Answering Objections to a Real Food Diet

How to handle objections from family and friends when you switch to a real food dietIf you’ve switched to a grain free real food diet, chances are you have gotten some questions or flat out objections from concerned family and friends. In my experience, these questions or statements can range from genuine and scientific to flat out absurd.

When I first started eating this way, these type of questions would often leave me bumbling about vegetables, phytic acid and the importance of fats. Even though I know the science behind it, it is hard to remember it all when someone brings up an objection.Even more difficult is organizing it into a coherent explanation that doesn’t have them zoning out from scientific terminology.

While it’s sad that we even have to defend a decision to eat real foods, a diet that doesn’t focus on “low-fat” pasta, breads, granola, etc is a departure from the norm, and it helps to be able to back up your decision with science, logic, and of course, your obvious good health!

I actually get emails with some of these questions/objections from time to time, and I’ve been compiling them, and their answers to hopefully help make things easier for you guys! I had many requests at the beginning of the 40-Day Challenge on how to respond in these situations, so I finally put all this together in one place!

For me, the toughest part was not answering sarcastically or with cynicism when I get comments like “Aren’t you worried that eating fat will hurt your baby?” (oh, where to start on that one!). Below are by best “nice” answers to help explain your new way of life to friends and family. I’d love to hear your answers below!

Some Helpful Pointers When Talking About A Real Food Diet

  1. Define the way you eat in a positive and easy to understand way. For instance, don’t just say you cut out grains or cut carbs, explain that you have eliminated the processed foods from your diet and are focusing on eating foods in their most natural, unaltered state. Most people won’t have trouble with this at all, especially if you have kids and mention that you don’t want your kids to eat too much sugar/chemicals/food colorings/additives, etc.
  2. Answer with a question if you can. For example, if asked about why you skip meals occasionally and if you are worried about how this will affect your metabolism, rephrase it and ask: “Do you think it is healthy to eat when the body is not hungry since hunger is the body’s natural way to signal it needs nourishment?”
  3. Speak kindly in your answers and let your results speak for themselves. I often get questions when people ask what I did that led to my weight loss/increased health, which they have noticed. When I explain, they sometimes get skeptical, or say things like “Oh, I could never give up bread.” Fair enough, and I’m certainly not trying to deprive anyone of the right to eat what they want. Realize that as great as you look or feel eating this way, this isn’t a choice that you can make for someone else, as much as you might want to convince a family member for the sake of his health, the best argument you have in the long run is your own results. I’ve found that it is often better to let them bring up the issue and answer minimally. In most cases, they will ask for more info or detail.

Answers to Common Objections to a Real Food Diet:

“So you are just following the Atkins/Zone/South Beach/Low Carb diet?”

My Answer: Those “diets” still can include a lot of processed foods. I’m not following a diet, but working on incorporating a healthier lifestyle for myself and my family. Really, I’m just focused on cooking and eating the most nutrient dense and healthy foods available and giving my kids the best nutritional foundation I can. Most of the foods that are sources of fast carbs just have too many artificial ingredients and processed components for me to want to  eat them or feed them to my family. Don’t you think that something like a chicken and vegetable stir fry is more nutritious than a bowl of pasta?

“Aren’t your tired/sluggish from not eating enough carbohydrates?”

(I especially love this question when I am obviously jogging/lifting weights/playing with kids and not looking sleepy at all!)

My Answer: Actually, I feel great. I used to be hypoglycemic and needed some source of carbs every couple hours to function. I got tired of always having a granola bar with me, and didn’t like all the processed ingredients in most of these sources of food. Now, I make sure I’m getting enough proteins, healthy fats and vegetables that my body always has a constant source of energy. I feel better than I ever have, and it is so refreshing not to have to carry food around constantly, or be worried about when I’m going to eat next.

“What about the fiber? It isn’t good for you to eat all that meat and not get the fiber from all those whole grains!”

My Answer: Well, the research is actually pretty inconclusive on if we actually need that much fiber, but either way, vegetables and fruits have much more fiber and nutrients than whole grains without having to worry about how the gluten, lectins and phytic acid are affecting my digestive track. Not to mention, most of the grains people eat are in such a processed form that they resemble wall paper glue more similarly than they resemble actual dietary fiber!

