Real Food Defined {General Guidelines}

Real Food Defined

The more I have researched and thought about this, it just makes sense to eat real, whole foods the way nature (and God!) intended. So, that is my overall goal here.

It can seem overwhelming at first, but in reality, it’s simple–eat food the way God made it.

The truth is, we call a lot of stuff “food” these days that barely resembles actual food (margarine, for one quick example).

The Problem with our “food” today

Entire books have been written about the problems with our food industry, but we’ll start with a simplified version. If you stroll through most grocery stores, the shelves are full of processed foods. Foods that the food industry has created. Yes, there is some semblance of “food” there, but it’s processed with chemical ingredients, enriched with vitamins and minerals that the processing and refinement  removed, and created in labs to have an optimal combination of salt, sugar, and fat to keep us coming back for more (and more, and more).

Nutrients can be added back into our foods, but the end result is not comparable to the original. Micheal Pollan has a fascinating discussion of this in his book In Defense of Food. The synergy in the whole foods is what gives us the optimal nourishment.

Newsflash: God is better at creating nourishment for us than food industry labs.

Basically the idea is to start with whole foods, or at least those that have been minimally processed.

Real Food Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines, drawn in part from In Defense of Food:

  1. Eat food your great-great grandma would recognize. I like to think about the Ingalls family. Would they have eaten it? Would they have recognized those ingredients? If not, this is a red flag.
  2. Avoid unpronounceable or unfamiliar ingredients. The food industry has taught us that food is complicated. For so many years those super long, processed ingredients lists were the norm. When I was younger, I didn’t really look at ingredients labels and just assumed that all those unpronounceable things were necessary. But they aren’t. Think about what you would use to make bread. Water, yeast, sugar/honey, salt, and flour, and sometimes a little oil depending on the type of bread. 5-6 simple ingredients. Now look at the ingredients list for a Wonder bread:

    Wheat Flour Enriched ( Flour , Barley Malt , Ferrous Sulfate [ Iron ] , Vitamin B [ Niacin Vitamin B3 , Thiamine Mononitrate Vitamin B1 { Thiamin Vitamin B1 } , Riboflavin Vitamin B2 { Riboflavin Vitamin B2 } , Folic Acid Vitamin B9 ] ) , Water , Corn Syrup High Fructose , Contains 22% or less , Wheat Gluten , Salt , Soybeans Oil , Yeast , Calcium Sulphate , Vinegar , Monoglyceride , Dough Conditioners ( Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate , Calcium Dioxide ) , Soy Flour , Diammonium Phosphate , Dicalcium Phosphate , Monocalcium Phosphate , Yeast Nutrients ( Ammonium Sulfate ) , Calcium Propionate , To Retain Freshness

  3. Aim for 5 ingredients or less. I make exceptions for some things, if the ingredients are familiar ones, but in general, it’s best to stick to 4-5 ingredients or less when you’re buying storebought items.
  4. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. When it comes to ingredients lists, foods with sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup tend to be more processed.
  5. Avoid refined foods. The big offenders here are white sugar and white flour (white rice and white, enriched pasta too). Yes, they are natural, but they are still highly refined. Remember, we want whole foods. White flour has a smoother, softer texture that most of us coming from a SAD diet (standard American diet) are used to and prefer. However, the way it comes about that smoother, softer texture is by removing the very part of the grain that contains the nutrients, leaving you with lots of empty calories. You’ll also want to avoid artificial sweeteners like splenda, etc.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating, and over the next couple of days I’ll be delving into what you can have, tips for finding real food, and staples to have on hand.

Real Food Series

This post is a part of my Real Food Journey series. Click here to see all the posts.

31 Days of Real Food Series

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