Have you jumped on the “eat real food” bandwagon yet? Have you thrown out your processed food? Do you eat clean? Do you only buy organic? Do you have a list of the Dirty Dozen on your phone? Are you Paleo? Have you done a Whole30? Wait. What???
Maybe you have already embraced a healthy, real food life and you are familiar with all those words and phrases. If so, that’s awesome. But I know there are a bunch of you out there who feel like all of that might as well be a totally different language. Don’t sweat it. Maybe you just haven’t taken that first step toward ditching the processed foods because, well, they are oh so easy and taste pretty good. Or the idea of such an overhaul sounds completely overwhelming. Or you’re trying to get the rest of your family on board with this whole foods kind of life. I totally get it.
Regardless of your specific situation, everyone can benefit from these six tips to either get started on or maintain a real food kind of life. These are big concepts that aren’t exactly shocking or new, but they are totally legit, completely doable things you can do to live a real food life. I promise it’s nothing crazy or too much to implement into your busy lives. These tips have made a HUGE difference for our family and have completely changed the way we do food in our house. I know they can help you guys as well.
1) Fill your house with real food.
Buy all the fresh fruits, vegetables, organic meats and organic dairy you can get. (Click here for a current list of the Dirty Dozen: Dirty Dozen
.) Just accept you’re going to spend more money than usual on a serious grocery run. Nothing derails your healthy food intentions faster than an empty refrigerator. Seeing an empty produce drawer will suddenly remind you of the frozen egg rolls you bought two years ago when they were on sale. Listen up, people! Forgotten freezer food is nasty. Don’t even go there. So man up and be the person no one wants to get behind in the grocery store…the one with the hugely overflowing cart. Maybe two. I wear sunglasses on my big shopping days and avoid eye contact with everyone. My close friends know I’m not joking.
2) Put the healthy food right in front of your face.
Find a way to display all those healthy fruits and veggies so you absolutely cannot get away from them. Like you can’t sneak a donut without a beautiful apple staring you down. We use pretty tiered baskets in our kitchen to keep all of our yummy produce on display. (Who doesn’t like a legitimate reason to go to Target or Hobby Lobby, right? You NEED something new and awesome to hold all of your non-processed food for the love and health of your family. For the love and health of your family, for heaven’s sake. Go right now.) It didn’t happen overnight, but now we have all gotten used to grabbing a banana or a cutie because it’s all so colorful and fresh AND RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACES. Unlike the donuts which may or may not still be in this house. I honestly don’t know.
3) Set yourself up with an arsenal of easy, yummy, go-to recipes.
I am not that person who loves a detailed, labor intensive recipe. Spending hours in the kitchen is just not my happy place, no matter how many times I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise. One glance at a recipe’s ingredient list and the number of steps and I can tell you if I will ever make it. Weird, hard to find ingredients? No way. Over a dozen steps that include words like spatchcock? Not in a million years. I want it to taste good and be on the table fast, and I don’t want to use every pot and utensil in my kitchen. If you can relate to this, spend a little time experimenting to find some recipes that are always a hit at your kitchen table. We call them “regular rotation” meals in our house, and these are the meals that taste good to us…Every. Single. Time. And if you’re like three of my best friends who LOVE being in the kitchen and make amazing food (Carrie, Elaine, & Gretchen), make extras and share with people like me 🙂
4) Keep a stash of healthy snacks with you AT ALL TIMES.
The thought of not having access to food has always freaked me out. When I was getting ready to give birth to my first son, I was more freaked out about not being able to eat than actually going through labor. I clearly have issues, but we’ll save that for another post. Anyway, I have a friend (a slim friend I might add) who does not eat between meals. At all. Yeah, that is not me. I’m a total snacker. I can tell myself I won’t need any food while I’m out and about between meal times, go so far as to chant “I am not hungry, I am not hungry!”…and then right about the time I am getting the kids from school I’m ravenous and absolutely must eat something immediately. Right that very second or I will die from hunger! So I’ve learned to stay on the safe side (admit defeat) and stock up on what I like to call my emergency food. I keep food in my purse, my glove compartment, the diaper bag, the side pockets of my son’s backpack, and anywhere else I can think of. And trust me, you will be grateful that you stocked up because it will save you from those desperate moments when you somehow justify a fast food run. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t even try to pretend you haven’t stuffed Chick-fil-A nuggets in your pie hole before you hit the carpool line. (Gosh, I miss Chick-fil-A.)
5) Keep an open mind to all foods, but don’t force them down.
Don’t buy into the idea that certain foods are disgusting because they always get a bad rap. I refused to eat brussel sprouts for ages because hello…everyone knows they’re gross. Surprise to me, I find them delicious! On the other hand, I do not enjoy kale in any of its forms. I keep trying it, and I keep making a horrible face every time. Don’t force yourself to keep eating foods because they get tons of hype as super foods that your body has to have. If you keep forcing down things that make you want to gag, this grown up, healthy food relationship is going to end in a nasty divorce. Allow yourself some time for trial and error…you will figure out what works for you. And what won’t. Like kale. Or beets! Ohhhhhhhh my goodness I have a hard time with beets. I swear they taste like dirt to me. I know they’re so good for me, but come on. Dirt. Yuck.
6) Meal prep. Sigh.
I have a love/hate relationship with meal prep. I love the idea of it, and I love the results of it. But the actual prepping … meh. I know lots people who devote a full day of the week to meal prepping. Good for them! I want to be like you someday! But sadly, that day is not today. So instead of true meal prepping, I double whatever I’m making. I’m already cooking (see #3) and I bought a ton of groceries (see #1) so it’s cool. Then the second batch gets frozen or stored in the fridge as leftovers/lunch/maybe even breakfast. Or those nights when I can’t even be bothered to scramble some eggs. However, I will try to cook a large batch of meat in the crockpot at least once a week to keep on hand for quick meals. Shredded chicken or beef comes in really handy when you need to throw something together fast. So figure out what your version of meal prep is and run with it. And if you’re a real deal meal prepper, kudos to you. You’re totally ahead of the game. Pick your day of the week and cook away!
Here’s the deal: real food is a crucial part of establishing and maintaining a well balanced life. Once we get this real food lifestyle in place, then we can start fine tuning it to make sure we are all getting the proper amount of nutrients to get our bodies working optimally. Don’t overthink it, we can totally do this. We all deserve to live the real food life. And it doesn’t have to happen overnight, we just need to start making progress. Happy shopping/cooking/eating, you guys! See you at Costco … I’ll be the one wearing giant sunglasses 🙂