A few weeks ago we talked about the big job of making the switch from processed food in the pantry to “real food.” We started with the pantry because I believe the pantry is the greatest challenge to convert over to real food.
As we talked about in the pantry post, the best way to make the switch from processed food (think: highly addictive) to real food (think: totally delicious and makes your body feel great) is to create a strategic plan. My goal, through this Real Food Reboot Series, is to provide you with a few ideas for how to create a practical plan for swapping out processed “food” for nourishing real food. To do this, I’m going to break down the swap into three main categories: the pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Today, we’re going to start creating a practical plan for swapping out the processed food for real food in the fridge.
Before we get started with this week’s Real Food Reboot, let’s recap what a real food lifestyle is all about…
What is Real Food?
Before we get started, let’s define real food so we can all be on the “same page” as we discuss the practical ways to live out a real food lifestyle. Remember, the overall goal of real food is less processed food and more real ingredients and ultimately nourishing meals.
“Real food doesn’t have a long ingredient list, isn’t advertised on TV, and it doesn’t contain stuff like maltodextrin or sodium tripolyphosphate. Real food is things that your great-grandmother (or someone’s great-grandmother) would recognize.”–Michael Pollan
Real food is about food that has withstood traditions. Food that previous generations ate and enjoyed in its unprocessed state.
Real Food Defined
Grass-Fed, Pastured Meats: Meaning animals that have been raised and fed as they were intended when created, with grass underneath and the sun overhead. Using all parts of the animal including the bones for nourishing broth. Chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and wild game.
Eggs: From chickens that have been pastured, roaming free with lots of sunlight.
Fats: Such as: butter from grass-fed cows, unrefined coconut oil, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, tallow, and even lard (not Crisco). Learn more about Fats 101.
Grains and Legumes: Whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. If you can’t tolerate grains, grain-free flour substitutes (almond flour, coconut flour, etc.) may be used for baking.
Fruits and Veggies: Preferably in-season, organic and/or locally-grown, if possible. Including lots of fresh herbs.
Dairy: Raw, or pasteurized, and full-fat from grass-fed cows (or goats or sheep). When you see the words low-fat or fat-free you know a lot of junk has been added to make up for the nourishing fats. This would include: milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, cream cheese, cottage cheese. Avoid ultra-pasteurized dairy.
Salt: Real, unrefined salt that hasn’t been stripped of its nourishing minerals. I use Real Salt.
Seafood: Fish raised in the wild versus a fish farm.
Sweeteners: As close to the natural state as possible, such as raw honey (local honey is always preferable due to its health benefits), pure maple syrup, and natural sugars (sucanat and coconut sugar). Learn more about Sweeteners 101.
How to Make the Real Food Swap in the Fridge
While there are many food swaps we could discuss (purchasing pasture-raised eggs, sourcing “cleaner” condiments, etc.), three of the biggest impact swaps, in my humble opinion, are:
This group includes: milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, cream cheese, cottage cheese. Swap out dairy products that are ultra-pasteurized, with a long ingredient list, for products that are raw or low heat pasteurized, full-fat from grass fed cows (or goats or sheep), and minimally-processed (without a ton of ingredients). Two of the easiest processed dairy products to swap out for real food “alternatives” are butter and yogurt.
My favorite easy-to-find yogurt brands: Stonyfield, Seven Stars, Organic Valley. You can also make yogurt at home. My favorite easy-to-find butter brands: Kerrygold and Organic Valley.
Instead of purchasing conventional meat, look for meat labeled “pasture-raised” or “grass-fed,” meaning animals that have been raised and fed as they were intended when created, with grass underneath and the sun overhead. Many large grocery stores now carry grass-fed meat options.
As you begin to make the real food switch in your fridge, you may find that you need to look outside the conventional grocery stores. I invite you to visit this post about sourcing local food that will help you get started with sourcing local dairy, grass-fed meat, and even seasonal produce in your area. Also, if you’re curious about the availability of these products in conventional grocery stores, I invite you to skim my real food shopping series.
Be intentional about the produce you purchase and use. Make a plan for what you purchase and/or how you plan to use your produce. This simple step will ensure that your produce is consumed throughout the week versus left to rot in the back of the fridge. I use the weekly calendar from the Real Food Planning Challenge to create a weekly plan.
Also, shop seasonally. While my family still enjoys “off season” produce like bananas (especially in Florida since our growing seasons are very different than the rest of the country), seasonal and local produce is always cheaper and so fresh. Plus, purchasing local food helps our local economy and farmers. While I would love to purchase only organic produce, this isn’t always a budget-friendly approach for my family, so I use the “Buy Organic” cheat sheet to help prioritize produce purchases.