What Is Real Food?

Would you recognize an apple if you saw it? Of course you would. You’d surely recognize an eggplant even if you’ve never eaten one. The same goes for broccoli and bacon. How about whipped cream in a can, breakfast cereal or fat-free yogurt? 

We’ve forgotten what “real” food is. Instead we scan the health claims on the box or, even worse, read the nutrition label, to determine if a “food” is good for us. Advertisers con parents into believing a product like Nutella is a healthy breakfast food because it’s made with real hazelnuts and cocoa. Sure, but it’s also loaded in sugar. Kraft dinner claims to be a source of calcium so that must be good for you. And then there’s the yogurt aisle. That stuff is just junk food masquerading as health food.

Here are the “real food” rules:

1. Real food doesn’t need an extensive label. Zucchini doesn’t have an ingredient list or a nutrition label. A carton of eggs has a nutrition label but no ingredient list.  A box of “Lucky Charms” requires a science degree to understand what’s in it.

2. Beware of health claims. While we’re on the topic of labels avoid any product with a health claim on the package. A package of Peek Freans “Lifestyle” cookies claims to be “a source of fibre.” Raspberries are a better source of fibre, but they don’t have a label saying so.

3. Real food is minimally packaged. You can avoid confusing labels by not buying packaged food. If you must buy packaged food it should have as few ingredients as possible. Plain old oatmeal comes in a bag with one ingredient on the label. The same goes for salmon fillets and pork chops. Plain yogurt should only have two to three ingredients tops.

4. Real food requires a little prep work. Sure it’s convenient to toss a frozen pizza in the oven, but it’s much better to make your own.

5. Real food is minimally processed. Applesauce is just a few steps removed from the original apple. “Fruit Gushers” have absolutely nothing to do with fruit.

A lot of health problems would be solved if people stuck to real food. Real and recognizable fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, some dairy, and few grains should make up the majority of your diet.

Now go eat!

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