Recently, I had a reader ask if I could write a guide on how to get started with real food. Geez louise, why didn’t I think of that? Here I am, bloggin’ all about real food, yet, I don’t have a great “getting started” guide for all my friends! (forehead smack)
Sometimes I forget that people just need a simple guide to getting started with a real food diet. I’m sure you love all my posts about goats, breastfeeding, & toxic mattresses, but it’s also refreshing to get back to basics every once in a while, don’t cha think? Plus, I’m always up for encouraging others to eat a real food diet since I experienced such great healing & weight loss from making the switch!
Thanks for the suggestion, reader. (You know who you are;)
What is a Real Food Diet, exactly?
A real food diet is when you eat delicious things like whole milk, butter, cream, farm fresh eggs, warm bread, fresh garden vegetables, whole cuts of meat like steak, lamb chops or bacon & hearty soups made with real homemade broth. Real food has nourished people literally for thousands of years, and is something your ancestors would recognize. Ironically, a typical grocery store carries only 10% real food and most is found in the produce department. The rest is highly processed and shouldn’t even be considered “food”. I am amazed at what is called “food” in our grocery stores today. Yogurt in a tube, cookies in a tub, protein in a powder, & 100 calorie packs of whatever – what would your great-grandma think? It’s time to get back to a real food diet!
Some of you seasoned real foodies are probably thinking…
“A real food diet isn’t really a diet, it’s more of a lifestyle!”
In my opinion though, the word ‘lifestyle’ scares people away because people assume they will have to commit completely 100% to real food, and that they’ll never, ever be able to eat anything ‘unreal’ again. I, for one, don’t believe in the 100% method at all. Why? Because we gotta give ourselves some slack, and I believe the stress of worrying about that junk food is WORSE than actually just eating the dang food. You can read more about how I live what I call the ’80/20 RULE’ by clicking here.
Today, I’m going to give you some simple baby steps you can take as you move towards a real food diet. Just do the best you can, be willing to make some changes, & just eat the food!
The Real Food ‘baby steps’ Method:
Baby Steps Tip #1 – Slow & steady wins the race
Repeat the phrase”baby steps” to yourself whenever you get overwhelmed. Just remember Bob from my favorite movie, What About Bob?. “Baby steps to the door…baby steps to the hallway…baby steps down the hallway.” Just do your best, and understand it takes time to be an expert with real food. Please, whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to others. Be proud of your progress, however small it is.
Baby Steps Tip #2 – Simplify your brain
Visualize a simplified grocery list instead of an insanely long one. While I’m not gonna lie that cooking from scratch takes some planning and work, the ingredients are simple. Whenever I think about real food, I always divide it into simple categories. They are:
- fruits & vegetables
- dairy & eggs
- meats (including seafood & the occasional organ meat – don’t freak out)
- grains, beans & nuts
- homemade probiotics (also known as fermented foods)
As for knowing which is best in which category, you can check out my Real Food GOOD-BETTER-BEST Principle by clicking here.
Baby Steps Tip #3 – Be a Real Food Substituting PRO
While researching for real food recipes is an awesome endeavor, also remember that ANY recipe you currently cook with can be turned into a healthy, real food meal! Simply substitute the bad stuff for the good stuff and you’re set! You can check out my infographic on how to turn any recipe into a Real Food Recipe by clicking here.
If you’re looking for some tried & true recipes from a REAL Real Food expert, then check out my friend Shaye’s cookbook, From Scratch. I’m telling you, this girl’s blog is my #1 favorite blog, and her cookbook is amazing. It also happens to be on sale right now. You can buy the printed book from Amazon for $16.99 by clicking here, or you can buy the downloadable eBook for only $9.99 by clicking here.
Baby Steps Tip #4 – Pick ONE homemade probiotic and go for it.
