Eat Real Food
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. ”
― Michael Pollan
- Whole foods such as produce, meat, poultry and fish
- Whole grains (brown rice, millet, buckwheat, farro, quinoa etc.)
- Products made from whole grains (100% whole wheat bread with no added sweeteners, brown rice pasta, brown rice crackers, etc.)
- Eggs and unsweetened dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Nuts and nut flours
- Whole food snacks such as seeds and popcorn (without added sugar)
- Dried fruits are allowed. Look for the kind without sulfites or added sugar. Dried fruit is delicious but has more concentrated sugar than fresh fruit, so choose dried figs, pears, peaches and currants, as they have the most fiber.
- Preserving produce at its freshest is a great way to preserve its nutrients, so frozen, canned and jarred produce are a-okay if fresh isn’t an option. However, make sure canned or jarred fruit is without added sugar.
- Condiments such as mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise are fine as long as they do not contain added sugar, and are made from real ingredients (such as whole eggs in mayonnaise).
- 100% fruit juice is allowed, but remember that fruit juice doesn’t contain the fiber found in whole fruit that helps your body metabolize the fruit’s natural sugars more slowly. Fiber also helps keep you full, is important for digestion, and can help lower cholesterol. So while 100% fruit juice is allowed, keep in mind that it’s basically liquid sugar so consume minimal amounts.
- Coffee and tea
- Wine, beer and hard alcohol are allowed for those 21 and over. Please drink responsibly. Foodsand does not endorse underage drinking.
- Natural sweeteners such as honey, 100% real maple syrup and fruit juice are allowed. Please use moderation.
- Refined grains (white flour, white rice, etc.)
- Products made from refined grains (white bread, white pasta, white rice crackers)
- “Fast food”
- Deep-fried foods (chips, french fries, fried chicken, etc.).
- Highly-processed packaged foods with non-food ingredients (chemicals, hydrogenated oils, sweeteners, etc.)
- Refined sugars such as cane sugar, cane syrup (etc.), brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, date sugar, beet sugar etc. are not allowed. Nor are artificial sweeteners such as Sucralose, Aspartame, etc. For more on sweeteners click here.
- If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track for the rest of the day.
Why This Is A Good Idea
The majority of processed foods contain added sugar and high amounts of fat, salt and chemicals that enhance flavor and shelf-life, but wreak havoc on our bodies. Most refined foods (such as white flour or white rice) have been stripped of their natural fiber, vitamins and minerals, all of which are important for good health. Sticking to a low sugar-added, whole foods diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can significantly decrease your risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and much more.
The Federal Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.5 - 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily (about 5 servings)—giving you the vital vitamins, nutrients and fiber your body needs to thrive. And The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of added sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (about 36 grams). Eating a real food diet maximizes vegetable intake, and minimizes added sugar.
Over 70% of strokes and colon cancer can be avoided, as can at least 80% of heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes, and diet is a significant factor. Along with exercise and not smoking, developing good eating habits (less animal products, less processed food and more veggies and fruit) can help cut your risk of diabetes by 95%, your risk of heart attack by 80% and risk of a stroke by half.
Note: It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking certain processed foods are healthy simply because they are labelled “Vegan” or “Gluten-free”—even Oreos are vegan, but they’re far from healthy. Eating real food is the best way to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs, regardless of your particular dietary preference.
Basic Tips & Useful Hints
- Be sure to check in after every meal or snack; it’s more effective than waiting till the end of the day. Draw a check mark if your meal or snack contained only real foods or use a free pass if you had highly processed or refined foods, or foods with added sugar in your meal or snack. You can check in multiple times a day.
- Focus on fruits, veggies and protein at breakfast, and steer clear of pre-made breakfast meals you can buy at the store. Plain yogurt with fruit, muesli with milk or an omelette with spinach are great real food options.
