A few weeks ago I had no clue what real food was. I heard and read a lot of buzz about it but really didn't know what to expect when I saw that there were two real food meal plans available for free download. I jumped on it because I had been looking for meal plans and also had heard that real food was healthy. In all honesty when I downloaded the meal plans, I had no clue what to expect. In reviewing them my first thought was, "We already eat a lot of this stuff. So, what is real food?" In further reading, reviewing, and researching I realized that real food can be pretty much any meal. It just means as minimally processed as possible and preferably organic. It involves lots of cooking from scratch or making sure store bought items contain very few ingredients.
I spent some time researching the 100 Days of Real Food website and found so much great information. I like how the rules are spelled out very clearly, even though I did not officially sign up for the 10 day challenge. I also find the 5 ingredient rule to be extrememly helpful when making purchasing choices. Lisa warns against judging the food product based on the front of the package, which is a rule of thumb I already live by on some things. But, she urges you to check the ingredient list on everything. Just in case you didn't know, the first item on the ingredient list is what there is the most of and so on. I didn't know that until about two or three years ago.
As much as I would love to, there is no way we can go 100% real food. I had a friend tell me that she knows someone who is 100% real food and budgets $250/week. That is more than double our ideal grocery store budget for the week. We can increase it a little and I think it is worth it for the benefits of eating healthier. All that being said, we have to be choosy at this point.
Below are the changes or lack of changes we will be making now and why:
1. We will continue to buy conventional milk (at least for now). Organic milk is more than 2 times more expensive. As much milk as we go through we are just not going to be able to swing buying organic milk at this time. Although, I did recently try some farm fresh milk and it was yummy. It didn't taste a whole lot different just definitely more fresh. I read an article that outlined the requirements for each type of farm. It seems that milk production is heavily regulated and this makes me feel a bit more safe about the milk options. I did find that the cheese blocks are not much more expensive so I will buy organic cheeses.
2. We will begin purchasing organic fruits and vegetables unless they are just rediculously more expensive, which I have not found to be the case yet. Since this is the bulk of what we are going to be eating I would like for it to be as healthy as possible. Also, I think they taste much better.
3. If it can be made from scratch (reasonably) I want to learn how and start doing it. This will give me more time in the kitchen with the kids and feed my family meals that are fresh and that we hand prepare.
4. We have already cut all HFCS over a year or so ago. I am going to research other sweeteners and sugars and cut as much as possible.
5. We will start using the 5 ingredient rule and not purchase items with more than 5 ingredients. This is difficult...vegetable chips, triscuits, and homemade granola are the only snack items we are eating now.
6. I want to research what all preservative names are, learn to recognize them in ingredient lists, and avoid as much as possible.
7. We will buy only "whole" type flours, bread, grains etc...
8. If I am torn between buying organic v/s non-organic and the price is not much different I will go ahead and buy organic. If the price difference is substantial I probably will not buy organic until I research it further...
9. So far I have bought organic chicken twice, sausage that had 7 ingredients in it...we just don't eat much meat. I haven't figured out what we are going to do on meat yet...but I do know that we can't afford to buy local meats...at least I don't think so because I haven't looked into it much.
There are a lot more things to think about changing to get closer to a real food lifestyle but honestly I haven't even had time to digest all of the information I have floating around in my head. This is just the beginning of getting it all out.
I am not a nutritionist or any other food expert. The information I share here is based solely on my personal research, experience, and opinions. You are the only one who can decide what is healthy or not healthy for you and your family.