What’s real food? Real food is food that is as close to its natural state as possible with as little processing as possible. An organic chicken you have to cook yourself is more real than chicken nuggets or chicken from a can.
The benefits of eating real food include minimizing the chemical additives that are linked to disease and obesity. These include artificial food coloring, preservatives and artificial flavors. Real food also has less sugar, sodium and added fat.
Michael Pollan outlined some simple guidelines to help you identify “real food” in his book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”.
First, Don’t eat anything your greatgrandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
Second, avoid food products that contain ingredients you can’t pronounce, have never heard of or contain high fructose corn syrup.
Third, avoid foods that make health claims, especially if they come in a package (a package means it’s probably processed and not a whole food).
Fourth, get out of the supermarket and shop in the farmer’s market.
Not sure what’s in season? Check out Sustainable Table
Finally, shopping the perimeter of your grocery store is a good way to start eating clean, real foods. That’s where the fresh produce, natural meats, eggs and dairy usually are. Here are a few more tips to get you started:
- Drink only naturally low-cal beverages. Water is your best choice. Then stick with herbal tea, milk or fresh-pressed juice.
- Choose local, organic meat. Buy from your local farmer’s market or order from a butcher that is committed to meat that is free of hormones, antibiotics and grain feed. (Reducing your meat intake helps make this more affordable.)
- Cook with organic, cold pressed oils. Ditch the bleached, processed canola or vegetable oil and go for real butter, olive or coconut oil.
- Make fruits and vegetables your go-to snacks. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. Wash and chop veggies into sticks and pack them into baggies for easy grab-in-go.
- Quit fast food. Make extra portions of your main dinner entree to pack for lunch the next day. This easy habit will save you from eating processed meals at the local fast food joint.
- Go gluten-free. Read labels and buy only gluten-free foods. The exception to this rule is that not all gluten-free foods are healthy. Cookies are still cookies even if they are gluten-free.
Remember, good food leads to good health. Spend some time learning how to feed your body the highest quality meals and you will be rewarded with more energy, better focus and increased well being.