- Prepare for snack time when it’s easy to reach for something processed. Replace crackers or cookies with carrots and hummus, or an apple with nut butter. Keep easy-to-eat fruit in your bag—bananas, apples, grapes, and berries are all convenient and easy to eat. Raw veggies are also a great on-the-go snack—cut up cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, and/or carrots, and put them into a container to take on the road.
- Cover at least half your plate with veggies at mealtimes. Then add a portion of whole food protein (such as fish, poultry or meat) to your plate, along with a whole grain such as brown or wild rice, or quinoa.
- Eat the rainbow—a variety of colors of produce in your diet guarantees you’ll be getting a wide range of nutrients.
- Stick with fruit for dessert.
- Protein and healthy fats help keep you full and regulate blood sugar levels; beans, nuts, eggs, hummus, lentils, yogurt, cheese, fish and avocado are all great sources. This will help prevent you from reaching for the Chex Mix.
- Eat regularly. When you let yourself get too hungry, you’re going to grab whatever is closest—often something sugary and processed.
- Be careful of things that come in packages. While some packaged/processed foods are fine such as whole-grain brown rice pasta or Mary’s Gone Crackers, regular white pasta is not because it contains refined grains.
- When it comes to packaged goods, the fewer ingredients the better. If there’s an ingredient you can’t pronounce or aren’t familiar with, choose a different product. If there’s an ingredient you don’t know how to use or wouldn’t buy on the grocery store shelf, don’t eat it.
- Clean out your pantry. If you’re craving sugar and a bag of cookies is staring you in the face, you’re much more likely to slip. Replace highly-processed, sugary snacks with nuts, popcorn, nut butter (with no added sugar) and brown rice cakes.
- Stay hydrated! You might think you need a sugary afternoon snack, when really you’re just thirsty.
- Eat a nutritious snack before you grocery shop. You’re much more likely to fill your cart with processed snacks when your stomach is rumbling.
- Read all labels. Sugar is hidden in everything—from tomato sauce to canned beans and everywhere in between. Even in “all natural” peanut butter!
- Farmers markets, farm stands, your garden, and the produce section at the grocery store are your new best friends. The more locally grown the better, as the fruits and vegetables will be fresher and have less of an environmental impact if it comes from nearby.
- The frozen section is good too—being able to keep produce on hand is the best way to ensure you eat it!
- Be sure to stock up on leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, spinach, and broccoli—these guys are the kings of nutrition, and they are easy to cook. If you don’t have time to chop during the week you can chop all at once over the weekend and store your produce in a vented or perforated bag in your fridge. Or buy pre-chopped in a pinch, and let the grocery store do the heavy lifting for you.
- Keep veggies that can be eaten raw as a snack, dipped in something, or cooked for dinner on hand—like zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers and carrots. Their versatility increases the likelihood that you’ll eat them!
- Hummus, for the veggies.
- The perimeter of the grocery store is your best bet. Processed items with added sugar tend to be in the middle.
- Your favorite proteins—sustainably-sourced fish, free-range chicken, organic grass-fed meat, etc.
- Hit the bulk bins, the mothership of protein-rich, nutritious beans and whole grains like amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
- Nuts and nut butters
- Rice cakes
- Plain popcorn
Smart Things To Read And Watch
- The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right
- Sweeteners 101
- Why Is Processed Food So Bad For You?
- Harvard School of Public Health’s Guide to eating Fruits and Vegetables
- VIDEO: How to add veggies to your diet
- A study on fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Why fiber is so important for your health
- Fruit snacks are not fruit. They are candy.
- Daily fresh fruit can lower heart death risk just as much as statins
- A naturally picky eater? There’s no such thing.
- VIDEO: Is Sugar in Fruit Different Than Sugar in Soda?
- VIDEO: How much sugar are you really eating?
- Harvard’s The Nutrition Source: Added sugar in the diet
- You’d Be Surprised at How Many Foods Contain Added Sugar
- Michael Pollan’s Cooking FAQs
- Coursera’s The Case for Cooking (with Michael Pollan)
Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.