Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What is Real Food???

Yesterday my good friend Di posted a comment on this blog about "Real Food" and the movement that inspired me to start my own 100 Days of Fun with Real Food challenge.  I thought her comments were so provocative that I would post it where everyone might take a look at it.  She said:

I was thinking about just what is "real food" in the context of the 100 days pledge. So I investigated and this is what I found. (It may have already been talked about, but I missed it having been quite busy lately--maybe someone else did too.) "A family with 2 young children in Charlotte, NC took a 100 Days of Real Food pledge. They didn't eat a single ounce of processed food or refined ingredients for 100 days in the hopes that they would inspire people to follow suit." I am not going to be able to do that pledge right now but I am going to do my best to eat better as often as I can. I hope that many of you who feel overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once as this young family did will join me in changing as much as we are able to at a time. It is better to change some things than to give up and change nothing. I know Dr. P would agree!

My son Michael attended Gonzaga Prep High School and I distinctly remember something he learned in his Life Skills (I'm pretty sure we called it Home Economics when I was in HS) class.  His teacher challenged him to go grocery shopping and purchase at least 75% of his food for the week from around the perimeter of the super market.  She went on to explain that the unprocessed or "real food" was displayed all around the perimeter - things like fresh fruit & veggies, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products & eggs.  She continued her discussion by asking them where they could find things like sodas, chips, candy, boxes of mac & cheese and canned veggies - and they all knew those could be found in the interior of the store.

So this is my idea of eating "Real Food" -  75-80% of the food you purchase and prepare would be found in the perimeter of your grocery store.  Now I know that for the hard core real, paleo or raw foodists these percentages would likely be considered too low.  But Di is right, it's better to make incremental changes because they tend to "stick" better than sweeping changes.

It's my hope that during this 100 day challenge that you think about ways to have fun while making some changes.  Remember this is a "no guilt zone" challenge.  It's not about deprivation either . . . just a bit of a shift in thinking or planning.  For example, rather than making spaghetti try spaghetti squash; rather than white rice try quinoa; rather than a tortilla try lettuce or collard greens as a wrap for your next taco; rather than an apple pie try a fresh or a baked apple.

Try steaming seed grains like quinoa or amaranth
instead of a more processed food like pasta.

I think that if you plan even 1 meal a day that is made without any sugar or processed foods that you will feel better.  You see processed foods, particularly those labeled GF and/or foods, are often filled with starches, sugars and flavor enhancers.  These tend to create or exacerbate inflammation in your body.  So taking a break from sugars and starches really does do your body a huge favor!  You will notice that aches and pains, bloating and gas, digestion and elimination will all improve.

So far on my journey I've replaced grains and sugars with more fresh produce and lean sources of protein.  I'm happy to report that I've been inspired to create some new, super delicious recipes I'll be sharing and (drum roll please) I've actually noticed some positive changes in my weight, energy level and happiness quotient.

I'm still opting for some minimally processed items like jarred or BPA free canned organic tomatoes, organic chicken stock and protein powder in my cooking.  So don't think that if you cannot do 100% unprocessed, raw, fresh foods that you are failing this challenge . . . instead consider it a step in the right direction every time you do choose a fresh ingredient over something processed . . .

By sharing your ideas, questions and comments we all benefit!  Thanks Di for bringing this discussion forward!  I do hope everyone is enjoying the journey . . .

Dr. P


  1. A very interesting article. I have always done lots of scratch cooking but trying to keep processed foods out of the house has been interesting. I look forward to reading more on this here.

  2. It does take a bit of thought, but there are tons of options! The really disappointing thing is that most gluten and wheat free options contain nothing but highly processed starches, sugars and tons of dairy products. I've mentioned on more than one occasion that most of the GF baked goods you can purchase off the shelf have the nutritional equivalency of a Twinkie or a loaf of white bread!

    These kinds of foods will NEVER help anyone get healthy! So rather than searching to find suitable "substitutes" it's a great option to start eating more whole, fresh foods.

    Now that's not to say that an occasional cookie, brownie or cake can't be enjoyed. It's that there are so many ways to create these goodies with healthier sweeteners, whole grain/seed or nut flours and some fruits or veggies as additions to boost their nutritional profile!

    Of course that's why I wrote OMG! That's Allergy Free? to provide great nutritional options for everyone, including people with allergies!

