A Realistic Perspective on Real Food in a Very Real World

Grace. We all need it in every aspect of life. One area that generally lacks grace is the mainstream Real Food Movement. If you are feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, or anxiety-ridden by the heavy-handedness among many (not all) real foodies, you have come to the right place. I am honored to be joining three terrific ladies offering you grace through these four posts on The Real Truth About Real Food:

Real food

My husband is a traveling Christian musician. (Hold on. This does have to do with real food.) Because we are a family that does everything together, we go with him. That, my friends, means 9 people and a 130-pound dog in a super-sized van towing a trailer all over the country meeting people from all walks of life. All walks of life.

Many of the churches we visit feed us in one way or another. We have been blessed with elaborate spreads and honored with humble meals eaten among new friends. We’ve met people who eat their food straight from the earth and those who eat their food straight off the shelves. We’ve encountered people who could afford to eat whatever they like and those who are barely scraping by, living off the church’s food bank until they can get back on their feet. All walks of life, I tell you.

Real Food

One of our tours took us through many poor churches whose members generously shared their meals with us. That experience made me rethink my fairly dogmatic view of what was truly important about food. I felt almost…embarrassed by some of the real food aspirations I held. I also grew downright indignant (to put it nicely) toward the type of real foodies who shout “You’ll be sorry!” at those whose lives necessitate veering from real food perfection. Where’s the grace in that?

Our lives necessitate not merely veering from perfection, but taking some serious detours along the way.

There are two approaches we can take as a family in our current circumstances where eating the ideal real food diet is, simply put, impossible. We could riddle first our minds and then our bodies with disease and infirmity by stressing over the potential health hazards of not attaining real food idealism. This would, naturally, involve struggling to meet what amounts to unrealistic goals for this season in life, wreaking havoc on our budget, and bearing the burden of guilt for our failures. (Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It’s not. I tried it.) Or we could do the best that we can, ditch the unhealthy stress and guilt, and enjoy the blessings of fellowship and food on the road, however imperfect it may be. Did you catch the irony? In case you missed it, let me rephrase:

Stressing over health is one of the unhealthiest things a person can do.

Also ironic is that one of the most priceless lessons I learned about eating, joy, and appreciation came not from the real foodies, but from those we met on our travels, specifically those who have very little food. (Of course, my hubby will tell you that he’s been saying this all along…and he would be right…again.) Those people are not calculating whether their yogurt was cultured for 24 hours or 6. They don’t have the luxury (or curse) of worrying whether their eggs are farm fresh or whether the chickens consumed soy. They’re not wondering whether their apples are organic and cleansed properly or if they were picked up off the ground and rubbed on a pair of dirty jeans (the only way to eat apples, in my book).

They are grateful for whatever is set before them and they eat it with joy.

Shouldn’t we all eat with joy?

Real Food

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a real foodie. Personally, I feed my family food that is as untouched as possible. We make almost everything from scratch. We minimize the amount of sugar we consume, bake our own bread, culture yogurt, soak nuts, make granola bars, and on and on it goes. Cold cereal–what’s that? Frozen pizza–a distant memory. Store-bought salad dressing–not here.

But you know what? I refuse to let real food be my idol, and I refuse to let real foodies stress me or my family into a state of perpetual anxiety.

I know some people have never had a gram of sugar or a preservative in their lives.  Me? Well, if preservatives actually worked as well on the human body as they do on margarine (and I hope they do), I’d live to be 280 from what I consumed in college alone. I know some parents religiously monitor their children’s toxin exposure. Me? I’m very cautious, but I cannot deny the health benefits of the sheer joy that is served up with my grandpa’s chocolate malts or the occasional hot Krispy Kreme donut. I know some people will refuse food served by others if they know it is not ideal. Me? I totally enjoy myself as I fellowship over food, however imperfect. (Admittedly, I steer toward the healthy, and I dutifully turn down foods that give my nursing baby colic or me…a-hem…flatulence…for the sake of my hosts. You’re welcome.)

Real Food

Yes, there are real allergies out there and real health conditions and overall we should try to make real food a very real part of our very real lives. With that I heartily agree.


We should not sacrifice real living in the process. We should not crucify joy on the cross of food perfection.

