Eat Real Food.

This post has been tumbling around my brain for ages now… and I’m not sure why I haven’t been able to get it out. Perhaps because the whole subject of eating and one’s own food philosophy are such emotional and personal topics for so many. I’m not looking for a heated brouhaha here. (Wow, I always wanted to use that word in casual conversation. Excuse me while I go check that off of my bucket list). Nor am I looking to slyly judge anyone who may be reading (“Hey you! with the box of KD and can of pepsi! You suck!”… or not). Rather I would just love to share what I’ve been learning, and how it has affected me and my family. I would also *love* to hear your thoughts and experiences too! So, here we go…

I’ve been learning a ton lately on the subject of        health as related to what we put into our bodies (ie. food). Rather unsurprisingly, what we eat has major effects on our health. More so than most people realize, in fact. Our Western culture is fond of thinking that most diseases are simply a result of random chance, and there’s nothing that you can really do to prevent them. I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about so-and-so’s uncle who ate healthy/exercised/didn’t smoke/didn’t drink excessively but still got cancer/heart disease/diabetes/crohn’s disease/celiac disease/mental illness/etc. and died/lived life permanently sick/felt awful. I’m not denying the tragedy and truth of those stories… I’m simply not ready to say that there is absolutely nothing we can do to help prevent it/fix it, at least in some (many?) cases.

Through my forays into the internet blogging world, I’ve been introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation. I’ve also bought the book “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats“, one of the most referred-to books in the Real/Traditional Food movement. This article from one of the blogs I follow is one of the best concise explanations of Traditional Foods that I’ve come across as of yet.

I’ve also recently ordered a new book from amazon, which I am really looking forward to reading before Baby Ricci 2.0 arrives in July. The author, Nina Planck, is highly recommended by the nutritional bloggers I follow, and her food philosophy is similar to Michael Pollan, whose book In Defense of Food I very much enjoyed reading last fall (I’d love to get a copy for myself, as well as Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his other recent books… and guess who conveniently has a birthday coming up! hint hint, dear family).

So what does all this mean? Well, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. The journey to Real/Traditional Food involves many baby steps, a ton and a half of learning, and a few pretty big steps too.

Here are a few of the things that I can think of off the top of my head that we have changed:

1. No more evil margarine. Butter is full of healthy fats, plus it tastes WAY better! Also, avoid trans-fats like the plague!

2. Reduce/eliminate all processed foods. Anything that my great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Anything that would never rot due to all the chemicals and preservatives (fun science experiment, anyone?!). Anything in a box or package with a list of ingredients including things you can’t pronounce or identify. I’m not perfect at this when cravings hit, but I am getting WAY better, and am definitely more aware of what I’m consuming. I’ve been making my own for a lot of things, like bread, tortillas, sausage, salsa, breadcrumbs, crackers, etc. I’m planning to try making croutons, salad dressings, yogurt, etc. (Making my own also helps offset the higher cost of some things, like organic grass-fed meats).

3. Reduce processed sugar consumption. According to Donielle from Naturally Knocked Up (along with countless others), sugar is pretty terrible for us. She lists several reasons in her guest post at Kitchen Stewardship: 1) It’s addictive 2) It affects our fertility 3) It feeds cancer 4) It lowers our immune system 5) It causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Yikes! And from what I’ve read and researched, there are many more reasons to consider. I am trying to have only natural, unprocessed sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup, and sucanat. Read more about the dangers of sugar here,

4. Consume only healthy, traditional fats. Avoid unhealthy, invented ones. Did you know that the top 5 fats consumed at the turn of the 20th century are all different, except for one, compared to the top 5 fats consumed at the turn of the 21st century? The top 5 in 1900 were butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow (beef fat), and olive oil, most of which have now been framed as “unhealthy” due to being high in saturated fats. As Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship points out: “If sat-fat is the cause of heart disease, one would think heart disease would be decreasing by leaps and bounds, but it’s doing the opposite”. Interesting. Check out the link for a great article on how saturated fats are actually good for us.

