For me, the road to healthy is through Real Food. The Real Food lifestyle takes into consideration that calories are not created equal, the source of your food matters, and your relationship with the food you eat is important. Here is what Real Food means:
1) Eating loads of whole foods
Whole foods consist of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, poultry and meat. Whole foods are eaten in or served close to their original form. That means that when you are looking at your plate, you can identify what each food item is. They can be raw or cooked.
When buying packaged foods, it is important to read the labels. Whole foods in packages are free from ingredients that you cannot identify or pronouncing. They are free from additives, colors and artificial flavors. Examples of packaged whole foods are cans of salmon, cans of beans, frozen peas or broccoli, nut butters, and oatcakes.
2) Enjoying healthy fats
Not all fats are created equal. Olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, avocado are all high quality, nutrient dense fats. Trans-fats, on the other hand, don’t provide any nutritional value and also contribute to inflammation and hormonal imbalances.
At the same time, fat-free products are not the answer. When fat is removed, sugar is typically added. Fat is not the enemy. Fat is a necessary ally in your health. Read more about fats in my previous blog post called The Fat Series Part 1 and 2.
3) Knowing from where your food comes
How your food is raised and grown impacts the nutritional value of the food you eat.b Pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics used in the cultivation and production of your food can have an affect on your health and hormones as well. Buying organic or ethically farmed foods does not have to be more expensive. You can get cheaper cuts of grass fed meat such as stew meat or organic chicken thighs and slow cook them. For fruits and vegetables, you can prioritize buying organic based on the EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. If the fruit and vegetables are on the Clean 15, just buy the conventionally grown produce.
4) Watching out for sugar and sugar alternatives
Sugar is in the obvious products like soda, cookies, and candy but it is also present in things like pasta sauce, sausage, soups, granola, breakfast cereal, energy bars etc. Sugar and sugar alternatives can contribute to low energy, poor concentration, inflammation, and hormone imbalances. It’s important to read labels to make sure you are not getting extra sugars that you didn’t plan on eating. Eating a sugary treat or a cereal bar loaded with sugar should be a choice and not consumed without knowing the sugar content or disguised as health food.
5) Enjoying spices and herbs
Spices and herbs work magic in a meal. They add flavor, zest, and nutrients. They are used in traditional cooking but they can also be added to soup or salads. Herbs can be enjoyed as teas for additional health and nutrition benefits.
6) Using the 90/10 rule
This is fundamental to eliminate extremes in healthy eating. The 90/10 rule means that you are focusing on eating highly nutritious foods 90% of the time but you allow for other foods in that 10%. The 10% foods may not be categorized as healthy but they feed your soul or are just plain pleasurable. The shame-free 10% can be an ice cream on a hot summer day, a glass of wine with friends over dinner, a glorious holiday meal, or pizza on game day. Eating in a way that is nourishing does not have to feel like deprivation.
As you try different foods and apply the 90/10 philosophy, try to tap into what your body intuitively needs.
7) Connecting food with how you feel
Connecting food with how you feel is essential to living a healthy life and to enjoying the 90% of the time that you are focused on nutrition foods. See if you notice that your PMS is less sever, that you don’t get headaches any more, that you have more energy, and that your bloating is no longer present because you are eating more real food.
8) Relating food with pleasure
Eating with friends, mindfully enjoying each bite, preparing traditional dishes from your childhood are all ways of connecting to the pleasure of food. This connection is part of the real food lifestyle.
Real food is for real life. It is not a diet based on perfectionism. It is a journey of connecting the food you eat to what nourishes you.
What are your thoughts on clean eating? How can you add more real food to your lifestyle? Leave comments below.
Real food love,