If the title of the post got you in the dumps, stay with me! I've personally fell victim to these 6 culprits and today, I'm offering quick and simple solutions to avoid them!
It always takes a few days to get back into the groove of eating healthfully and intentionally coming off a Holiday high. Yule log, cookies galore and endless cocktails leave your body feeling depleted of nutrients and starving for nourishment. The new year is a wonderful time to start anew and rekindle your love with real food.
What is real food?
Real food comes from real, unadulterated ingredients. Emphasis made on meats and dairy be free from hormones and antibiotics, preferably grass fed and pastured. Fresh fruits and vegetables are grown with no or organic and natural pesticide control. Bone broth and organ meats are a common fixture in our refrigerator and ferments deserve it's own food group. In short, real food is the way our ancestors ate and the way we should be eating for best nourishment.
Related: Nourishing Foods Defined
6 Reasons Why You'll Fail at Real Food
I hope you don't find the title offensive. My heart is to come alongside you and help you wade the waters of real food cooking. Below are the exact same reasons I found to be the culprit in my own failures. Thankfully, there are simple solutions to each of these reasons why you'll fail at real food.
Reason #1: You're overcomplicating things
Sometimes the best meals come from a lone kale bunch and forgotten lamb chops. Prepare meals with what you are most comfortable with. If it's kale, great! If you've never cooked with fennel, don't sweat it. It took me a while to realize I didn't have to always prepare winter squash even if everyone else is raving about them. I found them to be very intimidating. I didn't grow up on butternut squash and honestly, it was awkward to work with without seriously injuring myself (no exaggeration!). They eventually grew on me, but it wasn't until I became more familiar with them.
Solution: Don't add unnecessary stress to your real food endeavors by attempting to create something you are not comfortable with working. Challenge yourself with exotic ingredients and unfamiliar techniques, but keep that to a minimum and be sure to allow yourself extra time as you work through the recipe.
Reason #2: You have an ALL-OR-NOTHING mentality
I try my best to source food that has been responsibly raised or produced. But it seems nearly impossible to do it 100% and keep it within budget. The problem is we often set unrealistic expectations upon us and then become grossly disappointed when we don't meet those expectations. That disappointment paralyzes us further and hinders us from making good choices. For years since switching to organic, natural and real food diet, I would try to get all my groceries organic, including citrus and avocados. That was a major overkill and interfered with making better choices for other foods such as meats and dairy. Soon, I found myself pulling out of the Chipotle parking lot again because I didn't have organic foods to work with.
Solution: When it comes to produce, stick to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. Some of my favorite Clean 15 foods are cabbage (yes to sauerkraut!) and cauliflower. Also, your local farmer is a great resource for the best produce in town. The quality is incredibly better than anything store-bought and you can ask him directly how he grows the food. Find your nearest farmer's market by going here.
Reason #3: You eliminate bad habits
Okay, that was a bit misleading. Getting rid of bad habits is actually a good thing, but there's something better and that is to replace bad habits with good ones. Habits by nature address certain needs in our lives. For example, drinking coffee gives us energy and stamina to do our job well (in most cases). Opening our inbox as soon as our computer turns on gives us a s sense of connection to other people.
But in order to break bad habits, you have to have a plan ahead to replace them with something better. Our brains have incredible muscle memory (we can work a specific task into memory just by repetition). Therefore, we need to fill that space with good or great habits.
Solution: Replace bad habits with good habits. Ditching coffee? Give herbal coffee a shot or even warm lemon water sometimes does the trick. If you're used to going through the drive thru at 5 o'clock in the evening, stop by instead at a Whole Foods for a rotisserie chicken from their hot foods section. Throw some potatoes in the Instant Pot and toss a green salad and you have a nourishing meal.
Small baby steps lead to lasting results but it's important that those bad habits are replaced with much healthier ones.
Reason #4: You unknowingly eat fake food
Let's define fake food first. It's food that is processed, adulterated and manufactured in such a way that it no longer resembles "real food. It's products such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), canola oil, and most breakfast cereals. Those foods are void of any nutrition and should be avoided. I think it's fair to say most health-conscious people wish to eat real food. That's why you're here, right? But unfortunately, many food manufacturers sneak those pesky suspects into an otherwise healthy product. Look at a jar of "organic" mayonnaise and you'll often find canola oil. Most breakfast cereals and processed grains are extruded and processed in such a way that the end product has no nutritional value and as a result must add these vitamins (along with other things) back in mechanically.
Solution: Scrutinize every label. I don't really pay attention to calories, sugars, or carbohydrates. My focus is the ingredient list. Generally speaking, if a product has more than 6 ingredients, I don't consider that an un-processed food and set it back on the shelf. Likewise, that ingredient list must be pronounceable by all members of my family. Monosodium glutamate, no thankyouverymuch. These ingredients must be those I can pull off my shelf and not a chemistry lab.
Reason #5: You don't meal plan
Benjamin Franklin once said "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." I'm a planner geek. I can drool over those pretty planners and smell the sweet aroma of the daily docket pages. But you don't have to be a staunch planner-addict to plan a weekly menu.
Planning your meals for the week (or however long you wish) frees your mind to do other important things. It sets you up for success long before the oven is fired up. One of the best things I've done in my kitchen, is making a list of go-to meals that I've mastered and my family loved. These are recipes that don't take much thought and I can whip them up in no time. Seventy-five percent of my cooking comes from this lis making meal planning a seamless process.
Solution: If there is one area you don't want to overcomplicate things it's in the menu planning. It can take as little as 10 minutes to an hour to come up with a menu plan (I like to keep it to the former). Keep it simple and if menu planning is a new idea to you, I suggest you only do dinners and have leftovers for the following lunch.
Sit down and come up with 10-12 meals that you feel comfortable making and your family absolutely raves about. Think Spaghetti & Meatballs, Turkey Chili, or Baked Potatoes. Simple. Family favorites. Throw those in your weekly menu with maybe one or two wild cards (new to you recipes). I prefer to alternate my meals with soups. For example, one day we'll do chicken tenders with salad and then Borsch next day. Soups are super easy to reheat and make a great lunch.
Reason #6: You don't give yourself grace
Unless you're on a healing diet such as GAPS or AIP (Auto-Immune Paleo), I see no reason to go all organic 100% of the time. In an ideal world, all food would be considered real food. Canola oil would be replaced with a healthy fat such as avocado oil and grains would be properly soaked, every single time. Pickles wouldn't be canned using vinegar but instead would be lacto-fermented and rich in natural probiotics. But we aren't living Utopia, therefore, we must improvise so as not to make food an idol.
Most people follow the 80/20 rule with 80% eating clean, real food and 20% grace to eat out, pig out, and peace out. By giving yourself the permission to go outside the boundaries of what would be considered real food, gives you freedom from food.
Solution: Determine what margin of error you are comfortable with and stick to that. For us, it's 85/15. We visit both sets of parents for dinner on a weekly basis and even though food is prepared from scratch, the ingredients used leaves something to be desired. However, I don't stress over that because I know majority of our food is prepared at home with quality ingredients. Our 15% goes towards eating out and treats outside the home with a small handful leaving to our kitchen.