Real Food.

Are you eating food?

I was looking through the "health food" area of the grocery store last week and started looking at some of the packaged items that are marketed and perceived as "healthy."

I posted this picture on my facebook page to see if people could guess the food product that it belonged to (keep in mind this is in the "healthy" area of the store)-

Try guessing what food product you think this is, or even what food group it might belong in...

Some of the guesses included: vegetable crackers, curry flavored snacks, vegetable sticks, veggie burgers, etc.

I mean really...can you even tell what food group it belongs to?

I was VERY impressed that someone guessed correctly-


This is marketing at it's best, the brand- SIMPLE TRUTH is advertised throughout this grocery store as the healthy, better choice. They even advertise the calories, sodium, fat and protein content on the front of the package- making it seem like this is clearly the choice for it's "meatless," and maybe that means its better then actual meat? This is the PERFECT example of the"A CALORIE IS NOT JUST A CALORIE" concept. There are a lot of man made, chemically altered ingredients hiding behind those 220 calorie servings.

Would you rather eat 220 calories from these nuggets or 220 calories from a piece of organic chicken or even free-range beef?

I'm not saying being vegan/vegetarian is a bad thing, but NO MATTER what kind of "diet/lifestyle" you may be following you can still eat CRAP if you're not careful.

We've alllll met them...

Vegetarians who live on sour patch kids and meatless burger patties.

Gluten-Free people who will smoke crack because it's "gluten-free."

Paleo peeps who will eat nothing but paleo food bars because they "don't like veggies."

Our problem is that we eat more food products then we do actual food. It's a BIG problem. We spend so much time focusing on how to read food labels and ingredient lists, when MOST of our diet should be filled with food that doesn't require either.

What if I told you to eat food that doesn't require a label and everything will fall into place?

No more counting calories.

No more looking at grams and percentages of your "daily value."

No more googling ingredients or scanning items on your favorite app.

How liberating. Can you imagine NEVER counting calories? NEVER trying to look up long ingredient names to decide if you should avoid a food additive because it's not on your "diet?"

Eat real food. Don't go down the aisles at the grocery store.

Yes, I mean NO pasta.

Yes, I mean NO pasta with "just add water" sauce mix.

Yes, you will survive. In fact, you will feel better and be a better person while you are surviving.

Food wasn't meant to be confusing. Large companies that are marketing "food like products" MAKE it confusing. Their goal is to SELL YOU MORE FOOD; even when they tell you that their "goal" is for you to eat less. It's genius really; I give them credit, they are doing an amazing job marketing those 90 calorie granola bars and low fat potato chips, while the apples and broccoli (who are really the anti-aging, anti-cancer shining stars) sit with no marketing team.

The food industry is worth BILLIONS. Top providers are Pepsico, Tyson and Nestle; these aren't farmers we're talking about. These people are sitting in an office trying to figure out how they can get potato chips to taste like bacon (with no actual bacon), how they can get a chicken to grow to market weight in half the time as nature intended and how they can get you to buy more of their food products wrapped in plastic with the pretty picture on the front.

Our bodies were not designed to eat "food products." If you think that there is someone out there testing all of these chemicals and food additives to make sure they are safe, you're wrong. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that the companies provide the safety information themselves; rarely does the FDA actually test an additive/chemical itself. The entire process is really disappointing. An item can be certified GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) as long as "market experts and scientists" FROM the company that wants to use the chemical says so. Makes you feel good doesn't it?

Real food doesn't spend any time in the creation lab, it's stayed basically the same for as long as anyone can remember. REAL FOOD. Food that DOES NOT need a label and WAS NOT created in a lab. Real food doesn't really change; while food products (industrial food) changes ALL THE TIME.

This is NOT real food, these are FOOD PRODUCTS:

Even if they say NATURAL they are still products. Sorry. Even ORGANIC companies make food products. Sorry again.

