Real Food: How to Cut Processed Foods Out of Your Life

Among my New Year’s resolutions this year is the desire to become healthier and to eat better. I will be talking a lot in the coming weeks about all the different things I’ll be changing about my diet this year. One of the benefits for you is that you will be seeing a lot more nutritious, healthful recipes on Homemaker Chic in 2013. This week I want to talk about Real Food. I am learning about it from Lisa Leake author of the blog 100 Days of Real Food. The basic idea is to cut out processed foods in exchange for REAL healthy simple foods from nature. Check out the link for more information from Lisa about the 100 Day challenge.

 

I didn’t think I was really all that unhealthy to be honest. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables. I don’t use a lot of packaged products. I steer clear of anything that seems über unhealthy. But when I began reading the ingredients lists of basic foods in my home (like Peanut Butter, Tomato Soup or Pickles) I was shocked at all the junk in there that I did not want in my body! Why do pickles need to have 16 ingredients? With all the supposed benefits from science and technology, why is it that people seem to be more sick than ever before? Cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, anxiety, depression. All of these health problems are more rampant today than ever before. With all these “advances in medicine” shouldn’t we be getting better and not worse? Something just isn’t adding up here. With all the problems I’ve had with pregnancies, and the battery of tests they’ve put me through to find out what’s wrong, none of my doctors thought to ask, “Hey what are you putting in your body?”

Sorry medical profession, you’ve failed me. I’m taking things into my own hands.

So this year I am taking the plunge, and going all in. I’m getting back to basics. Basically if a food requires some sort of technology or treatment to be prepared I’m not buying it. Only fresh, simple ingredients this year (and hopefully beyond!) I will also be talking next week about going Gluten Free, so keep an eye out for that post, and for some yummy GF recipes this year!

Here are some of Lisa’s rules about what to eat and what NOT to eat if you decide to try the Real Food Lifestyle. I hope you’ll consider this for you and your family. Being healthy and vibrant is the best gift you can give yourself this year.

 

What you CAN eat:

  1. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
  2. Lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
  3. Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
  4. 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (find a local bakery for approved sandwich bread and check the Understanding Grains post for more info)
  5. Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
  6. Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
  7. Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
  8. Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
  9. All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation
  10. Also check out the Recipes & Resources page for a more detailed list of meal options including links to recipes

What you CANNOT eat:

  1. No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  2. No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  3. Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredientslisted on the label
  4. No deep fried foods
  5. No “fast foods”

     

    How to Avoid Processed Food in General

    If you feel that you have the will, but not the skill to do the 10 Days of Real Food pledgethen here are some general lifestyle changes to consider instead…

    1. Read the ingredients label before buying anything. For years, if I even looked at food labels, I was reviewing items such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this may be important to some, the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider before buying.
    2. Increase your consumption of whole foods especially vegetables and fruits. I am sure you’ve heard similar advice a thousand times, and I hate to tell you that it couldn’t be more true. This will help to displace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general very simple. No more counting calories, fat grams, or carbs when your only concern is selecting whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
    3. Buy your bread from a local bakery. I actually used to eat white bread, but what I bought for my husband from the grocery store was what I thought was whole-wheat bread. When we finally checked the ingredients and found 40 different items on the list, including white flour and sugar, we decided it was time for a change. Why would there be so many on the list if it only takes a handful of ingredients to make bread? We since started buying our bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. Not only do they grind their own wheat every morning, but their honey whole-wheat loaf only has five ingredients – whole-wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey.
    4. In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. And don’t just believe the health claims on the outside of the box.  Read the ingredients to make sure the product is truly made with only 100% whole grains – not a combination of whole grains and refined grains which is unfortunately how a lot of “whole grain” products are made. The white flour or other refined grain alternative is simply high in calories and low in nutrition.
    5. Avoid store-bought products containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and those “that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients” according to Michael Pollan. Despite the mixed research on if HFCS is really worse for you than good ol’ white sugar, it just happens to be “a reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed”.
    6. Don’t order off the kids’ menu. The next time your family is out to dinner try to avoid the kids menu. Those selections are most often things like pre-made chicken nuggets, fries, and pasta made with white flour, among other things. Instead try assembling some sort of side item plate (like baked potatoes and whatever else your kid will tolerate) and/or try sharing some of your meal.
    7. Visit your local farmers’ market the next time you need to restock your fridge.According to Michael Pollan not only will you find “food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious”, but you will also find a selection of pesticide-free produce and properly fed meat products. It is also better for our environment to purchase locally grown products as opposed to the supermarket produce, which travels on average 1500 miles from the farm to your plate.
    8. Lastly, to once again quote Michael Pollan, he says to “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” If you had to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you wanted French fries then you might not eat them very often. Only eating “junk food” such as cakes, sweets, and fried foods as often as you are willing to make them yourself will automatically ensure the frequency is appropriate.
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6 thoughts on “Real Food: How to Cut Processed Foods Out of Your Life

  1. eatwellchef

    These are some great tips. I really appreciate how you provide a clear path to follow to eliminate processed foods from our lives. Theory is good, but your action steps are spot-on!

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Reply
  2. Cori

    My niece has had to refrain from indulging in unhealthy foods such as processed foods because she has severe migraine headaches. this post can actually help her decide what foods she may want to try or avoid. this is very helpful! thank you so much!

    Reply
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