So You Want To Eat Real Food!
I sat down and wrote this post three or four times (and scrapped each copy) which is why it has taken so long to get this post up and out.
I mean, you just want to eat healthy, right?
It shouldn’t be hard. But it can be frustratingly hard!
The state of our food system is bad.
Food is no longer always food.
But if you’re up for some work, learning new skills and, of course, some change and think you want to give real food a try, I have some simple tips to lay your foundation and help you decide what to eat (What is real.) and what not to eat. (What is junk.)
In this post I am not targeting any specific style of real food eating (keto, vegetarianism, paleo, etc.) but focusing on all types of real foods.
Government Doesn’t Always Know Best
Throw out the food pyramid, plate or whatever the USDA is telling you these days. Instead eat (in moderation) from the four food kingdoms.
Plant: fruits, veggies, grains, herbs, etc.
Animal: land and sea
Fungi: mushrooms and their relatives (Gathered or grown by someone knowledgable.)
Bacteria: probiotics and fermented foods
It’s Not About Social Status
Go Organic! It isn’t just some trendy fad for millenials. It’s not even because these foods often have higher nutrient content than their conventional cousins.
These foods really are exposed to far less toxins and other things. (Genetic modification, drugs, poisons etc.) This means you will ingest far fewer toxic chemicals, “frankenfood”, antibiotics and hormones.
Did you know that it is common conventional practice to spray wheat with glyphosate (cancer causing, weed killing, poison) a few weeks before the wheat is harvested, to kill the crop and speed up drying? Think about the grains you consume (Unless you are keto or paleo it is a lot!) How much poison are you potentially ingesting?
Did you realize that workers in potato storage facilities are known to wear hazmat suits because the pesticide (methamidophos) they spray the potates with, in the fields, is so toxic that it takes six weeks to “gas off”. Yum!
I know that organics cost more, but think of it as a trade off; spending your money on your health now, rather then on healthcare later.
Buy the most organic items that you can fit into your budget and support small farms where you know where your money is going. Wouldn’t you rather fund a farm kid’s new bicycle over a corporate big wig’s BMW?
Use Your Kitchen
Buy the most minimally processed food you can.
I know not everyone wants to have a field of wheat in their backyard, but if you enjoy baking bread and have the time, then do it.
If that isn’t reasonable, then find someone ( a local baker or bakery) and purchase from them.
Last resort go to the store and buy a commercial loaf of organic bread, but know the farther you get from the original ingredients, the less real your food gets.
Read and understand food labels.
If there isn’t a label, the chances are good that it is a real food. If it has a label, do you recognize the ingredients?
Words like modified, enriched, hydrogenated, hydrolyzed and artificial, as well as any word followed by numbers are telltale signs that what you are looking at isn’t real food.
In the case of produce, learn the codes:
If the number starts with a 9 the item is organic. 9 is fine!
If the number is a 3 or 4 then it is conventionally grown. 3’s and 4’s are bores.
If the number is an 8 it means the item is genetically modified. 8 is not great!
Less Is More
Is the item packaged? Real food requires little or no packaging. If you have to peel a cylinder and press it with a spoon to pop it open… probably not real food.
What Would Great-Grandma Do?
Can you make it at home, recognize it in nature or in history?
If you’re wondering how the heck a food was made (spray cheese), can’t find it in nature (blue raspberry), or great-grandma wouldn’t recognize it (cheese puffs) then it more than likely is fake.
Think of butter. It comes from milk. Pretty simple stuff. Now what about margarine? Think about what you would need to replicate it at home? A lot more than milk.
Has the food been altered form its original state to make it more healthy?
Pasturized milk, skim milk, low-fat dairy, egg substitutes, anything fortified, enriched or diet. (Yep, I don’t care if it has zero calories! The only zero calorie item you should be ingesting is water… maybe tea/coffee.)
Don’t think you are doing yourself a favor eating/drinking these types of foods. They do more harm than good.
How long does the item last before it goes bad?
Compare a store bought cream filled sponge cake with one made at home, from scratch. One is going to last through a nuclear war and one is going to spoil quickly. Which one is real? (Real doesn’t always mean healthy too! We will be dealing with sugar, shortly.)
Now let’s think of an item that lasts longer naturally than when purchased at the store. Eggs! My unwashed farm eggs last longer on the counter compared to washed store eggs in the refrigerator.
It is important to note that food preservation has been around for thousands of years even before the method of canning was discovered in the early 1800’s. Preservation in itself isn’t bad as long as the food is not radically changed.
Pass On The Sweets
Sugar! Uh huh. I told you it was coming.
Unless you use raw honey, true maple syrup, unrefined stevia leaves, or maybe grind up an organic, un-genetically modified sugar cane stalk, added sugar isn’t real.
The refining process, the genetic modifications, the poisons used on the crops, lead to a substance that, while tasty, holds no nutritional value for us. It is addictive and inflammatory!
Historically, sugars were hard to obtain and rare. They were expensive and only used on special occasions.
Fruits and other naturally sweet foods were eaten in season or preserved but not available all the time and not in the quantities we have them in today.
Sugar, even organic sugar or natural sugars, should be used sparingly!
Here is where reading those nutritional labels will come in handy.
Sugar is added into most foods these days and comes under the guise of many different names: Fructose, high fructose, syrup, glucose, dextrose, sucrose, artificial sweetners, natural sweeteners, and on it goes. There are like 150 different names for sugar now.
You can find sugar in mouthwash, toothpaste, fitness “water”, vitamins, processed meats, yogurt, bread and so many other places it shouldn’t or doesn’t need to be.
The Wrap Up
So yeah, our conventional food system is way messed up, and figuring out what real food is, let alone actually finding it, preparing it and eating it is complicated.
But don’t give up hope. Just like any new activity there is a learning curve. Real food eating is a skill. You’ll need to practice to get it down. But it is so worth it.
The difference in how you will feel is amazing: your energy and stamina, your brain capacity, your emotions, they are all linked to the food you fuel your body with.
You can do this! I know because I did it and am doing it. I’m not perfect (cookies and french fries are my weaknesses) and you won’t be either but isn’t it worth a try?
Here is a recipe to get you going!
Fox & Glove Homemade Applesauce
6 organic apples ( I like to mix Cortlands and Granny Smiths)
1/4 cup real maple syrup (available at our farm store)
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
A dash of salt
Peel, core, and chop apples into small chunks. Place apple chunks and the rest of the ingredients into a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Cook and occasionally stir about twelve minutes until the mixture is soft. If you like a smoother texture you can blend the sauce in a blender.
*Makes three cups of sauce. Keep refrigerated for up to one week. If you are Keto just skip the added syrup.
Next blog post we’ll tackle how to actually maneuver into real food eating: Baby steps, walking, running and then the long haul marathon. So keep checking back and if you have questions or comments make sure to leave them below in the comment section.
Bloom and Grow,