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A challenge for 2016: Eat real food
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Forsyth County News

Did anybody make out a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2016? If so, chances are the list has much in common with the rest of the population — lose weight, make better food choices, get healthy.

While those are all excellent goals, how we get there can be daunting. Of course, there is always the “join the gym” method.

Any of us who have done this know the gyms will be packed this month with well-meaning people who want to lose weight and get into shape.

The problem, of course, is that after a few weeks, our motivation often wanes. Let’s face it, for most of us, finding something to do besides exercise is easy.

What about a diet? Again, going from what we regularly eat to a restrictive, new way of eating is nearly always impossible to do for long.

What if I could offer a new sort of non-diet diet, that is sure to help lose weight as well as achieve awesome health results? Ready? It’s simple — just eat real food.

I know that sounds super simple, but there is actually quite a bit to this new/old strategy. If eating “real food” seems like a silly thing to suggest, think about what we do actually eat.

A granola bar or cereal for breakfast, a sub sandwich and some chips for lunch, maybe a frozen dinner or some takeout — all of that is real food, right?

Sadly, most Americans (including children) are eating so much processed food passed off as real, we don’t even know how many additives, preservatives, and chemicals we’re consuming.

To figure out how much real food we are eating, the best thing to do is to start reading labels. Years ago, I was shocked to find foods I thought were perfectly healthy contained unexpected additives.

For example, why do pickles need green dye in them? Shouldn’t peanut butter’s main ingredient (the first one listed) be peanuts?

Isn’t bread made of flour, salt and yeast? Then why do the bread labels have 20 or 30 ingredients? Why don’t children’s fruit snacks, have no actual fruit?

Once we begin the process of label reading, we will likely begin distancing ourselves from the center aisles of the grocery store and staying more on the periphery. After all, what is in an apple is an apple, right?

If giving up all processed foods seems impossible, start small. Try eating regular oatmeal instead of instant, pre-sweetened oatmeal for breakfast.

To sweeten that “real” oatmeal, cook it with some raisins and top with a bit of honey or real maple syrup. Real oatmeal is filling and feeling fuller longer than those little packets.

That translates to avoiding that mid-morning snack of doughnuts or whatever else may be in the breakroom at work or in the pantry at home.

For lunch, try a salad made with greens, vegetables and some cooked chicken, canned tuna or boiled egg. For a dressing, skip the store-bought varieties, which may sound healthy, but are usually filled with additives and cheap oils.

Instead, whisk together some extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar of choice and a little Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Voila, a lunch that is healthy, filling and can be enjoyed guilt free.

For those used to snacking between meals, try snacking on nuts or a piece of fruit.

What about dinner? For many families, this is the most complicated meal of the day, especially for those with small children. Planning ahead of time is key to ensuring a family eats a healthy dinner.

The slow cooker is certainly a friend. Putting together dinner in the morning will give a sense of peace all day and a feeling of accomplishment during the dinner hour.

When our four children were young, a pot roast or whole chicken in the slow cooker often made the menu once a week. In addition to taking just minutes to assemble, the house smelled wonderful by dinner time and there were always leftovers to use in a soup or casserole.

Eating a real food diet is definitely a challenge in our “instant” society. As a mom, I totally understand how much easier it is to hand a child a pop tart rather than cook some eggs and toast.

Likewise, it is much easier to microwave a microwaveable lunch rather than put together a salad. But what is the cost?

Those stubborn extra pounds that won’t seem to come off? Health? One thing I can promise: Those who begin to read labels and truly see what we are eating (or feeding our children) will begin to become much more conscious of food choices. That translates to healthier choices.

A blue piece of candy may not seem so appetizing after reading the ingredient list. After all, if we don’t know what an ingredient is, or can’t pronounce it, do we really want to put it in our bodies?

None of us can eat perfectly at every meal. That is simply unrealistic. All of us eat out. And we cannot very well ask our servers to bring us the labels of the foods they are preparing in the kitchens, can we?

But still, my challenge to readers is to start being more conscious of what we eat. Reading labels is the fastest and most sobering way to do that.

Please email me comments, particularly if taking the challenge. And Happy New Year!

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.