Real Food

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now but for some reason or another just haven’t.  However, I started reading a nutrition book last week (review to come later) and I finally feel like now’s the right time to write this post.

I get a lot of interest from people wanting to know the way that I eat, what diet I’m on (really, that one pisses me off), or why I eat the way that I do.  Not that I’m anything special, I’m more an oddity to them.  Fruits, vegetables, no chips?? What gives?? I used to give a lengthy explanation of clean eating but I kept noticing the same glossy eyed look on different faces.  Now that I’ve gone paleo, it’s even harder to explain.  So I’ve learned to keep my answer short and sweet:

food 2

This revelation either shuts the conversation down immediately, or opens up further dialogue.  Usually, further dialogue follows with a confused look and “Real food??” in a questioning tone.  Alright, I think to myself, I’ve got ‘em hooked.  This is where I pull out my soap box.

Yep, real food.  Food that comes from a plant, not manufactured in a plant.  Food that I recognize and can pronounce all the ingredients.  Food that can go bad.  Food that has a mother; although, that actually sounds really terrible.  And I’m pretty sure I just heard all my vegan / vegetarian friends gag.  I’m talking about beef, chicken, pork – not cannibalism.  Food that visually excites and inspires me.

Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto

Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto

papaya

Freshly halved papaya

481813_595241967170895_112862517_n

Sausage stuffed ‘shrooms

Real food is consuming food that is as close to the real form as possible.  Whole fruits & vegetables, nuts, meat that have been minimally altered or processed.  If it tastes like a banana, by golly, it better be because I’m eating a banana or it has a banana in it.  Not because it has banana flavoring. (Dairy, legumes and grains fall into the real food category, too, unless you’re Paleo.)

Real food rots and goes bad.  It doesn’t have a shelf life able to withstand a zombie apocalypse.  You can find it by shopping the perimeter (with some exceptions) of your local grocery store.

It’s taken me years of trial and error to find this real food lifestyle but it works for me; it fits me.  I went through the phase of eating low fat, no fat, sugar free “food” thinking it fell into the healthy category.

This aisle was my BFF for several years. Quick, easy, convienent, and...."healthy"

This aisle was my BFF for several years.
Quick, easy, convenient, and….”healthy.” I mean the sign even says so.

lunch

Look at those stats: 16g protein, 3g fiber and only 210 calories.
Eggs, potatoes, cheese, and peppers. Simple, healthy. Right?

I read nutrition panels like a hawk. I could quote health benefits of processed foods like nobody’s business – ‘that’s a great source of fiber, calcium, whole grains, whatever…’ But I never stopped to read the ingredients.

ingredients

This is the label from that breakfast meal above.
Not quite as simple as eggs, potatoes, cheese and peppers….

When I started reading the ingredients, I started changing my life.  That was a couple years ago and I haven’t felt better.

{Some} Benefits of Eating Real Food:

  • Increased energy;
  • More complex variety of vitamins, mineral, phytonutrients; antioxidants…. i.e. a multivitamin without the pill;
  • Happier & healthier digestive system;
  • Strengthened immune system;
  • Environmentally conscience;
  • Minimally processed;
  • Tastes great (duh); and
  • Doesn’t make your body a vessel for science experiments.

If you really take a look in the grocery store, the shelves are filled with food-like products.  I say food-like because if you read the ingredients, it’s more like a science experiment in a box.  A very well crafted and cleverly disguised science experiment.  Seriously, take a look at some of the ingredients.  When was the last time you saw a garden or pasture full of sodium bicarbonate? (Yes, that chemical is one of the ingredients in the frozen egg thingy pictured above.)

“But it tastes so good….”  Is something I hear a lot when I’m explaining real vs. processed food.  Yes, that processed stuff does tastes good. No, scratch that. It doesn’t just taste good, it tastes fantastic.  It was designed to.  But what is that food really doing for you?  Is it nourishing your body or just filling your stomach?

