Where to Start with Real Food

Have you been wanting to eat healthier foods, but don’t know where to start? The information can be as confusing as the products on the store shelves. Low-fat, sugar-free, and only 100 calories – that’s a good place to start, right? WRONG. Here I will tell you five easy steps to start eating a healthier diet. The debunking of the low-fat, sugar-free, 100 calorie myths will be a different post for a different day.

1. On your next trip to the grocery store, start reading every single label. Cut out trans fats and artificial colors. This is easy. If you see ANYTHING on the label that says “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated”, put it back on the shelf. Any color with a number after it, such as Red #40, Yellow #5, or Blue #1 also need to come out of your cart and go straight back on that shelf. When you get used to cutting out these two ingredients, look up another preservative or other yuck ingredient (MSG, artificial flavors, or sodium benzoate are good ones to cut out next) and cut that one out too. Cut out one artificial ingredient at a time until the foods you buy in the grocery store have labels that your great-grandma would recognize.

2. Start buying local meat, eggs, and produce. Pasture-raised meat and eggs will always be your best bet, due to the higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals (and better taste, too!). Frequent your local farmers’ market, but don’t forget to ask whether or not they have used any chemicals on the produce they are selling. Many vendors, while not certified organic, do not use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.

3. Cook at home. I know, I know. It’s hard these days, especially if you have a job, you’re a parent, you have commitments outside of the home, or all of the above. Your meals don’t have to be complicated; they just can’t come from a box or bag. Make your own desserts – from scratch. Gone are the days of cake mix, brownie mix, and store-bought cookies. Suck it up and make your desserts from scratch. You will be avoiding a lot of nasty preservatives and you’ll have a sense of accomplishment to boot!

4. Throw out your unhealthy fats. Exchange your canola oil and shortening for extra virgin coconut oil. Use olive oil generously for drizzling, but don’t heat it over medium heat (it has a low smoke point). Use good old fashioned butter – not margarine or some other butter substitute. Don’t use soy, corn, or the ever evasive “vegetable” oil.

5. Grow SOMETHING. Even if it’s just a tomato plant on the front porch. Even if it’s just a few herbs in a pot. Resolve to grow something that you can incorporate in your meals.
By taking healthy eating steps one at a time, you won’t overwhelm yourself. You’ll have the time to get used to shopping for slightly different foods and your family will have time to get used to a different (and better!) type of menu in the house.

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