Real Food Basics


During my recent pregnancy I followed my cravings and ate whatever sounded good…baked goods, chocolate, and sugared cereal everyday. I ate some good stuff too, but I definitely thought “hey if I’m gonna gain weight, might as well have fun doing it!”
In addition, I was under the impression that fat was bad and sugar (as long as it wasn’t corn syrup) was okay.

After having a baby, it’s great because you lose lots of weight no matter what you eat. Fun stuff!!
But after the initial “I just had a baby, I can eat whatever-the-heck-I-gosh-darn-want-to” period, it was time to get healthy again.

I stumbled across Lisa’s blog and her rules for eating.

It sounded way over the top crazy hard to me at the time! But you can take these principles and apply them to your life!

What we’re doing:

No processed pre-packaged snacks or beverages (chips, granola bars, convenience foods, sugared cereals, or candy other than dark chocolate).

When buying pre-made things (some bars, bread, meat) the fewer ingredients the better! Try to stick with less than 5, or at least ingredients you can pronounce!

No refined sugar whenever possible (opt for sugars naturally occurring in fruit, honey, and 100% maple syrup). This was huge for me since I have such a sweet tooth! But I started small. I stopped putting sugar in my morning coffee / green tea. Didn’t miss it at all after a week. Now I don’t add sugar to anything!

No dyes, additives, or preservatives whenever possible. (This is hard, I know, but if you’re buying as few ingredients as possible, it will cut down on this!)

Realistic grocery store switches:

Instead of protein powder – Greek yogurt
When Josh started lifting weights, we read the labels on all protein powder and pre-made bars and found they have a lot of mystery ingredients and high sugar/sodium. So instead we make smoothies out of Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and milk that are about 30 grams of protein each.

Instead of processed sugar – 100% maple syrup, honey, dates, or bananas to sweeten.
Can be substituted in most recipes (I’ve been re-writing my whole recipe book with healthier substitutions! Haven’t used refined sugar in months…thinking about just tossing it!) We’re not huge sticklers if we go out or to someone’s house, but at least in our own house we’re not using it. There’s lots of great whole food dessert recipes online! (Mywholefoodlife, choclatecoveredkatie)

Instead of snacks or granola bars with lots of added sugar – unsalted nuts and dried fruit

Instead of ice cream – freeze bananas and make banana ice cream

Instead of frozen pizza – buy ingredients to make your own.
Or make easy meals like quiche from scratch and freeze them for the convenience.

Instead of refined salt – sea salt.
I just threw away two bottles of the nasty stuff. Lots of chemicals in that!

100% whole wheat flour instead of bleached white flour (and bread and pasta).
Can be subbed in pretty much any recipe. This is an easy switch! Just make sure it says 100% whole wheat or whole grain. “Wheat flour” is a vague euphemism food makers use to make white bread sound healthier…it’s just normal flour.

Instead of margarine – real butter.
Don’t worry about the fat as much as the chemicals and colors they use to make it “butter like!”

Instead of cheese-like slices – real cheese!
Again, get the full-fat real thing. Just don’t overdo it if you want to lose weight.

Instead of jelly or preserves – buy fruit and make your own.
You can easily make preserves with just 2-3 ingredients. Or at least buy one that’s sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar (Trader Joe’s has a juice-sweetened super fruit spread).

Instead of deli meat which often has nitrates, nitrites, and very high sodium – buy raw chicken or pork in bulk, cook it in the crockpot and slice.
So much healthier, and this one is even cheaper!

Instead of vegetable oil- coconut oil (as much as possible).
Can be used for cooking, frying, baking, everything!

Instead of bottled salad dressings – olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I just made my own ranch dressing with Greek yogurt, and it is way better than the bottled stuff!
It is my goal to make our own ketchup and BBQ sauce in the future also. For now we stick with types that contain no high fructose corn syrup.

Instead if sugared cereals – get good at making oatmeal.
We eat oatmeal or eggs every morning. On weekends we sometimes make pancakes or waffles from scratch. Have fun with this! Did you know you can make your own granola in the oven? With no refined sugar?! Sugared cereals aren’t healthy and aren’t nearly as satisfying as a big bowl of oats or homemade granola. I look forward to my breakfast every morning, and and if I add ground flaxseed, whole milk, and chia seeds, I don’t get hungry for hours!

Don’t stress about buying all organic or all grass-fed! If you can, great! But don’t let the pressure to eat “perfectly” get in the way of your eating “well.” Do the best you can that’s within your budget and available in your area.

