It’s an unfortunate reality that when I question the authenticity of many products lining the supermarket shelves, I’ve likely entered a grocery in America. What if i’m in the mood to just eat real food? Like many other media outlets, supermarkets have been plagued by the marketing and consumerism frenzy sweeping the nation. As a consumer, it falls on me to sort through the jargon.
Eating real food- it seems simple until we really reflect. What real food can I purchase in a supermarket today? Where are the impostors? Impostors may be real food LIKE products sprinkled with authenticity, while heavily laden its additives.
You may be questioning my sanity as you peruse this article. You may think- if it’s edible, I must be just eating real food. But are we? In this article I will examine a few products and their composition.
I like to think of the products below as those that emerged with the best intentions but have undergone transformation. These foods may or may not fit in the realm of “real food”depending on your level of skepticism. Mine is high, because it’s going into my body and I’ve only got one!
Why do Manufactures Change Food Structure?
Manufacturers alter food composition to improve shelf stability or enhance flavor. Unfortunately, the burden of these changes may fall onto you and I , our bodies, and our health. I would like to highlight a few strategies to stay ahead of the food changing game. These shopping strategies help me keep up the habit of eating real foods.
How to Just Eat Real Foods When it Comes to Grains.
Tortilla: I encourage you to consider simple foods such as tortillas. An unfortunate reality is tortilla products have often added a product called hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils create the desired texture of a fluffy and folding tortilla. These oils are synthesized products (not naturally occurring).
What do Hydrogenated Oils do in My Body?
Hydrogenated oils act like trans fat in our bodies. If consumed in excess, hydrogenated oils can lead to an increase in blood pressure, arterial plaque, or other cardiovascular issues. My philosophy with food is simply less is more- if I can do away with unnecessary additives I will. I try to just eat the real deal.
What Should I Look For in Grains?
I encourage you to be an informed consumer by reading the ingredients label. There are no tricks in the ingredients list. It’s a sure way to determine if you’re just eating real food!
Look for products that do not contain hydrogenated oils, or a lot of preservatives. The ingredients list should be simple. You should understand the majority of the label.
Breads: When it comes to breads I encourage choosing the product in its purest form-whole grain. With both bread and tortillas one good rule of thumb is to look for whole grain or whole wheat as the first ingredient on the ingredients list.
Do Breads Contain Hydrogenated Oils?
Breads typically do not contain hydrogenated oils. However, manufacturers have utilized other ways to create a desired consistency and preserve shelf life.
Many manufacturers have added high fructose corn syrup to breads. Why you may ask? High fructose corn syrup is a synthetic sugar. It is created by modifying the fructose content in a more traditional form of sugar. To be true to choosing real foods, I just skip the breads with the high fructose corn syrup on the ingredient list.
How to Just Eat Real Food When it Comes to Produce.
Many foods without a label are just about as real as food can get. I encourage you to choose fruits and veggies, delve into spaces like the bulk food section. Produce pretty much speaks for itself in advocating for choosing real foods. However, there are a few things produce can’t tell you.
• Chemical pesticides are used on the majority of produce. I always advise that produce should be washed thoroughly before eating.
• Produce labeled organic does NOT mean that no chemical pesticides were used. Organic does not even necessarily mean that there was a lesser amount of pesticides used than the non-organic produce. This is one area I find leaves people often confused. There are varying levels of “organic” and the general term could mean a certain percentage of non-organic products are allowed to be utilized. More specific information can be found by visiting the USDA Website.
• At this time there is no concrete scientific evidence to support that organic produce has more nutritional benefit than non-organic produce. I encourage you to go for produce sourced closer to the grocery store which is fresher and may be non-organic may contain more nutritional benefit than organic produce. This could happen because the organic produce must travel further. With age, produce loses a percentage of nutrients with age.
• I encourage you to research growers versus trusting simple terminology such as organic. A little research may be very beneficial in your goal to just eat real food. Many growers that are NOT labeled as organic are actually following many organic practices. However, growers may not go through the process of being labeled as organic as it is a costly, lengthy process with many regulations.
If I Just Eat Real Produce Does it have to be Fresh?
NO! If you truly wish to just eat real fruit, canned and frozen are also excellent choices! Again I advise that you are examining labels on these products. You should look for fruit that is canned only in its own juice versus light or heavy syrup. Syrups can be laden with excess sugars or high fructose corn syrup. If you just want to eat real food, just eat the fruit without added sugars and sauces. Want to hear more of what produce has to say? Map out the grocery with this easy going guide.
Another good rule of thumb I suggest when it comes to fruit in foods is to add your own fruit. The example I’m thinking of is yogurt with fruit. A lot of the time yogurt with added fruit also contain added sugars or high fructose corn syrup.This is added for preservation purposes as well as taste. I add my own fruit to yogurt and smoothies, which ensures I get all the nutrients I need without all the added sugar.
HOW TO JUST EAT REAL FOOD WHEN IT COMES TO PROTEIN:
Meat: Make sure your meat products just include the meat. Many frozen meats contain additives such as sodium or even sugar sauces or monosodium glutamate (a mind altering substance added as a flavor enhancer).
Peanut Butter: Many major peanut butter brands are loaded with sugar and hydrogenated oils to create that creamy consistency. If you ask me, these are additives my body just doesn’t need! The natural products are just as tasty!
Get back to the basics- just eat real food by grinding your own peanut butter from real peanuts. Many groceries have this option. If I am not able to do that, I look for natural peanut butters. Peanuts should be the only ingredient.
Cheese: Cheese is an easy go-to snack without a lot of additives. I encourage you to purchase cheese blocks and shred or chop yourself as needed. This gets you as close to natural as possible. Shredded or sliced cheese may have preservatives. You’ll notice quite a few more ingredients than your block cheese as preservatives are commonly found here. Remember less is more when it comes to food ingredients.
What are Some of Your Favorite Real Food Choices?
I challenge you to just eat real foods when it comes to every food groups. Can you think of any ways you might cut down on additives or preservatives when it comes to the structure of your plate? Are there some great strategies you’re already using? Eat real food by choosing food in its freshest, most natural form as frequently as possible. Get closer to food in its most natural state by being mindful of nutrition labels. May the odds be ever in your favor!