What Is Real Food?

September 4, 2013

{This post is the start of a series on real food!}


Like most things in the nutrition world, the definition of real food isn’t concrete. You’ll probably find a thousand different opinions. So this is my answer to the question “What is real food?”


Obviously foods like apples, eggs and green beans are real food. Cooked, frozen or canned apples, eggs and green beans count as real food too so long as they are not in the company of artificial ingredients. (Think frozen green beans in a fake butter sauce.)

Whole foods are easy, but what about the wide variety of somewhat processed foods?  Just because food has been altered from its natural, raw state doesn’t mean that processing is bad. In fact, some processing (like cooking tomatoes for the lycopene) is actually beneficial for maximum nutrient absorption.

I often ask myself if I had the time, energy and simple equipment in my kitchen, could I make this myself?

If you owned a cow, could you milk it and then make yogurt?

If you grew maple trees, could you extract syrup?

If you had the land and time to grow soybeans could you make soy milk by soaking, grinding, boiling and straining the beans, coagulated it and press it into blocks of tofu?

Could you grind up oats and wheat, make a dough with a few more simple ingredients like salt and water and perhaps honey for sweetness, and bake it into a crispy piece of cereal to have with milk?

Thank goodness we don’t have to make all of our own foods these days!

I am not as concerned with the amount of processing if it’s all simple modifications like grinding, baking or fermenting. My biggest issue with modern food ingredients comes from the extracting and mixing to the extent that the food is no longer recognized as the food. High fructose corn syrup is no longer corn, for example. Inulin is often extracted from chicory and then added to foods so they can be called “high fiber.” Even though inulin is naturally occurring, it bothers me that we’re putting fiber in foods that don’t need to be altered to be healthy. What if all that fiber is working against the nutrients that you really need from that food, which evolved as a lower fiber food on purpose?

Get my drift?

Salad Sandwich

Why is it important to eat real food?

I like to say that “Mother Nature knows best” and the importance I place on eating real food is part risk assessment and part research based. The more we mess with the way food was intended to be grown and consumed, the more risk we take that it adversely affects our health down the line. We don’t know what we don’t know. Remember when smoking was the normal thing to do? Well the more we alter our food, the more chance we have that science will discover something adverse about an ingredient years down the line. Nutrition is such a young science and is ever changing. The more we learn about the science of food, the more the research just sends us full circle to the benefits of whole foods.

The Research

There is plenty of research to support the consumption of real food. Numerous studies have found epidemiological evidence that eating whole foods (particularly plants!) has a protective effect on health and reduces risk of chronic disease. {I’m going to get a little more in depth on the research in my next post.}

Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of:

        • Cancer
        • Cardiovascular disease
        • Stroke
        • Alzheimer disease
        • Cataracts
        • Some of the functional declines associated with aging

We know…

Fruits, vegetables and grains are nutrient dense and many of the beneficial phytochemicals we have discovered are found in whole foods.

So we might conclude…

Since whole foods are high in discovered nutrients, they are most likely high in undiscovered nutrients.

{Did you know there are over 8,000 identified phytochemicals? At least that was the case two years ago when I was researching real food. I’m sure there are even more now.}

There is just no way that eating real food is wrong. And since when cooked properly it is delicious, what better way to take care of your health.

Yogurt Salads3

Why else should you eat real food?

Bullet Mangos are more delicious than a mango-flavored fiber bar

Bullet Beans are cheaper than protein shakes

Bullet Oatmeal is more filling than a diet pill

In progress: posts on the synergy of real food, how to navigate ingredient lists and ways to eat more real food

What is Real Food-

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{ 141 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Madison September 4, 2013 at 9:23 am

I’m really looking forward to this series! This is so informative and so good to read. :)


2 Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves September 4, 2013 at 9:24 am

Amen! I love this and thanks for the bounty of information on real food! I’ve definitely enjoyed eating more real food in the past year. My energy has increased, and things are just more satisfying and truly tasty overall. A lot of my eats have been inspired by yours here on the blog! :)


3 Jackie September 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

Love this, so true! Thanks Kath!


4 Jennifer September 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

You make a lot of really good points in this post! This was very informative, thank you. I’ll remember this before I reach for a bar & just try to eat the mango or apple or whatever itself instead!


