How to make eating real food work for you

Written By

Rhea Dali

Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Images 41 1 | How To Make Eating Real Food Work For You



Real Food


Eating real food is hard isn’t it?


By the questions and comments I hear near daily from many people—it is.


“I just don’t have time to cook.”


“I’m on the go and don’t have access really to good food.”


“I want to, but it’s just so expensive…or just so much work.”


And, even with the best of intentions to put good fuel into your body, it seems as though society is against you sometime to succeed, right?


Food “on the go”, is “fast”—meaning anything from Subway, to Taco Bell, Chick-Fil-A and Sonic is way more available than say a grass-fed beef burger with a roasted sweet potato and Brussels sprouts, pulled pork over cauliflower mash, or spaghetti squash Bolognese.


Pale Power Meal


Sporting events, airports, and movie theaters serve popcorn, candy, hotdogs,and sodas more than fruit, nutbutter, hard boiled eggs and coconut water.


And the grocery store is stocked with about 75% packaged, processed food-like products, calling your name with labels claiming, “Enhanced with vitamins,” “Protein-plus”, “fat-free” and “sugar-free”—but not “taste free” (ie. Artificial sugars).


Special K


I get it. We live in a world that, despite your best efforts or endeavors to eat real-food, it’s sometimes like the ‘forces’ are working against us.


This past weekend (at Wodapalooza in Miami) was a surreal experience on the food front. There are very few sporting events or festivals in this world that you can go to, and have tons of delicious, real-food options to choose from that both nourish your body and taste good!


From a food truck serving up lean grassfed sirloin burgers and organic chicken alongside homemade sweet potato fries, fresh fruit and green smoothies, and Bulletproof coffee; to a food stand dishing out chicken and broccoli over cauliflower rice, pulled pork and sweet potatoes, and eggs and chorizo sausage with bell peppers; to a gluten-free cupcake stand; the sight kind of made me laugh.




This is not reality.


A funny observation a spectator made was, “The people here are honestly so happy and nice! I think it’s because they are eating so much good food—not cheap nachos and pizza,” he said.



Food not only impacts your hunger-fullness level, but it effects your energy, your mood, your allergies, your frequency of illness, your digestion, and more.


Seeing this peculiar, nourishing food environment this weekend, got me fired up.


I am passionate to help you conquer the uphill your battles with feeding your body with good eats and feeling like ‘it’s so hard.’


Because it’s not.


No matter what your goals—whether you are in recovery from an eating disorder, battling your weight, dragging in energy, experiencing indigestion, managing a disease, or simply toying with the idea of trying to eat real food—eating real food is honestly for everyone.


Not a diet. Not cutting out basic foods (carbs, fats and proteins). Not feeling deprived or eating cardboard.


Just eating nutrient-dense whole foods your body was meant to survive—and thrive upon.


Ever since I started eating real food about three years ago, I haven’t gone back. Do I feel deprived? Heck no! If anything, I feel more nourished than ever with good eats and even treats (love my nutbutter-cookie recipe!). I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I am full, and eat regular balanced meals throughout the day. I am able to check in with my body to know what it needs and craves that day (from more greens, to red meat for iron and energy, fresh berries, more fat, some protein to die me over between meals)—and if I ever hear old thoughts or beliefs come up around food and food rules, I am able to stop that thought right in its tracks and push it out of the picture (no room for you thought! Take that!).


Paleo Cookies



Ok let me get to the main point: Eating real foods doesn’t have to be hard. It just doesn’t! It doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ (doesn’t exist). You can still eat flavors and variety. You can find things that you truly enjoy. It doesn’t have to take hours to prepare. And simply put: it feels good to feel good!


So how can that be?


Here are a few key points that kept me in the right direction when I got started:


  1. Fats. Fat doesn’t make you fat. And fat is satiating! Begin incorporating essential fats with your main meals. The choices are pretty vast: avocado; raw nuts and seeds; black olives; extra virgin olive oil; coconut oil; grassfed butter; coconut butter; tallow, lard, ghee (cooking oils); raw almond butter, cashew butter and walnut butter; tahini. Fats nourish your brain, give you energy, enhance digestion and satiate you from getting those sneaky sugar or junk food cravings.





  1. Out of sight out of mind. If you don’t want to be tempted—you have to stop tempting yourself. Whether it’s your Diet Coke, your Lean Cuisines, your Pringles and Goldfish—if you throw it out, the easier it will be. For me, I had to stop buying my Splenda packets, diet frozen dinners, canned protein drinks and bars, and frozen turkey patties my mom shipped to me from Arkansas to Nashville (because they were the only meat I would eat). I had to start buying new, real foods because I knew they were honestly better for me.


Lean Cuisine


  1. Try new recipes. Seriously chicken and broccoli is not the end all be all. And rice cakes most certainly are not either. You can find a real-food version recipe of practically anything you are in the mood for—from pizza, to Thai food, to Mexican, even doughnuts (seriously! Try these). Get inspired on some of my favorite blogs including: PaleOMG, PaleoLeap, and Against All Grain.


Against All Grain



  1. Get a crockpot. Food that cooks itself?! What?! Yes, it’s true. All you have to do is throw all your ingredients in, turn the temp up to medium or high (depending on the recipe), and come back 4-8 hours later to bon-appetit (you can place in over night or before you leave for work in the morning!). Easy peasy. Here’s one of my favorite pulled pork recipes.



Pulled Pork


  1. Keep a water bottle on hand. A big part of learning how to eat real foods was cutting out all the diet sodas and artificial flavorings I was drinking (like Crystal Light!). Seriously, ditch it in favor of high quality H2O! I never realized the headaches, constipation and even sometimes blurred thinking and sight I was experiencing was from Aspartame!!! Drink AT LEAST half your body weight in ounces; aim for 16-32 ounces more if you are active.





  1. Cook 1x per day. I’m weird about leftovers. I don’t love them. I love fresh food most of the time. But sometimes leftovers are most convenient! In order to get the best of both worlds, I typically cook some meat and veggies once per day (mostly at dinnertime), and make enough for lunch the next day. During this time, I will typically prep my breakfast as well in order to get out the door first thing in the morning to start seeing clients. In all, it takes me about 20-30 minutes, once per day to make a fresh dinner at night, and also prep my meals for breakfast and lunch! In addition, I typically keep a few day’s worth of cooked sweet potatoes (simply cover in foil and bake in oven at 400-degrees for about an hour), some pre-made veggies (Brussels sprouts, roasted asparagus spears, broccoli and zucchini), and a couple rotisserie chickens from Central Market or Whole Foods on hand in my fridge for easy meal sides.





I won’t overwhelm you with tips and tricks. Those are just a few easy ones to start with.

The bottom line to keep in mind as well? DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF.


You don’t have to feel like you are slapping yourself on the wrist with a ruler. Or think you are a failure if you do try a bite of that brownie at your friend’s Superbowl party. It’s all about balance and, the majority of the time, if you are focused on nourishing your body, life WILL happen—and that’s A-OK. If you ever have any questions or need some direction in ‘getting over the hump’ of nourishing your body with good eats, never hesitate to ask.

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