“Eating all that fat will give you diabetes!”

(Ignoring the blatant fact that it is carbohydrate intake, not fat intake that causes diabetes… this article explains more)

My Answer: Actually my insulin sensitivity has improved since I started eating this way. (I know this personally because I occasionally test my own blood sugar to gauge my insulin response to foods and my fasting insulin and these have all improved, though they weren’t in unhealthy ranges before). Getting enough protein and fats and plenty of veggies actually helps the pancreas function optimally, especially things like the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil that don’t even need bile or pancreatic enzymes to digest and go straight to the liver to be used for energy. Not to mention I have more energy overall, and don’t feel exhausted if I miss a meal.

“I could never/would never give up bread/pasta/etc. They are so good!”

My Answer: I used to think the same thing and have seen examples of clients and relatives who would have pasta for dinner with bread on the side and then have toast with jelly for dessert. I, like these clients, thought I could never give up bread. Once I understood the negative effect that grains were having on my body, I decided to eliminate them completely for 60 days and then reintroduce. Since I wasn’t trying to commit to never eating them again, I was able to stick with it. A surprising thing happened, I stopped craving them, and when I could eat them again, they didn’t taste as good. In fact, when I tried eating grains again, I found that they usually upset my stomach and made me really tired. Now, I don’t even want them, and when I find myself wanting a certain food, it is more often something like meat, olives, quality aged cheese or an orange for a treat. Don’t you think those things are healthier things to “crave” than toast or french fries?

“What about all the nutrients in grains?”

My Answer: While grains have been promoted as excellent sources of fiber and nutrients, in reality, they don’t have nearly the nutrients as foods in their natural state (meat, veggies, fruits, etc). Grains also contain phytic acid, which depletes the body of minerals like calcium while it is being digested, causing nutrient deficiencies. Meats, vegetables and healthy fat sources offer nutrients in a more readily available form which our bodies can absorb faster. Unlike vegetarians and vegans who aren’t consuming any animal products and have to be careful about supplementation (especially of b-vitamins), there is really no biological need for grains. Those who avoid grains either voluntarily, or by necessity as in the case of celiacs, find that they are healthier and have fewer nutrient deficiencies. (Personally, I had my vitamin D levels tested before going grain free and after several months. Without even supplementing or getting more sun than usual, my levels rose significantly)

“Aren’t you worried about gaining weight from all that fat?”

My Answer: Since I’ve lost weight since starting to eat real foods, I’m not worried about this at all. In fact, since I am reducing my body’s insulin resistance by not over consuming processed carbs, my body is actually learning to burn fat as I continue to lose weight. Without insulin to signal fat cells to store fat, or the glucose (from carbs) to feed these fat cells, it is pretty logical that I’m losing, not gaining, weight. I’ve found that as long as I keep insulin levels low by not over consuming carbs, I’m actually less hungry and lose more weight the more fat I eat.

“It sounds like a great idea, but my kids won’t eat broccoli/chicken/beef/lettuce/fill in the blank. OR My kids will only eat chicken nuggets/ mac n cheese/pasta/fill in the blank.”

(This is perhaps my hardest one to answer without sarcasm! What I feel like saying is: “Oh, have you tried cutting down the amount of spending cash you are giving to your five year old to allow him to purchase these foods for himself” or “Wow, I’m really impressed your toddler can cook mac and cheese already!” or “Darn that stupid law that says we have to feed our kids whatever they want on a whim all the time!” or “Oh, if your kids wanted to take up smoking, would you allow that too?”)

My (Nice) Answer: Eating struggles with kids can be really tough. I fed my oldest son the feeding schedule the pediatrician recommended (I shudder to think of this now!). Because of that, he developed a taste of breads, processed foods, and sweets. When we started eating real food, the adjustment was tough for him for about two weeks. Kids are so resilient though, he adjusted and now he eats protein and vegetables at every meal without complaint. He still likes carbs, but prefers sweet potatoes to bread (he can eat 2-3 sweet potatoes at a meal). I think the transition is actually tougher on the parents than the kids. In the end, I guess we just have to realize that we have empowered them to eat these unhealthy foods in the first place, and we have the responsibility for teaching them healthy eating habits. In the long run, a few meals of not eating or being upset at the food choices will be well worth the understanding of healthy foods and the nutritional foundation we are giving them. This is even more important for kids than for adults, since their brains and bodies are still developing and they need good sources of nutrition, especially proteins, veggies and healthy fats. For me, it took my (then) two-year old son not eating for two days before he tried broccoli with butter, actually liked it, and has eaten it ever since. Besides, I don’t have time to be a short order cook, and since our family is committed to eating healthy foods, all of us are going to do that.

