What does healthy eating really mean?
Ask 12 people and you’ll get 12 different answers.
- “No meat—all veggies” (vegetarian).
- “1200 calories or less.” (chronic dieter)
- “Unlimited fruits and veggies,, but only a certain number of points otherwise.” (Weight Watcher)
- “Bulletproof coffee in the morning, and less than 50 grams of carbs during the day.” (ketogenic dieter)
- “One large meal per day.” (intermittent faster)
- “Raw veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds only.” (raw vegan)
- “Six small meals per day, mostly protein and veggies.” (figure competitor)
- “Low fat, no fat, sugar free—anything (pudding, ice cream, cereal, yogurt, bars, etc.).” (misinformed dieter)
- “Anything from the earth” (eat real food philosopher)
- “The food guide pyramid.” (the ‘My Plate’ educated individual)
- “Juices every day.” (Vit-a-mix addict)
- “A place for everything in moderation.” (80/20 clean-eating adherent)
With so many opinions out there, there is quite honestly no black-and-white answer or definition.
However, regardless of your response, there is no denying a handful of things:
- Your body was designed to eat real food, and;
- Packaged and processed foods are not “real food”
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration defines “processed food” as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.”
By this definition, most food can be considered processed.
This day in age, with more health awareness in the news and reports about the health epidemics sweeping the country (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.), we’ve definitely been informed about the pitfalls of processed foods, such as:
- Soda is bad for you
- Sugar rots your teeth and drains your energy
- Stay away from trans-fatty acids
Yet…for whatever reason, processed foods still make up about 70-80% of the U.S.’s diet; along with about 5,000 random additives (many with names of ingredients you cannot pronounce) concocted into these foods to make them: edible, palatable, delectable, even addictive.
- Titanium dioxide, which is commonly used in paints and sunscreens, is also found in many salad dressings, coffee creamers and cake icing.
- One of the key ingredients in many canned and fast food chili is silicon dioxide, also known as sand.
- Lanolin, an oily substance found in sheep’s wool, is an additive used in chewing gum.
- Cellulose, which is actually ground-up wood pulp, is often used as an anti-caking agent in bagged cheeses.
- Sodium bisulfite, a toilet bowl cleaning chemical, is also used in potato chips.
In short: It does not look like our food industry, our food options or our country’s ‘food’ supply of choice will be changing any time soon.
That said, if you are of the more ‘eat real food’ sort (you realize just how darned amazing real food makes you feel and impacts your health), what if I told you there are actually several items you can find on the shelves that are actually good for you?
No crazy secret. But if you are navigating the aisles, looking for convenience, taste or some old-standby substitute options, check these packaged foods out:
Mikey’s Muffins. Miss your toast or egg McMuffins? Mikey’s Muffins redeems breakfast time with three different flavor varieties including: Original, Cinnamon Raisin and Toasted Onion. Concocted from simple ingredients including: eggs, almond flour, coconut flour, water, baking soda and salt, you can’t go wrong with any one of these.
Coconut Butter & Raw Nutbutter. It’s in a jar. On a shelf. With a long shelf-life. But these butters make everything delicious. Bananas + almond butter; coconut butter on a sweet potato or veggies; cashew butter + celery sticks; or simply eaten alone…
RX Bars. Walk the aisles of any grocery store—even Whole Foods—and you’re sure to be met with an overwhelming array of ‘health and nutrition bars’ to choose from on one of those aisles. Bars galore! But flip over the ingredient label, and you’re sure to find a list of ingredients the length of your arm. Enter: RX Bars, complete with only egg whites, fruits and nuts (oh yes, and ‘no B.S.’!). And unlike many bars out there, these bars have a little more balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates to keep you from getting that ‘sugar’ rush that many fruit-based bars give. A few other notable mentions include: Perfect Food Bars, EXO Bars, Raw Revolution Bars and Lara Bars.
Applegate Farms Organic Deli Meats, Frozen Sausage & Bacon: Deli meats are no-no’s in Paleolithic terms, primarily for all the crappy chemicals injected and processed into them in order to preserve on the shelves. However, they can be oh so convenient. Applegate does it right with simple, clean cold cuts made from humanely raised pork, beef, and poultry that are free of hormones, added nitrates and nitrite. Available in most commercial grocers as well as health food stores today.
Try these! Homemade Pepperoni Chips. Who doesn’t love the smell and taste of pizza? Get your fix with pepperoni chips! Buy the Applegate Farms’ nitrate-free pepperonis. Heat your oven to 400-degrees. Place pepperonis on baking sheet lined with foil (sprayed with cooking spray). Bake for 10-12 minutes; flipping pepperonis over half way. Serve with guacamole.
