My Real Food Journey
How I got Real
My Real Food journey started in January 2011 when my husband and I decided to eliminate processed foods from our diet. Although we were in relatively good health, we still felt rather unhealthy, and just plain old "blah". January is the time to make these health and wellness resolutions, right? Having tried various diet plans in the past, we found we had measured success, but nothing that lasted. So we needed a different approach. And for some reason, we gravitated towards the concept of avoiding processed foods. We hadn't read a book about this or anything like that. I suppose this was an easy and straightforward idea to wrap our minds around: No processed foods - what's so hard about that, right?
HAH! It was unbelievably hard, especially that first month. Processed foods are everywhere! So we had to navigate our local food system to figure out how to avoid these things. We cooked all our meals, and ate lots of vegetables, meat, fish and seafood, and some fruit. If we had to open a package we didn't eat it. We also avoided dairy, which was probably the hardest for me because I was a cheese-a-holic! But I am allergic to dairy so what the heck was I doing eating it anyway?
After 3 or 4 months without processed foods, we took our journey a step further and started following a Paleo Diet. This refers to the practice of eating what our ancestors ate, prior to modern agriculture. The diet is based on avoiding processed foods, dairy, all grains (including whole grains and brown rice), legumes (beans and peanuts), sugar and artificial sweeteners. By this point, we had already eliminated most of these foods, so following a Paleo Diet was a natural transition for us. We strictly followed these Paleo practices for the rest of that year, only making exceptions if we ate at restaurants or with friends, which were rare events. And what started out as a dietary experiment that we pretty much stumbled into, evolved into a lifetime dedication to a whole new way of understanding and connecting with food.
Not Paleo Perfect or 100% Real
We eventually decided to reintroduce a few non-Paleo foods back into our lives - on a limited basis: like whole grain brown rice pasta, white rice (I'm Asian, so it's part of my culinary identity), 70% dark chocolate. And for any packaged items, we always read the ingredients to choose the least processed foods. We do drink diet sodas, wine, and other alcoholic drinks. I also found that I am able to tolerate full fat dairy, but again, in moderation - certainly not on the same scale as my cheese-a-holic days.
We rarely eat out, so when we do, we don't impose any rules. But to be honest, we tend to choose dishes that feature more Real than processed foods. It's just our preference now. Real food tastes good to us. We enjoy our food and don’t feel deprived or restricted in any way.
So what are we - Real Food or Paleo? I describe our lifestyle as Paleo Real Foodies. We are probably more on the Paleo end of the dietary spectrum because we generally avoid grains, dairy, legumes and sugar. But when we make exceptions to Paleo practices, we apply the central principle to choose the least processed food available. This is the balance that we've found that fits within our own lives and goals. We're not 100% anything except true to ourselves and our values.
About Realistic FoodEs
I chose to promote a Real Food lifestyle, rather than a Paleo Diet because whether you follow Paleo, Primal, GAPS, AIP, Mediterranean, Vegan, or any other natural food diet - the root of all these eating practices is Real Food. So once you get Real you can, as we did, transition to other Real Food based lifestyles. But I do hope that you come back to Realistic FoodEs to share your experiences and inspire others with your successes!
Realistic FoodEs is the intersection of my passion for eating good, tasty, healthy food and my work as an advocate for social and economic justice. I started this Blog to share my thoughts and experiences. But I also want to build a social community so that we can all share in an effort to make Real Food accessible - both conceptually and physically - to everyone who wants to practice this lifestyle.
The research is clear that ultra-processed foods are the culprit to many health woes. And as my husband and I found out when we started our journey, processed foods are everywhere and so very hard to avoid. I hope this Blog helps you to find realistic ways to eat more Real Food and practice this lifestyle. Because eating Real Food is so rewarding. Making better, more mindful decisions about food and following a socially responsible model for eating - sounds like a great plan, so what are you waiting for? Let's get it started . . .
EAT, ENJOY, EMBRACE REAL FOOD!