I remember when I thought that protein bars were a healthy snack. When I thought flax oil infused margarine was good for the heart. I remember buying 1% milk because my mom always bought us lowfat, so that’s what I was supposed to drink, right?? I remember when I bought the cheap “wheat” bread, thinking it was whole grain, but really it was just colored brown to trick me. I remember buying some weird “whole wheat” white bread and wondering how that was even possible. I ate Ramen noodles with the seasoning pack for a cheap meal, and the noodle cups, too. I bought hamburger helper and other boxed meals because I didn’t know how to cook. My most elaborate meals usually included opening several cans and pouring them into a pot. The most expensive–and probably the only real–food I bought was cheese. (Ironically, I still buy the same brand of cheese, but it’s no longer the most expensive food I buy.) As if my main meals weren’t bad enough, my desserts were worse. And okay, I ate produce, but it wasn’t organic. I sometimes ate eggs and meat, but they weren’t really what eggs and meat are supposed to be.
I was always trying to eat better, but it was a verrrrrry slow progression. When I look back in time, it seemed like I was making a pretty good turnaround in the months before I got pregnant, but that all went downhill when morning sickness hit. And I still didn’t know enough about real food when my son was born to save me from the horrible snack foods I depended on to keep me alive during those first months postpartum. In fact, I had yet to hear of the term “real food.”
It must have been some time when my son was a baby that I started to wake up. I remember my stepsister talking about the term “whole foods” and I remember thinking a lot about it. I thought about all the food I ate and asked myself if it was a whole food. I realized some things were. Some things definitely weren’t. Then I moved on to the term “real food.” That’s about the time I realized that lite sour cream was not even made from cream. It was fake. So was margarine. I began to realize that a lot of things were fake.
So I started making everything real. And you know what? That’s when I really started to enjoy food. That’s when I started to enjoy cooking. Because you know what? Real food tastes better!!! And thus, my first reason for switching to real food. (Okay, it may have been a tie with it being healthier, too.)
Reasons to Eat Real Food
1. Because it tastes better. I remember the first time I made macaroni and cheese from scratch. I was like, “Wow! This is amazing!!” I never bought Kraft macaroni again. Now that I’ve been eating real food for years, I can tell instantly if something I eat has non-real ingredients. Like ice cream made with high-fructose corn syrup. I swear I can even taste the pesticides in non-organic lettuce.
2. Because it is healthier. Want to see your health improve fast? Dump the processed foods, and replace them with real foods. You don’t need a special diet to see results, you just have to eat real food.
3. Because it’s better for small family farms. Eating real food means you are buying a diversity of foods, since processed foods are mostly made up of the same ingredients. Small farmers usually grow a variety of foods, instead of the monocrops that go into processed foods.
4. Because it’s better for the planet. Real food does not need to be grown with a bunch of pesticides. Real food can be mostly local food. Local food is fresher and does not require as much gasoline to transport it. Real food does not need a factory to make it. Real meat, dairy and eggs (as nature intended them) are raised on pasture, where manure can fertilize the soil, rather than become pollution. Diverse farms are more sustainable and can actually improve the level of topsoil rather than deplete it.
5. Because it’s cheaper. Okay, technically it can be more expensive, too, but in the end it’s really cheaper. Real food is usually made from scratch in your own kitchen, which is a lot cheaper than buying convenience foods. But if you are buying high quality ingredients, the cost can go right back up to where it was when you bought all convenience foods. BUT you will be healthier, so you end up saving money in medical costs. See? Cheaper.
6. Because it’s better for the local economy. Since real food tends to be more local, you are supporting the farmers in your own area.
7. Because it’s better for animals. When you buy cheap, non-natural animal products, you are supporting a system that is unhealthy and even cruel to animals. Pastured-raised (or the equivalent) is much healthier for the animals and much more enjoyable for them, too.
8. Because it connects you to your ancestors. Your ancestors didn’t eat out of a box. When you cook from scratch using only ingredients your great-grandparents would recognize, it connects you with them. You know that they chopped vegetables, made soup with soup bones, and dressed whole chickens. You know they made bread and cake from scratch. When you prepare real food, you are doing the same things people did hundreds of years ago, and I believe this builds the human spirit.
9. Because it connects you to the earth. Trust me, this is important. I don’t know how to explain it, but it is. You feel more complete as a human being when you are connected to your food and where it came from. Being aware is the first step, and the first step toward becoming aware is making your own food from scratch, from whole, real food ingredients.
Did I mention that real foods taste better, too? Oh, yeah, right. I did. I just think that’s worth mentioning again. When I switched to eating real foods, I was finally able to stick with eating better. The more “real” my food became, the easier it was to stay off junk food. It was easier to eat things that were good for me because they tasted so good. It was so much easier to get healthier, for once.
So, did I miss anything here? What’s your top reason for eating real food? How did you come to realize what real foods were?