Simple Guidelines for Smart Eating

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Now that the How Should We Eat series has ended and we’ve finished looking at some of the most popular diets of our day, I thought it would be helpful to introduce you to some of the ideas that guide our family’s food choices. They are posed in the form of four questions, and I hope that they are something that might help you the next time you are in the grocery store or market.

Is it really food?

Though this seems like an odd question to ask, it can really simplify food choices! Think, for a moment, of what real food is. It either comes from a plant or it comes from an animal. Apples, carrots, oats, strawberries, and lettuce: food from plants. Steak, chicken, milk, cheese, and eggs: food from animals. Doritos, Corn Pops, Dr. Pepper, Milky Way, and Oreos: not really food.

Those “not really food” food items aren’t really food because they don’t actually feed our bodies. They are calories, in a sense, but they provide little to no benefit or nourishment to the body. Our bodies need vitamins, minerals, proteins, and similar substances which Funyuns simply don’t provide. That doesn’t mean that you should absolutely never eat any of those items, though you don’t exaclty need them, either. Rather, it means that those items should be the great exception to the diet, and not the rule.

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What about the ingredients?

I am a habitual label-reader. If I am unfamiliar with a brand or food item, you’ll more than likely see me take the package and automatically flip it over so that I can read the ingredients. I want to know if the packaged item that I may be giving to my family has real food ingredients or “not really food” ingredients!

What kind of “not really food” ingredients do I scan for? Any hydrogenated oil (that’s unnatural trans fat), excess sugar (especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup), artificial colors, artificial flavors, and words that I can’t pronounce. If I can’t pronounce it, and most definitely if it is a hyphenated word that I can’t pronounce, it probably goes into the “not really food” category and I’ll look for something different.

Simply reading the labels on the foods that we buy puts us all at a great advantage when picking out real food for our families. Want a little help? If you have a smart phone, try the Fooducate app! I love it, and it’s fun to use.

Was this around 100 years ago?

Chances are, if a food item wouldn’t have been eaten by our great grandparents, it probably isn’t really food. My great-grandmother probably made her pie crusts with lard or butter, and not butter flavored Crisco. I doubt that she downed Monster energy drinks, and when she got hungry, she probably reached for a piece of fruit or homemade bread with butter and not a chocolate covered chewy granola bar. Food was really food, and not highly processed food items.

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How was this made?

This question may be at times a bit trickier to answer if you are new to learning about your food, but it’s also worth considering. For example, a bag of potato chips may simply be potatoes, oil of choice, and salt. Does that mean that they are a good choice to eat all of the time? Of course not! They are deep-fried in vegetable oil (probably from GMO plants and not a healthy fat) and coated in industrial salt. Many boxed cereals seem to have wholesome ingredients, like whole wheat or oats, but the nature of the production renders the finished product almost as nutritious as the cardboard box that the cereal comes in.

You’re better off with baked potatoes and oatmeal.

Hey, that’s not too hard!

So consider those four questions: Is it really food? What about the ingredients? Was this around 100 years ago? How was this made?

Not too complicated, eh? Eating healthy shouldn’t be complicated!

Just like all of you reading, I’m still learning, and there are many areas that I still want to improve in our family’s diet. We enjoy our occasional treats, and there are many times when our food choices are less than perfect. That’s why we pray! But I truly believe, from experience, that healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard, complicated, expensive, or restrictive. It is enjoyable, doable, and so beneficial!

What do you think about these guidelines? Is there something else you like to keep in mind when you shop for healthy food? Does the whole thing intimidate you?

Linking up at: Mama Moments, Mix it up Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Nomday Monday, Better Mom Monday, Modest Monday, Traditional Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent, Titus 2sday, Encourage One Another, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Living Wednesday, Homemaking Link-Up, Whole Foods Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Natural Living Link-Up, Hearts 4 Home, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Your Green Resource, Tasty Traditions, Fight Back Friday, Weekend Whatever and Fresh Bites Friday.

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    1. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t give ingredient lists much thought until my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. This forced me to read every single label. This taught me that we put a lot of junk, chemicals, and other perservatives in our bodies! I think if people spent much time actually reading labels, they too would be surprised.

    2. Nice post! Here is a handy chart of food additives that helps with the label-reading: It tells you which ones are really dangerous and best to avoid all the time, vs. those that sound weird but are more harmless.

      You have a good point about baked potatoes and oatmeal not being all that hard to make. Once the potatoes are scrubbed, the oven does all the work while you do something else. Quick-cooking oatmeal is very close in nutrition to the slower-cooking kind yet just as fast to prepare as “instant” oatmeal with all kinds of crap added to it–and you can make it any flavor you want! Here’s what I put in my oatmeal for a nutritious, filling breakfast (or snack!) that’s ready in 5 minutes.

      1. I looked over the chart and it is quite helpful in many cases! I do have differing views on some of the “safe” ingredients, but it is still a nice place to start. Thanks again!

      1. Yes! That was one of my favorites when I first started on the real food journey! I didn’t even have that book in mind when I wrote it, but I would be glad to share a similarity. It made the whole foods issue so much simpler to me!

    3. Amen Sister! It is so true, and once you get accustomed to real food, fake food leaves all sorts of bizarre texture and taste sensations as well as malaise. Nicely said!

      1. Food allergies would definitely add a new element to grocery shopping! I am really thankful that we don’t have that extra concern, but like you said, sticking to whole foods is the key either way. Thanks for reading!