Is there such a thing as food that isn’t “real?” You might be intrigued because you aren’t even sure what this is going to be about! I am here to tell you that most “food” you have probably been exposed to is actually not “real” – but chemically altered and created for your taste buds and shelf-life. So let’s dive in.
If you have been following me for a bit, or you are new, real food is something I am passionate about.
My background and college education is in health education, and I loved and focused on nutrition. Although my degrees are not in nutrition, my focus was always on food. I always considered myself a “healthy” eater once I started learning about nutrition for my degree. However, I wasn’t well. I had SLE (lupus) symptoms since age 15. When in college, I was undiagnosed and suffering. And as many college students still are and were then, I was eating a highly processed (aka not real food) diet, fast food, and restaurant food. I did make some of my meals as I started to learn more and more, but still chose processed food items to make the meals with, with only a few things being real food or fresh.
Fast forward through trips to the ER, painful tests, lots of drugs that I also wasn’t really interested in taking but had to because I was so sick, I entered adulthood and knew I needed to find a way to get some control over my body. I knew I couldn’t take the drugs I did for as many years as they were talking about (I was already developing side effects), and I knew it wasn’t healthy.
If you are ever in control over anything in your life, it is your food!
That is when I started looking at my food source. If you are ever in control of anything in your life, it is your food!
Where were all the inflammatory agents coming from in my life? MY FOOD! My body was reacting to these agents, and I needed it to stop. (Products were next up in line with food). That is when I started my real food journey.
Next week I am going to talk about what processed food is, and how it effects our health, so today I am going to stay on point and tell you about real food!
What is real food?
Real food is food that is as close to the natural state as possible. It has no additives or preservatives (other than natural things that may do that on their own), and it is a bunch of ingredients that you must make into a meal or food item.
Some real food items like meat, fruits, berries, nuts, legumes – these are real food items and can be eaten in their state without being an ingredient in another dish. But most real food items are ingredients from nature (plant and animal) that are ingredients in other meals parts.
Want to get a complete breakdown for meats, fruits/veggies, grains, proteins and more? What the heck is grass-fed, pastured, organic and more? Grab the guide that walks you through this in-depth below. Keep reading below the offer to see what this looks like in my daily life!
What real food is notIt seems like I at least need to touch on this since we are talking about what it is! I will be talking in depth about processed food (the opposite of real food) next week, but for now a few guidelines.1- A packaged food item that has ingredients that you do not understand and have no idea what they are.2- A food that added preservatives or chemicals to extend its shelf life.3- Food items that do not come from a component of nature (plant or animal).4- Food that has been genetically modified.
What does this look like in my life daily?For my breakfast, I eat egg whites, mixed with spinach scrambled. With it, I have either homemade whole wheat biscuits or whole grain oats done in the slow cooker for ease. I have one mug of coffee daily, and in it is a homemade creamer made from whole organic milk and heavy cream. This is 1-3 tbsp. maximum in the coffee.
For lunch, I eat any combination of a fresh leafy green, with a whole grain carb like quinoa, a protein like chicken, sometimes added chickpeas, fresh vegetables with olive oil and a vinegar of choice with salt, pepper, and some other herbs on the salad.
For dinner, we have a home cooked real foods meal daily. This includes a whole grain like a sweet potato, or brown rice, or quinoa. Occasionally we also throw in a whole wheat pasta. We have a meat, such as chicken, or seafood or fish with it about five days a week (the other two we stay plant-based). We only eat ground turkey, chicken, shrimp, salmon, and tuna on a regular basis. We do have an occasional turkey sausage meal, and beef once a month or sometimes less. We focus our meals on our vegetables and have a variety of different vegetables all year. All of our sauces, dressings, or marinades are made from real food ingredients. From scratch, and they are EASY!
Some nights this may be a homemade pizza including the crust, homemade mac and cheese, and more. Your favorite packages and boxes can be made in a real food way. And they are so much tastier.
For snacks, I eat fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and nuts. I also make some amazing energy bites for a pick me up in the afternoon.
My Personal Shopping Real Food Choices
I will be posting about shopping for real foods soon in the future, but for today I will just share what we do.
Meats – we try our best to get grass-fed or pastured, but it’s not always possible to know and/or afford these choices. We always choose the leanest cut available. When purchasing fish and seafood, it is always wild-caught.
Dairy – We have a variety of whole fat dairy. We consume very little dairy in our house. It is an inflammatory agent, so we keep it as a flavor item, rather than a staple. We sprinkle cheese on some meals as well, 100% from the source. Be aware that many pre-shredded “cheese” is not actually real cheese. Take a look at your ingredients!
Fresh Fruits & Veggies – we do our best for organic, but it doesn’t always fit in our budget, but we purchase the best fruit and veggies we can. We get to the farmer’s market when we can, but we do buy from the supermarket regularly. In our climate there isn’t a lot of seasonal items over the winter, so we do our best.
We shop for our groceries at multiple places depending on what we need, look for, and availability in season. We love our farmer’s markets, but in months where there is less available, we shop at Aldi, Walmart, and Wegmans. There is an unbelievable selection between these stores in our area. Your location may have varying items, but where we live these supermarkets have a lot of value in the items I mentioned above.