5 Jeri September 4, 2013 at 9:28 am

This makes so much sense. I never realized how much sodium is in a box of hamburger helper until I made Iowa Girl’s version of one. My son said it was good, but something was different about it as compared to the box kind. I told him it was the amount of salt.

And as a family if a box serves a family of 4 and our family of 3 was pretty much eating 2 boxes at a time, how much sodium were we eating? He couldn’t believe it when I showed him what we were consuming. It’s taking much longer with mini-me, but just planting that seed now, hopefully will grow so they won’t have the health problems I have now. We all used to eat 2 packs of ramen noodles with BOTH packs of seasoning. Yep, we were that family. Now I stay away. If I get that craving, I now only eat 1 pack but only half the seasoning. Yes ramen noodles are 2 servings per pack.

Ladies, show your kids that can of ravioli they eat. It is 2 servings a can.


6 Allison September 4, 2013 at 9:32 am

I have Candida and can’t eat soy. The nutritionist I work with has forbid it from my diet, but she also said we really should not eat it all all, especially for women.
I know you eat tofu regularly, so can you explain your thought on it? Thanks Kath!


7 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 10:34 am

My opinion based on the research that I have read is that medical conditions aside, whole soy is fine to consume. That includes soy milk, tofu, tempeh and the like


8 Eliz September 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

Care to share this research?


9 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 11:30 am

I cant now…baby crawling on my lap but I will consider a future post


10 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 11:32 am
11 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I guess I also want to add that I don’t go out of my way to seek out soy other than tofu, which I really enjoy eating. So if I were a soy milk drinker I might cut back on the tofu consumption, etc.


12 Kate September 5, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’ve also been advised to avoid soy, especially in its more processed forms, which includes tofu! It’s not an un-natural process, but it is several steps away from “whole soy.”

On the other hand, what I have read has suggested that fermented soy products (tempeh, miso), are perhaps the best way to consume soy. From the comments above, it sounds like a post on soy – it’s different forms, potential health benefits vs. concerns – might be of interest to a lot of us!


13 Ann September 9, 2013 at 1:03 am

Agreed! I would also love to see a post on soy. I’ve heard conflicting research. In the interest of risk minimization, while I love tofu and eat it probably a couple times a week, I try to limit my soy-product consumption.


14 Betsy September 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm

With a history of breast cancer in my family, my doctor has advised me to avoid soy as well. I’m interested to hear your view point on this subject Kath.


15 KT September 4, 2013 at 9:36 am

Entries like this one are why I started reading your blog in the first place – your emphasis on eating real food. My interest has been limited in the last few months as you’ve taken up new sponsors. I don’t think you can have it both ways: I eat real food [but I’m sponsored by Ocean Spray Diet]. I am NOT saying that I eat perfectly because I CERTAINLY don’t, but I also don’t make my living with a tagline of “I eat real food.” I don’t understand how things like: flavors (Natural), acesulfame potassium, and red 40 fit into your definition of “food that is minimally processed and maintains its natural integrity.” Speaking of integrity, I hope that you stand behind yours as you continue your journey and figure out in what direction you want to take the blog.


16 Matt September 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

That’s a great point and I expected somebody would bring it up. As you mention, you feel that you don’t eat a 100% real food diet either. I think a big focus of this blog has been how do we live in a modern world where most commercially produced food caters to the generic American appetite? Sometimes it’s unavoidable to eat a bit of HFCS in ketchup but in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world. My attitude towards “unreal food” is similar to how I feel about healthy vs unhealthy food – a cookie, even made from real food, is not something that should be consumed frequently. But if we do the best we can with our choices and we’re mindful of what we’re eating then we’re doing a good thing for our bodies.


17 Nicole September 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

I don’t think this quite answers KT’s question. As Kath brings in sponsors with questionable ingredients in their products, how does that work with the title of this blog? For years Kath has been steadfast in her “real food” beliefs, mostly eating salads, pastas, and burgers made of healthy foods. Now, as she brings in Ocean Spray and Smuckers–not to mention radishes sold by Walmart and grown thousands of miles away–how does Kath reconcile the difference?


