Food! It is our fuel, we celebrate with it, connect over it, shop for it, and perhaps even grow our own! We prepare it, cook it, anticipate it, contemplate it and sometimes feel guilty about it! Most of all we are confused about it!
The food pyramid tells us to eat mostly breads and cereals while many nutrition experts (myself included) tell us to eat mostly plants. Our doctors tell us eggs and butter are bad for our health and real food enthusiasts condone these very same foods. One minute we are told animal protein will give us cancer and shorten our lives, the next we are being told to use lard to cook with and eat liver! We now have to do more than read labels, we need to source local, organic, biodynamic and grass fed food. We need to soak and activate nuts and grains before eating them. We should be drinking green smoothies, making bone broths, fermenting vegetables and dissecting the nutritional labels of all the food our family consumes.
The humble act of eating has become so very complicated. It is something we need to do every day not only to survive but hopefully thrive. As a society we have become focused on counting calories and are often misled by health claims. Many people view food as something that needs to be avoided to prevent an expanding waist line! We are disconnected with where our food comes from and are completely unaware of the health effects of harmful ingredients that are prevalent in foods we eat every day!
How about if you took all the rules and restrictions you have around food and threw them out of the window?
What if the only thing you needed to consider when making a choice about what to eat was how will this food make you feel in an hour? Is it going to make you feel fresh, light and energetic OR is it going to make you feel tired, bloated and uncomfortable? What if you simply chose foods that were going to make you feel good, not only while eating them but in the hours that followed. What would you eat? Have a think about it. Write down 10 foods that fit this principle. My guess is that the foods you have written down are real foods. Foods very close to nature, straight from a plant or animal, with minimal processing.
How much of the food you eat is 'real food'? It may sound like a silly question but more and more of our foods are more 'Food like products' than 'real foods.' Take margarine for example. A petroleum based solvent is used to extract the canola oil, it is heat processed and an acid is added to remove the solids. More chemicals are used to improve the color and it is chemically deodorized to become palatable! We can only imagine what it looks and smells like before the color and odor are chemically changed! It then goes through a chemical process called hydrogenation which changes a liquid oil into a solid fat. During hydrogenation, trans fats are produced which have many negative health implications. This is a food that we are told is healthy! It usually has a health claim somewhere on the packaging telling us it contains less saturated fat than butter.
Real food doesn't need to go through a factory, be put in a packet and have health claims stamped all over it. Real food doesn't need colors and flavors added to it to make it look and taste good. Real food doesn't need vitamins and minerals added to it because it has its own. Real food doesn't need to be raised in artificial, inhumane environments, like many of our animal products are these days.
Real food is nutritious and energizing! There is no need to count calories when you eat REAL food! Vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs, chicken and meat are real foods.
The following tips can help you choose real food
- Choose whole foods, straight from a plant or animal as much as possible.
- If you don't recognize an ingredient avoid it.
- Choose local, free range and organic wherever possible.
- Get connected to your food again by growing your own, even if it is just a few herbs and lettuces!
- Shop at farmers markets. The food available is usually locally grown and seasonal, enhancing the nutrient value. You can support and talk directly to the farmers that have grown the food.
- If shopping in a supermarket, stick to the perimeters where the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and other 'real' foods generally are.
Take a look in your kitchen. Is it stocked full of food that makes you feel good? Have a look at the routines and rituals you have around food. Where do you shop? Do you plan meals ahead of time? Do you make big batches so you have healthy leftovers for lunches? Do you stop to enjoy your food? Do you sit down with the people you love to enjoy food together regularly? Could you turn the TV off at meal times? Could you move away from your desk at lunch time? How could you make time for breakfast? How could you fit in a trip to the markets on the weekend?
To develop a healthy relationship with food is to feel great, both inside and out. It is your choice what you fuel your body with! It is entirely up to you!