As my family gallivants around the stunning vistas of Palo Duro Canyon, I am grateful to real food bloggers like Kathy from Granny’s Vital Vittles for picking up my slack! The following post was written by Kathy, and asks a very interesting question. Thank you, Kathy.
Real food enthusiasts are an adventurous lot. Most of us love to try new kinds of foods and taste new flavors. We’re up for whatever comes our way as long as it’s fresh and real and has traditionally been eaten by some culture somewhere.
It’s easy to get the impression that seeking new things to try is a major part of adopting a real food lifestyle, maybe even the biggest part. There are many unconventional dishes, drinks and snacks that turn up on real food websites. Those who are new to the real food scene often think they need to quit eating their favorite foods and start eating only these kinds of dishes instead. They try to work out what kind of meals to plan based totally on these exciting and somewhat exotic recipes.
But copying someone else’s style doesn’t really work out. We each need to develop our own style of real food eating.
Many of the recipes people new to real food find are daunting.
When you first start looking into improving your families diet it’s easy to think that you’ll have to change everything about how they eat all at once. New foods come up in books and websites you’ve never heard of but it seems all the real foodies eat. Stuff like kombucha, and kefir and offal.
Not only will you need to learn to make it but your family will have to be persuaded to try it! It’s really easy to be overwhelmed by it all. I know I was when I was first learning about real food.
But eating real food isn’t really about new foods and flavors. Real food is all about wholesome ingredients that have a long history as food and the proper preparation of those ingredients. How you combine those flavors and foods is really up to you. Plenty of nutrient dense foods is the primary concern, beyond that it’s all good!
Finding Your Real Food Style
Improve your ingredients.
As a first step just look at improving the ingredients you use to make the dishes your family already knows and loves.
If you use vegetable oils in cooking replace them first with wholesome fats like butter from grass-fed cows, non-hydrogenated lard from foraged hogs, and coconut oil (where to buy healthy fats & oils). You’re still making the same thing, but much healthier! If cheese is a feature in many of your dishes upgrade the cheese you buy to a raw milk cheese. So on and so forth. Just rinse and repeat till you’ve made it thru all your family’s favorites. These dishes now form the core of your family’s real food style!
Include more nutrient-dense foods.
Next you’ll want to expand on this to include more nutrient dense foods. Improving the nutrient density of your meals is a vital part of real food cookery. (See What’s More Healthy: An Apple or Liver? for more on this!)
I’d start off with changes that will improve the flavor of your dishes first. Look for places you can substitute low nutrient density foods for high nutrient density foods, keeping it all within budget, of course. For example you can use broth instead of water in most savory dishes and get double bonus points for improved flavor and nutrition. Look for ways to up the good fat content of your dishes too. A little more cream or butter perhaps?
Challenge yourself: Fill in the gaps.
If your diet was really weak before, now’s the time to fill in your nutrient gaps.
For fun let’s take an extreme example of someone who eats only pizza and beer! No matter how good the ingredients, there just isn’t going to be enough variety without expanding the menu a bit. Our pizza and beer hound is going to need to expand into eating soups and broths, vegetables both raw and cooked, more meat and some eggs, etc.
(I’m guessing that most people would only have a gap here or there after converting their favorite dishes unlike our theoretical pizza-and-beer-aholic.)
There are some nutrient dense foods that you will want to work in that are a little more challenging both to learn to make and to introduce to the family.
Fermented foods come to mind. Some take to fermented foods immediately and others need to work up to it. Some love fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir but dislike most fermented veggies. Or they will happily eat familiar fermented foods like yogurt or pickles, but won’t touch kombucha.
Don’t feel that any particular one is absolutely necessary , just experiment till you can find a type your family is comfortable with. I recommend sticking as close to what they know and like as you can. Now that core real food style we started with has a few new dishes added to it.
Expanding on your real food style
Once you have the basics in place you can branch out and be adventurous if you’d like … or not!
If you’re the kind of person who loves to experiment always trying new experiences, there is a wide world of flavor to explore. But if your family are quiet folk who love the basics and prefer to spend less time cooking that’ll work too!
Once the basics are in place you don’t need to become a foodie in the sense of constant experimentation with flavor. Feel at ease if you’d like to stop changing the family diet here.
But if you like more variety the steps to expanding your food style are lots of fun from here on out. By this point the family is on board with the plan so you won’t need too worry to much about scaring them the unfamiliar.
Even so it’s easiest to look at favorites that you wouldn’t ordinarily make but they will happily eat at a restaurant or a friends house. Do they love Mexican food? Alright, great starting place! Seek out the traditional flavors and preparation methods of old Mexico. Do they love down-home southern cooking at their family reunion? Find those family recipes and modify them to use only wholesome ingredients. Have a favorite Indian restaurant? Learn something about traditional Indian cookery.
The possibilities are endless really.
That’s all there is to it folks! Creating a real food diet you and your family is happy with is an ever changing process but once you get started it has a momentum all it’s own.