Real food nourishes your entire body and -wait for it- tastes great, too.  When I first ditched the processed crap, I missed it terribly. I might even go so far as to use the word ‘withdrawals.’  However, after awhile I started to notice just how great food, real food, tasted.  I was amazed at how natural flavors seemed to burst out of food that I had previously thought bland.  Gone was my need to add salt and refined sugar.  Gone were the junk food cravings.  Eating real food, I feel satiated when I’m done eating. I also feel like each time I grocery shop I’m buying a small amount of life insurance.

I could go on and on about this topic but this is where I step down from my soap box.  The processed stuff you find in the grocery store will not kill you. It may not contribute to your health but you won’t die if you eat a Twinkie. Unless you choke on it. Always chew your food thoroughly.  Don’t think that I’m putting myself on a pedestal either, I still splurge from time-to-time on non ‘real food’ (did someone say froyo??). This post isn’t meant to make you feel bad about how you eat, just maybe make you more quizzical and conscientious about what you’re eating.

Question: What’s your favorite real food?

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37 thoughts on “Real Food

  1. I know I love my processed foods like pretzels and ice cream, but I also know I feel so much better when I’m snacking on grapes and carrots. For me, I have to eat some of the “snack” foods because I’m so picky and wouldn’t get enough nutrients into my day living on just the real foods, but I know it’s the healthier way to live. I definitely get scared away when I read some of the ingredients on the backs of boxes. We definitely tend to buy the fewer ingredient foods in my house. This definitely gets you thinking! Thanks for sharing- I know what it’s like to feel judged about what we’re eating.

    • It’s all about balance, Sarah, and only you know what’s right for you. I try not to get too preachy because we all have different levels of healthy living. I know that I’m on the extreme end of the spectrum but I still get excited when I see people making small switches. 🙂 Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let anyone make you feel badly about it.

  2. That’s exactly how I feel! I’m slowly but surely changing to less and less processed “food.” And I feel so much better for it too. Thanks for the awesome post!

  3. I love this!! SO perfectly written. I get this question alllll theeee timeeeee, and it used to frustrate me. but now I have learned to roll with it. I love the idea of saying that you eat real food, I am SO stealing that in my daily life! GENIUS!

  4. Oh girl!!! I really love this post bc im in the exact same boat as you! I really try to keep it clean and always get nonstop weird questions all the time. I also used to live for the fat free low fat processessed and frozen “healthy” food including 18395932083 grams of sugar and sodium per serving. Lol!!! Now thank god ive been educated! My favorites are sweet potatoes, all forms of nuts, and any possible fruit i can get my hands on!

  5. I will be using you as an inspiration for my whole 30 challenge. All of the benefits you talk about is why I really want to take advantage of this challenge, really listening to how my body responds to it.

    • Oh girl, don’t use me as an inspiration. There are so many areas that I know I can improve on. I’m really excited to follow your Whole 30 challenge. E-mail me if you ever have any questions.

    • I know, Mindy, adding kids into the mix definitely makes it more complex. This is something that I grapple with already. I don’t want to deny my future kids the treats that I enjoyed as a kid yet I don’t want to contribute to any health problems they may face. Plus my husband refuses to eat the way I do which makes everything even more complicated. *exasperated sigh* Hopefully I’ll have that problem figured out by the time I have kids…

  6. Thanks for the awesome post! I have eating clean for about 6 months (since January) and I can tell the difference in my body. I feel better and everything just works right down there (TMI). I too splurge but when I do…I can really tell a difference in my body so I can’t wait to hop right back on the clean eating wagon!

  7. This is a great post. I’ve tried to eat a lot of things that “come from a mother” and getting back to as real as possible. I’ve actually been cleaning up my diet a bit more, though you’d never guess by this week. Thanks for sharing Gina!

  8. Awesome post girlie! I’m trying my best to balance it all and have time to food prep while only using ‘processed foods’ that aren’t the most horrible – I try to eat the best I can most of the time…that’s my mantra 😉

  9. Processed food is scary shiz. I read a book about marketing companies and how they sell their products to the masses, and it scared the bejesus out of me. They put scary, man-made chemicals in processed foods to get people to keep buying, because they are literally addicted. Now, I try to avoid any food that comes from a box. Other than cereal, but I tend to stick with Kashi or anything I can find in my grocery store’s organic section. It’s definitely more expensive but worth it!

