Real food. Where do I even begin? This topic is something I’m personally still working on perfecting. Before, I thought real foods were only foods that were located on the outer walls of a super market. I can NEVER go down the dreaded center aisles; none of those foods could possibly be considered real. I later learned that real foods are so much more than that. You can shop in the center aisles!! You just have to know what your looking for and make smart choices when shopping anywhere in a super market.
Real foods are described as anything that is not highly processed. Overly processed foods are stripped of nutrients and then pumped full of additives so people will actually eat them. Have you ever picked up a box of cereal, read the ingredient list, and realized you couldn’t even pronounce half the words on the list? Well guess what, that cereal is not considered a real food item. Such a travesty, especially when you’re craving your favorite fruity cereal. Not to fret though, I can teach you what to look for!!
Real grains include foods like whole wheat, brown rice, oats (rolled, steel-cut, quick cooking), and quinoa. A whole grain is composed of three parts, bran, endosperm, and germ. The bran and germ houses the majority of vitamins and minerals needed in the body. With most refined grains, the bran and the germ are removed, leaving only the endosperm. With only the endosperm used in refined grains, this greatly reduces key nutrients that are found in the product. When shopping, look for whole grain products. If a product says wheat without the word “whole” in front, it’s just refined white flour. Multigrain can be a bit confusing too. Multigrain means different grains are combined into one. The problem with multigrain is we don’t know if it’s a combination of whole grains or not. Make sure to check the ingredient list!
Dairy products are foods like milk, cheese, and butter. Real dairy is considered plain, whole, unsweetened, non-homogenized, and pastured or grass-fed. The process of removing fat from dairy products also removes nutrients. These naturally occurring nutrients are important in the absorption of other nutrients. Example of this is milk; Vitamin A and D is important in the absorption of calcium. The foods that go through the process of becoming “fat free” or “low in fat” are then fortified with synthetic vitamins to replace those that are lost. Wouldn’t it be easier to just get the vitamins the natural way? Also, sugar and additives are added in the process to make the product taste better, which is worse in the end.
Real Meats, Poultry, Fish, Eggs
When it comes to beef and lamb, grass-fed is better. Also, you want to look for no hormones and antibiotics. Pork, poultry, and eggs are best pasture raised. Fish that are considered omnivores, which means they eat other fish, are best if wild; where as, fish that are considered herbivores, which are fish that eat plants, are okay farm raised. Fish like tuna and salmon are best if wild. Whereas, fish like tilapia can be farm raised. The problem with farm raised fish generally falls on what the fish are feed. Making sure you buy farm raised fish from a reputable supplier is important. Personally, I try to buy wild caught when I’m buying fish for my family.
When I would shop for my proteins before, I never put much thought into if it was grass-fed or pasture-raised. That was until I started having digestive problems. While trying to find the major culprits for my problem, I switched to eating 100% grass-fed beef and I can tell a difference in how I feel after a meal. Many industrially raised cows are pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and are fed grains. Cows can’t digest corn and are meant to eat grass. This can lead to problems for the cow that subsequently lead to problems for you.
Real Fruit & Vegetables
As you get to this section, I’m sure you’re probably thinking, “I bet she’s going to tell us to eat all organic now.” Well…not really. Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried all have similar nutritional value. Most fruits and vegetables are processed within hours of being harvested, so they keep their flavor along with their nutritional value. The problem that occurs with some processed fruits and vegetables are the added sugar and salt. When shopping for canned, frozen, or dried, make sure to read the ingredient list. Pick the fruit or vegetable with only one or two ingredients. Also, check for low sodium and no added sugar, those will be the best for you!
When I’m shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, I tend to buy some organic some not. Organic foods are grown or farmed without artificial chemicals, hormones, or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). If you are not sure which fruit/vegetable to buy organic, just check the “Dirty Dozen” list. The link below will take you to the EWG’s website where they inform shoppers of which fruits/vegetables are best organic or safe to consume if not organic.
The best way to get through any shopping trip with the most real foods would be to prioritize what’s most important for you. For our family, we prioritize meat, dairy, and grains. We manage the rest by practicing the 80/20 rule.
With the 80/20 rule, we prioritize really healthy meals 80% of the time and sweets and indulgent foods that may be high in fat the other 20% of the time. So all the refined carbs such as sodas, pizza, potato chips, donuts, etc. are limited in our family for treat nights! Did I just list all your favorite foods? Don’t worry, those are mine too. Remember 80/20 is there to help so you don’t deprive yourself but you also don’t overindulge either.
Moderation is the key! As my teacher once said, “the food you eat can either be the safest, most powerful form of fuel and medicine or the slowest form of poison” so help your body and heart by feeding it the best REAL FOODS!
Do you already consume more real foods then you thought?? Let me know!
P.S. Check out part two of this: Real Food Part 2