Aside from the fact that homemade probiotics do a WAY better job than probiotic supplements at colonizing your gut with good bacteria, they also are a powerful immune booster. With the overuse of anti-biotics, the obsession of anti-bacterial soaps, etc, & the infiltration of gut-destroying GMOs (genetically modified foods) in packaged foods, we need homemade probiotics today more than ever. Every single part of your health depends on a healthy gut. Sadly, so many people get overwhelmed/grossed out with the thought of fermenting or culturing a homemade probiotic on their counter top, but I’m telling you, it’s SO much easier than you think! Some examples of homemade probiotics are:
- Milk Yogurt & Kefir – click here for recipe
- Water Kefir – click here for recipe
- Kombucha – click here for kombucha recipe and kombucha health benefits
- Sauerkraut – click here for recipe
- Kvass – click here for recipe
- Fermented vegetables – click here for recipes
- Fermented condiments – click here for recipes
Baby Steps Tip #5 – Don’t fall for the snack trap.
As motivated as you might feel when deciding to avoid packaged food and stick with mostly homemade stuff, please avoid the “I have to re-create every snack food possible” trap. As much as your kids will love those snacks and devour them in 2 seconds, heed my warning, you’ll hit burnout faster than you can say ‘homemade cherry pop tarts with homemade pink glaze and homemade sprinkles on top”.
The wonderful, blessed thing about eating real food, is that you & your family will become nourished and snacking will be a thing of the past. I’m telling you, the constant hunger games going on in your house will slow down, if not stop all together once you start getting some real food into those bellies of yours!
Baby Steps Tip #6 – Not all packaged food is bad.
While most packaged food is laden with chemicals, additives, fillers, artificial colorings & flavorings, & genetically modified ingredients, this doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Yes, most of it is no bueno, but we can’t make EVERYTHING homemade, now can we? There are some great staples you can still include in your real food diet like:
- (BPA-free) Canned wild-caught salmon & tuna
- (BPA-free) Canned organic tomato sauce & tomato paste
- Jarred organic pasta sauce, artichoke hearts, & sundried tomatoes
- Whole grain pasta (or even better, sprouted whole-grain pasta)
- Organic jam, pie fillings, pumpkin puree, etc.
- Organic coconut milk (a great replacement for sweetened condensed milk)
- Grass-fed hot dogs (these are expensive unless on sale, so we only eat them occasionally – maybe every other month or so)
- Foods for Asian dishes like canned water chestnuts, buckwheat soba noodles, miso, etc.
- Organic condiments like mayo, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc.
In the end, I believe it’s all about doing the best you can and trying not to stress out about the rest. You’l notice some amazing benefits from making even the smallest changes, so don’t hesitate to get started!
So, how ya’ feeling? Do you feel ready to start making the switch to real food? Where are you at in your real food journey?
Nicole Helmer says
we started about two years ago I started with making my own breads and baked goods the last two summers ive had a small garden this summer I was able to get a few chickens for fresh eggs. my families plan for next winter is to turn part of our garage into a green house for we can have fresh produce all year. we still have a lot of processed food due to where we live but are really trying to cut what we can out by doing it ourselves. Sadly I can get more than five chickens in my town but feel lucky I can at all.
I have always tried to eat well and generally enjoy good health. I am anemic and treating that both with a supplement and with food. I was recently told I should be eating for my particular blood type which excludes a lot of my favourite things like beef, lamb, and some pork. What is your thoughts on this? I want to live free of being tired and bloated. Do you follow this type of diet? I don’t need to lose weight and diet to me is just a term used for what I eat. I just found this site and am lovi gt he recipes and tips for both my human and fur family. I look forward to your thoughts on eating for your blood type both good or bad.
DaNelle Wolford says
I don’t agree with the blood type diet. I think that it creates a diet low in iron and B vitamins:) I think a basic real food diet is best.
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Wow, so informative and encouraging! Your blog is wonderful and so helpful! I always see diets that limit this food or that and I’ve always believed firmly that the body needs all food groups to be healthy. Shocked to learn about the low-fat scams, but the hubs is very delighted! I’m attempting to make the switch, now learning that Clean Eating isn’t quite the same as Real Food. Real Food is the way to go! Husband has a gluten sensitivity so that’s what started my search for a better eating style. Hopefully cutting out all grains won’t be too unhealthy since gluten-free means no wheat but yes on other flours and Real Food is only wheat and not the others. So we’re cutting both except brown rice and oats. Do you think this is too limiting?