When the anxiety of eating becomes so great that the enjoyment and blessing have been replaced by fear, there is a problem. When others (or you) are made to feel inferior, anxious, or guilty because the food on their plates is not ideal, a whole new arena of hazards is being introduced–mental, emotional, joy-sapping hazards. When the food becomes more important than the relationships, there is a problem. When other people are starving and parents are flippin’ out because Grandma offered Junior a graham cracker (assuming Junior is not allergic to graham crackers), priorities are skewed…and not just a little bit.

I’m living in a place called The Real World, and living in that zipcode requires balance. If you’re a neighbor (also living in the real world), and you find yourself needing a frozen pizza or even a GASP Pepsi with crushed ice and a straw from time to time, enjoy! Eat it with a smile, because food is a blessing that not everyone has, and because that smile is good for your health…and stress will kill you faster than corn syrup.

Real Food

I may not be the ideal real foodie, or even close for that matter, and we may not live to be 120, but this one thing I know: the joy and friendship enjoyed over our meals on the road are far better for our health than the stress of striving to achieve unattainable perfection. Who wants to be perfect anyway–it’s lonely at the top, and studies show you live longer if you ditch the stress and loneliness in favor of real relationships with other real people. I’m pretty sure studies would show you live longer if you eat nachos, too, don’t you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…but keep it friendly. This is a bully-free zone.

Remember to visit these lovely ladies!

A Special Offer, Real Food Baby Steps, and our Cookbook Winner

Cookies from Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods

A Special Offer

Our cookbook giveaway has come to a close. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed testing the recipes and reviewing the books.  (We’re still testing recipes!)  We also had a great time reading all your comments.  Thank you to all who participated.

If you did not win (sorry!) and would like a book, you are in luck. Kate at Modern Alternative Mama has offered The Simple Homemaker readers 25% off any or all of her books through November 15. Simply use the code SIMPLE25 at checkout to receive your discount. This makes each book very affordable.  (Think Christmas!)

To buy the books, click here. 

Real Food Baby Steps

If you are further interested in babystepping your way to better health through real foods, check out this list of baby steps from Erin at The Humbled Homemaker, guest-posting at Modern Alternative Mama.  It is a list very much in line with The Simple Homemaker’s Simple Health Philosophy.

Click here to read the baby steps list.

Cookbook Winner

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

Wait, did I ever tell you about the time…oh, sorry.

Drum roll please…

Congratulations, Sarah P.! You won all four e-cookbooks with your Facebook share comment.  I hope you and your family enjoy your adventure in eating!

(The winner was chosen through Random.org.  You may verify it through this link.  I am neither tech-savvy or motivated enough to try to rig the system, so all was fair.)

Remember, my dear readers, you have through November 15 to use the code SIMPLE25 to get 25% off any of the books at Modern Alternative Mama.

Click here to buy the books. 

Disclosure: This is my affiliate link. I receive a small percentage of each sale. You do not need to use my affiliate link to purchase…but I sure think it’s swell when you do!

Simple Philosophy for Better Health

Everyone is at a different point in the journey toward better health.  Some have barely begun or have no intention of beginning, while others have pursued healthy living so vigorously, that all that is left for them is to de-stress about the whole thing.

Similarly, people have different ideas about what healthy living is.  You have your vegans, your vegetarians, your low-carbers, your calorie counters…you name it, there’s a group for it.  There’s even the “I’m not listening!” group.  See?

Simple Philosophy to Better Health - I'm Not Listening

Personally, we are most closely associated with what has become known as real foodies, although we are by no means extreme…by no means!  We eat food that is, simply put, real.  It has not been morphed into an unhealthy version of its previous self.  (Real foodies can be vegans, vegetarians, low-carbers, and calorie counters, too, by the way, although we are none of those.)  So, we eat homemade bread, but not store-bought.  We’ll have eggs for breakfast, but not Cheerios.  Butter, yes, margarine, no way on God’s green earth can you force that stuff down the throat of this born-and-raised-on-a-Wisconsin-cattle-farm girl…I mean, no thank you!  Essentially, I’m an apple girl, not a fruit snacks girl.  (Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t eat it and love it at YOUR house…we just don’t eat it here.)

