When I speak to people these days, nine times out of 10 the same issue inevitably comes up: how can I put healthier food on the table for my family?
This question is easy to answer, but tough to act upon.
These days we’re all rushed, coming to and from work, activities and other commitments, and so many times the food we eat gets left to the last priority. We end up tired, sick and many times, grumpy or sad. It’s a bit of a cycle: If we don’t eat properly we get tired, sick and sad, and as a result we don’t have energy to cook well or exercise.
To get out of this cycle, we need to nourish our bodies with real food that will give us enough energy to get through our hectic days, but also help us boost our immune systems to keep us (and our families) healthy. Eating real food can help us achieve this.
How Can Eating Real Food Help?
Eating a diet rich in real food, while eliminating ultra-processed foods, can help us build better health, give us energy, keep us full longer and help us lose weight.
How To Define Whole and Real Foods
So what the heck is ‘real food’ anyway? As a society we tend to over-complicate things, but I’m here to tell you that real food is simpler than you may think. Here’s a run-down:
• Food as close to its natural state as possible.
• Whole fruits and vegetables—as they were grown. Organic if possible.
• Organic/grass-fed/wild/pasture-raised eggs and meats.
• Wild/sustainably-caught fish
• Natural sweeteners: real maple syrup (toss that Aunt Jemima stuff!), coconut sugar, raw honey.
• Good fats: avocado, coconut milk, coconut oil, organic extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil.
• Organic (raw) nuts, seeds and air-popped popcorn.
• Organic whole grains like brown rice and brown rice or quinoa pasta.
• If food is packaged, it should be made with as few ingredients as possible and with ingredients you can pronounce!
So What Foods Should We Avoid?
• Many of the foods you’ll find in the middle section of the grocery store. There are a few exceptions of course, but 90% of the food in the aisles are full of highly-processed foods that will not help you no matter what the box claims.
• Foods that say low-fat, or low anything are replacing fat with highly processed oils, sugars and other gross fillers.
• Light coloured oils like canola, and other ‘vegetables oils’. They increase inflammation in your body. Stick to the oils I mentioned above.
• Pop/Soda! Drink water with lemon, berries, cucumber. If you like the fizzy stuff invest in a SodaStream.
• Salad dressings, jarred sauces etc.: Most salad dressings and sauces in the stores are made with canola or vegetable oils and are full of sugar and added fillers.
• Bread and other bakery items that have five million ingredients. Bread doesn’t need all of those ingredients. I encourage you to steer clear of white bread. If you love bread, find a local baker that uses real and whole grain ingredients. Sprouted bread is a great option because sprouting releases the nutrients in the grain and makes it easier to digest if you can tolerate those grains. You will likely also find that by eating this bread, you’ll eat less of it because it’s so hearty.
A Word About the Nutrition Labels
I want you to rethink how you look at nutrition labels for the time being. Forget about calories for a second and that box on the label that outlines the nutrition. The problem with counting calories is that there isn’t much focus on the nutritional value of a calorie.
For example: Say you’re counting calories and you decide you want to to go for lunch at McDonald’s. You see now that the menus have the calories associated with each item. The Big Mac may have 1000 calories and the chicken sandwich has 500. So you choose the chicken sandwich. But guess what? You’re still eating at McDonald’s and neither one of those options has any nutritional value that will benefit your body from a health standpoint.
So right now let’s focus less on caloric intake
and more on the quality of food you’re putting into your body.
Look at the ingredient list on the label instead of how many calories you’re eating. Once you’ve figured out what food has good nutrition, you can count calories if that is important to you.
Don’t Deny Yourself Sweets—Consider Making Different Sweet Choices
When I crave sweets, I will eat a couple of dates (super sweet!), have a piece of fruit, or I’ll make cookies sweetened with coconut sugar, or I’ll have some dark chocolate. By choosing these items, we’ll not only satisfy our sweet tooth, but we’ll be choosing options that won’t spike our blood sugar leaving us craving for more. You’ll find that you won’t crash like you will after eating regular cookies and cakes. Eventually your body will stop craving processed sugars and you won’t feel the need to have them anymore. Or if you choose to have them, you won’t feel the need to have more than one piece.
Getting off the sweet train is not easy, but necessary for our long-term health. Refined, processed sugar is not our friend—we need to drop him pronto. Check out this great post about how to deal with sugar cravings for more info.
If you exercise on a regular basis—that’s great! If you don’t, I encourage you to get moving. If you’re new to exercising start by going for a walk every day. Get off the computer chair and go for a walk around the block. To be truly successful with this way of eating we have to combine it with regular body movement. Take the stairs. Download a 7-minute HIIT app on your phone (and use it!). Squat while you’re cooking dinner. You’ll see and feel results quicker if you keep moving—I promise you!
Those are some tips to get you started on the real food track. I’m not going to lie to you, this will take work if you’re not used to it. It can be easy to throw up your hands in the air and grab the box of hamburger helper instead. But you won’t be doing your health any justice.
Stay out of the middle aisle in the store and reacquaint yourself with those fruits and veggies. Coming up, I’ll have a post about how easy it is to add greens to your meals so stay tuned for that.