What is Real Food?

But if you can eat it and it is in the grocery store, isn’t it real food?

I get this a lot, so I figured I’d write a post about what the heck I’m talking about when I say “real food“. This is how I interpret real food and how I eat on a regular basis.

I generally try to stick to eating real, whole foods and avoid highly processed foods.  Basically, real food is it’s own definition: Real, natural, and wholesome.

So to make it easier to see in a visual format, I made you this cool real food chart! This is how I define real food in a nutshell:
Real Food Chart

See, it isn’t so bad.  I still eat really yummy things, like homemade chocolate hazelnut spread (healthy nutella), butternut squash ravioli, and BBQ pulled pork!

Now for a little more in depth…

Real Food is:

  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • whole grains
  • local meat and seafood–humanely raised
  • dairy-milk, cheese, yogurt, butter (Yes, BUTTER!!), etc.
  • eggs
  • nuts/seeds
  • water, coffee, beer, wine, whiskey
  • natural sweeteners–like honey and pure maple syrup

Real Food Substitutions for Processed Ingredients

Real Food Isn’t:

Highly refined grains
  • white flour
  • white pasta (because of the white flour)
  • anything “enriched”
Processed corn products
  • high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup
  • corn starch
  • maltodextrin
  • modified food starch
  • xanthan gum
  • sorbitol
  • corn oil
  • and many many more
Artificial sweeteners
Vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils
  • canola oil
  • margarine
  • crisco
  • safflower oil
  • soybean oil
  • grapeseed oil

My top 3 tips for eating real food:

1.  Read ingredient labels

You’ll be surprised!  Check the ingredients on everything.  Canned beans and pasta sauce might seem wholesome, but check first.  So many products at the grocery store have added corn syrup or other things.

2.  Go to the Farmer’s Market

You are likely to find fresh, organic produce much cheaper than you would at the grocery store. Also, you can talk to the farmers who grow your food and develop a personal relationship with them.  Most produce you find there will be in season, which will make it more nutritious and more delicious! And it reduces the travel time from farm to plate which helps the environment.

3.  Make Meals at Home

When you are home you can control the ingredients.  When you eat out you can’t.  Many recipes can fit into these real food guidelines just by substituting some processed ingredients for real ones. And if you are pressed for time, you can plan ahead and have some homemade freezer meals handy for those busy days.

I prefer not to call this a “diet”, but more of a general way of life.  I see diets as temporary, but I eat like this all the time.  I am not super strict about it since I believe its okay to splurge once in a while. For example when I go out to eat or go to a potluck (once or twice a month) I will eat whatever I want.

I’d love to hear your story.  Do you follow any specific way of eating?

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