Kale Krunch. You had to ‘give up’ chips when you switched to a real-food diet, and other people tried to help you problem solve making your own at home: Kale, sweet potato, beet…but that takes timeeeee. Kale Krunch to the rescue. Check out these ingredients: Kale, Cashew, Red Bell Pepper, Lemon Juice, Nutritional Yeast, Himalayan Crystal Salts and Blessings. Cooking problem solved. However, if you do get a ‘wild hair’, kale chips really take no time at all. All you need is kale, olive oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Kale Chips: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash kale. Strip leaf from stems and tear into 2-3 inch pieces. Lay on a dry towel and cover with another dry towel and press lightly, fully drying kale. Next, pile kale into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and mix well to coat surfaces evenly. Spread on a baking sheet. Dust oiled kale with salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Pop kale into the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
Straus Family Creamery & Wallaby Yogurt. For those of you who can tolerate dairy (many people do not contain the enzymes needed for proper digestion of dairy), you’ve heard the mouthful: ‘reach for organic, full-fat, raw, grass-fed sources.’ But where the heck do you really find those?! Look no further than Straus Family Creamery. With organic yogurt and Greek yogurt, the plain versions contain only three ingredients: whole milk, buttermilk and living yogurt cultures (i.e. probiotics). The company also sells full-fat milk and should you believe in an 80/20 approach to eating real food (and I do), they have ice creams free of gums, thickeners, additives, artificial ingredients and coloring agents. Wallaby’s whole milk plain greek yogurt and whole milk kefir are also quality versions. Just remember to reach for the plain flavors to avoid unnecessary sugars.
Pudding. Goodbye Jell-O snacks, HELLO Chia Pod! Chia seeds boast tons of fiber for a well-oiled GI system, along with a hefty dose of Omega 3 fatty acids. Each Chia Pod snack contaisn one full serve of sun ripened chia seeds mixed with fruit and coconut milk, and they come in 7 different flavors (coffee bean, dark cacao, blueberry, strawberry, mango, vanilla bean, and banana). Yum.
Fruit “Rollups”. Fruit rollups and fruit-by-the-foot meet real food (convenience fruit in packaged form): Bare Snack products. While these fruits are not gummy, they are in a package and portable for an on-the-go Vitamin punch. Try banana, cinnamon banana, cocoa-dusted, fuji apple, Granny Smith apple, coconut chips and more.
Granola. I LOVE making my own granola, but if I am in a pinch, there’s nothing like grabbing a bag of some granola goodness to bring me back to my childhood days of Capn’ Crunch or Frosted Flakes. The granolas by Steve’s Paleo Goods and Paleonola are two of my fav—with tons of flavor options to keep your tastebuds tantalized!
Nick’s Sticks & Jerky. There’s a big difference in a Slim Jim’s Beef Jerky and Nick’s Stick’s Jerky. Nick’s Sticks & Jerky products are 100% grass-fed with no added nitrates, hormones, sugar, antibiotics, MSG, red dye, or gluten (practically everything opposite of a processed supermarket jerky). A few other jerky options: Krave, Steve’s Paleo Goods, New Primal and EPIC. Look for nitrate free versions of whatever brand you decide.
Baked Goods (Mixes and flours). Chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin muffins, pancakes, banana muffins, cakes, Artisana bread—all at your finger tips now. While there is a host of homemade versions of all these things, a handful of companies have capitalized on the efficiency of having your own flours to easily add eggs or liquid to whip up some deliciousness. Check out Simple Mills and Paleo Folks.
Bread. Miss sandwiches? Wraps? Your lunchtime staples? No longer! Base Culture has perfected a grain-free bread that brings you a hearty nutty punch for supporting your turkey and ham sandwiches (also don’t miss out on their Pumpkin Bread and muffins!). If you are looking for a fluffier bread, you also have to check out the new Foxhill Kitchens’ Awesome Bunz! As for tortillas, Siete’s almond-flour tortillas are hard to beat! In addition, check out my bread recipe below for an easy-at-home version of non-gut-irritating bread!
The general “processed foods are bad” claim may no longer hold the same negative merit it once did thanks to the movers and shakers within our eat-real-food community. And, at this rate of expansion within ‘healthier’ packaged food options, the grocery store aisles in your big supermarkets may see a shift in the coming years.
What products would you like to see that don’t exist yet?
Necessity is the mother of all innovation and invention, and you may very well have the next big idea.
