If you are aiming for a healthier lifestyle, one of the areas you may need to change is the types of foods you eat. You may have heard of a real food diet, but what does that mean? The “Real Food” movement goes beyond grocery store labels. It is a holistic term that refers to a values-based food system that respects animal wellbeing, environmental sustainability, social integrity and fairness, and human welfare and dignity. Other terms for real food are “green,” “fair,” “slow,” or “local.” The simplest definition is food of all sorts in its most natural state.
Why Eat Real Food?
The typical American diet is full of processed and fast foods that are high in fat, sodium, sugar, and chemicals—lots of chemicals. The benefits of eating a nourishing diet of healthy, whole foods that you prepare yourself are nonstop. When you eat food that you prepare, you know exactly what you are putting into your body. You can avoid the health dangers of a diet high in sodium and sugar, both of which can increase risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation that can lead to life-endangering illnesses, and weight gain. You can also dodge dangerous chemical additives.
The Big Picture
Choosing to eat a responsible real food diet has larger implications and effects than personal health. While your well-being certainly matters, eating whole foods that are safely grown and humanely raised is an arrangement that is good for animals, for humans, and for the planet. It is a returning to nature, to counting on and trusting in the natural goodness and bounty of the planet for nourishment. If you want to simplify, a real food diet is a perfect way to do that, and it is not as hard or complicated as you may think.
Here are some good standard guidelines for adopting a real food diet—or taking steps to eat healthier.
Whole foods—Foods should be in their most natural state.
Many fruits and vegetables—The best choices are local and organic.
Dairy products—Choose unsweetened, pasture-raised, whole, and organic products like milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese.
Local meat—Look for pork, chicken, and beef that is humanely raised without dangerous drugs. Eat in moderation.
Seafood—Wild-caught is better than farm-raised.
Natural sweeteners—Honey and pure maple syrup are your best choices. Use these in moderation.
More About What You Can Eat
When you want grains such as in bread or pastas, look for 100 percent whole-wheat and whole-grain items. Limit your beverages to water, milk, juices that are completely natural, coffee and tea with only natural sweeteners, wine, and beer. Drink everything except water in moderation. Your local farmers’ market can be a great source for organic fruits and vegetables, fresh raw, organic honey, and other healthy items. Some grocery stores are increasing their stock of healthy food options from companies such as Hampton Creek, although with the food industry, change sometimes comes slowly and with some resistance.
Foods to Avoid
When you are making the change to a real food diet, or even just trying to eat healthier, cut out the following:
Refined grains—No flour or rice, and foods with wheat must specify “whole wheat” rather than just “wheat.”
Refined sweeteners—No sugar, cane syrup, cane juice, or artificial sweeteners.
Boxed items—Nothing out of a bag, can, package, bottle, or box with more than five ingredients on the label.
Avoid Processed Food in General
Even if you don’t want to or for some reason cannot adopt a real food diet right now, you can easily make healthier choices with just a few simple changes. First, actually read the list of ingredients. If what you are considering buying has more than five ingredients, and some have long, unpronounceable names you have never heard of, you may want to reconsider your purchase. Buy whole-grain breads and pasta, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Actually, these tips simplify your shopping decisions. The key is choosing items that are products of nature instead of factories.
The Right Choice for You
A natural diet of whole foods helps you maintain a proper weight and minimize many health risks. The natural world is about balance, and so is a real food diet. If it seems intimidating, start with a few changes. What is important is that you have made a start.