The term is everywhere now. But, what exactly is Real Food?
As you can see from the descriptions and chart below, Real Food simply means foods and ingredients as nature intended without processed and artificial additives.
I knew I had to write this post after two conversations I had with someone. The first one was at a restaurant. I had ordered crème brûlée (one of my all time faves) and I turn to my husband and I said “I bet I came make this with real food”. Another person at our table, who shall remain anonymous, heard me and said “only if you want it to have no taste at all”.
The second time I was making bacon and I had family over, one person picked up a piece of bacon and as he started to eat it I said “it’s nitrate free, and local humanely raised”. His response: “oh so that is why it tastes like cardboard”. *face palm*
Why are people confused?
I realized then and there people are completely confused about what Real Food is. And with good reason, there are diet fads that pop up all the time, lots of articles about “eat this not that”, then there is the ubiquitous (yet very wrong) nutritional guidelines by the USDA; which changes often too. First it was a pyramid then it was a plate, and who knows what it will be next year.
People are bombarded with erroneous information about what healthy food is. When we hear this we think, restrictive diets, low-fat, low-calory, low-carb. Well, isn’t that what we see on TV and ads on magazines everywhere?
Back in the day Real Food was called, well, food. Then came the Great Depression followed by an industrial boom and feeding the masses at the lowest cost possible became a need and a trend. Then came the Baby Boom and families wanted convenience. And food was never the same. Processed foods became the norm. I will not attempt to explain what’s wrong with our food system in one simple post. There are books and documentaries dedicated to this subject because it is a massive and complex subject, things like the government being in bed with Big Ag and huge corporations that dictate what our country eats, can’t me summed up in one post. And let’s not forget people’s ignorance. I mean this in the true sense of the word: the absence or knowledge.
Ignorance is bliss
I used to eat food that came in boxes and bags and never bothered to look at the ingredient list. I figured food was just food. I never imagined the array of artificial additives that are used: artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, stabilizers, thickeners, etc.–Ingredients that come from an industrial lab. I was conditioned to looks at the “Nutritional Facts”, too many calories! Too much fat! The front of the box says it contains whole grains and has a little red heart. Okay, it must be good. Sound familiar?
Decoding Real Food
I want people to know that us self-proclaimed Real Foodies are not on some kind of new diet fad. We simply want to go back to when food was simple. We enjoy the pleasure of eating and we believe food should bring the family together to nourish our soul and our body.
I decided to create a handy chart that explains what people mean when they use the term Real Food. But first, let’s look at some examples of what conventional and real food means:
Eggs: Conventional eggs come from factory scale productions. Hens are fatten up with hormones, and given antibiotics for health issues that occur from hormone use and from the diseases that come from confinement. They are also fed a grain-only diet, these grains contain genetically modified grains and soy, all which are really bad.
Real Eggs: Preferably local, raised as nature intended: hens foraging grass and insects, free range, not fed any grains. The difference in appearance and nutrition is obvious, from the deep orange yolks to the amount of beneficial nutrients present.
Dairy and Beef: The dairy products and beef products available commercially come from cows that are in what’s called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation). They are kept, most often than not, in inhumanely conditions. Pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, and fed grains and waste products from candy factories. Not to mention these factory scale operations contribute greatly to global warming and are not sustainable to our environment. When you consume products from these animals you are consuming traces of hormones, antibiotics, and everything the cows were fed.
Real Dairy and Beef: Cows are pastured raised, no grains, and are not given hormones or antibiotics. Here is a picture I took when we visited the farm that produces most of the dairy products we eat in our home. Don’t you just want to hug them!
Fats: A very contentious topic. For the longest time we have been conditioned to believe fats are bad. Fats are good. The right kinds of fats. Fats that come from animals pasture raised without hormones and antibiotics. Tallow, lard, butter, all good for us! Other good fats are good quality olive oil, and my favorite coconut oil.
Fruits: Organically grown when possible. Check out this post for more information on why organic matters.
What Real food is not
Here are some examples:
- Processed foods (think boxes or bags) like prepackaged snacks, frozen foods, or cereals
- Sweetened juices
- Individually packaged sweetened yogurt
- Fast food
- GMO corn
- Restrictive diets
I hope that helps clear out any confusion about what Real Food is.
Let’s go back to the crème brûlée example. crème brûlée is nothing but eggs, cream, and sugar. A Real Food crème brûlée would mean using pasture raised eggs, creme from cows pastured raised and not injected with hormones and antibiotics, and instead of refined white sugar we would use unrefined cane sugar. In fact last time I made them I used Sucanat, and boy oh boy was it out of this world.
The bacon, conventional bacon would mean from pigs injected with hormones and antibiotics, eating a less than desirable diet, and then preserved with nitrates and nitrites. My bacon, the one that tasted like cardboard, remember? From a local farmer who raises them humanely and not cured with sodium nitrate. See? Same food, just as nature intended, nothing special, nothing fancy, just good food.