My Real Food Philosophy
WHAT I EAT, WHAT I DON'T, & WHY
As a healthy food and lifestyle blogger, people often ask me which diet I follow. “Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? Paleo? Gluten free? Dairy free?” The list goes on. My answer to all these questions is none of the above. My food philosophy is simple: eat real food. I think many of the aforementioned diets can be beneficial, and I am always learning new things from proponents of each. For me, following a specific diet—particularly one that provides the opportunity to give up certain foods for a period of time—has helped me understand how those foods affect my body. Abstaining for a month or more from gluten, dairy, and refined sugar in particular has helped me learn how much of each I can eat and still feel well and balanced.
On most days, however, my food philosophy does not fit neatly into any particular diet. Depending on the day I might eat meat, dairy, gluten, or refined sugar. Most days, however, my focus is simple. Eat real food. I find eating this way gives me more energy, helps me control my weight, and allows me to feel more balanced overall.
Eating real food doesn’t have to be restrictive or complicated. Here’s a quick guide to my real food philosophy, what I eat, and what I don’t.
1 | Eat plants
My goal each day is to eat as many vegetables and fruits as possible. At breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks I try to pack in as much produce as possible. The more I eat the better I feel. You will too.
2 | Cook at home
I’m a working mom. The convenience of eating out can be super tempting, especially at the end of an exhausting day. Regardless of how tired I may be, I try to eat the majority of meals at home (or at least homemade meals on the go). Cooking at home allows me to control the type and quality of ingredients. I know what’s in my meal, and just as important, what’s not. It doesn’t have to be fancy; simple, real food cooked at home is better than take-out every time.
3 | Avoid processed food
This one is huge. Processed foods contain artificial ingredients, colors, and preservatives. Plus they’re often devoid of nutritional value. I’ll happily eat real cheese or pasta, but you’ll rarely find me eating a box of processed crackers or drinking a diet soda. It’s just not worth the cost in how I look and feel. If you’re not sure, follow Michael Pollan’s rule of five ingredients or fewer to decide if your food is real. If there are more than five ingredients listed on the package, ditch it. Similarly, if you spot ingredients that you don’t recognize or are difficult to pronounce, chances are it’s not real food.
4 | Eat Fiber, Fat, and Protein
I learned the fiber, fat, protein rule during my first barre3 Challenge, and it was a game changer. The fat part especially. I try to eat healthy fat everyday, including avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut milk, and yogurt. I actively avoid anything labeled “low- or reduced-fat.” I try to eat the combination at every meal, including snacks. When I focus on this super-trio I feel fuller, have more energy, and find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
5 | Ditch perfection, find the joy. While I try to focus on eating real food, my goal is not to be perfect. If you indulge in real bread with butter sometimes, good for you. So do I. If you let your kids eat a hamburger and fries off the kids menu at your favorite restaurant, I’m right there with you. I think there’s way too much pressure these days in the health and wellness industry to be perfect—and frankly, super-restrictive—when it comes to eating. I’m so not about that. I think it’s really important to find the joy in eating, real food or otherwise. So if you need some ice cream once in a while, eat the darn ice cream. But with no guilt. Then come back to real food at your next meal.
A note on gluten and dairy:
I focus on including primarily gluten- and dairy-free recipes on Real Food Whole Life because they often rely more heavily on produce, protein, and healthy fats. I am not strictly gluten-free or dairy-free, though I generally find I feel better when I avoid both. My husband avoids dairy due to his allergies so it makes sense for me to create recipes that are free of both. Also, I know many of my readers follow diets—either for personal or health reasons—that avoid gluten and dairy. I want this blog to be a resource for those of you looking to eat real food, as well of for those of you following a specific diet. So here's to eating and enjoying real food. Cheers!
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My Feeding Healthy Kids Philosophy
Along the same lines as my Real Food Philosophy, my feeding healthy kids philosophy are the values I use to guide the choices I make regarding raising my daughter as a healthy eater. They are simple yet powerful, and I use them rely on them daily.
1 | Cultivate a positive relationship with food
Do I want my daughter to love fruits and vegetables? Absolutely. Do I try to limit the amount of processed foods she eats on a regular basis? Definitely. Are those the most important things to me when it comes to raising a healthy eater? No. Sure, the fruits and the veggies and the processed foods are important details. But I don’t want them to distract from the big picture, which is raising a strong, healthy, confident human being who loves eating real food in a balanced way.
I want to help her cultivate a positive relationship with food. To view it as a joyful part of her life, as a way to nourish her body and to share with people she loves. I don’t want her to be afraid of certain foods or to become obsessed with the idea of food being “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy.” She doesn’t have any known food allergies or food sensitivities so I want her to know that the food world is hers to explore. Even if that means sometimes she choses a hamburger and fries when we go out to eat, or asks for pink cake with pink frosting for her birthday. I want her to know that splurges and treats are a fun part of life and that eating real, whole foods the rest of the time can be equally satisfying.
2 | Develop self sufficiency through cooking
In a world sliding ever further toward convenience and fast foods, I want my daughter to know how to cook. I want to to be confident in her knowledge about what she wants to eat, of how to shop for fresh ingredients, and her ability to cook herself a good meal. I want her to be able to eat well after she leaves home and to be able to cook and share meals with her friends and partner. Self-sufficiency through cooking is empowering and it’s something I am working on teaching her now.
3 | Create a sense of where food comes from
I want my her to know that the zucchini she’s eating came from our backyard and that it grew from a tiny seed. To understand that each vegetable on her plate was grown and harvested by a farmer. That her scrambled eggs were laid by a chicken. Creating this sense of connection between her and her food increases the likelihood that she will try new foods and that she’ll choose real food when given the option.
4 | Eat real food most of the time
I wrote My Real Food Philosophy: What I Eat, What I Don’t and Why (above) to define how I eat and what I mean by the term “real food.” I follow this philosophy when deciding what to feed my daughter, and I hope she will follow it on her own as she grows. I want her to know that eating real food doesn’t have to be restrictive or complicated. Rather, it can be as simple as focusing on eating plants, cooking at home, avoiding processed food, incorporating fiber, fat and protein into every meal, and finding joy in the process. The other day she told me her favorite foods were beans, veggies, pasta, and chocolate. A pretty good balance of real foods with a few treats thrown in for good measure. It’s a philosophy I hope she can embrace for a lifetime.
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