I often get asked about what I eat. And when I say everything, some people are surprised. “You’re not vegan?” they ask? “Sometimes,” I reply.
If there is a diet that describes my lifestyle now, it would be the real food movement, plant-forward, flexitarian, pegan and traditional food. But these labels don’t really matter to me, because when you start categorizing yourself, it can get dogmatic which zaps the joy out of everything.
The real food way of eating is staying as close to nature as possible, full of plants and as little industrialized and processed convenience foods as possible. Traditional ways of eating all around the world is full of simple home cooked meals, fresh and seasonal. Ahhh, sounds idyllic and impossible in today’s fast paced, busy life, right? It took time for me to get to this place as my “normal” and is still my north star.
So what exactly does real food look like?
Real food looks like grass-fed beef, organic chicken, wild-caught fish, lots of seasonal produce, whole grains, nuts and seeds, minimally processed oils for cooking like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, real butter (not butter subs), etc. Food that you cooked yourself.
But I’m also all about balance. We live in a fast-paced world with very busy lives juggling a lot. Food and sharing a meal is a key source of pleasure and social connector, and sometimes convenience food and treats are all part of a balanced life! The 80/20 ratio is a good one to keep in mind 80% on-track healthy 20% to indulge.
Why real food?
Good question! Do we really need to reduce our processed food intake? And why? Let me be clear, my house does not look like “the little house on the prairie” with no packaged foods in sight. For me, it’s about making the best real food choices with the resources I have. And what we do the majority of the time is what influences our overall life right?
Processed and packaged foods are actually not real food, they are “food-like” substances as journalist and author Michael Pollan cleverly stated. The artificial ingredients, chemicals, flavorings, stabilizers, preservatives, added sugars etc. mess with our hormones, our gut/digestion, add no nutritional value, are addictive and make us feel like crap (afterwards). Real food like plants have nutrients that are vital for our body’s functioning that we can’t get anywhere else — phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber!
Simplifying healthy eating
When I was a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned about various dietary theories – from veganism, to low-carb, to traditional diets. While diet trends and fads come and go there remains truths in what a human body needs for fuel to not just live but to thrive. And I bet you know what that is – eat more nutrient packed fruits and vegetables, drink water, sleep and enjoy your life! Each of us are also unique in our needs and what diet and lifestyle works for us so the first step is to be open to this discovery and getting support if you need it.
Dr. David Katz, from Yale University’s Prevention Research Center compared every mainstream diet and examined its medical evidence for and against. The conclusion was that no diet was clearly best but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health.
“A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.
So I bet many of you’ve heard all of this already and it seems so simple. And it is! Most of us need help getting started and prioritizing more than anything else.
Below are some resources for you to check out and some simple tips to get started with your own real food journey.
Tips for Getting Started with a Real Food Lifestyle
- Watch the documentary “In Defense of Food” by journalist Michael Pollan. It’s on Netflix. It’s a classic and a great place to start to understand the American diet and food industry.
- The Food Babe website, by Vani Hari does the challenging work of investigating what’s really in your food and has been instrumental in removing some harmful additives in common packaged foods in the U.S. (that are banned in other countries by the way). She has a new book out called “Feeding you lies: How to unravel the food industry’s playbook and reclaim your health”.
- Take a closer look at your pantry + fridge and take inventory. How much of it is packaged foods that contain more than 5 ingredients that look questionable, or you have no idea what it is? (that includes granola bars, snack items, flavored yogurt, condiments etc).
- When you are grocery shopping, stick to the periphery where the fresh foods are located. But with any packaged item, take a look at the nutrition label – not the calories necessarily, but look at the ingredient list. Do you recognize everything in there? If you don’t google them and research if you think it is needed in your body.
- Try some of these delicious recipes! Crunchy kale salad; Roast chicken with preserved lemon, maca brownie bites. You can also follow me on instagram for real-time inspo in the kitchen!
- Get support! Like I said most of us just need some help prioritizing and taking sustainable action to eat healthier with a real food lifestyle. And lucky for you, as a health coach, that is what I love doing. Book a free consultation with me here to find out how I can help you.
Maybe you think this lifestyle seems restrictive and depriving you of the pleasure of food. I have to disagree. When I make eating for nourishment a priority, I feel SO GOOD, I’m in a better mood and I feel energetic. My body wants the good stuff and I have better control over my cravings (my weakness, refined carbs!).
Be sure to stay updated on my latest posts and coaching programs by signing up for my email list here. I’ll be posting more about this subject and follow up with personalizing this approach for you.