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Secrets of the Real Food Diet

What’s the secret to weight loss? Food! Okay, food. That seems easy. But wait, any food? No! We’re talking about Real Food! With the abundance of misinformation on diets and processed foods everywhere we look, it’s not surprising that we don’t know what real food is anymore!

Real whole foods come directly from nature. Take an apple for example, and compare it with applesauce and apple juice. The apple is the real whole food while the applesauce and apple juice are processed forms of that real food. Real whole foods that come from nature are the kinds of foods that humans are built to eat! For thousands of years real whole foods were the only foods available. It was not until the 1940’s that processed packaged foods came onto the scene. Throughout the years, processed foods became more and more common as the American lifestyle got busier and people needed the convenience processed food offered. According to Melanie Warner, author of the book Pandora’s Lunchbox, 70% of the food American’s eat today is processed food.1 Processed foods like chips, cookies, and candy are so far from their real food counterparts that it is hard to even recognize some of the ingredients. These foods are most commonly consumed as snacks, and make up a shocking 25% of American’s daily calories!1 Snacks like these that come in big bags are loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and additives! Watch out for them, they are not real food and are packaged to trick you into eating large amounts.

Are you wondering why foods are processed at all if they are not as healthy as their whole food counterparts? Most commonly it is to improve taste, color, palatability, and shelf life. Food processors add many ingredients that are not optimal for a healthy diet. Most commonly sugar, salt, fat, and food additives (many that are “generally” considered as safe but not ideal for our bodies) are added to achieve desired qualities. However, some of these added ingredients can increase the risk of chronic diseases like overweight and obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. So, does this mean you can never partake in the convenience of processed foods? Of course not, that is not realistic. But try to limit them to 20% or less of your daily calories. This means for every four healthy whole-food choices you make, you can allow yourself one food that isn’t exactly real.

So, what exactly are real foods then? Real whole foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans, whole grains, seafood, lean meats, dairy (preferably with out added sugar and reduced fat) and nuts/seeds with out added artificial ingredients or excess additives. When evaluating your diet– are they stocked with at least 80% of real foods? When shopping, avoid too much time in the central aisles except when you’re buying nuts, beans, flour and frozen veggies. Usually the center isles are packed with tempting convenience of processed foods. Rather than wasting money on expensive processed foods, spend an hour or two each week doing your own food processing! Cleaning, chopping, and portioning vegetables and fruits ahead of time makes them ideal snacks and quick and easy additions to meals. This way, you get whole real foods that are not only healthy but convenient as well. Making your own meals, instead of buying the processed versions, is not only healthier, but often also more tasty and satisfying. When you deeply enjoy the food that you eat, you will need less to be satisfied. With practice, you will find that your cravings will decrease and your energy levels will skyrocket. These benefits will help you keep up your real whole food choices!

So…..get real with your food!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Warner, M. (2013). Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal. Scribner Publishing, New York, NY.
  2. Snacking Constitutes 25 Percent of Calories Consumed in the U.S. (June 20, 2011). Institute of Food Technologies. Retrieved 9/4/14 from