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It Comes Down to 3 Simple Words!


With the abundance of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, excess weight and cancer, it’s no surprise there is a constant buzz about healthy eating, nutrition, diets and food.

But, why aren’t the disease rates decreasing?

 

And, why so many different messages?

 

No wonder many of us are in a state of confusion about what we should or shouldn’t be eating!

Recently, several different discussions and reports caused us to step back and revisit the question…why is eating healthfully so complicated?  Doesn’t it really all come down to…

EAT REAL FOOD?!

Ok, you may be thinking, there they go again…but please just hear us out!

Zonya and I are both busy moms and normal consumers just like you.  While Zonya is the expert on nutrition, our family has exposed ourselves to numerous books and research focused on food and nutrition, and then we had to simplify all this down to something that is practical for daily life.  Through our coaching and corporate wellness programs, we have also seen first-hand what has been most successful for people to change their eating habits, improve their health and discover the joy of great-tasting food!

This past weekend, we read some of the recent report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).  It is 835 pages, so the first question was "why do we need 835 pages to help people do something as simple as eating healthfully?"  The report provides a lot of depressing statistics such as:

  • More than 70% of Americans are overweight or obese.
  • 60% of Americans have a chronic condition.
  • 40% of Americans have 2 or more chronic conditions.

We were very excited (and relieved) to see the report shifting its focus from specific nutrients to broader dietary patterns.  After all, we don't consume individual nutrients...instead, we each have a pattern of consuming a combination and foods and the nutrients (or lack of nutrients) they contain.

That said, the report still focuses a lot on nutrients.  It talks about important nutrients that are under-consumed (such as Vitamin D, calcium, fiber and potassium) and those that are over-consumed (including sodium, saturated fat and added sugars).  There is a lot of good information in the report, but...

does it really help people in their everyday lives?

We frequently hear people say things like, “I know I need to eat fewer carbs, but it is so hard -- that is what my family likes!” Or, “we are trying to focus on more protein and less fat in our diet.”  Focusing on the nutrients doesn’t help much when you are scrambling though the grocery store with kids in tow to figure out what you are going to eat for dinner this week, or tonight for that matter!

Worrying about specific nutrients rather than the overall nutritional value of the food can also lead (unintentionally) to poor choices.

For example, if you are trying to eat more fiber and fruit, and you grab a box of cereal that says “high in fiber” and “made with real fruit,” you think "score -- this is a great option!" when in reality that cereal is loaded with added sugars and other processed ingredients...so now that cereal is doing more harm than good!

With all this nutrient-focused information, many people are confused and becoming skeptical.

For many years, we heard that cholesterol in food is bad for us…now, we hear that dietary cholesterol doesn’t significantly affect our blood cholesterol.  One report tells us that coffee is good for us while, a week later, a report says we should avoid coffee.

This is enough to make someone say “I give up!”

 

 

What if, instead, we gave people one simple message…

Eat REAL Food!?

We would, of course, have to help people understand what REAL food is.  This could help people stop and think…where did this food come from?

Is it REAL or is it a fake food-like product (has it been produced in a factory and heavily processed)?  By talking about REAL food, it would force us to teach people to read and understand ingredient labels…not calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs and protein…but ingredients.

 

Then what?!

We would also need to enable people to prepare REAL food - in a way that's simple, affordable and full of flavor.

Simply eating an apple, banana or raw or steamed broccoli isn’t going to get people excited or fundamentally change behavior.

 

But if people learn how to transform these simple ingredients into a flavor-popping meal like an Apple Walnut Pizza, Neapolitan Overnight Oats and Spicy Orange Beef & Broccoli, their cravings can change and they will want more similar meal ideas!

 

 

Something to think about…

 

  • Focusing on eating REAL food can naturally address the nutrient issue!  It would help us get more of the nutrients we are short on and consume less of the nutrients we should be limiting.  This would also help us get the benefits of the nutrients that are naturally contained in REAL food - and the benefit of how all these nutrients work together!

 

  • “Eat REAL Food” is relevant to everyone!  This reminds me of a line from one of our favorite movies, Remember the Titans:  “Listen up!  I don’t care if you’re black, green, blue, white or orange…”  In all cases, Eat REAL Food is relevant!  It also works for all income classes, genders and ages.  Sure, someone with a lower income is going to have to take a different approach than someone with a six-figure salary - but the message and the fundamentals still apply!

 

  • Rather than teaching our kids what NUTRIENTS are good and bad, why not teach them what FOODS are good and bad…and why?  And how to read and understand ingredient labels?  And how to prepare simple, flavorful foods using REAL ingredients?  Now, that is something even our kids can understand and put into practice in their daily decisions!