5. Switch to full-fat dairy. No more low-fat/zero-fat sour cream for me, baby! Everyone knows full-fat stuff tastes better, and what is no-fat sour cream anyway? It’s supposed to be cream for goodness’ sake… you know – the fat that is in the milk. How many chemicals do they have to add to make it the same consistency as actual cream? That’s just gross. This applies also to cheese and milk too. We only have whole milk in our house. I’d love to have raw milk, but it’s illegal to sell in Canada, and that’s another post for another day.

6. Buy only grass-fed, organic meats. So far, we’ve found a source for grass-fed, organic beef through the Calgary farmer’s market, and we picked up our first order last week. In case you’re wondering, it actually tastes significantly better, too! We bought some pastured bacon from here, also at the Calgary market.

Well, this is pretty well the longest post I’ve ever written, as well as the most links I’ve ever had in one post… so if you’re still reading and still with me, then congratulations… and we should totally sit down for coffee so I can pick your brain on what you think about all of this!


Whew! Two “controversial” posts in a row! Is anyone ready to disown me yet? 😉


04/28/10: Edited to add: I’ve linked this post up to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival. Check  it out for yourself!


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39 Responses to Eat Real Food.

  1. Kate says:

    He Beth. I’m pretty sure your comments section hates me, but I’m trying again, simply because I’m excited you’re going to read Nina Plank’s book! Is it the kid one or the grown up one? I read the child-focusesd one this summer, just as Maren was starting to explore food, and really loved it. So, yay. I hope you love it too. 🙂

    • redandhoney says:

      Hey Kate! It’s the “Real Food for Mother and Baby” one, and I’m totally excited to get my hands on it too. I’ll let you know how I like it!

  2. Nancy says:

    That’s so funny, my last post is also about what we eat, i wanted to put the why we eat it to, but I got lazy 😉 Yay for real food!

  3. Francine says:

    Thank you for posting this 🙂

  4. Beautiful take on real food. I never see why real food seems so controversial, but it does. To me, it’s simply an intuitive and logical way to eat.

    • redandhoney says:

      Thanks Jenny! And thanks for sending all of these lovely people my way. The conversation is way fun! I don’t get the controversy either… you’d think people would want to eat the healthiest way possibly… but then, common sense really isn’t all that common, is it?

  5. Serena says:

    Hey Beth – after weeks of just reading your blog I am officially going to post my first comment! I LOVED this post and completely agree with you. Terry and I started to eat like this about a year ago. We both wanted to lose some weight and my doctor – who I love – suggested we not just make it about losing weight but about getting healthier in the process. So we started by completely eliminating white sugar from our diets. After a month or so of that we found a local farmer that was able to provide us with organic grass fed beef and organic chicken. We grew all of our own veggies last year and I tried my hand at canning and preserving things like ketchup, salsa, pickles, spagetti sauce, and a variety of fruits and veggies….all without the use of white sugar….some of it was interesting – and I am hoping to try out some new recipies this year. We have also switched to whole milk, organic cheeses and yogurt, and eliminated margerine. Initially I was concerened that these higher fat products would interfere with our weight loss goals but it hasnt as much as I thought it would. I cannot believe how much energy we all have! We also noticed an improvement in Ciara’s behavior as we eliminated sugar and various dye’s that come in processed food. One of the biggest comments we have gotten from family and friends is that yes they would like to eat this way but it isn’t affordable. It has increased the amount of our grocery bill but I offsetted the costs of this by taking from our entertainment jar (lol yes we do jars). I have found when you eat healthier you have more energy and spend less on entertainment and more time outside doing healthier cheaper activities! I am impressed that you make your own bread and crackers – it was one of my goals for this year! Also I have been toying with making my own yogurt – but I forsee a complete disaster there – so let me know if it works for you! I don’t know if there is a farmers market near you – but if there is I would try it – our local farmers market is a Godsend….while there were not alot of vendors that sold organic produce they were able to tell us where to go to get it. It has been very helpful – we were also able to buy fresh honey there- which tastes sooo much better. Anyways I’m going to stop typing as this is turning into my own blog…lol……and its on your comment wall! I really enjoyed this one and would love to get some more ideas from you! We don’t know anyone else who has done this and have found most people get pretty upset when we talk about it!