Here is an in-depth post about the guidelines I have for teaching our children to eat healthy foods and how we handle it at our house.

“I can’t eat those foods (meat, butter, coconut oil, etc) because I have high blood pressure/cholesterol.”

My Answer: The idea that saturated fat raises cholesterol and that high levels of cholesterol causes heart disease is known as the Lipid Hypothesis, and it has been largely debunked. In fact, some scientific info is now pointing to processed foods like Omega-6 vegetable and seed oils and the inflammation from grains as the likely culprit. Other studies have found that for people over 55, higher cholesterol can actually mean less of a chance of death from heart attack. Doesn’t it seem logical that foods like meat and vegetables in their natural form are healthier and less inflammatory to the body than grains, sugars, vegetable oils, etc that have to be processed to be consumed?

“But grain consumption is Biblical and Jesus even called himself the Bread of Life, so grains must be good.”

My Answer: For one thing, we aren’t consuming grains in the same form they were consumed in Biblical times. Back then, grains were often cut and then left in the fields until they were needed. During this time sitting in fields or structures, they were exposed to elements and left to mold, ferment and sprout. These things all broke down some of the phytic acid/gluten/lectin content, making the grains more digestible. Also the grains couldn’t be ground as finely, since the equipment didn’t exist, and therefore, much less of the grain came in contact with the digestive track than it does these days when wheat is powdered, increasing its surface area 10,000% and making it similar to sugar in the way our bodies recognize it. There is also evidence that the grains themselves were much different during Biblical times, as they have now been hybridized and altered to produce higher yields.

Also, from a Biblical perspective, grains were not associated with times of feast, but more often with times of famine or trouble. During times of feast, the fatted calf was killed. Animals were sacrificed because of their value. Whether during the flight out of Egypt, the famine in Egypt that Joseph warned the Pharaoh about,  the time of punishment in Ezekiel, or the Manna given in the desert during exile, times when grains were consumed were associated with punishment or famine.

Jesus did say he was the bread of life, which I take to mean that he is our sustenance and survival in times of trouble or famine, not as a Biblical charge to consume wheat. He also called himself, the Lamb of God. If we are supposed to eat grains because of this reference as the Bread of Life, we should also then eat meat because of his reference as the Lamb of God, though I hear few vegetarians agreeing with this.

Finally, as I’ve always said, I’m not here to try to prevent eating anyone from eating grains if they want to. I defend the right of others to eat grains, processed food or McDonald’s, just as I hope they would defend my right to eat the foods I like I consider healthy. That being said, if you are eating grains for Biblical reasons, than care should be taken to harvest, sprout, and ferment the grains in a similar way. Nowhere did Jesus mention high fructose corn syrup, MSG, sugar, or chemical preservatives when speaking of his Body, so these can certainly be left off the list. Certainly, I don’t think it is in any way un-Christian to avoid grains, especially if your body does not handle them well and if you are replacing them with other foods in the form God created them.

Here’s the full post on grains in the Bible

Other Factors:

All that being said, there are still times when it is difficult to not eat a certain food without offending someone when visiting family or at a celebration.

Personally, I always cook real food at home without exception, try to eat this way if at all possible when traveling or at someone’s house, and realize that if eating a small amount of a certain food on a special occasion will prevent hurting someone’s feelings, it will not undo all my progress either. On the other hand, these times can often be opportunities for great discussion about food choices.

