You know that you’re supposed to eat real food, but what exactly is it? I’m sure there’s a formal definition somewhere, but here’s my definition – real food is the food our great grandparents ate. It’s the food everyone ate, back when food came from farms, not factories.
Basically, it’s food that we eat in its natural or near-natural form. It contains a small number of ingredients, all of which we can pronounce!
(Check out the other 3 parts of the Healthy Eating 101 series: Part 1 – get organized and make a plan for eating well, Part 2 – bad news about processed food, and Part 4 – let’s get started.)
If you’ve been thinking about moving to a healthier diet but need a bit of encouragement, here are 4 reasons to eat real food and incorporate it into your family’s diet:
4 Reasons to Eat Real Food
• Real foods are delicious – Fresh fruits and vegetables in season, real cheese, natural peanut butter on a banana, baked sweet potatoes with a little butter, whole wheat bread, grilled chicken – all of these taste absolutely wonderful!
In many ways these foods qualify as true delicacies, and the processed foods that fill our grocery stores rank as sorry pretenders.
But, as someone who has enjoyed her fair share of Oreos and Kraft Mac and Cheese, I will freely admit this – if your family has been eating a lot of processed foods, the transition to the natural deliciousness (is that a word?) of real food may be rocky. So you need to be prepared.
Remember that food manufacturers are using salt, sugar, and fat to “encourage” us to eat more processed foods. So make the change gradually, introducing one or two delicious real foods at a time and easing some processed foods out of your family’s diet. (We’ll talk more about strategies in Part 4.)
• Real foods are nutritious. When we eat foods in their natural or near-natural form, we benefit from all of their God-given nutrients.
When we eat foods that are manufactured, we benefit only from the nutrients food companies have decided to put back in, after many of the original nutrients have been removed. That makes so little sense, it’s amazing that we’ve gone along with it for so long!
All of the nutrients we need – vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and more – are found in real food, like unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meat, eggs, olive oil and dairy.
• Real foods can be economical. Yes, I’m equivocating a bit on this one, because eating healthier can seem like an expensive proposition. Certainly, for example, organic foods are more expensive than conventional foods. And high-quality foods often cost more than low-quality foods (real whole wheat bread vs. white bread, for example).
But it’s also true that a meal cooked at home with real ingredients is less expensive than a meal prepared with processed foods, and far less expensive than a restaurant meal. And, in terms of nutrient value, real foods always win.
For the cost of a large bag of potato chips, for example, I can buy several nutrient-dense bananas or apples. And I’ll get a lot more food value out of a bag of brown rice than a couple of boxes of cheesy rice mix, for about the same amount of money. Fruits and vegetables in season are always a good value, and even real food goes on sale sometimes. And discount grocery stores are beginning to carry many more real food choices.
So yes, real foods can be economical, but eating well on a budget does require some thought and planning. (Again, we’ll talk more about strategies in Part 4.)
• Real foods can help you maintain a healthy weight. I don’t want to overstate this point, because some real foods are high in calories (nuts, olive oil and cheese, for example). So people who want to lose weight or maintain their weight need to keep calories in mind, even when they’re eating real foods.
But, having said that, I believe it’s easier to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight when we eat primarily real foods. A diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meat and seafood, and dairy is a filling, satisfying diet. Compared to a diet that’s high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, it maintains better control of blood sugar, which reduces cravings.
So, those are four of my reasons for tilting my family’s diet in the direction of real foods. I’m not always successful, but I’m moving in that direction. What’s your experience with with adding real foods to your family’s diet? What challenges have you faced, and what successes have you achieved? Please share your thoughts in the Comments – I would love to hear from you.
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I love that so many people are getting active about the eating real food movement. I, personally, eat LCHF and think that most people can benefits from a similar diet but the #1 most important thing is to eat real food! Perhaps the #2 thing is to eat organic, where you can, especially the dirty dozen. From there the choice of diet is up to the individual and what works best for them. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Tara – Yes, I agree that the best diet advice for everyone is to eat real food. Just that change alone could alleviate so many health problems.
Very healthy tips. Thank you GC. I love reading some of your articles.
Thanks so much, Nedalee.
In the past, there are no processed foods, only real and organic foods are available that’s why most of them live a longer and healthier life compared us today. As much as possible, we should avoid processed foods, though they are still food but if we consume them always, we will suffer to malnutrition or even to certain health problems.
KC @ genxfinance says
I’m getting worried with all of these processed foods and we are thinking of growing a garden where we are sure of what we are eating.
I must say these are all good reasons and it is always better to go organic or healthy. I enjoyed reading this post and thanks for the tips.
I’m so glad to have found you! What a fantastic site with a wealth of information. It’s so important to eat healthy and I always need positive reminders. Following back from LBN – Monica
Thanks Monica. Look forward to getting to know you.
i love the taste of real food – soo much better
I agree! Thanks so much for stopping by.
Real food really does taste better, and the benefits are well-known and felt instantly and long-term. It just makes good sense to eat right, so it’s so odd to me that it’s a struggle to do so all of the time (I struggle with it at times too).
Hi Rosey – In some ways it does seem strange that it’s so hard for us to eat healthy foods. Maybe it’s because processed foods are so fast and “convenient.” Anyway, I do struggle with it sometimes, but I keep on working to feed my family well.
Thanks so much for stopping by.
I would say we are eating better since my husband arrived from Africa. He calls processed foods, ‘nonfoods’. I have learned to cook a few of his dishes, which are almost always made from fresh ingredients and very simple. The white rice is what’s making me gain weight though, but I know the brown rice he won’t eat. I guess I will just have to portion the white rice back to half a portion for myself, he can eat it morning, noon and night and not gain any weight, lol.
So I guess my suggestion for incorporating more real foods would be to try culturally different foods, simple, creative and yummy.
Hi Tracy – I think you’re right that trying foods from other cultures is a great way to add more healthy, real foods to our diets.
Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi Gaye! I came from SITS and I love this article. I am really challenged these days because I really want to lose weight, but I have a crazy addiction to cola. I know I know. It’s bad! But I’ve been trying really. Now, I am trying to drink Coconut juice. I’m in the Philippines so it’s real plenty. I love to really subscribe to the idea that real food is indeed healthy but we live a busy lifestyle, my husband and I. We often buy from grocery, foods that are easy to cook and eat on the go. So we settle for canned food. I really need help in that department.
Hi Rosey – It is hard to eat well when you’re very busy. I think that making one or two healthy changes at a time and incorporating them into your life, then making one or two additional changes is the way to go. At least for me, I can only handle a few changes at a time!
Thanks so much for stopping by.