18 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

Ocean Spray was a mistake. It wont happen again. Please let it go.

Smuckers and radishes both fit into my definitions above so I see no issue.


19 KT September 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Matt, that’s my whole point. I don’t eat real food 100% of the time. I also do not have a blog title “KT eats real food.” Maybe Kath should consider changing the name to “living in a modern world where most commercially produced food caters to the generic American appetite.” As I said, I feel like when I first started reading years ago, this blog really did stand by that tag line, and I’m hopeful that this post is the start of many back in that direction.


20 Joanna September 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Are you kidding? Do you not understand how advertising works? This is a commercial blog (in the sense that it has a purpose to generate money) as well as a personal one. It’s 2013, everyone knows how sponsored posts work, and they are clearly labeled. If you are not interested, don’t click.

Geez, I’m a casual reader, I have no dog in this fight, I just find your comment really annoying.


21 EllaS September 5, 2013 at 12:47 am

Did I miss something about Ocean Spray? Was there some sort of incident and separate apology that I missed? I’m a pretty dedicated long-term reader (since 2009, yo!) but I’m just now catching up on blog reading (it’s been a very long summer). Is everything ok?


22 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 5:28 am

They sponsored a post. The post was all real food snacks (called Galley of Snacks) so that might be why you didn’t notice it


23 Sarah H September 5, 2013 at 3:07 am

Commenting for the first time, I’m sorry I have to ask, what the hell is a Smucker? (Uk reader)


24 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 5:29 am

A brand that makes fruit spreads and jams


25 Sarah H September 5, 2013 at 6:22 am

Ahh I see thank you (I thought it was a type of food rather than a brand)


26 Rachel September 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I really don’t ever comment on this (or any) blog but kind of feel the need to point out that this is nit picking. She clearly eats very well most of the time. It’s like having someone claiming themselves as blonde, and you’re mad because of a couple strands of brown hair. I mean are we really mad about radishes from Walmart? Seriously?


27 Annie September 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm

It seems like people are responding to the fact that these posts are always sponsored, not the fact that “real food” is not consumed 100% of the time. Sponsored posts that do not align with the general message of the blog (“real food”) make people wonder if these products would be purchased otherwise. Just my observation!


28 Ella September 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Kath occasionally drinks diet soda and eats “unnatural” things. The point is, it is occasional. So I feel the occasional sponsor like ocean spray does not conflict with her message at all. She isn’t saying “never deviate.” She’s advocating whole foods and good choices MOST of the time.

Also, Kath, I love this post! As a fellow RD I find it aggravating when people get obsessed with eating only unprocessed food. To your point, some processing is not only necessary, but also healthful and delicious! Thanks for putting this into easily understandle prose.


29 Tiffany @ She Loves Yoga September 5, 2013 at 1:36 am

This has been a great thread to read, with all valid points. I am studying to become an RD and have come across the same issues of avoiding processed food completely (and being expected to from my circle) for the sole case that I’m on my way to becoming an RD. It’s hard to do 100% of the time and indeed unrealistic. I see nothing wrong with eating something “unhealthy” or “processed” now and then. Just be mindful of where it comes from. And again, I think I learned this rule of thumb from Kath several years ago: if it has 5 or more ingredients, or something unpronounceable, it’s probably best to avoid it.


30 M September 5, 2013 at 7:08 am

That’s not from Kath — it’s from Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules”! He says, “Don’t eat anything with five or more ingredients, or any ingredient you can’t pronounce.”


31 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 8:02 am

She probably means that I mentioned the quote.


32 Kori September 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm

How about we discuss the fact that Coke sponsors The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While I am not pleased with this as an up-and-coming RD, the fact of the matter is Coca-Cola provides a great deal of funds to The Academy EVEN THOUGH most RDs do not advocate for soda in the diet. Sometimes sponsorship will not align 100% with the message, but Get. Over. Yourself. Go read another blog. Stop writing this nonsense to Kath. Period. End of story.

33 Charmaine September 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I agree with Ella. I would also point out that the name of the blog is not “Kath Eats Real Food 100% of the time” or Kath ALWAYS Eats Real Food” — yes, it’s nit picking, but to me taking issue with a post about all natural snacks because the company making them also makes foods that are not all natural is a bit nit picky as well.