If you are interested in further reading, these articles offer some more detailed info:
Guide to Grains (How Grains are Killing You Slowly)
Guide to FAT
Guide to Protein Sources
Guide to Carbohydrates
Guide to Fast Weight Loss
Guide to Preventing Heart Disease (Eat More Cholesterol?)
Guide to Diabetes- How to Reverse Diabetes Naturally – Are You At Risk?
Guide to Fasting- Skipping Meals Can Make You Healthier

Have you gotten any questions or comments since going grain free? How did you respond?

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Reader Comments

  1. Great resources and answers here! Thank you for spelling it all out so simply.

    I completely agree with you about the kids-not-liking-it one. My oldest is only five so no one’s ever really questioned me about how I am raising my kids yet, but it baffles me how much power people assume that parents must delegate to their young children’s whims. Our kids wear the clothes provided for them, they will eat the food offered them, they will play with the toys given them, and they will be grateful for it all! Seriously, I don’t think it’s an issue unless you make it an issue, and then it will take a little work to backtrack and re-train bad habits.

  2. I also wanted to comment on the bread issue. That is the hardest thing to give up, not so much from the craving perspective, as from the nutritional (I thought!) and filling perspective. Homemade rolls and bread slices were my constant ‘Help yourself’ kid snack, and they were a staple of soup meals during the winter. Now that we’re approaching spring, I shan’t be making as many soups, but what can you possibly use to go with soups besides bread? For a filling, sopping, tasty side? Vegetables and salads are all well and good as a side dish to any meal, but soups just seem to need a bread. Do you have any food group or way of preparing food to fill this void?

    • I usually make soups as filling as possible. With a combination of starchy veggies, proteins and good fats, they tend to be filling without the bread. For chili for instance, you could make “chips” by baking cheese on cookie sheets until it hardens. These also work for dipping. There are also recipes for coconut or almond flour bread, and I know people who love them. I just don’t have the time to make them, and we don’t seem to miss them.

    • Eating bread with soup – like crackers – is just a habit. I have soup or broth without bread and don’t miss the bread. Sometimes I top off a meal with a handful of nuts, which are quite filling. Or finish with fruit or cheese.

  3. Thank you for this! Especially the Biblical question/comments. Looking forward to your in-depth on this topic.

  4. You mentioned you’ve experienced weight loss as a result of this diet. Any chance we could see some before and after shots! That would be really motivating! Thanks!

    • I’ll work on that sometime soon… with 3 (going on 4) kids, I’m certainly not the one who is usually in the pictures, but I’ll try to dig one up. It will be a pregnancy picture though 🙂

  5. Thank you so much! That will be really helpful! Just the other day, I was explaining why we went grain-free for lent… I described how all grains and starches are converted to glucose in the body and how thousands of years ago people lived on meat and plants. Then my friend responded, “But an orange will raise your glucose more than a potato will… and besides, thousands of years ago, they would have eaten a potato!”

    • Potatoes as a crop are relatively new. Would have been more accurate to state that hundreds of years ago instead of thousands. According to smithsonian.com, potatoes were new to western diet in the 18th century.

  6. There are good breads out there .Ezekiel 4:9. They make a sprouted grain bread. It’s Flowerless, and it’s organic, it’s also a complete protein.

  7. @ caroline,  all food  is converted to glucose in the body, it has to be to digest it. 🙂

    • @Howell, no not all food is converted to glucose. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, fats are absorbed as fatty acids. Proteins can be converted to glucose but are not directly converted to them, else how would our bodies utilize the protein for essential growth and repairs?

  8. Wellness Mama- would you say that you slightly following a Paleolithic way of eating?

  9. You have no idea how helpful this post is! My mother is totally against my family and me going grain free and this will help soooo much in explaining it to her! Maybe seeing her in the next few weeks and showing her how great I feel and hoe much weight my husband and I have lost will help also. Thanks again!

  10. I just discovered your website today. I think it’s great! I’ve been pro-fat for a while.
    I do have a little “beef” about your comments regarding how to get children to eat only real, whole foods. When our daughter was diagnosed with a feeding disorder, we slowly learned that there is a greater number of children than most people know about who suffer with feeding disorders. For our daughter, a wide range of textures were offensive to her. It was so bad at first that she would not eat anything, literally. She was surviving solely on breast milk, but losing weight. Through a lot of therapy, she now has a diverse diet, but only when comparing it to how she was before.

