Back to Diet Simplicity

In Search of Real Food

This is a guest blog post by Beth Warren and was originally posted here.

When navigating through the world of health and wellness, you desperately seek nutrition advice from newspapers, magazines, your “know-it-all” neighbor, grandma’s old-wives tales and “expert” health care professionals. With good intentions to try and be healthy, you find yourself confused by the conflicting messages revolved around the mantra to, “Eat this, not that.”

The reality is the complicated opinions are leaving you at a loss of what to eat to stay healthy and derailing your nutritious path. During the journey towards better health, the simple enjoyment of real food got lost to the “cutting and pasting” of fad diets like The HcG Diet and buzzwords like superfood. But what does it all really mean?

A History of Fad Diets

When we were first told all fats are bad in the 1980-1990′s, the food industry was quick to cut out the fat and make enticing “low-fat” or “fat-free” products. The end result was an unhealthy product with added sugars and simple carbohydrates as substitutions for the fat. It was no surprise that Americans were still getting fat.

Fast forward to the “no carb craze” and the popularity of diets such as, The Atkins Diet, and again, the food industry caught on and quickly made low-carbohydrate food products, substituting more unhealthy fats and processed ingredients for the sugar content. Was it shocking that Americans were still getting fat?

With the current claim that sugar is a poison, a drug and enemy number one, I can bet what will happen: the food industry will grab hold of the “no sugar fad” and substitute fancy artificial ingredients for natural sugar and guess what? Americans will probably still get fatter.

Consider this our wake-up call: It is not about the one bad ingredient that is making us unhealthy. On the flipside, it is also not about the one good ingredient, like beta-carotene, that is making us healthier. It’s about the diet as a whole. The simple carbohydrates, plus the unhealthy fats like trans and saturated fats, plus the simple, added sugars: all equaling an unhealthy you.

Back to the Good Ole Days

We need to change our mindset to a new normal. Really, it’s the old normal. I mean, way old…back to the cavemen ages when diet was simple. They ate what they physically hunted and what they physically gathered in their own fields. In other words, a fresh, diet of whole foods, real foods (not heavily processed!) plus exercise as part of an everyday lifestyle. Again, our new normal.

Lifestyle is the operative word.  When we stop thinking of the word “diet” that became connoted with the concept of “restriction” and negative attachments, we can move forward to really getting healthy and happy, with REAL foods.

A Whole Foods Diet

Here are some ways to incorporated whole food choices:

  • Choose products with 100% whole grains as often as possible. Please don’t underestimate your family’s taste buds. Try transitioning them onto the more wholesome flavor by mixing the whole with refined grains at first and slowly wean them off of the simple carbohydrates. There are also a wide array of brands and types of grains on the market today so experiment until you find a taste that you enjoy.
  • Swap half the white flour called for in your baking recipes with whole-wheat flour. Typically, the sweetener can also be cut in half without the sweetest of a tooth noticing.
  • Eat tons of fresh vegetables and fruits. Try to include them in all meals and snacks. You can do this by making the vegetable the focal part of your meal and building the rest of the foods around it as a side. For example, a BIG salad, topped with a 3 oz piece of wild salmon and a side of sweet potato.
  • Think about including beans in your meals and snacks more often. They are a great source of plant protein, fiber, phytochemicals, flavonoids, carotenoids, and lycopene.
  • Eat fewer convenience and processed foods. They’re full of added fat, sugar, salt, and additives.
  • Choose nonsugary beverages such as water, green tea (iced or hot), fresh fruit juice, and skim or soy milk.

Take the time-traveling journey with me back to all of our roots of “Real Foods, Whole Foods.” What whole foods will you be trying?

Beth Warren

Beth Warren, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and a certified dietitian-nutritionist with a masters of science degree in Nutrition. She runs a private practice in Brooklyn, NY where she works as a freelance writer, consultant of businesses and counsels adult and pediatric clients with various medical conditions and weight management.

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  • George Babbitt

    How does this article go on about whole foods and then suggest soy milk as if it wasn’t a heavily processed food item??????

    • Violet

      That is a question I find myself asking myself ALL the time. A lot of people go off on processed foods (or even cooked foods), and then recommend soy products and add all kinds of powdery enhancements and substitutes into blender foods … I just don’t get it. Additionally, I have been reading how soy is also one of the most subsidized, GMOed foods around. And I’ve been reading how some scientists believe soy is toxic unless it is well fermented, which they say isn’t how the stuff we can get in the USA is processed (I know my body doesn’t handle soy well at all). So … ??? (And the article also recommends fruit juice, another big ???) But, yeah … the recommendation to have a big salad with a bit of wild fish and a bit of sweet potato is an AWESOME meal! So fast, so simple, so tasty!

    • Kelli

      You can make soy milk in your own home. It’s a fairly simple process of boiling the soybeans a couple of times and straining the mash to get the sweet liquid, soy milk.

      • George Babbitt

        In Europe, EC Regulation (1898/87) has restricted the term ‘milk’ to mammary secretions since 1987. And fairly simple does not involve a method that extends to boiling several times, straining, treating with anti foaming agents and then worrying about toxic elements or anti-beneficial parts that may still be present.
        Sent from my Windows Phone

  • KC Bakes

    The end of this article advises us to ditch the word “diet”, and transition to more of a “lifestyle” mentality. Not sure why the article is titled “Back to Diet Simplicity” then? Just a thought.

    • Kelli

      A diet can refer to a restrictive meal plan or just the food you consume in general. Ditch the fad diets and eat a diet of real food.

  • Christopher

    Interesting that your first two recommendations have to do with grains. For your first point about “whole grains” it would be nice if you had clarified, for example, that this means wheat berries, and not whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour, white flour, any kind of “flour” is a processed food, where the “whole grain” has been pulverised to a powdery fine baking ingredient that is quickly digested and sends the glucose to our blood stream just as fast as white flour.

    I only mention this because many Americans seem to think that this is a big step, switching from white flour products (e.g., bread, bagels) to whole wheat flour products. “Wheat berries” doesn’t even seem to occur to them, probably because many of them have never eaten wheat in the form of wheat berries.

    For the future, perhaps start with veggies in your list, not grains. Getting people to switch to more veggies, rather than “simply” switching from white flour products to whole wheat flour products is likely to have a bigger impact.

  • Vered Leb

    loved the post, but the recommendations were not a match at all!
    all about whole grains…
    don’t think caveman even knew these as a “meal”/
    go with your inner truth to the max!

  • Wondering…

    A couple of other issues with soy…much of today’s soybean crop has been genetically modified, so you aren’t getting real soybeans. The other…there’s some disagreement on whether soy is relevant to elevating estrogen levels. This is relevant to those who are prone to cancer, and also most men don’t seem to want an excess of estrogen.

  • malachite2

    Fad diets were around long before the 1980′s. In the middle 3rd of the 19th century, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg wrote a book called “Plain Facts for Old and Young” that outlined a “pure, plain diet for America.” More people became vegetarians, in part a revolt against the mainstream diet of salt beef & pork, hominy, condiments, and alkali-raised bread. He, his brother, & CW Post invented shredded wheat, wheat & corn flakes and grapenuts. The Kelloggs also started a sanitarium where people followed Kellogg’s dietary prescriptions.