Every time we visit the States I am amazed at how far removed from real food we, as a nation, have become. Walking through a supermarket it seems you can buy anything you could possibly want in a pretty box and it’s either ready to eat or will be after a few minutes in the microwave. I’ve picked up a number of these boxes and looked at the ingredients, what are these things and where did they originate? If the answer is in a lab and not on a farm could it possibly be good for you?
I define real food as food I can easily and clearly trace back to it’s origin. When I eat real food with minimum processing I feel great, I stay at my ideal weight, and I don’t have many junk food cravings. When I eat processed and refined foods, I feel lousy, I gain weight, and I crave more junk food.
Living where I live, eating close to nature is fairly easy. I can go to a local market and get fresh produce at a great price. There’s often not a great variety but there is always something. When we travel back to the States, it becomes a lot more complicated. Processed convenience foods are the norm and it takes a lot more searching and label reading to find real food. The move towards organic is promising however a lot of the new organic options still have an awful lot of white flour and sugar, organic or not that’s just not good for you.
The bonus in the States is that if you make eating real food your mission the possibilities are endless. You can find absolutely anything you’d ever want to cook. The downside is that you will probably pass two McDonalds, a Burger King, and a Dunkin’ Donuts on your way to the grocery store, so you will need a little more will power than I do out in the bush where we generally have to wait for a herd of cattle to cross the road and often have to dodge a goat that’s gone AWOL on our drive to the market.
So, what do you eat? Below you’ll find my list of suggestions. Make just one change or make all the changes; your body, and the earth, will thank you for eating closer to nature.
- Eat meat that is free of antibiotics and hormones.
- Eat beans, lentils, and other legumes.
- Eat eggs.
- Eat nuts: raw, roasted, salted, unsalted, but not flavored.
- Eat cheese in moderation, but not highly processed cheeses – read the labels.
- Replace white rice with brown rice or wild rice, buy the real thing without any flavor added.
- Replace white flour with whole wheat flour, rye, or spelt, look for 100% whole wheat bread, pasta, couscous, crackers, etc.
- Eat potatoes and sweet potatoes but be wary of french fries unless you make them yourself, amazing what else goes into many commercial french fries.
- Make oatmeal from old fashioned rolled oats, avoid instant oatmeal especially flavored instant oatmeal.
- Try other whole grains like barley, millet, and quinoa.
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables: raw, roasted, steamed, or stir fried, but don’t boil them as they will loose a lot of their nutrients to the water.
- When you can’t get fresh vegetables substitute frozen.
- Eat whole fruits, avoid canned fruit and especially canned fruit in syrup.
- Use cold pressed extra virgin olive oil whenever possible.
- Use butter, avoid margarine.
- Avoid high fructose corn syrup and sugar.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Use honey and pure maple syrup to sweeten in moderation.
If you’ve been eating a lot of processed foods, and make all of these changes at once it will be a bit of a shock to the system. You may even go through a sugar withdrawal and feel worse for a week or two before you feel better. However, if you stick with it you should see some tangible results in your energy level, your general feeling of well-being, and in your waistline, if you are currently overweight. You will also have less cravings for refined, processed foods.
The bottom line is, the fewer steps it took to get from the farm to you the better. I’ll be posting more information about real food and sharing some of my family’s favorite recipes so keep an eye out for ways to incorporate more real food into your diet.