The Real Food Dilemma: Healthy Lifestyle Basics

Part One – What is “Real Food”

This 6 part series will discuss the issues I hear from my social groups surrounding “real food.” Everything from cost, availability and taste to time, organics and cooking, and hopefully you’ll leave with insight from real people on how to integrate real food into your daily life.

What “Real Food” Means to Me

Over the years, I have read many books, watched documentaries, perused several blogs, all in a mission to learn about food, what clean eating is, what processed foods mean, and what “real food” represents. In my opinion, “real food” means a food source provided by nature or minimally processed. A perfect example is Cheddar cheese. It is naturally made with simple ingredients: milk, cheese cultures, salt and enzymes. Easy and pronounceable! Yes, cheese needs to be made which you could call processing, but it is a natural food in that it’s made with natural components. Whether made in a factory or your local cheese shop, cheese is simple in its base construction and our bodies can process the components of cheese – no lab and no chemicals.

But what if we want to save a little time with pre-shredded, pre-packaged cheese? Taking that same natural cheese, shredding it and sealing it in packaging, has now added potato starch, cellulose powder and calcium sulfate. Still pronounceable, but do you really want all that added to your tacos or lasagna just to save a few minutes?

One step further – “prepared cheese” aka processed cheese! Yes, let’s talk about saving money and time with good ol’ fashioned American cheese slices! We have turned our beautiful, natural cheese into a “monster” with these added ingredients: whey, milk protein concentrate, milkfat, calcium phosphate, sodium citrate, whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, sorbic acid, annatto and paprika extract and Vitamin D3. WHAT?! The list goes on as you get into reduced fat or fat free varieties!

The point is that a food source as simple as cheese can have many levels of processing and most people will purchase different versions and just think “it’s cheese” and believe it doesn’t make a difference. Believe me, it does.

I’m not here to judge your grocery list, but I do want to inform you that there are choices we can make to get back to any given food source’s natural, organic state. By educating ourselves about food in general we are able to make more educated choices about what we feel is important to ourselves and to our families.

Lets forget about all the Low-Fat this and Sugar-Free that and get back to what our bodies know from years of evolution. It’s time to go back to the basics and be accountable for what we feed ourselves and our families on a regular basis.

Trust me, I’m not hard core, I don’t cut anything out completely, and I believe that anything is ok in moderation. With that being said, the choices we make about our health and the food that goes into our bodies should be taken with great care.

I look forward to discussing with you the elements that make up a “real food” diet and why I feel it is so important that we think more about our daily food choices.

What are your thoughts on what “real food” means to you and some of the challenges you face in making it a priority in your life?

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