Avoid things labeled “diet” as these usually are more processed to remove fat and have chemicals instead of real sugar.

Go crazy with veggies, fruits, berries, seeds and nuts!

Aim to eat fish at least once a week. They are the best natural source of omega-3s and are lean and full of protein.

The cost should even out. Because for every healthy thing you’re buying, there’s a lot of stuff you won’t be buying anymore. It’s all about replacing. And making things from scratch is actually cheaper! (Pasta sauce, salad dressing, tortillas)

Every body is different, but that’s what we’ve been doing. It doesn’t make sense to eat chemicals and things we weren’t designed to digest.
It’s not about dieting… You should never be starved while eating real food! (You should never be overfilled either.)
Increasing our protein intake, cutting out refined sugar and reducing sodium helped josh and me reach our goals. We both gained muscle and I lost more than all the baby weight.

Stop worrying about fat.
Don’t count calories.
Focus on eating real things and let your appetite guide you, not your salt / sugar cravings.

To learn more about the science, check out some real-food books at the library. I enjoyed this one a lot.

If you’re serious about making some food changes, let me know so we can support each other! Even if you chose a different variation, (grain-free, paleo, vegan, etc) I love talking about food in general!

When everything you make is natural / handcrafted, you enjoy it more!
Real food actually tastes better!
You can buy some nice plates or jars if it helps. Take pictures of your beautiful creations! Host dinner parties as an excuse to make better food. Savor those morsels, every flavor in its fullness! Enjoy!


Add yours →

  1. Hi Emily! I’m also an Emily and love Jesus and whole foods! We have lots in common, tehe. πŸ™‚ I’m married but with no little people of my own yet. I work at an adoption agency part time and nanny part time. I know your cousin Madison from college ministry. πŸ™‚ I just recently (in the last month) have switching to a whole foods/traditional diet. I have been cutting out processed foods, grinding my own flour, using butter and coconut oil, finally found raw milk just this week!, making tons of things from scratch (bread, tortillas, butter, pizza sauce, chicken broth, beans, even homemade breakfast pop tarts!) and I had a huge cleaning out my cabinets party, lol. And call me crazy, but I officially want to own chickens and a couple of milking goats or a cow one day, lol!! It has been so much fun! I sometimes stay on the computer for hours reading blogs and researching, lol. Just wanted to say hi, introduce myself, and let you know I’m on this journey with you! Love in Christ, Emily πŸ™‚

    • Nice to meet you, Emily! Sounds like we’re on the same path food-wise. Who are your favorite food authors? I enjoy Michael Pollen, Nina Planck, and I’m getting into the science of Mary Enig. Where did you find your raw milk? I’m excited to be on this journey with you!

      • Sorry! I forgot to click notify for follow up comments and thought I had! oops!

        I haven’t read any books yet (any suggestions?) or heard of those authors, lol…. but I read blogs…. I get a lot of my recipes and information from She is also a believer, so I really enjoy her posts. I also like And (also a believer)… I like alot of the homesteading blogs, like I said this city girl would now love to have a garden, chickens and a milk cow or goats, lol.

        I do want to read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price. It is an old book, like 1930’s! You can read about it in this post:

        I found my raw milk through my best friends mom. I had no idea they drank raw milk and we’ve been friends for 5 years, so when she heard I was looking, her mom took me with her to show we how it works. I live in Branson, MO. It is about 25 minutes away from where I live off of HWY 65. If you are looking for raw milk, try looking at this site: I didn’t find mine here, the closest me to me was about 50 min away, but its a good place to start! πŸ™‚

        How/why did you start your whole foods journey?

      • Nice, I will check out those blogs for sure! Could always use more support from like-minded foodies and believers! Feels like so few people feel the way we do regarding food, life, and health sometimes.

        Check out Real Food by Nina Planck if you’d like a good inspiring and reassuring read!

        As far as blogs go, my faves right now are Food Renegade, mywholefoodlife, and 100daysofrealfood. (Sorry my app won’t let me link them at the moment!)

        We started our journey partly because my husband’s blood pressure was a little high. We tried limiting our sodium, but there’s so much sodium in processed foods, as soon as we cut that out and got serious about running / biking, it went down to normal.

        The timing couldn’t have been better in retrospect, since I’m breastfeeding our son! I’m so glad I learned about the affects of processed things and hydrogenated oils so I won’t pass it on to him!

        My latest adventures have been in fermenting things like kombucha, making my own yogurt, and making our own bread / baked goods as much as possible. What about you? Learned any new skills? And how does your husband feel about the lifestyle?