Food Inc. had a fantastic quote- "The way we eat has changed more in the past 50 years than in the previous 10,000."

We are starting to see the consequences of this- the children of this era are thought to be the first generation of children to NOT OUTLIVE their parents; diseases that were once thought to be rare are on the rise. I'm not saying food is the "cause," but it's definitely a contributor.

Your body breaks down what you eat and uses what it can to support energy production, brain function, the nervous system, digestion, etc. Tired? Need energy? Can't focus? Have trouble in the bathroom?

Stop eating crap and your body will stop acting like it.

Don't like vegetables? TOO BAD. You're an adult, sometimes you have to do things that you don't want to do.

Here are my 10 Tips for EATING REAL FOOD:

10. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. I know you have heard this 10,000 times- but that's because it works. Set yourself up for success and you will succeed. Cut up veggies and fruits one night a week (or 2), pack your snacks, wake up 10 minutes earlier to eat breakfast at home.

9. Cook in BULK. Making something in the crockpot? Cooking chicken for dinner tonight? Make double, or triple. Keep it in the refrigerator for another dinner or lunch; freeze it for next week or next month.

8. Buy in BULK when possible. Yes, you will be making trips to the store for your produce on a frequent basis; but you may be able to stock up on clean, organic proteins when possible. If a store has something on sale that you can freeze, or make a variety of meals out of- get more.

7. Eat organic produce when you can. I know it's more expensive, sometimes by a little and sometimes by a lot- BUT THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS GET ORGANIC. If you can't afford to get all organic produce- DON'T STRESS! Use the Dirty Dozen (pic below) to determine your conventional/organic produce selection. If it's on the Dirty list, then you really should buy the organic option (or just don't buy it at all); if it's on the Clean list, then go ahead and buy the conventionally grown (it was a low pesticide residue fruit/veggie).

Example...If there were no organic apples available when I was shopping then I would go without apples for the week. Read more about the Dirty Dozen HERE.

6. Eat clean, natural animal products when you can. Organic, pasture raised eggs and chicken; organic, grass fed beef. Sure you may only find "organic," or just "grass fed" on the label- do your best. To save money I would recommend looking into local farms or co-ops, often times they have the BEST prices. If you can gather a group of people, or have a large freezer, buying meat in bulk from a farmer is COST EFFECTIVE. Remember, the food chain is shorter when you buy closer to home and your money stays in your community.

5. Eat clean, natural dairy products if you want. My FAVORITE things to see on a dairy product- grass fed cows, organic, non-homogenized (when applicable). I drink organic, grass fed, non-homogenized milk that comes from a local farm. It's a VERY different product than what people typically buy at the big box store. I actually buy it at a grocery store, there was enough demand in the community for such a fact it sells out almost every week now. I don't drink a lot of it, but it's delicious in my coffee. When buying dairy look for the least man-made out for sugary yogurt like products (if it has a commercial stay far away).

4. Eat REAL FATS and avoid industrial ones. All real fats are healthy in moderation, man made fats are not. Real fats for cooking are coconut oil and butter/ghee; for ready to eat items (things that will not be heated) use olive oil or avocado oil. Stay away from corn, canola and that entire aisle of industrial oils. Check out my post on fats (search "fats") for a longer explanation on this.

3. Go to a FARMERS MARKET. Intimidated by trying to figure out what the heck is real? Go walk around farmers markets. Not only is this a GREAT way to support your community and local food, it also helps you to eat IN SEASON (healthy and helps to cut cost). My farmers market in the freezing winter (this past January) still had root vegetables available to me...


In the summer the market is AMAZING and you find all sorts of local gems (products and people).

2. Don't get OVERWHELMED. Baby steps right? No one makes life changes in a day, a week or even a few months. It all depends on the person. Most people that I have worked with have been MOST successful when they start incorporating real food slowly. Maybe start by meal prepping (if you don't already), cooking meals at home 5 nights a week instead of 3, eating mostly vegetables at most meals, etc. Make changes one at a time. Don't know how to cook? Take a cooking class, ask a grandma or a friend who loves to cook for help.

