Real Food Rules

When I first heard the phrase “real food,” the imaginary banquet scene from Hook started playing in my mind. Real food? As opposed to the plastic food I played with as a kid? Or imaginary food? Obviously, I knew that wasn’t what was meant by “real,” but it still make me laugh.

Real food is food that is unrefined, minimally or unprocessed, and without chemical preservatives. It is food devoid of unnecessary additives. It is food that has an expiration date within days or weeks, maybe months, and rarely years.¹ It is food you find on the outer edges of the grocery store, not the inner aisles. Real food is all-natural, not because the FDA says so, but because it is a product of nature.

Eating real food does not mean eating only raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Processing methods which preserve the nutritional value of the food, such as grinding whole grains into flour or purée-ing nuts into nut butters, are 100% permissible. Cooking and baking are a given, so long as all of the ingredients used are all real foods. In fact, there’s very little that’s not allowed, so long it’s made from scratch using real foods. Here’s a recipe from the Gracious Pantry for real food fudge: http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating-fudge/²

So what’s OK and what’s not?

Approved foods:

  1. All fruits, veggies and nuts (Note: dried fruit is OK as long as nothing has been added)
  2. Whole grains and legumes
  3. Meat in moderation (Note: processed/deli meats are generally not allowed as they typically have additives and preservatives.)
  4. Seafood
  5. Dairy
  6. Coffee, tea, all-natural juices, and WATER
  7. Honey, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, naturally derived fruit sweeteners (after the first 14 days and always in moderation)

Forbidden foods:

  1. Refined grains (e.g. white flour, white rice, anything less than 100% whole grains)
  2. Refined and artificial sweeteners
  3. With regard to “convenience foods,” they cannot contain any ingredients I wouldn’t add if I WERE to make said food from scratch.²

This last rule requires some explanation. I am lazy busy and have no intention of making EVERYTHING I eat for the next 3+ months from scratch. If I’m not allowed any “convenience foods” – i.e. “heat and eat” type stuff like soup, pasta, cereals, etc.- I can guarantee you I won’t make it to Day 100.

One way people deal with this is to limit the number of ingredients in packaged/pre-prepared foods. My problem with this method is that it is completely arbitrary and I don’t do well with arbitrary rules. I would set some limit, say 10 ingredients, and then find a salsa or soup that had 11 approved, delicious, real food ingredients. I know myself well enough to know that, in that situation, I would break the rule. And we all know how the slippery slope works. It all starts innocently enough, but before long I’d be having  a little coffee with my morning cup of Nestlé Coffeemate flavored creamer. Yum.

____________________

1. Some preservation methods, such as canning, freezing, and pickling, allow foods to be preserved for extended periods of time without compromising the nutritional value of the food. These are OK.

2. It should be noted here that “clean” or “real” are not always synonymous with “healthy.” Healthier, yes. But not necessarily healthy. Also, I have tried this recipe for fudge and it is delicious!

3. For example, Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® contain rice, sugar, salt, malt flavoring, and BHT as well as 11 added, lab-produced vitamins and minerals. Arrowehead Mills makes a similar puffed rice cereal with just one ingredient: whole grain brown rice (http://www.arrowheadmills.com/product/puffed-rice-cereal). If I were going to puff my own rice, I wouldn’t even know where to look to find BHT or malt flavoring or how to incorporate artificially produced vitamins and minerals. Another, trickier, example is Applegate Farms’ roasted turkey breast. Both the natural and organic varieties contain the same 4 ingredients: turkey breast, water, salt, and carrageenan. Carrageenan is a naturally-derived extract of seaweed (http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/question315.htm). While it may be natural, if I were going to roast a turkey breast, I would not add any seaweed extract. Therefore, it’s not allowed.

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