I’ve always been sceptical about anything that reeks of faddishness. Especially in regard to food. My natural instinct is to distrust theories that are forcibly stuffed down my throat, especially if they contain the word “super” or “revolutionary”. But there’s a lot about the Real Food movement that makes sense. It sits comfortably in the realm of common sense and what we’ve always known. So what’s it all about?
How to get real about food
Michael Pollan may not have been the originator of the idea but he’s helped to get the message out, starting with his book “In Defense of Food“. His message was pretty succinct. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Or, to expand on it slightly:
- Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “When you pick up that box of portable yoghurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, “What are those things doing there?” Pollan says.
- Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Shop on the perimeter of the supermarket. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
- Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting, except honey.
- “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full.
Follow great grandmother’s example
All of this makes sense. (I’m not sure what portable yoghurt tubes are, but can guess.) We’ve been told for a long time to concentrate on eating things that were once alive, and give a miss to those that have that distinctive synthetic look about them. In most cases the taste test is a good guide. Chemicals, preservatives, fake colours and flavours contribute to foods that may satisfy the hunger pangs but disappoint the palate. And they weren’t around in grandmother’s day, so she managed without them and kept her family healthily and satisfyingly fed.
Taking the Real Food Challenge
Lisa Leake, a North Carolina housewife, inspired in 2010 by Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Michael Pollan, decided to turn her life around with healthier eating, get her family on board and then throw down the gauntlet to the rest of us. She started a website called 100 Days of Real Food.
As Lisa explains on her website, much of what she’d assumed was healthy food and had been happily serving to her husband and two young children, was in fact highly processed and of dubious nutritional value.
Armed with her new-found knowledge, she completely revamped her shopping and cooking choices, and set herself and her family a challenge to eat only real food for 100 days. They reaped the benefits in noticeably improved health. Obviously a crusader at heart (and doesn’t the world need them), she set up her website to help the rest of us make the right choices and has since built a successful business out of that original initiative.
It doesn’t sound all that hard. Here’s the list of no-no’s:
- No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (“whole wheat” not just “wheat” is what you should be looking for)
- No refined sweeteners such as sugar, corn syrup, cane juice or artificial sweeteners
- Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than five ingredients listed on the label
- No deep fried foods
- No fast foods
- Minimal amounts of trans fats
On 26 October 2013 Radio National’s Michael McKenzie did an interview with Lisa followed by a chat with nutritionist Catherine Saxelby, who reinforced Lisa’s real food message.
There’s a Real Food Revolution coming to your home town
If you’d like to get the facts on the Real Food movement and hopefully avoid some of the hype, you can find out much more at the Real Food Revolution.
The Real Food Revolution is a national event that aims to teach people how to live a healthier lifestyle and have fun with food at the same time. For dates and times in other cities, visit the website.
Over the three days a big lineup of speakers will talk about everything from raw food (fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) to juicing to processed food and holistic health.
In Adelaide it runs from March 28 to March 30.
- Day 1 – “Getting into Healthy Eating” Friday 6pm – 9pm
- Day 2 – “Living Healthy” Saturday 0am – 2pm
- Day 3 – “Expanding Your Horizons” Sunday 9am – 2pm
Bringing Real Food to your Door
A good way of getting more real food into your kitchen is to shop at farmers’ markets. I love them and try to get to them as often as possible. For lots of families though, it’s difficult. It’s great that there’s now a range of online suppliers where you can get fresh organic food delivered right to your door. I haven’t yet tried any of these, so can’t give an opinion, but I plan to over the coming months and will let you know what I think.
Here are a few.
by Anne Green