We have seen first-hand how simplifying the message turns into amazing results!  Here are just a few things we have been told:

  • “Learning how to read ingredient labels is an eye-opener!  Once you understand how to read ingredients, it becomes much easier.”
  • “Realizing how to keep it simple has made it easy and so much less stressful!”
  • “I can’t believe the flavor from meals that are so easy to prepare.  We are now making and enjoying foods we would have never eaten before!”

 

Just imagine what we could achieve it we shifted our paradigm to a simple message of

EAT REAL FOOD

and equipped people to do just that!

 

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6 Responses to It Comes Down to 3 Simple Words!

  1. I’m all for eating and making your own REAL foods. I do disagree with a few things you mentioned. First, cooking with REAL foods is very expensive. The recipes usually require special veggies, spices, and other grains and fibers that are unique and expensive. Someone on a budget would have a very hard time. We are just the two of us and we spend an average of $150-200 a week cooking REAL.
    Next, if you are a busy person,(mom shopping with kids in tow) you need to have some convenience foods at your disposal. How about introducing some healthier granola type bars that I DON”T have to make myself. Dried fruit is a great choice but have you priced that stuff? It’s great to have stuff already cooked but that requires taking a day from my weekend to whip up all the meals for the week. It’s just not as simple as you stated.
    I hate the idea that people feel guilty for grabbing convenience items because they can’t afford or don’t have the time to make the “healthy” stuff. I like the program and have participated in 3 of the classes, but it’s unrealistic if you thing all of us have the time/money to eat REAL. Just my thoughts

    • Thanks Deb for sharing your viewpoint on this. We absolutely encourage everyone to trade in real food for processed food at a rate, and to a percent that they feel comfortable with. For some people, just converting HALF of their dinners to be more ‘REAL FOOD” is a huge improvement, that WILL make a difference that their doctor will notice. Then onto 75% of meals….and maybe for some, that’s as far as they will get. AND THAT’S WAY BETTER THAN BEFORE and we will always applaude those families! Yes, while some REAL foods are less expensive (whole potatoes versus scalloped potatoes in a box, or rice versus Rice-A-Roni) and really don’t take any more time. But some do take more time and money, like the Chocolate Chia Energy Bites vs Oreos. But the nutritional difference and impact on your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and overall risk for heart disease and cancer, make the first option definitely “WORTH IT!”

      All this to say…you are right. We encourage people to go to whatever percent of REAL food they can do, and we are not here to make them feel quilty for not converting 100%. But we are hear to say….it is not “nutritionism”. It’s a simple and non-confusing message. Our role is to serve and inspire the easiest and tastiest ways in which to get unstuck and stay unstuck….and overcome obstacles…to enjoying REAL Food. Thanks again for your comment. And congrats to you Deb, as we know you have been making EXCELLENT strides in your health, making delicious REAL FOOD!

    • Thank you Deb for your feedback! I absolutely agree with Zonya, everyone is at their own pace and needs to customize this REAL food journey to what works best for them and their family. Focusing on a REAL food lifestyle definitely requires making it a priority and also requires planning, prep and time. We don’t expect anyone to always be REAL food 100% of the time – we just spent the weekend out of town moving our daughter into her college apartment and had to eat out all weekend. We try to take advantage of local restaurants, but as you know, it is challenging to not feel like you spend more money than you want to, and can’t always find the healthiest options. We always want to support and inspire others to be as healthy as they are motivated to be. We want to provide great-tasting options to know what to do with certain foods and ingredients, and help overcome obstacles to enjoying REAL food. We greatly appreciate your feedback, and please let us know what we can do to continue to help you — we are so proud of your efforts!

  2. Boy, my husband and I have debated this a lot over the years, and it’s an even bigger issue now that we are retired and on a fixed income. It’s hard to compare the immediate and expensive cost of buying healthy food now to what might have to be spent in the future on health problems, medical bills and prescriptions. We are currently dealing with some health issues that might have been prevented if we’d eaten differently in our middle age and maintained a healthy weight. But we’re not beating ourselves up about it–as Maya Angelou once said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Be well, everyone!

    • Thank you Beverly and Ken! You both are such an incredible inspiration, to not just us, but to so many others as well! Your story is an excellent example of the amazing benefits that you can gain by focusing on REAL food! Thank you!

      • Oh gosh! Thank YOU for inspiring US! I bless the day we signed up for the EAT REAL AMERICA class at Morris Hospital and began our journey. Ken is doing so well–he’s lost 28 pounds as of this morning, and says he is feeling so much better, doesn’t get winded when we take our walks. That alone is PRICELESS!!

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