  3. Glad to have started this discussion. In trying to make my food more "real" I have been on a search for healthy lean proteins. I don't do soy, corn or wheat. That lets out a lot of protein powders, which are not technically "real" anyhow being processed, but I am not trying to do 100% real, just more real. I am avoiding eating very many eggs since they don't agree with me in the morning--that probably means they don't agree with me period. I don't do dairy except a bit of goat or sheep cheese or yogurt now and then. Finding organic chicken or turkey is either problematic or very expensive where I live. I love almond butter and have it often in the morning and as a bed-time snack. I eat other nuts and seeds. We do have lean bison about once a week. I don't enjoy cooking so usually look for fairly quick and easy. This is a long lead-in to the question, "What are your favorite sources of lean healthy protein while trying to eat 'real food'?"

  4. Have you looked at Garden of Life's Raw Protein powder or Raw Meal powder. It does use a lot of ingredients, but they are all vegetables, fruits and sprouted seeds and grains. 1 scoop delivers 33 grams of protein, so I never use more than half a scoop which makes it go a lot farther.

    My other lean protein sources are chicken, halibut, salmon, bison and beef. It was much easier and less expensive to purchase them in Spokane than Dallas (go figure!). But the least expensive sources I've found for organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts are from Costco - $2-4/lb less than anywhere else around here, so worth the trip to stock up a bit.

    I have found it difficult to find organic, grass fed beef around here as well. Recently Greenlings started home delivery in Dallas and they have partnered with some local farmers and ranchers so they now have it on their website, although I find it really expensive!

    It's my opinion that 3 oz servings of a lean protein 2 times a day is enough, especially if you are also adding in a few nuts, seeds and some protein powders.

    There is another option for a protein powder from that same company, Garden of Life, it's goat whey and I found it on Amazon.com. I've used it frequently in my fruit and veggie smoothies and like it. Since it's only the whey it seems to be easier for most people to digest. You may contact the company and ask for a sample before buying a whole container.

    You may not be sensitive to eggs, but need help breaking down the sulphur. If you combine tomatoes with eggs the enzymes, acids and minerals in the tomatoes help to break down the sulphur, and that's one of the best components of an egg. Let me know if that helps.

    1. Tried the JD Robb egg protein powder this morning in our smoothie. I threw in a couple of tomatoes and it seemed to help. My sis and niece have similar issues with eggs but Kate can't eat tomatoes. Is there any other combo that makes eggs more digestible?

    2. Generally it's the egg yolks that people have issues digesting and the sulfur creates that foul feeling and smelling gas. So an egg white powder usually works OK. But if not, taking 1 teaspoon up to 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar just before eating an egg will build up the acids in the stomach to help break it down. If that doesn't work then there is a problem with the gallbladder releasing enough bile to break down the choline in the yolk. That requires eating something sour or bitter to release more bile - like grapefruit, lemon, saurkraut, etc. If none of those suggestions work then I would simply eliminate the eggs.

    3. Thanks! I will pass that on. Kate has been having gall bladder issues... Megan has had trouble with eggs since toddlerhood.

  5. The organic chicken breasts at Costoo here are $6 a pound. It would be fine for me but Rob won't eat 1/2 a breast or less like me. So it is pretty spendy as a family. I tend to not eat very much meat even if I have it. So 2 3 oz servings is more than enough for me. He is another story! I will check into the protein powder. My problem is I usually can't stand them. I will have eggs for lunch today with tomatoes! I am very afraid to try them first thing in the morning. I call it the "egg effect" and it is rapid and not fun. LOL! Thanks for the input, Dr. P!

  6. P.S.I still plan on creating a grain free bread once my life slows down. One that will have a high protein content and help my craving for toast. I promise to share once I get it right.

  7. Di, they are here too, but that's a LOT better than the $8.99 at WF and Central Market!!!

    Again, contact the company and ask for samples of each. I know they sell them in single serving packs so they should be able to give you one each to try.

    I actually like the Raw Protein. It's a bit sweet and the texture is better than most so it's undetectable to me in a smoothie. Try 1/4 to 1/2 a frozen banana in your smoothie for that milk shake texture. It really goes a long way to disguise the texture of protein powder.

    J Robb's egg white protein powder is really smooth and it is pretty sweet from stevia, so no bananas needed. Plus the egg whites make things fluffy and smooth kind of like whipping eggs in meringue. Again, ask the company for a sample.

    1. J Robb has samples for sale so went that route. Have an email in to Garden of Life and we shall see what they say. Thanks for the suggestions!

    2. Keep in mind that it's really sweet, so I only use a partial packet for a smoothie. The carbs are really low because the sweetener is stevia, but still really sweet!