Are You Eating "Real Food?"

Whole, natural and raw are used to describe foods. But how do we know what is whole and natural, and what is bigstock-woman-with-man-and-child-choos-42821002 WEBprocessed? The first rule of thumb is this: Avoid anything boxed, bagged or canned. It’s common for food to be dehydrated, bleached, enriched and sweetened before it goes in the box. Convenient? Yes. Healthy? No.

Here are some ways to avoid processed foods:

1. Read the labels. If the food you’re buying has more than 5 ingredients and includes words you can’t pronounce, you might want to reconsider it.

2. Select foods that are more a product of nature than industry —more fruits and vegetables.

3. Buy your bread from a local bakery.  It takes very few ingredients to make bread and the first should be listed as “whole.”

4. Refined flours can be found in pasta, cereals, rice and crackers. If you don’t see the word “whole grain,” it’s processed.

5. Avoid store-bought products with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as one of the top 3 ingredients. And once you start reading labels, you’ll become surprised by how frequently HFCS is added to our foods.

6. Visit your local farmer’s market.

7. Grow a garden yourself!

8. Shop on the perimeter of the store.  That’s where you’ll find most of the unprocessed, healthy, whole foods, including produce, meats, eggs, dairy and seafood.

If you want to switch to only eating “real” foods, here are some things to remove from your diet:

  • Refined grains like white flour or white rice
  • Refined sweeteners
  • Deep fried foods
  • No fast foods

Replace those foods with whole foods like:

  • Whole foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products like milk, eggs and cheese
  • 100% whole wheat and whole grains
  • Seafood (preferably wild caught)
  • Locally raised meats
  • Dried fruit, seeds, nuts, popcorn
  • Natural sweeteners, honey, 100% maple syrup

Removing highly processed foods can have these benefits: You’ll have more energy, lose weight, improve cholesterol levels, and improved regularity.

According to the World Heart Federation, the latter half of the 20th century saw major changes to our diets and how we live. We moved from plant-based diets to high-fat, energy-dense, animal-based diets while becoming physically inactive.

It makes good sense to know what you’re eating and where it came from. It’s a lifestyle change. Start slow. Swap out one processed food or meal at a time. You’ll see and feel the benefits. 

Lynn Maurer, RN
Wellspring Lutheran Services
Executive Director, Homecare/Hospice