Last week I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of kids and their parents at their school’s Healthy Habits night. My talk was on Smart Snacking, and as I explained to my audience, the first “key” to smart snacking is to eat Real Food.
As I described to everyone the meaning of this statement, it dawned on me that I had never actually done this with my readers on the blog. I mean, here I am going on and on about “Real Food” this and “Real Food” that and I’m never actually defined what I mean when I say that families should focus on getting more “Real Food” into their lives. Shame on me!
So today I’m going right this wrong and explain exactly what I mean.
Real Food Defined
Before I get into a long-winded explanation, here is my favourite basic definition:
In other words, food that has been minimally processed, if at all. Food that is in the same form that our ancestors (your great, great, great, great grandmother) would recognize. You may have also heard the term “Whole Foods”, which is basically the same thing. Food that is whole, not broken into parts. Food that is real, not fake. Food as it is meant to be eaten.
Some people may ask “so what the heck am I supposed to eat?” In our processed world, it’s hard to imagine eliminating most products sold in a can or a box. However, I find it’s better to just focus on what you can eat. A Real Food way of eating is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and natural sweeteners. It’s knowing how your food is made and what it’s made of (usually one ingredient).
However, it’s not completely black and white. There are some “packaged” foods that could be considered Real Food. Take canned vegetables for example, or snack foods with only Real Food ingredients (Tricuits crackers come to mind). Yes – these are better choices than a lot of things you could be eating and they do fit the criteria of Real Food – but at the end of the day it’s always a better choice to eat the least processed form of the food (like the fresh green beans or making some homemade snack crackers at home). For the most part, the more processing that food goes through, the less nutritionally beneficial it is for your body.
Why eat Real Food?
Because Real Food is what our bodies are designed to eat, that’s why!
The human body is a pretty amazing thing – all those parts and processes working together seamlessly. All the science courses that I took during nutrition school really made me realize how almost every single thing in our body happens for a reason, to keep us alive and well. It’s mind-boggling.
And these amazing bodies are designed to digest and process Real Food. So don’t you think our bodies would know when we are ingesting food in a highly processed form, or worse – chemicals and toxins? The answer is YES!
Our bodies do a pretty good job of managing all this foreign food that we put into it, but there comes a point – and it’s a different threashold for everyone – where our bodies need to compromise in other areas in order to handle it.
And this comes in the form of inflammation, a whole host of unpleasant symptoms, and in the worst cases (and more and more often as people’s bodies get overwhelmed) it results in chronic disease.
Basically, eating Real Food is the best thing you can do to make sure that you and your family live a long and vibrant life.
(There are many other reasons to eat Real Food but I’ll just stop there for now.)
Okay, so now it’s reality check time. Obviously in order to make sure that everything we eat is as “real” as possible we should just make everything from scratch. In fact, we should all purchase a little farm in the country and grow all of our own food and even raise our own animals to eat. We should never set food in a grocery store again.
I’m being sarcastic about the farm thing (although it does sound lovely), but the cooking from scratch thing actually is important. We really should try to make as many of our meals at home and from scratch as possible (meaning you aren’t just throwing a frozen pizza into the oven). It is the single best way to get as much Real Food into your diet as possible.
Keep in mind that I said as much as possible. I know that eating 100% Real Food is not possible for most people (including myself). And I know that spending hours in the kitchen is just not an option for most families given their hectic lives. Whether its busy kids with multiple after school activities, or two parents working full-time, or both. Sometimes it can seem impossible to find time to brush your teeth, let alone plan and cook Real Food meals for your family every night. I think about this often – I only have one child and I find life hectic so I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have 2, 3 or even 4 to manage (and possibly a pet or two thrown in there. You mamas amaze me!)
So please don’t feel overwhelmed and stop reading. I’m here to tell you that this whole “Real Food” thing doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You’re likely reading this blog because you know that Real Food is good for your family, so you are looking at ways to incorporate it into your lives a little more frequently. And that is amazing!!!
My goal when working with families is to just get them to start eating more Real Food then they are already eating. The more Real Food you eat, you will notice that you will naturally eat less fake or processed food. And every step you can take to incorporate more Real Food into your diet is a step in the right direction. Spending hours in the kitchen is also not an option for me, which is why I’ve come up with lots of great shortcuts to help keep things simple.
One of the main focuses of what I do as a Family Nutritionist is to provide families with guidance to help them incorporate more (and then even more) Real Food into their lives. And I know that in order for it to be feasible, it needs to be easy – which is why this blog will continue to feature lots of time-saving strategies like my Breakfast In a Hurry series. Oh, and above all it is mandatory that food and cooking remains stress-free and fun – so I’ll be writing more about this too.
So now that you finally know what I mean with all this “Real Food” talk, keep following along for more great recipes and other ways you can can get your family eating a little more “Real”!