For years we had fortified cereal and whole grain crackers in the house, along with other seemingly innocuous food choices that we were led to believe were healthy for our children—granola bars, whole grain breads, soy milk, flavored yogurt.  I would keep a few frozen pizzas in the freezer for “those nights,” and we loved to feast on Manwich from a can…mmmmmmm.  (Uh, we took it out of the can and prepared it as directed, just so you know.)

Today we don’t eat any of that, unless we have made it ourselves.  That means we make our own bread, snacks, yogurt, sometimes ketchup and pasta…you name it, we probably make it.  (Although I’ve yet to find a mayonnaise recipe they will eat.)  The ingredients are simple and real.

That doesn’t sound like a simple philosophy for better health!

You’re right; it doesn’t.  (You don’t have to yell.  Just keep reading.)

If we had made the transition from our fairly decent diets to eating mostly real foods overnight, or even over-month or over-year, it would definitely not have been simple…at all!  In fact, ironically, the stress would probably have killed me, or at least launched me head first into a bag of Doritos!  (Mmmmm…chips.)

But we did not work on improving our health overnight or even over-year.  We did it over years.

Here’s the simple part of the simple philosophy for better health:

Wherever you are in your journey toward improving your health, take one step forward.  Only one!

If you drink soda every day five times a day, cut back to four.  If you smoke eight cigarettes a day, cut back to seven.  If you eat only packaged, processed foods, even those that claim to be healthy, try to make one meal a week from scratch.  If you live for sugar, gradually (gradually) cut back and replace it with something better.

If you are further along on your health journey, your steps will look different.  Perhaps you could take one item from your pantry and read the ingredients.  It should read like a children’s book, not like a science journal.  If you can’t read it in a Dr. Seuss sing-song voice, you don’t want to eat it and you certainly don’t want to feed it to your children!  Replace that one item…just that one! (Don’t even bother reading any other labels right now.)  Eventually, you won’t even remember that you used to make pancakes from a box or that you used store-bought salad dressing and soup or that you had cold cereal 15 times a week—that’s a lot of cereal.  You and corn syrup and hydrolyzed soybean oil won’t even be on speaking terms, and you won’t remember when the relationship first started to disintegrate.

Some ideas: replace your bad oil with a healthier oil (we use coconut and olive), find one salad dressing recipe to try (we can help you there), learn to do one new thing in the kitchen, such as making your own pancakes, stock, or bread.  (If you’re really new, pancakes are a snap.)  Just pick one!

Perhaps your journey toward improving your health requires something beyond food, such as exercise or de-stressing.  Focus your one step in that direction, getting a pedometer and slowly increasing your walking goal, or taking time on the occasional evening to unwind with a warm bath and an uplifting devotional.  But don’t stress about it!  If the babies are having an I-don’t-know-why-I’m-sad-so-can-you-peeeaaasse-hold-me night or your hubby is feeling chatty or amorous, enjoy the blessings of the moment rather than stressing over your lack of de-stress time.  (We humans are ironic that way.)

If you’re really far on your journey toward improving your health, then I’m probably learning from you!  Nevertheless, there is one thing I’ve noticed that many health-focused people really need to do…and that’s enjoy life! Don’t stress because your child ate the Dumdum they gave him at the bank when he and your hubby were running errands together.  Don’t become judgmental because your mother-in-law served GASP instant mashed potatoes with gravy from a package for Thanksgiving.  Don’t fill everyone’s ear with all the things within arm’s reach that will kill them—that kinda makes you a downer.  (I know, cuz sometimes that’s me.)  Unless there is a critical health issue involved, relax, live, love, laugh, and let it go.

Pick just one thing…and do it! Got it?

Part two of the simple philosophy for better health:

Aaaaaahhhhh!  There’s more?!

You bet your bippy.  (I thought you were going to stop yelling.)

When you mess up–and you will–don’t worry!  Don’t stress!  Don’t give up on the whole simple philosophy for better health.  In fact, plan some mess-ups. 

Simple Philosophy to Better HealthWe like making chips and they are delicious with a capital -licious!  But…sometimes I buy chips.  Yup…buy them.  Not the less-bad-for-you organic variety either.  And then we eat them…all at once.  And we smile.  Not just a polite little smile, but a great big giddy smile, like this:

That great big giddy smile is good for you.  Try it.

What small step is in your simple philosophy for better health?

Linked up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday.