The Importance of Eating “Real Food”

Wellness Challenge Step One- Eat Real Food and Avoid Processed Foods

Nutrition has a tremendous impact on overall health, and is a huge focus of the Wellness Lifestyle. If you’ve been a Wellness Mama reader for a while, you know that I’m not a fan of grainssugars and starches  or vegetable oils and recommend removing them from your diet.

Instead of consuming processed foods and empty calories, it is important to get adequate nutrition from proteinsfats and vegetables. Some foods, like beans, are of questionable nature, so I’d suggest removing them too to see how your body tolerates them. Others, like vegetable oils, margarine, and other frankenfats are toxic and should always be avoided completely!

In order to get the most benefit in the quickest amount of time, cut out the grains, sugars, potatoes, beans and all processed foods from your diet and focus on getting maximum nutrition from meats, vegetables, healthy fats (coconut, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, tallow, lard, butter, unprocessed cream, etc) and fruits.

What is “Real Food”?

I was asked recently which foods I would pick if I could only eat five foods forever. Tough question, but it really made me think about which foods would provide the nutritional needs for the rest of my life, as well as which ones I could stomach forever. A few of these are food “groups” but since I often see foods like pizza or mac and cheese (which contain multiple ingredients) on these types of lists, I figured healthy food groups would qualify.

1. Meat & Fish

Complete sources of protein and good sources of healthy fats. Nutritionally, meats and fish pack a lot of nutrition for their size and provide vital nutrients like iron, fat soluble vitamins, Omega-3s and more. I’d use the bones of the meat to make bone broth, which is a very nutrient dense healing food.

The broad category of meat also includes nature’s multivitamin: organ meats. Organ meats one of the most nutrient dense foods available and they are an excellent source of fat soluble vitamins and iron. Also included in the meats/fish category would be fermented cod liver oil and Omega-3 fish oil, which I consume daily. Also, one word: Bacon.

2. Coconut

I love coconut, let me count the ways (here are 101 ways to be exact). I love coconut oil, coconut cream concentrate, dried coconut, fresh coconut, coconut water, etc. Coconut is an excellent source of healthy fats, including brain and immune boosting medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid. My family consumes coconut oil daily and I also use coconut flour in recipes like these:

3. Green Vegetables

I’d definitely include all vegetables if I could, but I figured that would really be a stretch! Green vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients and offer a lot of variety. I’d be consuming  a lot of salads, homemade sauerkraut, roasted cabbage, brussels sprouts

4. Berries

Berries are nature’s dessert. Full of antioxidants and nutrients and relatively low in fructose, they are delicious and healthy. I love them plain or on salads. Nuff’ said.

5. Fermented Foods

This category would already include some of the foods listed above, but fermented foods have the added benefit of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria and enzymes. These beneficial bacteria help bolster the immune system, increase nutrient absorption from food, and improve digestion. Some of my favorite fermented foods are:

If one of your goals is to lose weight or improve your physique, consider drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake. If weight loss is a serious goal, this will mean that that morning bowl of oatmeal or potato salad at lunch is out. To keep it simple, just get your carbs from vegetables (minus potatoes) and you’ll be fine!

One exception, if you struggle from low-thyroid, don’t drop your carbs too low for too long, as this can stress the thyroid, just make sure to get your carbs from healthy foods like sweet potatoes, winter squash, fruit, and grain-free baked goods! [Note: Some people experience a “carb flu” as their body adjusts to not having a constantly available stream of glucose. This is temporary, but can be uncomfortable for the first couple of weeks. Check out these two posts by Dr. Michael Eades to help make the transition easier Tips for Starting Low Carb Part I and Tips for Starting Low Carb Part II ]

To help you get started:

Are you all in when it comes to eating real food? Still struggling with some items? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I”m in. Hopefully i will be able to stick with it, as I am in school, driving out of state for a week, plus work and family. 🙂  I can’t wait

  2. Im christine bernie and im in

  3. Hi, I’m Jessica.  I’m in!  I’m also 12 weeks pregnant.  What would you recommend is a good carb goal to stay at daily ( from fruits and veggies)?

    • Aim for 100-150 while pregnant but see how you seek and if you need more… Protein and fats are really important so focus on those if you can!

    • Hi Jessica, congratulations on your new, little life! I am 34wks and have eaten like this almost the whole time (had to forgive myself a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and this has been the BEST pregnancy by far! It’s my 5th kid. I did not really limit my carb in take. I just make sure they are good ones. Sweet potatoes are great! I allow myself more fresh fruit and nuts than I would allow if I was trying to lose weight. Eat LOTS of fat!!! Put butter on everything. Smoothies with coconut milk, almond butter and bananas. Lots of avocado. Anyway, just my thoughts in doing this pregnant.

      • Thanks Deborah! I appreciate the feedback!  And congrats to you too!

  4. I’ve been waiting for this!!  I’m SO in!  🙂  Thanks for all you do.

  5. I’m in! I am currently 34wks pregnant and have eaten well the whole time, which has meant a great pregnancy with very little weight gain. But I’d love the accountabily for these last few weeks since my hunger has sky-rocketed!!! It will be fun to see what everyone else is saying.

    Question – I assume sweet potatoes are okay? They are my main carb these days since I’m not trying to lose weight.

    • Absolutely! And how exciting… Hopefully you’ll have that baby during the challenge and we can hear about him or her and how delivery goes (I’m a doula so I love hearing about birth and babies!)

  6. I’m Courtney.  I can’t wait to start tomorrow.  My husband has agreed to do this with me.  He needs to lose weight and I would like to clear up my skin.  We have 4 children who we are trying to teach about healthy eating so this is perfect!!  So excited!

  7. Hi! My name is Amy and I am in! I have been trying to reduce my carb intake for a few weeks now for weight loss. I have lost 5 lb and would like to lose more. I have been trying to make some changes for my family also but that is definately my biggest challenge. My kids are 11,9,7 and 5. The two boys are very picky but very athletic and always hungry! Sometime I feel like all I think about is food/meals/snacks!

  8. Really like your redesign.  Though, I wish there was a picture of you some where on here.  I want to know what an amazing Paleo, homeschooling, all-natural Mom looks like  
      =)
    I’m in on the challenge.  

  9. Hi I am Anthea and I am already a non carb (in the forms of grains and sugars) eater. But I would love to encourage anyone out there giving it a go for the first time. It remarkable how alive you feel when you eat as nature intended!!!

  10. Definitely in. This is just what i need to help me get through the next 7 weeks. I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and this time of year is always difficult because I long for sunshine! I get really depressed in the winter and it greatly impacts my ability to focus and stay motivated. I have been doing a great deal of research online for natural ways to help brighten my mood. I have tried different antidepressants, but find their side effects to be annoying. So I stop taking them. I would love to hear your thoughts on natural ways to help elevate my mood.  Thank you for providing this challenge.

    • Hi Jacey, I’m sorry you suffer from SAD. This time of the year must be tough! I do not have depression buy find wheat and sugar severly affect my mood. My chiropractor/nutritionist put me on a magnesium supplement at a time when I was really struggling with mood swings.

  11. I’m Arica and I’m in!  I’ve been following the no grains/no sugar for  a little over a year and have gotten sloppy as of late.  Time to shape up and try to lose those 10 stubborn pounds!!

  12. Hi, I’m Andrea and I’m in!  I have been working hard at switching my daughter’s and I to grain free, so this is coming at a great time!

  13. I am in. I’ve mastered all the eliminations except sugar. This gives motivation to elminate sugar for lent and life!

    • I gave up everything except sugar also.  But I’ll try starting tomorrow morning. 

  14. Ps- I would like to lose about 60lbs and try to conceive a child in 2013. Weight loss and health need to happen first!

  15. Kimberly From Va.  Mother of four just had my last two Yes twins Jan 9th 2012 and want to lose the weight and get healthy.

  16. Hi I’m in. I have been eating grain free for 4 months along with my husband and two children. My other children are eating the paleo food I cook along with some grains. I’ve yet to make the complete switch for our family. Sugar is where I need to work on. Lent is a perfect time to do this. Bring it on.

  17. In here!  I’m Cathy (aka Cat) and need to lose weight.  We’ve been eating whole foods for several years now but I was inspired to kick it up a notch after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year.  Sugar is my weakness.  I do pretty well with grain-free at home, but find it hard at church events (where I personally cook for a large crowd but need to keep the budget low) or other social events.  My children are 11, 7, 5.5, 4, and 2 next week and are BIG eaters.  Hubby and I are trying to be mostly grain-free but we have not gone there with the kiddos yet.  I fix healthy meals  but they are allowed some grain foods.  

  18. I’m Bri, and I’m in. I’m feeling good about food/nutrition and fitness, but a work in progress when it comes to stress and time management. And going to bed before 11PM. 😉 As a self-employed mama, it’s difficult to know how and when to “shut off” and take time for R&R. 

  19. Hi, I’m McKinsey.  I have two children and haven’t really taken the grain free plunge with them.  I have been grain free/sugar free since October with the occasional cheat.  I have endometriosis and have learned I am very gluten sensitive.   When I have wheat, I am in pain.  Looking forward to re committing 100% and seeing what happens!

  20. Hi, my name is Jennifer and I am in.  My goal is to be hotter than my two sisters.  They always call themselves hot mama’s but never include me because I am overweight but that is going to change.

  21. I am definitely in.  I’ve dabbled with this site  and way of eating for a long time… It’s time to get serious!  I’m in it to win it!!

  22. I’m absolutely ready for this!  I kicked grains, sugar and dairy two weeks ago and now I’m fine tuning how much I eat and learning how to cook completely different foods.  I’d love to share my experience!

  23. i’m so in ! this is just what i needed to be really dedicated to healthy, whole eating.   your site is amazing, katie and i really appreciate everything you do

  24. I’m in and my name’s Gwyn. The timing on this is way beyond my control…all sorts of books, blogs and my head and heart is telling me i’ts TIME to deal with my food and health. Finally! Looking forward to the challenges and cringing at the same time. 🙂

  25. Hi! My name is Kendra and I am really looking forward to taking on the Wellness Challenge. My goal is to stay away from grains & sugar and to be more consistent with exercising.

  26. Hi I’m Jess and I’m IN!  I did the Whole30 in jan, and stayed on track, but in the past few weeks, without a real plan, I’ve cheated way too much!  I’m still struggling to loose cravings and make clean/whole eating routine for me.  I can’t wait!

  27. Hi, my name is Jess and I am totally in. Joining today at the start of Lent. I am vowing to give up sugar and grain and starches, which also means I am giving up coffee since I can’t have sugar in it anymore. I won’t post a pic, but I will say that I am 5’2 and 173 lbs. Not my heaviest, but definitely my unhappiest. Looking forward to talking to everyone and getting some friendly support.

  28. Hi, I’m Erin and I love your site! I’m a homeschooling mom and we just had our fourth in December. I’ve been “studying” your site and reading about the Paleo diet. I was thinking about doing a 30 day challenge and then decided with Lent here that I would just give up grains, sugar, etc. I’m excited that I can join in this challenge. And this will be a challenge- very different from how I have always eaten. I am a white bread, poptarts and chocolate chip cookies kind of gal. But it is time to change that! Currently I’m 5’8 and 178lbs. So weight loss and good health are my goals. Thank you Wellness Mama!

  29. I was just looking up your former challenges yesterday in preparation for Lent – so I’m definitely in! I’m looking to lose pregnancy weight (baby number five is two weeks old). I have kept some weight with each pregnancy – with five pregnancies, that really adds up 🙁   Also, I had blood sugar issues every time and want to avoid diabetes. Thanks for setting this up again!

  30. Hi!  I’m Kate and I’m totally in 🙂  After 5 years as a vegetarian (with sprinkles of veganism and stages of raw foodism), I am happily incorporating nourishing and humanely raised animal products into my diet.  I feel better, but its been a bit of a roller coaster.  I am looking forward to the support of this challenge and learning more about balanced eating.  Thanks Mama Wellness-you are my hero!!

  31. I am Jamie in MO and I am IN!  I started eating this way back in October and am feeling much better, better energy to keep up with my 4 kids! I am excited to learn more ways to implement this lifestyle!

  32. I’m Cheryl and I’m in! I threw out a bunch of stuff today and some more is going tomorrow. I went grocery shopping today and I bought ALL real food. Bring it on. Can’t wait for the 8-year struggle with acne to be over.

  33. I am in.  I am hoping to start eating better and  as my body heals to loose some weight. 
    Making good meals that are healthy and that my husband can enjoy too. I have numerous food sensitivities and was blessed to find this site.  I am unable to eat wheat, grains, dairy, except for raw cheese, soy.  The recipes that I have found and used from this site and other paleo recipe books have been a blessing, however I still am unable to loose any weight!?  hopefully this will help.
    my name is pam  : )

  34. Hi, I’m Kris and my husband and I are in! I am finally giving up all grains which I have always known are a problem for me 🙂 I’m excited for this challenge!

  35. I’m Dorie and I’m in.  I just started a wellness journal…  got kind of a head start, I’m on day 20 of a Whole 30.

  36. I guess I’m a little late but a friend just told me about this site. I’m ready to start!! I have hypothyroidism and I’m breast feeding so I need to be healthy!

  37. Im in! id love to hear tips on doing this with a spouse who isn’t doing it with me…or how to sneak him in unawares(;

  38. My computer’s been down so I’m just seeing this.  I’d like to join if it’s not too late?  I’m Maryalice and I’m from CA. 

  39. hi i’m sarah.

    it seems i’m a little late to the party but i’ve made my family nutrition a priority and i actually purged the pantry grains last week–so i hope i can join now anyway 🙂

  40. I’m Alicia Trotter and I am in.  I am doing this because I have thought for some time that I may be sensitive to wheat or grains and now I have developed a skin condition that proves my theory.  Also I have been suffering from foggy brain and dizzy spells.  Hoping to get well and stay that way!  Thanks for all the great resources!

  41. Ok I have been switching over you a sugar and grain free lifestyle.  I have been keeping track of my food, but noticing I have been eating about 100 grams of fat a day.  I has been from coconut oil, meet and a small amount of nuts.  How much fat should I eat a day? My caloric intake has been around 1600-1800 a day. I am trying to get the old way of thinking out of my head, but I also have 20 pounds to loose, and not sure if that will affect my weight lose in the long run.  THANKS!  I LOVE your site and have been up too many late night reading it 🙂

    • Don’t worry about the fat! Especially coconut oil, which helps speed weight loss. You should see weight loss with that fat intake, as long as your carbs aren’t too high (lower them gradually if they are). Getting rid of the grains and sugars alone should make a big difference! Thanks for reading!

  42. Hi! We are definitely all in for a healthy and whole foods approach to eating. We switching to Paleo in April of 2011 and haven’t looked back since. HOWEVER, we do occasionally fall off the wagon. My husband loves CORN chips and we both have a nasty sweet tooth. I participate in local food resources from GMO free farms (CSA and farmers markets are a must for us). I just started canning food this year! FUN! I would say the biggest issue we have is sugar finding it’s way back into our diets via potatoes, rice, and straight up – candy!

  43. I would really like to follow the plan but I am concerned about the low carb part. I am very skinny and wish to instead gain weight a little. But eating kale instead of rice will sure make me lose weight. Is there a solution for people like me?

  44. Thumbs up for this post! I’ve been reading posts about health benefits of certain food from consumerhealthdigest and they’ve got really great topic there. Their writers made me curious about what really “Real Foods” are and that curiousity brought me here. I’ve been addicted to eating as long as I can remember and I thought choosing what I eat is really difficult but when I saw this it was magic. Now I know many “real food” and I’ll try it right away.