Meal Prep Friday
Speaking of packaged and ‘processed’ foods, here are a few fun recipes to try your hand at that may remind you of some old processed staples; now with a healthier twist.
(double recipe for a 9×13 dish)
4 TB of coconut oil
4 TB of Arrowroot Powder
2.5 cups of full fat coconut milk
1 heaping TB of tahini (can also use Almond Butter)
2 heaping TB of gluten-free nutritional yeast
1/2 TS Dijon mustard
2 TB Rice Vinegar (yes, this is Paleo)
1 TS sea salt
1/2 TS garlic powder
1/2 TS onion powder
1/4 TS nutmeg
3 TB white wine
1/2 TS Paprika for the orange color
couple handfuls of almonds
In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut oil and stir in the arrowroot. Arrowroot is a thickening agent that has no flavor to it. Whisk the arrowroot for about 20 seconds and then slowly add in the coconut milk. Make sure you whisk and blend the paste really good. This is called a roux. Bring the roux to a bubbly boil and then reduce the heat to low.
Add the tahini, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, rice vinegar, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, and white wine. Add the paprika for color, if desired. Whisk it all together really well. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add the cooked “noodles” of your choice to a 9in square casserole pan. Pour the uncheese mixture over and lightly blend. Grab a few handfuls of almonds and pulse them in a blender (or use sliced almonds). Spread almonds over the dish and sprinkle some basil on top.
Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
- 4 smallish sweet potatoes (garnet are wonderful!), 6-8″, 2-3″ in diameter
- 4 tablespoons light olive oil or avocado oil, ghee (this amount is not an exact science..enough to make sure all your sweet potatoes are coated and glossy but not drowning!!)
- Salt to taste
- Optional seasonings
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and lightly grease 2 cookies sheets, or line with parchment.
- Peel your sweet potatoes, but do not rinse them, you need them dry so the oil adheres.
- Slice your sweet potatoes into french fries: no perfect way to do this, but keep the pieces equal in size and thickness. Fries should be between ½” and ¾” (go ahead and grab a ruler, I promise, no one will know!).
- In a large bowl, toss the fries with the olive oil, and any seasonings if you so choose. I wait to sprinkle salt when the potatoes are on the cookie sheet.
- Spread the fries out in a SINGLE LAYER on a cookie sheet (I always use two, and if I need to, three!) Do not crowd your fries unless you want them mooshy! All fries must keep their hands to their selves!
- Sprinkle the fries with salt.
- Place no more than two cookie sheets in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove cookie sheets and using tongs, flip the fries over, they should be golden on the flipped side. Return the cookie sheets, flip flopping the cookie sheet positions.
- Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the fries are golden and crispy.
Turkey/Ham Sandwiches on Homemade Sandwich Bread
- 3/4 cup almond butter
- 5 eggs
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
- 3 tbsp coconut flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 °F and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
In a mixer or large bowl, blend together the almond butter, eggs, coconut oil, honey, and apple cider vinegar until smooth.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flax seed, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth.
Pour the dough into the line loaf pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until browned. Check to make sure it’s set with a toothpick.
Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack.
Assemble with organic oven roasted turkey or ham (Applegate Farms), homemade chicken salad or tuna salad.
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced and seeded
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 cups guacamole
- 2 tbsp green onions, chopped
For the sweet potato chips
- 3 large sweet potatoes
- 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp salt
For the meat
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 green chili, diced (optional)
- 1 lb. grassfed ground beef or ground turkey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 12 oz. canned diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
To make the sweet potato chips, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes thoroughly, then slice thinly, using either a mandolin or sharp knife. In a large bowl, toss them with coconut oil and salt. Place the chips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip the chips over and bake for another 10 minutes. For the last ten minutes, watch the chips closely and pull off any chips that start to brown, until all of the chips are cooked.
While the potato chips are baking, start preparing the beef. Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and chili to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the ground beef and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and remaining spices and stir well to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook, covered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.
Stir the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro into the beef mixture. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
To assemble the nachos, form a large circle with the sweet potato chips on a platter. Add the beef mixture into the middle of the circle, and then top with guacamole and green onions.
1 Mikey’s Muffin, toasted (order online or find at whole foods)
1-2 egg (preferably pastured)
1-2 slices of bacon, halved
1/3 creamy avocado slices
Cut the bacon slice(s) in half and fry in a skillet over medium heat. When the bacon is done, remove it to a paper towel to cool and use the rendered bacon fat to fry the eggs. Assemble into a sandwich and enjoy!