Ever since I earned a Master’s in Human Nutrition, the most common request I get is “Can you give me a list of foods to eat?” And my answer is always, “NO!” As we discussed last week, everybody is going to have a different nutritional type and so many people will not do well eating an identical diet as me. Everybody is going to have access to different foods. For example, I only eat tomatoes when in season, which here in upstate NY is from about July – October. In warmer climates though, fresh tomatoes can be accessed for longer than 5 months. And speaking of tomatoes, there are some people who are sensitive to nightshade vegetables and could fall ill if they eat a tomato! There are so many variables that I refuse to tell people to eat exactly what I eat. Instead I help and encourage people to eat a variety of real foods that give them energy, nutrients, strength and that are readily available to them.
So what is real food?
Real food is anything that is not manufactured in a factory (but that doesn’t mean that every food processed in a factory is bad for you – when you always read the list of ingredients you’ll quickly become an expert at evaluating the health or lack-there-of, of a processed food).
Real food includes any vegetable, fruit or herb (of which there are waaaayyy too many for me to list here), seeds, nuts, grains, meats (beef, chicken, venison, pork, rabbit, elk, bison, etc), unpasteurized dairy, fish and other crustaceans, sea vegetables (a.k.a. sea weed), eggs (chicken, duck & fish) and insects (eaten by most cultures historically and still consumed by many healthy cultures today). And there’s probably another real food category or two that I am missing.
Like Your Mother Told You, Eat Your Vegetables!
Regardless of your nutritional type, vegetables are going to be an important part of your healthstyle as they provide a plethora of vitamins, minerals and prebiotics all while literally keeping your intestinal tract clean and tidy. Veggies also help keep your poops soft and regular.
So pick a vegetable that you know you already like. And eat it! I find it’s usually easier to start eating cooked vegetables. Don’t worry about how you cook it. Don’t concern yourself with the benefits of steaming vs. sautéing (just don’t fry the vegetable!). And almost everything tastes fabulous with a simple drizzle of minced garlic very lightly sautéed in olive oil and/or butter. It’s really easy to burn garlic, so heat up olive oil and/or butter in a pan over medium-low heat and add minced garlic with a few pinches of salt and some black pepper. Cook for just a minute or two and drizzle on top of any cooked vegetable that you like! And then eat it again. And again, and again!
Other toppings that work well on almost any cooked vegetable (especially when getting kids to eat them) are spaghetti sauce and/or cheese (anything except American…which is not really cheese). Just heat up the spaghetti sauce and put on top of a cooked vegetable. If you like cheese, grate cheese and put on top of a cooked vegetable. Just plain butter with a pinch of salt and pepper works great on any cooked vegetable. Butter with parmesan cheese is also quite delightful!
Once you have one vegetable mastered, start adding other vegetables to your repertoire, one by one. Don’t worry about the micronutrient content. Don’t worry about how many vitamins or minerals are in each vegetable. The end goal is to eat the colors of the rainbow. When you consistently eat a variety of vegetables that are different colors and eat a good mix of cooked and raw vegetables, you will be getting an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals and prebiotics. You don’t have to count or keep an excel spreadsheet to eat healthy!
Real foods can be quick, easy and healthy.
A handful of seeds or nuts make an awesome snack. Look for either sprouted or raw seeds or nuts. Skip the roasted, coated in sugar varieties.
Eat any type of meat that you like, just skip the deli meats that are loaded with crap as well as any “meat” sold at a fast food chain.
Eat a piece of whole fruit as a snack. Fruit juice is NOT a health food! There is about 24 grams of sugar in one cup of orange juice. That is more than the recommended daily sugar intake for an adult!
Eggs are such an easy, delicious, healthy food to eat and most everybody can cook eggs and most children eat them too! I make egg sandwiches for dinner – so quick and easy. Eggs pair well with sautéed onion, mushrooms and/or spinach.
I would recommend eating your sea dwelling foods (fish, crustaceans, sea vegetables, etc) either prepared by a professional or when your cooking/food prep skills are improved. It can take just 60 seconds to overcook fish and even though I fancy myself a real cook now (which took about 10 years of practice), sea vegetables are still something that I am not proficient with. So, for now I eat them when I have sushi.
If you eat dairy, I encourage you to find a local farmer whom you can purchase raw dairy products from. It is not as hard to find as you think.
My one rule of eating real food is that I don’t eat anything that doesn’t taste delicious to me. Regardless of how healthy it is. Real food should not only nourish our cells, but it should delight your taste buds as well. And speaking of taste buds, when you make the change from processed foods to real foods, your taste buds will change! No longer can I eat many candies without it tasting like a pile of dyes and highly processed sugar. No longer can I eat food items that are sickenly (which apparently is not a real word!) sweet. I don’t deny myself these “foods,” I simply have no interest in putting them in my body and I know they won’t taste good to me.
When I prepare foods, whether cooked or raw, I have learned that simplicity is best. And I know that even after reading this some of you still want to know what I eat. I share the easy and healthy meals and beverages I consume on Instagram, @gracebenkovitz.
Be Well & Love the Earth,