REAL Food, What’s the Difference?

By PearlPoint Nutrition Services June 27, 2012Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Is all food created, produced, or grown equally in terms of nutrition and health benefit? The short answer is “No.” In pursuit of learning a little more about real food and seeking ideas to get out of my “food rut,” I choose to read an interesting blog entitled “100 Days of Real Food.” For those of you who are new to this idea, 100 days may sound completely overwhelming but I challenge you to begin with committing to just one day per week of eating only REAL food. What is REAL food? Let’s take a look at some of the properties and characteristics of REAL food:

  • Foods that occur in their most natural form and are edible in that way. These are also called whole foods.
  • Foods that are packaged but contain very few (usually 5 or less) pronounceable ingredients. All the ingredients should be REAL as well.
  • Foods that are found mainly around the perimeter of the grocery store and not deep in the interior aisles. These foods are usually single ingredient foods like meat, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables
  • Foods that will spoil sooner rather than later and are free of preservatives.
  • Foods prepared and cooked at home.

Interestingly enough, all of the properties and characteristics listed above are the same as what are recommended when following a cancer fighting eating plan. Whether attempting to eat more REAL food or eating to fight cancer, I would recommend the following:

  1. Shop from the perimeter of the store to get all of the healthy and simple foods needed to create some REAL food meals and snacks.
  2. Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables including many different colors.
  3. Enter the middle aisles only to purchase minimally processed foods with 5 ingredients or less.
  4. If frozen foods are purchased, the ingredient lists should have 5 or less pronounceable ingredients and most likely are just a frozen version of a REAL food.
  5. Drink only REAL beverages, too. These include coffee, tea, water, milk, and 100% fruit juices. Do not drink 100% fruit juice in excess. Juice still contains natural sugar which should be moderately consumed.
  6. Choose the REAL version of foods that offer “light”, “reduced-fat”, “low sugar”, “fat free”, etc. versions. When comparing ingredient lists, these versions typically have a lot of fillers, additives, and artificial ingredients making their ingredient lists quite lengthy.
  7. Avoid artificial sweeteners and use only natural sweeteners such as raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, and stevia in moderate amounts. Make an effort to limit adding any sweetener to whole foods and beverages.

I realize that these are not changes that can be made easily overnight. I suggest starting with one day per week eating only REAL food. Gradually work toward changing how you shop, where you buy your food, and how you think about food in general. Search the internet, read blogs, and talk to other people who are trying to eat more REAL food. Here is some “food for thought” from an expert in the area of REAL Food, Michael Pollan:

“For a product to carry a health claim on its package, it must first have a package, so right off the bat it’s more likely to be processed rather than a whole food.”
Michael PollanFood Rules: An Eater’s Manual

Blog Author: Kimberly Petersen, RD, LDN
PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

Author PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

PearlPoint Nutrition Services is a program of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

More posts by PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

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