Real food – go on, bite me!


Research continues to discover and reinforce the extraordinary health benefits of eating real food and confirm diets high in processed products contribute to obesity and related chronic disease. Yet many of us remain confused in determining what should we eat?

Foods that can hurt us

It’s a sad but important fact that if our nutrition is dominated by highly processed food, we cannot be certain what we are consuming. When considering the production, processing, labelling and marketing of food, we cannot take anything at face value. It’s now on record that many processed foods are engineered to be addictive and are filled with ‘empty calories’ – energy dense, nutrient light. Marketing angles include advertising products as ‘free from’ or ‘low in’, which neglects the question of what’s good about them, another is ‘healthier’. Yet we know that consumption of even “healthier” processed foods, with their high levels of sugar, salt, fats puts us at risk of becoming victims of obesity-driven chronic diseases, such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Foods that can help us

What we eat is important. Real foods can deliver health benefits. These are foods with minimal processing and refining, maximising nutrition from natural ingredients rather than artificial substances. Real foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, lean protein and unsaturated fats providing essential nutrients to aid with overall health, well-being and in maintaining a healthy weight. They are better inputs and create better outcomes. Think of them as ‘food with benefits’.

So, what should we eat?

The most recent research from some of the world’s most eminent dieticians and food researchers points to the overall pattern of one’s diet as being a key aspect to health. The important factor is to aim for a general healthy diet, rather than focus on specific nutrients. Indeed, a panel consisting of 18 experts in epidemiology, food, nutrition and medical science brought together for a workshop organized by the University of Copenhagen in collaboration with the University of Reading in September 2016 added their weight to supporting this proposition in their report, Food is not just the sum of its nutrients.

Real food – more than just the sum of its parts

This approach means we should embrace a rainbow of variety and balance, focusing on real food in our eating habits; lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, poultry and fish, not forgetting a daily probiotic for gut health.

In Just Routine these foods are split into six groups to make up the critical constituent parts: protein, carbohydrates, legumes, vegetables, fruits and fats. All have a role to play to avoid cutting out any of the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats). This approach also ensures other important nutrients are not excluded; if we cut out the ‘large’, we also cut out the little: micronutrients. These include vitamins, minerals, trace elements and phytonutrients, key building blocks in the foundation of good health.

The foods where we really need to cut consumption we categorise as ‘Treats’ & ‘Cheats’. This includes processed foods, including processed meats, sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, potatoes and sugary drinks – the aspects of a diet that people should spend more time worrying about.

How to make eating real food fun

The Cookbook in Just Routine provides meal ideas, with hundreds of recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks to give you some suggestions what to do with real food. Download and then personalise to taste, or develop your own recipes. What’s more you can share them with friends and family, or even start mini real food communities!

It’s all about what we eat

Ultimately a healthy diet is about eating foods that are good for us. This doesn’t mean they can’t taste great, but it may require an open mind to move away from some more destructive and addictive processed foods to try ‘foods with benefits’. Foods that provide our body with nutrition, not just energy; that help boost our immune system, as well as helping us to avoid becoming overweight and increasing our risk of inflammation and chronic disease.

Such food will contain fats as well as sugar. The key is keeping it real. The more real food we consume, the better it is for us. Just Routine makes it fun and easy to see how to do this, with shopping lists to plan your purchases and a food diary to track your progress.

If you want to start experimenting in developing healthier eating habits, click here!

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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