I think the Ocean Spray post was great in that it supported a healthier line from the company. I’m hoping their natural snacks take off and become so popular that they stop producing more processed things!


34 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries September 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

Awesome – love this all. Looking forward to this series!


35 Natasha September 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

I totally agree with everything you said!

I think that a lot of people try to focus solely on calories, and to SOME extent that can work. However, I still think that eating more nutrient-dense and real foods (like you described) is a far better practice than the popular “If it fits your macros” diet.

I don’t think that a person should be deemed healthy soley based on their body fat composition.

For myself, I like to eat a lot of fresh fruit, healthy starches, an abundance of veggies, and some fats. Therefore, I’m not going to be as “lean” as others, but I’m gonna feel damn good and alive :)

Awesome post :)


36 Donnie w September 4, 2013 at 9:41 am

This has really come at a good time for us as we are trying to eat more real foods. Coming from the 1970’s it seems that I think processed before fresh way too often. I am trying to expand choices and I definitely see the reasoning but it is difficult to change. Thanks.


37 Lauren @ The Highlands Life September 4, 2013 at 9:43 am

I love this. Can’t wait to see what more you have to say about it.


38 Megan (The Lyons' Share) September 4, 2013 at 9:46 am

I love your approach to food. Of course, the busy-ness of life gets in the way sometimes, but if we could all eat “real food” all the time, our world would be so much healthier! And just thinking about all the (non-harmful) processing you mention makes me grateful that I don’t have to make every single thing I eat, too!


39 Chelsea @BigBitesLittleBudget September 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

Thank you for doing this series! I am really excited to hear what you have to say. As I learn more and more about nutrition, I have found myself placing a huge emphasis on feeding myself real foods. I feel better and know that I am taking care of my body. It really is amazing!


40 Jamey September 4, 2013 at 9:57 am

I’m so happy that you decided to start this series! It’s exactly what KERF needed. I’m looking so forward to future posts. I started eating more real food when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism years ago. I enjoy food so much more now and feel the difference!


41 Christine@ Apple of My Eye September 4, 2013 at 9:58 am

I love this post! I never really thought too much into what “Real Food” actually consisted of. Looking forward to more posts :)


42 Natasha September 4, 2013 at 9:59 am

Am I the only one that is concerned that the ad at the bottom of the page is for McDonald’s? Are you aware that McDonald’s is advertising on your blog? If so, this is problematic for a number of reasons.


43 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 10:34 am

I just requested to have it removed.


44 Allison k September 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Lol! Now there’s irony for ya!


45 Spring September 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

Love this post! I agree with the Real Food approach! (Too bad that I have McDonalds ads on the sidebar with this post)


46 Kirsten September 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

I know that you don’t have any control over what ads are playing, but I find it both hilarious and annoying that there was a McDonald’s ad at bottom of your smart and sensible post about eating well.


47 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

Yes, not the best choice Mrs. Ad Network!


48 Sophie September 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

I love this! I’m really looking forward to this series. This ethos of yours is one of the things I really love about your blog!


49 Barbara September 4, 2013 at 10:18 am

Can’t wait to read more. Often wondered your opinion of Forks Over Knives, etc.


50 Amy @ The Little Honey Bee September 4, 2013 at 10:21 am

Love this post and so looking forward to more to come.


51 Heidi G September 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

Excellent post. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this series!


52 Alisha @ Alisha's Appetite September 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

Sooo looking forward to this series! Great first post- I think a lot of people can benefit from this. <3


53 Katrina September 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

Are you going to touch on the connection between eating animal proteins and cancer, as read in The China Study?


54 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

Not in the short term


55 Jennifer September 4, 2013 at 11:04 am

Fantastic Post! I look forward to more posts on real food!


56 Emily September 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

I’m excited about this series!!! It hurts me to see women (and men) living off of protein bars and shakes. Thanks for starting the conversation.