    • It seriously is scary, Amanda! I could write a whole blog post just about how food is designed to trigger certain responses with us and we’re none the wiser. When people talk about being addicted to food, they probably really are. Bravo to you for figuring all of that out at such a young age!

  10. “Food that comes from a plant, not manufactured in a plant.” <– Love this explanation! Even though it can be tough to stick to a real food diet, it's definitely worth it for me–and it does the best job of fueling my workouts. Also, it's totally normal to grocery shop, like, three times a week for fresh produce, right? 🙂

    • I wish I could take credit for that quote. I came across it several years ago and it’s just stuck with me. Obviously, I don’t know you IRL but you really seem to have a great grip on your nutrition. And yes, I have to hit the stores at least twice (occasionally three times) a week. Totally normal. 😉

  11. I eat real food too Gina, yay us! Although I eat more like a vegetarian since good quality meat (organic, free-range etc..) is expensive and organic fruits/veggies are cheaper in comparison lol. I don’t think my bank account could afford paleo!

    My guilty frozen food pleasure is TJ’s organic (dairy & wheat free) bean, corn and tofu enchiladas! I call it my guilty pleasure since it is pre-packaged and I eat maybe 2-3 each week as quick lab lunches. On the label they only disclose wholesome ingredients like the organic beans, corn, tofu, red bell peppers, but for all I know they don’t disclose other things I dont know about! Oh yea and I love cereal too 🙂 however, I do go through phases of cereal for breakfast and once I get tired, I switch to steel cut oats for a while and repeat the toggling back and forth, lol. The oats are better since they are less processed, but sometimes I get the cereal craving!

    I took a nutrition class in college and it really changed my perspective on food, so ever since I try to minimize processed foods (but cookies are Ok once in a while….) and maximize fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, milk, yogurt, quinoa, oats and brown rice. And after eating this way for so long, I can’t stand most frozen food dinners! Taste WAY over seasoned and just mushy (with exception of my guilty TJ pleasure of course 🙂 ).

    POWER TO REAL FOOD! (ok I’m done with my essay now)

    • Your essay just made my day!! Before switching to paleo my eating habits leaned further toward vegetarian than carnivore. That’s actually been the hardest switch for me because while I enjoy meat, I don’t want to eat it if I think about how it got on my plate.

      Even though those TJ enchiladas are pre-packaged they really don’t sound bad. I think it would be completely unrealistic for most people to live without any pre-packaged food but that’s where label reading comes into play. I’m sure if you checked out some of the other frozen brands of enchiladas you would see a whole different set of ingredients.

      And yes, I HAVE to agree with you that cookies are totally ok to indulge in occassionally. =D

  12. i grew up eating fruity pebbles and hot pockets for breakfast… and felt healthy by choosing the ones with broccoli as opposed to pepperoni pizza 😛 after taking a couple of nutrition classes and doing my own internet research, i’ve been trying to eat as least process as possible. even if it sounds healthy, if it has a ton of unpronounceable ingredients, i’ll try to avoid to it. my family doesn’t embrace the paleo lifestyle with open arms, but my eating habits have influenced theirs for the better — lots more brown rice and vegetables in their diet, which is awesome to hear sinc i’m away at college most of the year 🙂

    • So I have a confession to make….There is actually a box of Fruity Pebbles in my pantry. *Gasp* It’s one of my hubby’s favorite cereal’s and he refuses to join me on my real food journey. I think it’s awesome that you’ve inspired your family to clean up their diets a bit – especially since you’re not even around. Kudos to you!!

  13. Mike and I try to eat as fresh as possible. We both have our moments, but overall, we have a lot more energy and are less tired after kicking out all the “shelf life” foods… in fact I got a soda with my dinner and it’s HORRIBLE. it went right in the trash.

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