In our Nutrition 101 series, we cover basic principles of a healthy diet. These simple guidelines are the building blocks of a good nutrition plan. Because, as we all know, nutrition is the secret pill. Proper nutrition is the only way to burn fat, build muscle, and prolong your life all at once.
Today we’re talking about one of the most important aspects of nutrition: eating real food.

Real Food

Good nutrition starts with real food.
Before you start counting calories, decreasing sodium intake, or buying low fat butter, ask yourself…am I eating real food?
Because that’s step one.
A healthy diet is made up of real, whole foods.
And if you’re not eating a diet made primarily of real, whole foods then you’re wasting your time worrying about the other stuff.

What is real food?

Real food is food in it’s most natural state. The kind of food that you find at a local farmers market. Or while shopping around the perimeter of a grocery store.
Real food is perishable. It has a short shelf life. Because it’s natural. And without chemicals, real food goes bad after awhile.
Boxes and bags of food that can sit on the shelf for months are not real food. They’re food-like substances.
Real food is simple. It usually only has one ingredient. Like broccoli, chicken, or eggs.
Real food is what we’re made to eat. It’s what we’ve been eating since the beginning of time. And it’s what your diet should be based on.


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What is not real food?

Virtually everything else is not real food.
If it’s processed, packaged, refined, boxed, canned, or deep fried…it’s not real food. It may have been real food at one point, but with the added ingredients, it’s no longer real food.
Any food you get from a fast food place, convenience store, or vending machine is not real food. Unless you’re buying fruit. Or a salad.
And anything that contains more than 5 ingredients is not real. It was created somewhere to taste good. That way you’ll eat it and buy more.
It may taste good but it’s not real.

How do I eat real food?

When it comes to a general nutrition plan, a good goal is for 80% of everything you eat, or drink, to be real food.
That means cooking your meals instead of eating out. Planning lunches ahead of time. And ditching the sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks.
But that doesn’t have to happen all at once.
In fact, you don’t want to do it all at once any way. That just means you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and give up.
The trick is to start slow.
Make one change at a time. Stick with it for a few weeks. And once that change becomes second nature, make another change. And another. And another
Incrementally work your way towards a better diet. One change at a time.
Start by cooking dinner. Every night. (Or at least Monday thru Friday night.)
Use real, whole foods. Make things like chicken, pork, or steak. Couple that with green vegetables and potatoes. Or use a crockpot.
Just keep it simple.
But cook dinner. Every night.
Once you’ve got a handle on that turn you attention to breakfast. Ditch the processed food and start making your own breakfast.
Things like bagels, pastries, donuts, and yogurt. They’re all processed or refined.
(Plain yogurt’s not bad. But most yogurt you find on the shelf is not plain. It’s full of artificial ingredients.)
Instead of the refined sugars and processed pastries, make something using real food. Like scrambled eggs or an omelet. It doesn’t have to be complex. Or big even.
Just use real food.
And your final step is to look at your lunch.
Are you eating real food? Or grabbing a slice of pizza every day or a microwave meal?
Skip the junk they provide at work and start preparing your lunches ahead of time. It’s not that difficult.
Take an hour or two in between football games on Sunday and plan out a week’s worth of lunches. Cook them all at once then pack them for the week.
Invest in a sturdy set of Tupperware. It will save you in the long run.

The process of changing your diet over to real food could take a month. Or it could take 6 months. Or a year. Who knows. You just have to get started. Make a decision to start moving forward.
A successful diet starts with real food. No matter how you get there. Whether you do it all at once. Or you take your time.
Whatever your plan, step one is to start consuming real food.