57 Allison September 4, 2013 at 11:10 am

Hi Kath, I’m excited to read the rest of your series on this topic! I was wondering what your opinion on gluten is. Maybe you’ve covered it on your blog before or plan to (I’m a relatively new reader), but I am curious about a stance on it from an RD. Due to an autoimmune disorder and chronic stomach issues, I have been running into a lot of information advocating a gluten free diet. I have been tested and I do not have Celiac’s, but I have read a lot about gluten being an “antinutrient” and gut irritant. I also know gluten free is very trendy right now, which makes me wary


58 Kate September 5, 2013 at 7:55 am

Allison, I feel you on this! I have been tested for Celiac and gluten allergies, which I fortunately do not have. But I do have another auto-immune condition, for which there is mounting evidence to suggest that following a gluten (and soy, as I commented below) diet might be advisable. I really enjoy baking bread, making fresh pasta, and consuming wheat in all it’s glory, so I’m torn between the “trendiness” of going gluten-free vs. the potential health benefits it might have for me.


59 Candice September 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

I am also a dietitian that has been gluten free for 1.5 years. It has made a HUGE difference in the way I feel (I thought it was normal to feel sick every night). There is no harm in going gluten free for a few week to see how you feel. If you feel better great and if not, maybe it’s something else.


60 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More September 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

YES! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! When I started reading your blog YEARS ago, it was a start at me taking a better look at what I was eating. Here I thought I was eating relatively healthy (and maybe I was?) but I was in college and convenience and processed foods were more accessible and cheaper. Here I am years later and I realize there are better alternatives that are JUST as easy and taste even better! Can’t wait to read more!


61 Lauren @ Lawfully Wedded Wife September 4, 2013 at 11:33 am

Great idea for a post series! With so many crazy foods available to us so easily, I think we could all use a reminder about what real food is and why we need to be eating it. Sometimes I feel like America is a sea of fake food! Hard to swim through! :)


62 Elyse September 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Awesome post–this is exactly how I approach eating and one of the reasons I come back here every day!


63 Anna @ Fitness à la Anna September 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Loving this!! So pumped for this ‘series’!!! Such a great idea :)


64 Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac September 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I love this new series and can’t wait to read more!!! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and keeping it real!


65 Amelia September 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Kath, I love your posts. Is it awful though that as I read this in my feedly, I knew I just HAD to click over and read the comments because I was sure there was going to be some controversy? Haha! Keep on writing and do what makes you happy. :)


66 Erica September 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I did the same thing with the comments! Love this post. Love your blog. That is all :)


67 Janelle September 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Excited for this series. Thanks for continuing to share your nutrition thoughts and what you eat!


68 Jessica September 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Kath – Big fan. I loved this post. I especially loved that you acknowledge that nutrition is a young science and there is likely a lot that we don’t know yet. Thank you for being a positive force in a complicated world!


69 Jessica September 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Reminds me of a great quote I read once: “The active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli.” -Dr. David Katz


70 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Love this!


71 Emma September 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Great idea for a series! Just a quick FYI, maple syrup isn’t actually extracted from the tree, but instead becomes syrup after a long process of boiling the tree sap, which comes from the tree with only around a 3% sugar content. The final product, maple syrup, has a much higher sugar content (around 70+), so you can imagine the time it takes for it to concentrate from sap to syrup during boiling. If you’re ever curious to learn more about the entire process (or try out some of our delicious all-natural maple products such as candy, cream, and sugar), feel free to send us an email. We use a modernized system of producing the syrup while still remaining true to the “old ways” (family owned & operated, wood-fired evaporator, old-fashioned sap spiles and buckets as well as lines, etc.). Sorry if this sounds like more of an advertisement; that’s not my intent. I just wanted to pass on a little knowledge on where this traditional, all-natural and organic, and very real food comes from, as it’s an art that all-to-often is simplified or misunderstood. Nevertheless, keep up the great content!


72 KathEats September 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Thanks! I would love to see this all in action. What is most important to me is that there is an “old way”


73 Amy September 5, 2013 at 7:53 am

There are tons of sugarhouses where I grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire who will let you come in for a tour, and give you samples. You should go if you are ever up in the area! It’s really neat and as you can imagine, smells divine :)


74 Tonya September 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

You hit this post out of the park! Love the variety on this blog!