1. Try NEW THINGS but you don't need to be fancy pants. I stopped trying to find recipes for most meals a long time ago. My goal is to eat clean, not to be the next Top Chef. Don't get me wrong, I want my food to taste good and for people to like it- but I'm not making anything complicated.

If I don't know how I'm going to cook vegetables for dinner, NO BIG DEAL- I heat up some coconut oil or butter in the pan, add some veggies and then some salt and pepper. Done. Cook some protein. Done. Maybe the next night I have a new recipe I want to try, GREAT! Once in a while (or all the time if you prefer) you should try NEW things, whether it's a recipe, a vegetable or a new meat (buffalo is new to me this year).

Don't get me wrong, new recipes are fantastic (especially when they turn out), but this can be as simple or as complicated as you make it.

No matter what it will be MORE EXCITING then NOT eating clean, real food. Your body, your family and you're community will thank you.

Go make some food this weekend. See if you can go ONE DAY with NO "food products."

The pic below is a fantastic summary that a fellow RD shared this past week-

Protein...the dangerous macronutrient?

Have you seen this? It’s just about impossible not to this week.

“Too much protein in middle age is as ‘bad as smoking.’” (source)

“Too much animal-based protein could lead to early death.” (source)

“Deli Dilemma: Meat and Cheese Linked to Earlier Death.” (source)

I sometimes wonder if these people actually look at the research they are reporting, because I do, and it’s really very disappointing. You would hope that something as significant as the statements above would hold some substantial truth to them- they’re BIG statements to broadcast; but unfortunately there are SO MANY HOLES in the research (probably something larger then holes….) that there should barely be a conclusion at all.

The general public is already terribly mystified about what the hell is happening at the grocery store, and now we’re telling them that eating chicken every night is the same as dragging off that cigarette?  Pleassseeee…..let me wake up from this nightmare.

  So what caused these headlines to pop up all over the place this week? This month there was a study published in the Journal of Cell Metabolism that sparked the flame. Here’s a play by play of what it entailed…

·           18 years ago a little over 6,000 participants filled out a 24-hour diet recall form. According to their answers/food intake on this form, they were spilt into 3 groups dependent on their protein intake (low/moderate/high) on that specific day.

·           18 years later (fast forward to the present), the causes of mortality were looked at for this group of people (that at one point filled out a 24-hour diet recall form). They looked at cardiovascular mortality, cancer mortality, diabetes mortality and all cause mortality.

·           A little over 2,000 of these participants had their insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) level tested, although the circumstances in which this happened were not reported.

·           Then….to follow up that study, they did one in mice. The researchers hypothesized that eating protein increased IGF-1 and examined if it would increase the rate of growth in already present tumors in mice.

 You can see the abstract here, but have to pay for access to the full article. If anything the pictures of the mice they included are a nice touch. The full article may come up here if your interested.

 A few of their conclusions:

  “Overall, our human and animal studies indicate that a low protein diet during middle age is likely to be beneficial for the prevention of cancer, overall mortality, and possible diabetes through a process that may involve, at least in part, regulation of circulating IGF-1 and possibly insulin levels.”

  “We also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid low protein intake and gradually adopt a moderate to high protein, preferably mostly plant based consumption to allow the maintenance of a healthy weight and protection from frailty.”

I know that was a lot to get through but this is why it’s important to QUESTION what the media to telling you. Here are my issues with this “research.”

