This year I’m really trying to focus on cleaning up our food at home. We don’t really eat that much “junk” but there’s definitely room for improvement with regards to the quality of the foods we do eat. Notice I used the word ‘lifestyle’ in the title of this post, and not the word ‘diet’ – that’s because for any real, lasting change to take place in our lives, it has to be incorporated into our lifestyle. That means we live it and breathe it everyday.
I’m just starting out on my real food journey, so I don’t claim to know everything (far from it!), but I am reading a lot, learning a lot, and do hope to share some of what I’m learning with you. Like anything I tackle here on Nature’s Nurture, I’m taking baby steps on this new path, so today I just want to share some helpful tips to get us started on our journey to living a real food lifestyle. This will probably turn into a series of posts as I continue to learn more and share more. 🙂
What Is Real Food?
Before we go any further, let’s clarify what exactly “real food” is, because although it can have different meanings for different people, there’s one thing that we can all agree on – real food is whole, natural, unprocessed (or minimally processed), nutrient-dense food. Everyone’s criteria for what actually qualifies and fits into that description may be a little different (which is totally fine!), but the general definition is still the same.
Tips For Living A Real Food Lifestyle
Here are the initial guidelines I’m following on my real food journey. More will be added later, but this is a good, basic list of easy changes we all can make to work towards creating and living a real food lifestyle.
Load up on fruits and vegetables
Start making these the stars of your meals and harness the healing power of the most natural, readily available foods on the planet. Locally-grown or organic is preferred, but growing your own is even better! If you’re looking for local farmer’s markets in your area, Local Harvest is a great resource! Organic produce can be expensive sometimes, so I usually check out the latest Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists to see where it’s really important for me to shell out the extra cost for organic.
Eat more healthy fats
Don’t be afraid of fat! After decades of being lied to by the food and medical establishments, we are now learning that good quality fats are not only good for you, but are also necessary for a balanced diet. Good fats include healthy cooking oils like extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee, as well as other foods like avocados, nuts and seeds, and good quality, sustainably-caught fish like salmon, trout and tuna. This also means that if you’re consuming dairy, your dairy products should be full-fat, and not low-fat, fat-free, etc.
Organic meat and eggs
Skip the grocery store and find local sources for your meat and eggs. Meats should be organic, grass-fed, pastured, and humanely-raised, so try to get as close to that as possible. Eggs should come from happy, healthy chickens with access to the outdoors, sunshine, and no GMO corn feed, antibiotics or hormones. Good quality meats will be more expensive, but that points to a different problem we have in our society: we really don’t need to be consuming anywhere near as much meat as we do. Think quality, not quantity. Local Harvest can also help you source local, organic meat and eggs as well.
Avoid foods in a box
You’ll notice that most of your food shopping will be done from the outer edges of the grocery store, so try to limit what you purchase from the inner aisles. If it comes in a box, know that it was processed in some way, and probably contains artificial preservatives to ensure its long shelf life. Of course there are still some boxed foods in my pantry, but I’m constantly working towards reducing the number of boxes until one day, hopefully, it’s none. As I settle on great homemade versions of those items, I’ll share them here with you as well. And there are some things that just may not be worth it to you to make at home; just make sure whatever you do buy contains just a handful of recognizable, pronounceable ingredients.
Cook and bake more from scratch
A great way to reduce and eliminate the boxed foods is to start cooking and baking more foods from scratch. Make your own soups and broths, try your hand at some homemade yogurt or homemade mayonnaise, or make some old favorites like stove-popped popcorn, homemade fruit leather, or fruit popsicles. Almost everything we buy from the store can be made right at home, so just try to work towards making more things at home so you can control the ingredients that go into them.
Eliminate the sodas and sugary drinks
Sodas are just bad news, and most “fruit” juices on store shelves are nothing more than an unhealthy mix of sugar and water. So stick to water, organic milk, all-natural juices (limited quantities), organic teas, and fair-trade coffees. You can also jazz up your water by adding a slice of lemon or lime, or making your own homemade fruit-infused vitamin water! I’m also looking to get into brewing natural probiotic drinks like kombucha and kefir, but it’ll take me a while to get completely comfortable enough with those to share my experiences.
Eliminate artificial sweeteners
This can be a bit difficult, as those fake sweeteners are in everything from snacks and cereals, to condiments like ketchup and mayo, even a simple stick of gum! Read labels and try to avoid items that include artificial sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup and aspartame. Try to cut down your sugar consumption at home, and slowly transition your family to using raw honey, maple syrup, and maybe some raw cane sugar or coconut sugar, when needed. Sugar is highly addicting and is found in almost everything, so this will be one of the more difficult changes to make, which is why I left it towards the end.
Plan, plan, plan!
This is probably the most important tip in the whole list! Without a plan in place, it’s very easy to fall off the wagon (and that’s fine, just get right back on!), so you want to be sure that you’re not only gathering resources and recipes, but that you’re also formulating a plan to put it all into action. A meal plan is integral and almost necessary if you want to keep yourself on the right track. It serves as something to constantly refer back to when needed, and will save you time, effort, and even some money in the long run.
- A simple meal plan that you can print out and fill in each week, like this one from Andrea at Homemade For Elle, could be all you need, but if you’re looking for something more elaborate or customizable, there are tons of online meal planning services available that are pretty affordable. Sarah at Real Food Outlaws shares her meal plans every week on her blog, if you’d like to check those out as well.
I’m so excited to be sharing this journey with you because it not only gives me an outlet to share everything I’ve been reading and learning, but it also gives me a sense of structure and accountability as I embark on this journey with you all. 🙂
My Favorite Real Food Blogs
Here are some of my favorite real food blogs to get you started on your journey to a real food lifestyle:
- 100 Days of Real Food
- Keeper of the Home
- Kitchen Stewardship
- Nourished Kitchen
- Natural Living Mamma
- Real Food Outlaws
- My Merry Messy Life
- Homemade For Elle
- Health, Home, and Happiness
- Delicious Obsessions
What steps are you taking to adopt a real food lifestyle? What are you working on next?