What’s your experience been?
When you first started with real food were you excited by the variety of new foods or a little intimidated? Have you worked out your own style?
Kathy Block blogs at Granny’s Vital Vittles about keeping real food affordable and practical. She lives just outside of Austin with her husband of 19 years Barry, youngest son Jake, two cats and about a dozen chickens. While not a Grandma yet, with two grown kids she remains hopeful. Kathy wants a world where everyone has fresh wholesome food and feels that cookin’ like a granny woman is the surest way to get there.
Photo:by Gregory F. Maxwell
Hannah Healy @ Healy Real Food Vegetarian says
Great article Kathy! My boyfriend used to be one of those pizza and beer people…until he met me, hehe!
Kathy @ Granny's Vital Vittles says
My husband was on the all Jack in the Box diet when we married 🙂
Scott @ The Healthy Eating Guide says
Good post, Kathy. I think this line from your article sums it up for me “Once you have the basics in place you can branch out and be adventurous if you’d like … or not!”
My healthy eating journey has been a progression, no doubt. I think every time I experiment, try something out of my comfort zone, and cook something I’ve never tried before, I end up learning a lot.
I’m not a perfect eater, but being adventurous has been the biggest reason I try to eat as close to nature as I can.
Kathy @ Granny's Vital Vittles says
It always feels like a work in progress for me too … I tend to learn new habits slowly so it took me longer than most I think just to get the basics going. We all have our own pace and mine in that of a snail ;-). Now I have a little more time with my kids grown up I plan to stretch my limits a bit more … should be fun!
The Provision Room says
How very practical!!! Thank you for sharing!
Brooke Lorren says
The easiest thing for me to do was to dump the margarine and vegetable oils. I’ve been a work in progress ever since. This week I made chicken nuggets with breadcrumbs and coconut oil, and everybody liked them! I took one of those boxes of Pasta-Roni and I reverse engineered the ingredients and made the same kind of pasta yesterday, only without the garbage ingredients. It was half as expensive to make, and we had double the food, plus it was healthier for us.
I do like kombucha, and have made my own before as well. My dh thinks that I don’t care about real food or am a hypocrite or something because I am having a hard time giving up soda completely, but I am doing much better and every little thing helps.
Kathy @ Granny's Vital Vittles says
Dumping the margarine and vegetable oils is easy and super important to do. I recommend everyone make this the first or close to the first thing they do when transitioning to a real food diet. Aren’t chicken nuggets great with coconut oil?
I remember mentioning somewhere on my site that the appearance of hypocrisy is a major concern of just about everyone during the transition. You’ve got one leg in one world and one in another. Truth is that all of us are in this basic position really. Almost no one is doing 100% real food all the time. Wherever we are at is just wherever we are at … no hypocrisy in that! Oh, here I found it … Not Stressing a Not 100% Real Food Diet.
My first real food step was switching from margarine to butter. This was years ago, before the internet – (gasp, was there ever a time?) I just intuitively knew that real had to be better. And at a snail’s pace we move more and more healthy/real. I will never be 100% -and I don’t stress about it – life is too short – I know each time I feed my kids something wonderful like liver or fried in coconut oil – I am doing my best. And when we have frozen pizza and pop – it is still ok, not ideal, but ok. So my Real Food style is – “willing to cook offal and willing to serve frozen pizza”. Great post!
Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) says
What a great concept! So true. I started my converting our favorite recipes into real food – pizza, tacos, tomato soup, gyros.
I’ve also found for my particular family, if a new dinner recipe is tomato based it’s far more likely to become a favorite.
Thank you for posting this. It is a wonderful article and gives many ideas on how to start eating healthy. I have already started incorporating several of the ideas that you mentioned, but you gave me more ideas to work on. Once again, thank you.
Jessica @ Bint Rhoda's Kitchen says
Great post! I think it is so easy to become overwhelmed when switching to real foods. For me, it meant going back to the way my mother cooked for us (which is what gave birth to my blog), because that was familiar and my family already enjoyed the flavors. I think the most important thing is to keep enjoying your food! Serve food that your family really loves, just make it as wholesome and nutrient-dense as possible. Food is supposed to be enjoyable, and nourishing. If you are completely overwhelmed and exhausted and no one wants to eat it, then I think that’s a signal to go in another direction.
Aaron Robert Matteson via Facebook says
Once you’ve been eating healthier, eventually fast food will look more gross than landfills.
Leia Dingott via Facebook says
Still working on it…
Howard Gray via Facebook says
I was lucky I already knew how to cook and prep, it was then just a simple matter of upgrading my ingredients.
Ann McLaren via Facebook says
I’m grew up on a farm and have always eaen real food.
Unique, unprecedented, models of women's clothes via Facebook says
Lisa Lou via Facebook says
Amanda Woods-Osman via Facebook says
I cut out fast food first, then diet soda while gradually adding real foods.