  • I’m not a mouse. If there are any mice reading this please let me know, I’d like to talk to you about your protein intake. Mice traditionally eat a LOW protein diet; so yes when you feed them a high protein diet (that they naturally aren’t meant to be eating) there may be metabolic consequences. I’m not saying that humans were meant to eat high protein diets, but we can’t rely on mice to tell us otherwise.
  • Have you ever filled out a 24-hour dietary recall form? It’s really considered the CRAP way to get a good picture of someone’s overall dietary habits. Basically you would tell me right now everything you ate yesterday, that’s right- JUST ONE DAY. Based on what you told me you ate yesterday, I would then make conclusions 18 years from now about your diseases processes and mortality. I hope there wasn’t a barbeque, birthday party or buffet at work yesterday (that’s really going to put a damper on that conclusion). Dietitians are now taught other methods to get a better picture of someone’s overall dietary status; I don’t know anyone that still uses a one-day diet recall to assess someone nutritionally. Would you want what you ate for just ONE DAY to be used in substantial research about your mortality?
  • This is not a study that proves causation. It’s looking at a relationship, that the authors should comment on, but not make drastic conclusions from (like they have). Another type of study that would look at a RELATIONSHIP, but not a CAUSE, would be television viewing and rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If those who watched the most television had the highest rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, would that mean that the television was CAUSING the disease? Or would it possibly mean that those people who tend to watch more hours of television also tend to be less active and live less healthy lives compared to those individuals who watch less television? Topics like diet and lifestyle are multifactorial, you cannot draw drastic conclusions from one factor.
  • Do people who eat more meat tend to live less healthy lives? Possibly yes and no. I know people who eat a lot of animal protein…they also don’t exercise as much, drink more alcohol, eat LESS fruits and vegetables and MORE processed foods then I do. Does that mean that because I eat the same amount of animal protein as they do we are in the same risk category for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease? NO. NO. NO. None of these other factors were considered in this study and conclusions. You can see below what my "typical" protein intake is, ~20% of my usual caloric intake. This would place me in the "high protein" group, at the "highest risk" for cancer according to their research. Almost ALL my carbohydrates come from vegetables (some starchy) and fruit (organic), my fat from HEALTHY fats, and my proteins from lean sources (mostly free range/organic/grass fed)- I would consider myself at LOW risk when just looking at my food intake.

  • A HUGE problem with this type of research is that it was NOT initially created to look at the topic of protein. The researchers had to rely on the simple questions that were asked originally and missed MOST of the deaths (and a lot of other factors that may have had an impact). If you look at the facts provided in the supplemental data there were only 113 determinable deaths in the total cohort of 6,381 (that’s less then 2% of the people surveyed originally).  113 out of 6,381? Really?
  • Part of their conclusion is that higher levels of IGF-1 is what’s increasing our risk for cancer…what about other things that increase IGF-1? EXERCISE is the main one that comes to mind. The other culprit was circulating insulin, which your pancreas releases ANY TIME you eat carbohydrates.

A closing message from one of the researchers (who by the way has an equity interest in a large plant protein medical food company).

“We provide convincing evidence that a high-protein diet, particularly if the proteins are derived from animals, is nearly as bad as smoking,” says the University of Southern California's Dr Longo.

I still can’t believe he would say something like that; the damaging effects of smoking are well documented and substantial- this study proves no where near that.

I know that nutrition/food/vitamin/health studies are extremely hard to complete and do appropriately; but this doesn’t mean that we get to jump to conclusions with the ones that are done poorly.

Here’s what I take from this all this “protein = smoking” nonsense-

1.     As always, MOST your plate should be vegetables (organic, non-gmo when possible).

2.     If you want to eat animal protein- do it- but still eat a varied diet. If you don’t want to eat animal protein- don’t- but still eat a varied diet.

3.     I always recommend good quality animal proteins- grass fed, free range, organic (sometimes possible/sometimes not), etc. These types of animal protein have a different composition and nutrient value compared to conventionally raised animals.

4.     Don’t eat processed, cured meat. There’s nothing there for you except chemicals that you don’t need.

5. Don't SMOKE.

6.     Question nutrition news in the media. I'm not saying it's always wrong, but it's definitely worth looking at before you make any drastic changes in your diet/lifestyle.