75 Karen September 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Terrific new initiative, Kath! I’m excited for more in-depth discussions and (friendly) debates to come!
Hope you are having a good day in C-Ville:)


76 Mary September 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Hey Kath – I was one of the people who complained about all the sponsored posts a few weeks ago. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been loving your last couple of posts — these are exactly the sorts of posts that made me start reading KERF a few years ago!

I love that you advocate balancing real food in a realistic world. I’d also appreciate your thoughts on budgeting real food. My husband and I live in an expensive area, rarely eat out, and enjoy fresh, seasonal produce, yet we honestly can’t afford to buy everything at Whole Foods and really have to strike a balance between breaking the bank at the grocery store and buying products that we feel good about. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.


77 Katie September 4, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Hi Mary– I’ve had this challenge as well– striking the balance between breaking the bank and buying products I feel good about. It’s tough :)

One way I do this is to choose one special per trip to buy/support… like fresh halibut, or organic almond butter, etc. I like to think of the expensive ingredient as the condiment… like halibut for example. I might make halibut tacos with cabbage and other veg, instead of a big ole’ piece of fish per person. I also shop the farmer’s market and freeze veggies like tomatoes or peppers for soups, etc., in the winter. Oh– and I try to think ingredients over convenience (like making veggie stock from scraps sometimes, rather than buying boxed broth)

That’s just my two cents. I’d love to hear Kath’s ideas, too.
Great post, Kath!


78 Mary September 5, 2013 at 7:10 am

That’s helpful, thanks Katie!!


79 Julie September 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I love this post, thank you for reiterating such a simple, yet difficult to adhere to, message.


80 HC September 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Hi Kath, as a fellow registered dietitian and nurse (+ nurse practitioner student) I have felt similar pulls between “real food” and what is in reality (especially with patients and teachable audiences). I appreciate the “realness” of your blog and the interesting and truthful nutrition advocacy work you do. Unfortunately in our profession of food and nutrition, we are still figuring out evidence based practice and fighting to understand things such as GMOs, organic legislature, etc. but baseline (as you so often emphasize) looks back to simple, whole food meals. You rock by supporting local and being real! Life happens, sponsors happen, but I appreciate your balance!


81 Amanda - Small Home Big Start September 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Great start to this series! I can’t wait to read more of it!


82 Pat September 4, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I am reading a newly published book (on recommendation from glutenfreegirl.com) called eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. It’s really informative on the nutrition value of our foods – real foods – and how they have been changed over the years.

Love the idea of this series, and can’t wait to read the rest. We try to eat as close to a real food diet as possible, but when we can’t, I try to keep to foods are as minimally processed as possible. I have also read articles about avoiding soy, which I tend to do as I’ve had some pre-cancerous breast biopsies.


83 [email protected] September 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Thank you for this post, Kath! My favorite posts of yours are the ones real, practical, simply-explained advice that comes from all experience as a dietitian! This was so helpful for me to read:)


84 Becky September 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Everything in moderation (including moderation). I am known for being uber uptight about knowing exactly where my food comes from – my low sodium is attributed to the fact that I rarely eat processed foods but at the same time, it took my daughter shaming me to get me to give up my beloved ketchup for an organic one without HFCS. I think that if you mostly eat real food, you can have a little non-food every now & again. Like Twizzlers. Or Heinz ketchup.


85 Cathy September 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Kath I love this post! Whenever I am grocery shopping I think of you and ask myself is this real food? Can I pronounce the ingredients? Most often I leave it on the shelf. Thanks for all you and Matt do.


86 Ray September 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Enjoyable post with a scholarly yet so friendly tone. Did you know that Heinz makes a ketchup with no HFCs. You can also get the 365 version at whole foods.


87 Courtney September 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Excellent post, Kath. This lifestyle approach is so well explained and I cannot wait to see what comes in the future.


88 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs September 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Great food for thought! Looking forward to the series :)


89 Christina September 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

What a great post, Kath! I try to eat as much “real food” as possible, but it can be tricky with Crohn’s Disease. I cannot process raw vegetables and most raw fruits, but have tried to stick to things that work like blueberries, or cooked green beans. I would really love it if you’d share more recipes or ideas for cooked vegetables that taste good and are nutrient dense. I have a hard time incorporating veggies into my diet because of the Crohn’s and thought maybe you could offer up some suggestions? Thanks Kath! :)


90 Carla September 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I liked this post, and am excited for more similar ones in the future!!!