Amy Benoit says
please sign me up for your newsletter, I love the message!
I’ve been struggling with belly troubles (severe bloating, chronic constipation, and pretty sure I wasn’t absorbing the healthy foods I ate). I stopping eating most processed foods and only little sugar for years now. Along with no wheat and low grains for two years–which is terribly sad for me. Since this past summer, I’ve had to cut cheese and even nuts!
Began soaking and only eating raw cheese, both of which helped.
Gave up all grains and eat really high fat (the good kind ;-)) and still have some bloating! Grrrrr….. I’ll check out the links in this post (thank you!) and if all else fails I just might have to cave and try GAPS :-(( Any way to avoid those restrictions is far more welcome.
Thanks for the ideas.
Thanks so much for this very helpful explanation. It hit home with me.
I am currently overweight (8 months postpartum) with 20 lbs until my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m 35 down, 35 to where I would like to be. I am beginning to take the steps to lead a healthy, fulfilling life and be a great role model for my daughter. I am currently on a much needed sugar detox. Finding your site could not have come at a better time for me. I’m so ready to make a change… and I’m so happy to have someone tell me that not only can I feed my baby high fat food, but I can also have it myself. All of the “what you should eat to lose the baby weight” blogs and articles say low-fat this and low-fat that. Bleh.
Have you ever considered making a blog showing what you eat in a day? I think that would be really helpful for those of us who are trying to transition to a healthier lifestyle.
DaNelle Wolford says
That’s a great idea! I’ll think about writing a regular post with pics of what I eat!
Trixie F says
Ack!!! Thank for you this baby-step tutorial but I’m still freaking out here. I’ve been reading and researching for a couple of months now and have just now taken the plunge and spent the exhorbitant amounts of money for real food (as opposed to regular grocery store produce and meat). Now I have a freezer full of soup bones for broth and my fridge has raw milk and fresh eggs in it and I’m totally overwhelmed……..again. **sigh** Here’s to good health??
DaNelle Wolford says
Don’t freak out, you’re doing great! Just keep making good food and keep learning!
I love the clear-cut way you’ve simplified the real food lifestyle here! When I first got started…I was utterly overwhelmed. For one, it was hard to differentiate all those pesky acronyms like SAD, GAPS, WAPF, and more. Then you’re stuck trying to figure out what’s okay. Some say broccoli’s good, others say broccoli’s full of goitrogens or whatever they’re called.
Really, the secret to it all is what you’ve shared here: baby steps. Maybe one day you swap out that bottle of vegetable oil for coconut oil. Another you decide to try grass-fed anything. Eventually, you’re wondering if it’s really worth it to spend $40+ on a bottle of fermented fish liver…(guess what I’ve been Googling).
I just finished reading your ebook, and you did a fabulous job of laying the intellectual groundwork a beginner desperately needs. It’s really a must-have for any real food hopeful – let alone someone trying to lose weight. I’ll be sharing a review soon!
I realize this post is super recent, but I’m still really surprised by how few comments it has! I found your blog while trying to compare and contrast goat milk versus cow milk (and then sheep milk, apparently), and I quickly became your biggest fan. I am pretty much sold on the philosophy of your food lifestyle, and I am eager to start taking those baby steps! Thank you for all your hard work and witty writing! 🙂
While you’re taking blog suggestions… may I suggest a post on buying/storing bulk grains – which kinds of wheat are best for which foods, the best way to store all that grain, etc.? I’m learning but would love your input!
DaNelle Wolford says
Natasha Rodriguez says
I just found your blog and LOVE IT! Keep up the great work! You have inspired me to eat a little cleaner! 🙂
squee! it was me! 🙂 Thank you SO much!!! 🙂