10 Ways to Easily Add Real Food to Your Diet
Post written by Kath Younger, RD of Kat Eats.
Why are real foods so important in a healthy diet?
Let’s break it down:
- We know that fruits, vegetables and grains are nutrient dense and that many of the beneficial phytochemicals that have been discovered are found in whole foods.Â Since whole foods are high in discovered nutrients, they are most likely high in undiscovered nutrients, too.
- Numerous studies have found epidemiological evidence that eating whole foods has a protective effect on health and reduces risk of chronic disease.
- Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer disease, cataracts, some of the functional declines associated with aging and more.
- Most studies have concluded that antioxidant supplements, generally high doses of a single phytochemical, do not reduce the risk of disease.
- Scientists have suggested that because phytochemicals have complementary and overlapping mechanisms of action, their protective effect on disease is most likely synergistic in nature.
So letâ€™s get cookinâ€™!
10 Ways To Eat More Real Food
- Read the ingredient list on a package and ask yourself â€œCould I make this in my kitchen at home if I had the knowledge and time?â€ An example of a â€œyesâ€ answer might be homemade yogurt. An example of a â€œnoâ€ answer might be hydrolyzed whey protein.
- Make leafy greens a diet staple. Enjoy them as salads, in smoothies (you canâ€™t taste baby spinach in a banana smoothie!) or as crispy baked kale chips.
- Prep for busy weeknights on a weekend. Boil beans, cook some brown rice, chop veggies or make a pasta salad so youâ€™ll have â€œfast foodâ€ when youâ€™re hungry.
- Eat a diverse diet as a means to cover your bases and combine foods that work together, such as citrus and leafy greens or herbs with grilled meats. Make a simple plan for the day based on your preferences to ensure you get a good balance. An example: dairy, whole grains and fruit for breakfast; grains, protein and veggies for lunch; fruit, dairy and nuts for snacks; and veggies, protein and grains for dinner.
- Start plain and add your own flavor. Rather than buying sugary yogurt or flavored instant oatmeal, use plain yogurt and rolled oats and doctor them up with your own toppings. Stir pumpkin into either base and top with cinnamon and a dash of maple syrup, or swirl a little jam into plain yogurt.
- Plan your meals around vegetables rather than meats. Let meats act a garnish to the meal rather than the focus. And eat more sardines!
- Invest in a crockpot or rice cooker to help you cook staples from scratch. Youâ€™ll not only save money and excess packaging, but youâ€™ll be more efficient with time too.
- Pair carbohydrates, proteins and fats for meals and snacks to feel the most satisfied. For a snack, put almonds with an apple or cheese with crackers. Add a slice of whole grain toast to your salad, a tablespoon of nut butter to your oatmeal or a half cup of brown rice stirred into your soup.
- Try new sauces, spices, herbs and seasonings to take plain, boring vegetables to delicious. Try smoked paprika, lemon juice, Liquid Smoke, herb blends, Garlic Gold and other flavor-packed garnishes. A drizzle of maple syrup takes greens from bitter to better.
- Just because a brand is popular for being â€œhealthyâ€ doesnâ€™t mean all of its products are. Look for products with simple ingredient lists. There are both processed and real-food versions of veggie burgers, ice creams, nutrition bars and cereals. Look for the simplest ones and ask yourself if you recognize all of the ingredients as real food.