91 Sally September 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Really looking forward to this series. I am in school to be an RD. As someone else suggested above, if you have time or interest, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the future on the ever-growing grains controversy, i.e. how most people are supposedly intolerant of gluten to some degree, their levels of anti-nutrients, how they might contribute to a host of autoimmune diseases, whether you feel there are benefits to traditional soaking and fermenting methods, etc. Thanks for all you do!


92 Shana September 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Looking forward to this series! I find it particularly frustrating that vitamins and minerals are being added to EVERYTHING these days. I once discovered I was inadvertently consuming massive amounts of calcium because it was in my non-dairy milk, hot chocolate mix, cereal, and orange juice. That was when I really started to pay attention to even the “healthy” packaged foods I was purchasing and I try to stay away from food that is supplemented (which seems to be most foods now!). Thanks for your thoughts on the subject!


93 Kristine September 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Well said.


94 Julie @ RDelicious Kitchen September 4, 2013 at 8:39 pm

As a (soon to be) RD.. so many people need to look at food this way.. REAL food! It’s just so much better!


95 Melissa September 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Thanks for being human Kath! Being a legalist by nature,I Iove when people can graciously mix a little black with their white (vs seeing black and white). I keep meaning to read all your archives but it is work reading them backwards. Don’t think I’ve ever seen you blog a picture of a fast food cheeseburger! 😉 –to your credit.


96 Nancy September 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Volume 112, Issue 2 , Page 214, February 2012 (available online to Academy members)
Defining Processed Foods for the Consumer
Have you read this article? I thought it was interesting that the government defines processed foods rather broadly – washing and peeling a carrot is processing that food. Yet most people would feel that eating a raw carrot was perfectly acceptable. I think everyone is going to have their own definition of “too processed” – fresh apple off the tree vs washed apple (that’s processed) vs applesauce (processed more) vs apple jacks cereal (processed even more). It’s not as simple as some people would have you think!


97 char eats greens September 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm

I’m ALL for real food!!! Love this!


98 Abby September 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Hey Kath!

I like to think I eat real food, too. But, I also tend to eat a lot of food – even though I deem it real – at night. Do you have any tips for curbing excess nighttime eating?


99 Lauren September 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Great blog post – I especially enjoyed the past about milking our own cows and grinding soy, made me really think!


100 Holly September 5, 2013 at 2:58 am

I’m making a real effort these days to eat as much clean & natural food as I can, and blogs like yours are a great help :) I’m really excited for the rest of this series, such a fascinating and helpful read!


101 Lisa @bitesforbabies September 5, 2013 at 4:54 am

Great post Kath!


102 Maria September 5, 2013 at 6:24 am

Real food…what is going on with Greek yogurt. You refer to it in your posts, but I couldn’t find which brand. Yoplait was sued because theirs is not real Greek yogurt. I then did some research on the one from Trader Joe’s which is labeled plain Greek yogurt. LESS protein than their less expensive European Style yogurt, and it has dried milk added to it. Help!


103 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 6:36 am

I buy Stonyfield Greek which is organic. Occasionally I get the Whole Foods brand when I need a smaller tub. I don’t care fir Yoplait yogurt at all and TJs adding dried milk is disappointing. Stonyfield isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for.


104 Maria September 6, 2013 at 9:12 am

Appreciate this information. Thanks. I’ll look at Stonyfield again, but I think the last time I checked it at Whole Foods I saw pectin on the list. Stonyfield and Brown Cow used to be my favorites…until I saw thickeners added. At the moment I’m buying Straus and making my own Greek yogurt by straining with cheesecloth.


105 KathEats September 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

Stonyfield plain greek shouldn’t have any additives


106 Kate September 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

It’s really easy to make your own Greek-style yogurt! Take any good-quality plain yogurt, place in a paper towel-lined mesh strainer over a bowl in the fridge over night. The longer you strain, the thicker and creamier your yogurt. Bonus: the whey liquid left over can be added to smoothies for an awesome protein boost!