    • redandhoney says:

      Wow! This is awesome Serena! I’m so glad to hear it. So how is your weight loss going since going on this lifestyle? Have you found it to be helpful? I like what you said about the cost. It really is all about priorities, eh? There is a local farmer’s market here in town in the summer, which I am very much looking forward to… in the winter, we can go to the year-round one in Calgary (an hour and a half away). That’s where we get our organic, grass-fed meat. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your journey 🙂

  6. Shannon says:

    Great post! I love your sense of humor. =) Okay – this might be an ignorant or offensive comment and I apologize if so, but I’m sure you can still get raw milk even if it’s illegal to SELL……..hmmm. If not, have you tried culturing your pasteurized milk with kefir to get more nutrition from it? Book suggestion: They’re Making You Fat and Sick by Springer. Got it on Amazon. Awesome and scary at the same time!
    Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • redandhoney says:

      Thanks! I crack me up 😉 Yeah, I’ve wondered how to get my hands on some raw milk, even with it being illegal to sell… but I haven’t figured anything out yet. I’ll keep trying though. (And that’s not offensive at all!!!). I haven’t ventured into the world of kefir yet… but I hope to at some point. It seems scary 🙂

  7. Melinda says:

    WOW! I agree with you 100%! I am on the same road, trying to get my family eating basic nutritious food. I live in Alabama and can’t get raw milk, cheese, or butter here, either. Do you think the next best thing is full fat organic milk? I know the benefit comes from the grass fed unprocessed product – what are your suggestions?? Loved your post!!

    • Courtney says:

      @Melinda – The only thing you need to watch for with store-bought organic milk is that many of the brands(Horizon and Organic Valley for sure)ultra pasteurize their products. Ultra-pasteurization kills EVERYTHING, good and bad and the final product really isn’t good for you. We drink raw milk now, but before we had a source, I had found a small Amish creamery that sold VAT pasteurized(very gentle, low-heat) unhomogenized milk in a local grocery store. Something like that is your best bet.

      • redandhoney says:

        Thanks Courtney, I would agree totally. I’ve heard that ultra-pasteurized (sometimes called “fine-filtered”… what I used to buy!) is the absolute worst.

    • redandhoney says:

      That’s great that you are on this road too! As for milk advice – I’ll just refer you to Courtney’s reply here… I agree 100%.

  8. Alyssa says:

    Awesome post! I agree whole heartedly.

  9. Mary Claybrook says:

    THis is not controversial, this is common sense. I am working on switching my family to all whole foods. The kids are a hard sell, they love their Froot Loops but I have been eating all whole foods for about three weeks and feel much better! I can tell that the processed food is gross after eating whole fresh food. THere are some things that I wish we could afford ( raw milk is available here) but at 5 gallons a week, we would spend over $100 a month in just milk.

    • redandhoney says:

      Mary – I find it to be controversial because people prefer to eat their junk and live in ignorance, and talking about this sort of thing only gives them a guilt trip they don’t want. It’s not the most popular topic, in my own experience. Re. the cost of milk – that is a lot of money! I find that there are a lot of ways that I can save money (having a few meals of beans and rice, eating lots of eggs for protein, making stuff from scratch, etc etc) and before I know it, the extra cost of other things evens out (or nearly so) in the end. Or you could try flexing your budget in other areas. It’s all about priorities, right? And in the end, if you really can’t make it happen, then figure out what you are able to do, and just be glad you’re doing that much!

  10. chrissy says:

    Thank you for this post! This is a nice little introduction to eating healthier.

    In your rule #1 for butter- butter and other natural fats actually help our bodies absorb the nutrients in food- just one more reason that they are better!


