonus points if you can find a local source. Again, though, it can get expensive. We buy our eggs and some cheaper cuts of meat like ground beef and lamb, sausage and pork loin from Grass Corp, a local farm that delivers to our farmers' market. They even sell raw milk, cheese and yogurt. If you do drink cow's milk, I always recommend raw, as long as you can get it from a trusted source. Like other refined foods, once milk has been pasteurized and homogenized, both the good and the bad bacteria have been killed off and the nutrients have been changed from their original state. At the very least, look for organic dairy without added hormones. Fermented forms of dairy, such as cheese and yogurt, have all that good bacteria so if you can't find or afford raw versions, you will still be getting the probiotic benefits. At the grocery store, I purchase wild-caught seafood when it is on sale. Some of our other meats are often conventional, though. I hope to continue to move toward all pasture-raised, but as a mostly stay-at-home mom it isn't in our budget right now. I feel great, though, about the direction we are going and the efforts we are making.
When it comes to grains, I recommend avoiding wheat and other gluten-containing grains, and looking for organic grains that haven't been genetically modified, like quinoa and whole oats. If you do choose to eat grains, don't let grains replace other more nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Grains were not meant to be heavily refined or eaten in the amounts that are typically included in a Standard American Diet. I definitely don't subscribe to the "Choose My Plate" theory where grains should be a part of every meal, but you better believe I'll be enjoying my bibimbap with a scoop of white rice underneath all those vegetables and fermented goodies. I'm talking once or twice a week here as a compliment to your meal. Label reading and proper preparation are huge if you do choose to include grains. Most store-bought breads have sugar, seed oils and preservatives and are best avoided, but you can seek out sprouted or gluten-free varieties that meet the criteria I listed above and will have much lower anti-nutrient levels. You can even soak and sprout your own grains to make homemade bread or flour at home. Mmm...waffles!
|Nope...not my plate!|
|So much bibimbap goodness!|
I really want to know your thoughts on this. Do you follow a strict Paleo diet? Do you consider yourself "Paleo" even if you don't? Leave me a comment and let me know!