We try to eat a real food diet consisting of whole foods whenever possible but we don’t obsess about it. Life is about balance after all. That being said, the more I learn about our food system the more I want to stay away from any chemical processing whatsoever. I’ve learned that I feel so much better eating food in the state it was meant to be eaten.
I’ve been off the processed food for about 5 years now and things are certainly different. The more I traded processed for homemade the healthier I felt. When OG was small I had to quit dairy and when I was pregnant with QC I quit gluten as an attempt to ditch my antidepressant, since I wasn’t thrilled about being on it while pregnant.
During that pregnancy I found out that I had Hashimoto’s disease (hypothryoidism). All along I was making small changes to improve my diet—homemade fermented foods, naturally sweetened treats and reducing the amount of grains I was eating.
After I gave birth to Quinn I couldn’t lose weight, in fact, I had gained quite a bit during my pregnancy! I had slipped into bad eating habits since we moved (gluten free convenient foods) so I blamed that, yet getting back to my regular diet didn’t help either. I was also having Hashimoto’s symptoms like fatigue, heart flutters, a general sick feeling, and brain fog.
Long story short, I’m now on the AIP diet (autoimmune protocol) to deal with my Hashimoto’s and I feel great. I’m not eating any processed food whatsoever (really!) and am trying to include tons of veggies and very little natural sugars. I’m even learning to eat fish!
But the point is—I would never have been able to go from processed food to AIP. It was a gradual shift of choosing one new thing to deal with instead of trying to do it all at once (and likely fail). You may not need to go on AIP, that’s not what I’m recommending.
The point is to notice how your body feels after a meal and if you feel good, great, if not, then it might be time to reevaluate what you’re eating. Each of us is different and each of us needs a different healing diet. However, no healing diet will ever include processed foods, so let’s start there!
5 Reasons we avoid processed food and choose real food instead
There are many, MANY reason to stay away from processed foods, here are 4 biggies.
1. Excess sugar and carbs
Chemical processing strips all of the nutritional value from food. Essentially you’re left with only sugar, or carbs that turn to sugar quickly during digestion. Eating too much sugar sends you on a constant blood sugar roller coaster. This up and down of blood sugar, and the constant carb snacking that comes with it, can cause insulin resistance which causes lots of problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
2. Causes overeating
We were not designed wrong as humans. The human body is designed to cause hunger when it needs nourishment and suppress hunger when it doesn’t. When we eat high calorie, low (zero) nutrition foods we are confusing our bodies. The body will continue to tell you to eat because it needs zinc, for example, but if all you give it is processed wheat, sugar, and additives, your body continues to feel hungry.
Processed foods are also linked to addictive eating. Some processed foods may trigger addictive responses because they stimulate the reward center of the brain. This coupled with the nutritionally void nature of the food makes a perfect combination for binge eating.
3. Filled with Junk
Processed food has so many fillers, chemicals, and additives it’s hardly recognizable as food anymore. It just makes sense. Why would we want to eat “food products” when we can eat real food. I prefer to know where my food comes from and that it doesn’t contain yucky chemicals and additives.
4. Can’t be trusted
Packaging is made to sell not inform. If you take a closer look at some seemingly healthy packaged foods you see that they have refined sugar, white flour, etc in them. Even organic and natural packaged foods are highly processed. For the most part, companies are not interested in your health above their bottom line.
5. Can cause leaky gut and autoimmune disease
Processed foods wreck havoc on gut health. They cause inflammation, leaky gut, and, because 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, immune system issues. Leaky gut (intestinal permeability) can cause many ailments including autoimmune disease. When I’m strict about what I eat or what I let my kids eat I often get direct or inferred comments that I’m being overly strict or that “Just one can’t hurt”. The thing is it can. I know. I have autoimmune disease (Hashimotos) that I’m healing with a strict, low inflammation, clean diet.
Beginning the journey
When I first ditched processed foods I noticed more energy and I felt healthier overall. I also lost my taste for “junk” food. I greatly preferred the whole grain, naturally sweetened breads and cookies that I made at home. I also noticed how incredibly salty packaged food is – blech.
As time went on I no longer wanted junk food. I’m happy with a bit of fruit or maple syrup sweetened treats. What I think a lot of people get hung up on is thinking they can’t have their favorite things anymore. The truth is you can always find a real food replacement (like chocolate pumpkin truffles) and you will lose your taste for processed foods. They just won’t taste good once you stop eating them, I guarantee it.
Real food: Isn’t it expensive
I feel that I need to mention the obvious stumbling block to eating a real food diet. It’s expensive! However, I truly believe that what we invest in our health now will pay two-fold down the line. Of course there are times when you can’t stretch your budget anymore and that’s ok, do your best and it will be fine.
How to begin eating a real food diet in 4 easy steps
When you’re considering changing your families diet, it can feel overwhelming. Start with one thing and just keep pushing forward. learn all you can, when you can, but be gentle with yourself too and know that it’s a process.
- Ditch the packages – Begin making some staples at home, like bread and other baked goods. Anything you buy in a package, figure out how to make it yourself.
- Switch out your fats – As an oil runs out replace it with a higher quality one. Stick with expeller pressed coconut oil, California olive oil (others are often fake), and grassfed butter and ghee. Pastured lard and tallow are great too. Avocados, raw nuts, coconut, and olives are other sources of healthy fat.
- Switch out sugar – When it runs out, replace it with maple syrup, raw honey, or coconut sugar.
- Consider organic – As your budget allows, add in organic produce to reduce the toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers you are eating. For tips for where to buy these items check out my post here.
This isn’t going to be an overnight change but can be an amazing healing journey if you let it!