When I first meet someone and tell them what I do, I usually a rapid fire of questions about the latest super food, what sweetener I use, whether I have a favorite protein powder, and what do I think about Paleo diets/gluten-free food/vegan lifestyle/eating raw/cleansing/juicing/whatever-diet-is-floating-around-on-the-internet-this-week. So either I’m running in some strange circles, or a whole lot of people are desperately looking for the one right way of eating that will help them lose extra pounds, boost energy, and make them look and feel amazing with as little effort as possible.
I answer each of those questions with a variation on one statement:
Eat real, quality food and you don’t have to worry about fads or diets.
That’s also one of the most common recommendations I make to my clients, whether I’m working with someone who leads a sedentary life and wants to lose weight, or whether I’m supporting a runner who’s looking to set a personal best in a marathon.
The concept of eating real food—championed by mainstream food writers like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan—sounds simple enough, but there are mixed messages about just what real food is. Is a sugary cereal that touts “Made with Whole Grains!” a real food? What about yogurt flavored to taste like key lime pie with less than 100 calories? What about juice made from concentrate?
I’ve put together some criteria to help you determine whether a food is real:
• Is grown on a farm or contains ingredients that were grown on a farm
• Is often found in the produce section (though not everything in the produce section is real food—Google “Grapple fruit” for example!)
• Is whole or recognizable as a piece of something whole
• Has been touched by human hands (possibly gloved) at some point
• Comes in little or no packaging
• Will rot if left to sit on the corner of your desk
• Is guilt-free
• Nourishes us
• Is really, really delicious.
UN-real food is…
• Engineered by fancy scientists—probably wearing goggles, masks and lab coats (maybe even hazmat suits!)—to taste like something that it is not
• Made with artificial color
• Injected with hydrogen so it can stick around on the shelf for several eons
• Sweetened with unnatural sweeteners
• Salted, salted then re-salted
• Deep fried
• Made through genetic modifications (we’re not talking about cross breeding seeds to get the tastiest apple, we’re talking about those scientists injecting fish DNA into tomatoes)
• Detrimental to your health
• Also sometimes delicious…but at a cost.
Even within these guidelines, there’s still a lot of room for questions and conversation about what foods make up a healthy diet and why. Where do canned, frozen and otherwise packaged foods fit in to this equation? How do organics fit into the puzzle? Just how much of each type of food should we be eating?
And here’s a really important question: What about food as pleasure? Is it better to indulge in unreal food here and there if it gives you some satisfaction and keeps you happy and sane? I’ll continue to explore these questions here, but in the meantime, please share your comments & questions here and on my Facebook page!
If you’re ready to explore working with a health and wellness coach to get real, get in touch and let’s schedule a free consultation.