    I’m relieved that she will eat cooked broccoli, peas, corn, carrots (if small enough), but that is about the extent of her veggies. Meat, though, is a bigger concern to me. She will only eat things that are easy to chew; she still has sesitivity to some textures. She’ll eat ground beef (but not ground turkey), hot dogs, sausage, and chicken nuggets. I would love it if I could get her to eat real chicken, but even when I cut it very small to avoid the stringy-ness, she still refuses.

    My point to this is that saying kids may just skip a few meals until they actually try the food isn’t necessarily true and, this also implies to me the wive’s tale we were told by countless people who did not understand our daughter’s feeding disorder….”kid’s won’t starve themselves”…This is not true; our daughter was slowly wasting away because she didn’t want food. And I know many parents with children who got so thin they were Failure to Thrive because they actually were starving themselves.

    I like your site, but maybe suggesting that for some children, the transition can take quite a long time if they have texture sensitivity or any feeding issues is more realistic than snarky comments that assume it is purely the parents perpetuating the problem.

    If I were to dumb down all our therapy sessions, I’d say the key is to give your child the food you want them to eat, but also give them something you know they will eat. After A LOT of exposure (and playing with the food), they will eventually eat it, but expectations have to be kept really low on the parents’ part.

  11. Hello, love your site, love your wisdom and only wish my daughters would think as you do.

    I just want to tell you, I eat a lot of dried beans. My standard is to always soak them in clean water until they just start to form bubbles on top. ( I know, close to a ferment, right?) I have never had anyone turn my beans down even if they say they do not like beans, typically. The flavor is so much better this way. And the slight fermentation is better for us!!

  12. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Hi Wellness Mama!

    Thank you so much for being such a great resource and wealth of information. Someone mentioned Ezekiel Bread above. I think in one of your posts, you mentioned that the only exceptions to eating beans and grains might be if they are sprouted. I, personally, sprout my own garbanzo beans and intend to learn more about, and do more, sprouting. The only bread I buy is the sprouted sesame bread by Ezekiel and eat it roughly every other day. What is your opinion on this? Also, what alternatives, if any, do you have for grains? It my house, we have switched, for example, from red and Russet potatoes to only sweet potatoes (which are to die for), and I serve them with homemade hummus (sprouted garbanzo beans, soaked sesame seeds, organic olive oil [not heated], Himalayan sea salt, organic lemons) – does this sound reasonable and healthy? If not, do you have suggestions for a yummy alternative to hummus, because we use it once or twice a day… I’m sorry if I missed your answer to any of these questions, but your website is so chock full of info and I read other websites, so I can’t keep track sometimes! Any help is appreciated – even if you only have the time for one or two sentences in an email. Thank you so much!
    -heather

  14. I am getting major resistance from my husband on eating clean. He is Mr Processed and very finicky about textures. He will literally go back to the store and buy cookies and crackers if I don’t get them. If the organic ketchup I bought doesn’t taste very much like Heinz, he wont eat it. If the cookies I made with almond and coconut flour have a different texture, forget it. And they are Danielle’s Against All Grain recipe, so yummy! And on and on. I am mostly grain free, but I do keep rice and occasionally corn on the menu just to keep the peace. This resistance is then passed to my 13 year old and makes me bonkers when trying to cook and shop. Any suggestions?

      • Thanks! I have implemented some of these over the years, but as the kids got older and our schedules fuller, we have moved away from many of them. Time to re-instate. I will give it a whirl. It was so much easier with my oldest, as he was far more accepting and adventurous with food, like me. I think a no snacking policy and some more portable breakfast options may be in order. It’s not like there is no food at the house, but it is not wrapped in cellophane if I buy it. 🙂 I did get an Instant Pot this week- LOVE IT so far, dinner was 90% done when I walked in the door from work- and may be making a big batch of steel cut oats or something that can be easily reheated for busy (and early) mornings throughout the week. I am not big on grains, but eggs do get monotonous, and I truly do not have time to cook most mornings. I do smoothies, but nobody else cares much for them- too many seeds!

        Love your blog, BTW, and have made many of your recipes, especially for cleaning products and tooth powder. I think I may have gotten my first HP soap recipe through your site, as well.