If you believe, like I do, that food is one of the most important investments we can make as we strive for optimal health and wellbeing, then you should make it a goal to eat real food daily.
For those who are familiar with me, I am a passionate proponent of the paleo diet and lifestyle, so, it may suprise you that this post does not tout one particular diet! For me, what matters most is that individual, whole-person well-being is the primary focus, whether you are paleo, like me, or you are vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, and so on.
Some people have food intolerances, and others don’t eat animal products for compassionate reasons, yet the fact remains the same that wanting to eat the best way you can is indeed a great thing to do for your health! Remember too that different people have different needs at different times. Whether you’re training for a triathlon, or living with an autoimmune disease, your nutritional needs are likely very different, tailored to your individual needs.
Mindfully selected and prepared, eating real food can nourish and heal our bodies, and can enrich our lives. Indeed, healthful eating is an absolute game-changer, and something I believe in wholeheartedly! If you are new to healthy eating or just wanting a little more flexibility in your food life, here are some basic concepts to help you get started:
Avoid processed foods
If you can eat it, it’s real food, right? Well, not exactly. Real food is foods that are unprocessed and unpackaged, or minimally packaged, and often require you to cook them from scratch. Real food is foods that contains only a few ingredients, all of which are pronounceable and are recognizable as actual food. Become adept at reading food labels, even when you are selecting a so-called ‘health food.’ Remember also that just because a junk food product is touted as ‘organic’ or ‘gluten-free,’ it is still junk food!
Buy organic (whenever possible)
Organic foods are foods produced according to organic farming standards. This means that synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not used on crops, and organic farm animals do no receive growth hormones or antibiotics, and are raised using techniques that protect native species and other natural resources. Organic food is safer and healthier than conventionally grown food, but If your budget doesn't allow for 100% organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists of the worst and best conventionally grown fruits and vegetable that are safe to consume.
Best quality meats
When buying meat, poultry, fish or eggs, always try to buy the best quality products that you can afford. When you go shopping, keep a look out for products that are labeled with words like ‘organic,’ ‘pasture-raised,’ ‘free-range,’ or ‘grass-fed,’ or 'wild caught.' Terms like ‘all-natural’ or 'all-vegetarian diet' are too vague and doesn't necessarily mean the animals were not given antibiotics or growth hormones, or fed non-GMO grains.
Vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables (and some fruit)
No matter what nutritional approach you choose, always make sure your plate is loaded down with a wide variety of vegetable. Along with some fruit and berries, eating the rainbow of colors not only makes your meal more interesting, but increases the amount of micronutrients you get. Cooked or raw, serve veggies at every meal... yes, even for breakfast! Indeed, it is quite normal for me to eat a serving of sauerkraut or braised kale alongside my bacon and eggs!
Around of 70% of our body is comprised of water, so it goes without question that water is necessary for all the cells and organs in the body to function properly. Water is used by the body to lubricate the joints, protect the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, regulate body temperature and assist the passage of food through the intestines. This goes to show you that just like the food, water is a nutrient our body needs too, so make it a habit to drink up!
These guidelines are not in any order of importance, but are intended to work together as a whole. Remember to always enjoy your food and to eat mindfully, taking time to be gratitude for the food on your plate. Try not to feel overwhelmed or let the way you eat restrict you from being social with friends. Remember, making genuine connections with like-minded people is an important ‘nutrient’ too!