  11. Rick says:

    Great post! If I could add one comment to #6, it would be “buy only organic, grass-fed, and humanely raised and slaughtered meats.” Please go the extra mile and ask your supplier about their humane practices. A true humane farmer will talk to you at length about their policies and standards, and the efforts that they make to ensure the animals’ comfort from cradle to grave.

    • redandhoney says:

      Thanks for this reminder, Rick. I feel more confident that my meats are humanely raised since they are from a small, organic family-run farm instead of large industry-style CAFO’s, however it’s never good to assume anything. I will ask next time I pick up an order.

  12. Angie says:

    Great blog post. I am in midstream of shifting my family into new eat styles. We already raise a large garden and enjoy our own poultry (turkey, ducks, geese, chickens, guinea and when I am of a mind to hatch them – quail), as well as lamb and pork not to mention all the eggs from all the fowl. I have spent the past year learning to bake good breads and am now moving more deeply into the world of fermented foods. I have to disagree that sugar is evil. Processed and refine sugar, yes. Raw sugar in moderation, no. Our bodies do need a little sweet. It is the type of sweet that is chosen that is the evil green monster.

    • redandhoney says:

      Thanks Angie. Do you have a good whole-wheat bread recipe you’d care to share? I’m still searching for a good one. Re. sugar: I don’t believe I said that all sugar is evil… what I meant (and perhaps wasn’t totally clear on) was that the processed and refined sugars are completely unnecessary and harmful, while the natural sweeteners are ok in SMALL amounts on a non-regular basis, ie. honey, maple syrup, and sucanat (dehydrated sugar cane juice). Our bodies do not actually need those things though – we are able to get whatever sugar we need from regular foods like carbs, fruits, and veggies. Also, raw sugar is actually just processed white sugar with a bit of molasses in it to make it brown, and to make it appear more healthy. It’s pretty well a marketing gimmick.

  13. Chris says:

    I have this book, and I also have some other books. I personally know a person who has reversed verge-of-death Lupus with the Eat to Live Diet proposed by Dr. Furhman. There are a lot of similarities. The biggest difference is the limiting of animal proteins in the Eat to Live diet. For me, trying to manage high cholesterol without going on medicine (food is the best medicine!) I have chosen a mostly vegan diet, with occasional small amounts of animal protein. But I think the whole field of diet is ultra confusing. I think you are on the right track, though!

    • redandhoney says:

      You’re right – it’s a complex world of competing advice. It’s tough to navigate! I do feel that this track makes the most sense. I wish you health and happiness as you continue to learn as well.

  14. Welcome to the fun….I feel gloriously ruined after finding out what I thought was healthy eating was not healthy eating.

    My favorite book is still The Whole Soy story. We used to eat soyjoy bars, thinking we were eating healthy-ugh!

  15. Krista says:

    I admire anyone who can do this. Well done. 🙂 I have been trying to eat more healthy this year, making healthier meals for my family, but definitely not as healthy as I would like. It’s definitely a process. Maybe I will be able to do this someday.


  16. Lola says:

    wow, there are a lot of comments 🙂 But it’s probably because it’s a rad post! So true, all of it.

  17. Welcome to the world of REAL FOOD. You’ll like it here! 😉 I think it’s awesome that you are spreading the word and sharing your experience – this should be mainstream information!

  18. Courtney says:

    Great post, it’s exactly what I’ve been wanting to write!

    I agree with one of the other comments about checking on the laws surrounding the purchase vs sale of raw milk. Both are legal here in Minnesota, but just south of us in Iowa, it is illegal to sell but not buy or have in your possession. We have a lot of friends who come across the border to buy raw milk.

    Isn’t it quite something that you can’t legally get real MILK, something crazy good for you, but you can readily purchase cigarettes, a known killer. We definitely need some laws reformed, eh?

    • redandhoney says:

      Courtney, I said the exact same thing to my hubby the other day – how ridiculous it is that we can’t get raw milk (controversial, at worst), but we can easily get cigarettes (proven to be cancer-causing poison). Honestly!

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