  2. New skills hummm… Right now i’m working on turning old raw milk into cream cheese and whey. First time trying that! Another plus for raw milk is if it spoils you don’t have to throw it out because it doesn’t spoil like pasteurized and homogenized milk from the store does. πŸ™‚ I recently made peanut butter for the first time, that was super easy! Just peanuts and a blender/food processor and honey if you want it sweeter. πŸ™‚ I love turning our favorite recipes into healthier versions. πŸ™‚ I’ve been making my own bread, tortillas, and butter/buttermilk. I love grinding my own flour! I’d love to learn how to garden and can and dehydrate produce someday. I may start a potted garden on our apartment porch, but I literally know nothing about gardening. :-/

    I think my husband enjoys eating well. I do all of the grocery shopping and cooking so he just eats what I buy and make, lol. I think he appreciates it, but also thinks I’m going a little over board…. He can’t give up his chips and cereal.. I’ve been buying healthier brands, but it’s still a processed food. :-/ He is mostly on board tho! πŸ™‚

    What is the hardest part or things you find challenging? I think for me if would be find free range chicken and grass feed beef at a reasonable price…. I have’t switched over from store bought yet… though buying the highest quality they have there. Doing the best we can with what we have. πŸ™‚

    I buy a lot of things in bulk to save money in the long run (wheat berries, oats, sucanat, rice, pasta). Have you heard of Azure Standard? If not you should check them out! You can get organic produce, eggs, cheese, almost anything you are looking for in bulk or normal proportions for decent prices! I love it! You can check to see if they have a drop point in your area and then the truck delivers once a month. They deliver to the same drop point and then everyone shows up at the designated meeting time to pick up their goods. You have to sign up to see the prices tho… πŸ˜‰ Do you use a health foods co-op?


    • Wow, that’s impressive! I haven’t ever ground flour before!
      I’ll have to check out Azure Standard. I feel like I am buying a lot of the same things over and over again, like oats, flour, chia, flaxseeds.
      The greatest challenge for me has been making the staples over and over again. I love to bake and cook new things, but it’s a little boring to make yogurt, kombucha, tortillas and bread every single week. But it’s still worth it and my hubby is totally appreciate and supportive and helps watch our son so I have free time to do it. We go shopping once a week as a family, and we walk past the bad stuff together.
      Sounds like you’re doing a great job working with what you have where you are! Stick with it! Maybe start a window garden and practice for when you have more room! We have a yard, and are planning to garden next year…this year I took off because of the baby. I’d love chickens sometime too, though I’m not sure how they’d fare with our neighbor dogs…
      What was your diet like before quitting processed? Have you noticed changes in your body and overall health?

  3. Grinding flour isn’t too impressive with a nutrimill…. dump in the wheat berries and turn the machine on…. tada.. FLOUR! It does take a tiny bit of extra time, but it is so much healthier for you bc the nutrients are not processed out. They have to process out a lot of nutrients bc otherwise it causes the flour to spoil, so you have to keep it in the fridge or freezer.
    Here is heavenlyhomemakers posts about grain mills if you’re interested. This link is to a post on red wheat vs white wheat, but it has links to all her posts about mills. πŸ™‚

    Before we started this journey I still cooked meals, but used canned goods, bought bread and tortillas, bought what was cheap. I used white flour, sugar, white pastas and rice. There was things at the time I wouldn’t buy though like margarine, Velveeta, gravy in a pouch, frozen dinners, etc…..And we ate out A LOT! Now we rarely do. What about you?

    I haven’t noticed any changes or felt any different really… :-/ It has only been about a month or so… so maybe we will …. I know we are making the right decision tho.

    What about you? Feel any different?

    • I find I have good, sustained energy throughout the day. Fewer spikes and crashes, as they are related to sugar, at least for me. I’m also lighter than I was pre-pregnancy. However, it’s hard to tell how much of that is dietary, how much is from working out, and how much is from breastfeeding. Maybe all of the above! But yes I feel healthy, I haven’t had any digestion issues, and haven’t gotten sick since we started all this.

    • As far as our diet before, it consisted of some hidden trans fat in the form of boxed brownie mix and store bought pie crust and biscuits. I ate sugared cereal almost every day and the occasional box of macaroni. I bought nonfat milk because I thought fat was bad and sugar was okay….boy I had it backwards!
      I cooked a lot at home, but it wasn’t all from scratch and we had frozen pizza about once a week!

  4. Everyone loves it when people get together and share ideas.

    Great blog, stick with it!

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