how to start eating real food

 oranges on table
 four oranges on table

I didn't always eat this way. Last January you could find me in front of my laptop, mindlessly putting away a half bag of pretzel sticks. You're probably thinking, what's the problem with that? They're only pretzels. 

The problem is not just pretzels, it's the entire processed food system that has set us up to fail. Most people don't know how to eat. It's not something that's taught in school and if their parents ate a certain way it's only normal that they would continue the pattern. Stocking a grocery cart full of frozen dinner, chips, cereal, cookies and crackers is a very normal thing. After all, the grocery store sells it. It's there for us.  

I've never heard anyone say, oh I was watching TV and pounded 3 cans of sardines. Of course not. A lot of careful marketing goes into ensuring that people are enticed by the taste, smell and look of certain food. I'm not crazy - when I see Oreos, I get a little weak in the knees, but I know what goes into them. With ingredients that belong in a chemistry lab, we're likely doing our body a disservice. Most of us are malnourished while having more food at our disposal than any other country on the planet. Our bodies rely on the synergy of vitamins and minerals that come from whole, real food and most people are simply not meeting even the basic requirement.

There is no coincidence we instinctively gravitate towards processed stuff. We are biologically pre-disposed to crave that which gives the brain the most pleasure. If I put a hard-boiled egg in front of my toddler and a handful of sweet cereal, you better believe that she will without fail choose the cereal every time. 

Unless we take the time to un-learn that which is pushed on us from every direction, eating disorders, obesity and chronic illness will continue to rise. 

I believe it all starts with education. Questioning what goes into the food we're eating, how food is grown, manufactured, etc. I'm fairly certain big food companies don't have our best interest in mind and are not thinking about how the food they're producing is affecting your health. No, there is one end goal in mind and that is money. That's it. 

In order to change habits and patterns we've known our whole lives, we have to make unpopular decisions. I've been called weird for eating the way I do, which blows my mind because most food we have at our disposal today is not natural. I'm not holier than thou by any means but for the most part I try to stick to real food. 

So what can you do to start eating better? It all starts with the food you buy. It's simple - if it's not in the house, you won't eat it. I'm going to share a few simple and basic tips you can use to start eating better today. 

  1. Cook - this should be the obvious answer but it's not always obvious to everyone. Not everyone was born to be in the kitchen. But if you want to eat better, you have to spend some time cooking. It doesn't have to be complicated and I emphasize that in most of my recipes. For inspiration, check out the recipe page
     
  2. Meal prep for the week - If you want a basic guide for roasting vegetables and chicken, check out the posts here and here
    The idea is to have enough food prepared for lunches so you don't find yourself spending extra money and eating food that's loaded with everything you're trying to avoid. For make ahead breakfast recipes, go here
     
  3. Have snacks handy - I wake up early. I also eat breakfast early and never make it to lunch time without a snack. My go to options are: 
    - cut up vegetables
    - fruit
    - seeds and nuts
    - granola 
    - almond butter and carrot sticks or celery
    - hard boiled eggs
    - butternut squash or beet hummus with vegetables
    - coconut butter
    - kale chips
    - sardines
    - collagen chocolate bars 
     
  4. Drink water - if you're someone who drinks soda often, start slow. Maybe transition to a healthier version. You can make your own fermented soda that's loaded with probiotics and tastes delicious. But the drink of choice throughout the day should be water. Once you get in the habit of drinking water your body actually starts craving it. If you want a spin on plain water, try adding lemon. You can read all about the benefits of drinking lemon water here
     
  5. Include fermented food - I've written several posts about the connection between gut health and overall health. All health really does begin in the gut and in order for us to thrive, we have to feed our gut bacteria and that will have a rippling effect on the rest of our body and mind. Check out some basic recipes for fermented carrots, pickles and sauerkraut here
     
  6. Eat good fat - In order for our brain and organs to function optimally we need fat and saturated fat as part of our diet. If you want a more in-depth read on saturated fat, you can check it out here
     
  7. Have recipes on hand - What I've always said when it comes to eating well and eating a real food diet is that you have to plan and prepare. Have recipes on hand you can quickly whip up when you're strapped for time. I'm a mom with two young kids, work full time and run a blog. I don't have a lot of time on most days so all the recipes I develop are geared towards putting dinner on the table in a reasonable time. Check out some dinner options here.

Don't be afraid to go against the norm. If we want to create any long lasting change and turn around some of the patterns that are sinking us into a chronic illness epidemic, we have to educate ourselves and pay attention to what we put into our bodies.