107 Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} September 5, 2013 at 6:51 am

Great post! I look forward to reading more in this series.


108 Lynne September 5, 2013 at 7:26 am

Thanks for the great post (and great blog in general!). I read a lot of nutrition/fitness blogs and I am amazed that so many of the bloggers that talk about ‘clean eating’ also talk about consuming a lot of protein powder shakes. To me, protein powder is the antithesis of clean eating. I’m not even sure what is in that stuff. I appreciate your emphasis on real food.


109 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

I totally agree! I’ve tried a few plant-based protein powders in my past that seemed more real than the isolates, but I always end up going back to things like yogurt, nut butter and cottage cheese for protein in smoothies


110 Dawla September 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

I love your blog. This is one of my favorite posts! I look forward to reading more and getting inspired. Thanks for sharing. :)


111 Laura September 5, 2013 at 8:05 am

Great and thought provoking post!! Not sure if you have done in the past, but I would be interested to see a weekly budget breakdown for your grocery expenditures and where you save vs. splurge.


112 Tami @Nutmeg Notebook September 5, 2013 at 8:06 am

Best post ever! Well thought out and to the point. I am looking forward to more posts like this Kath. Having moved to a whole foods plant based diet myself, I would be interested in your thoughts about that. I watched Forks Over Knives and it changed the way I eat. I had been trying to lower my LDL cholesterol with a diet of moderation with animal products and because of genetics the LDL kept creeping up. When I learned that chicken had nearly the same amount of cholesterol as beef I was shocked! I can’t wait to see what my LDL numbers are at my next physical.

I look forward to more posts like this.


113 Sara September 5, 2013 at 8:09 am

Excellent post and I agree with you 100% I’ve recently started following a whole foods, mostly plant based diet and follow Michael Pollan’s mantra-‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ :)


114 Cindy September 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

Thanks for this post Kath! I started reading your blog in 2009 when I was beginning to eat a whole foods diet. I lost 20 pounds and have kept it off with no problem. My husband and are so much healthier now and we feel great! We eat nothing artificial unless in sneaks in in a baked good but we try to make the better choices as far as sweets are concerned. We maybe are a little strict on ourselves but it eliminates so much of the bad things in food we want to avoid.


115 Olivia September 5, 2013 at 9:51 am

Might be worth including links to articles which you quote word for word with no credit. Nothing wrong with using the AJCN to research this topic, but at least include sources. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/517S.full


116 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

Can you show me the quote? I’ll add a citation. I’m going into the research in my second post, so I considered the general mention research here more of a summary.


117 Olivia September 5, 2013 at 10:11 am

Second sentence of the abstract. “Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer disease, cataracts, and some of the functional declines associated with aging.”

I understand you’re summarizing, but the use of the word “consumption” is what made me think you did some googling…without citing. A quick copy & paste into google resulted in that abstract. Not trying to nitpick, but I think citing to a source like this only benefits you and ultimately your readers.


118 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 10:13 am

Sure, I’ll add it in.


119 Carolyn September 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Wow. You seriously need a hobby, Olivia.


120 Katie September 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm

you people make me shake my head in disbelief. it is so crazy that you have the time to even care about stuff like this! Citing something on her blog? Please get a life.


121 Courtney September 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hi there-
I never comment, but I find it ridiculous what
some of these people are getting upset about. To those individuals I say “act like
grown-ups and not preschoolers.” Good grief. It seems
rather immature to me. Hateful, snide comments are very
unnecessary. Plus, if someone has a problem with it, then
they don’t have to read it. (or look at the adds)


122 Erin September 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I really enjoyed your post Kath! As a food science graduate student, I hear food being demonized very frequently. I abide by your philosophy as well, eating whole foods most of the time and processed foods only occasionally. I had a professor who eloquently targeted the “all-processed foods are bad” soap-boxers by saying “I don’t know about you, but I prefer my coffee roasted, my bread baked, and my milk pasteurized.” Not all processes are bad (personally, I LOVE roasting, haha!)

I feel like it’s so much more important to focus on obtaining adequate nutrition from the food we eat and to maintain a little perspective – much of this world doesn’t have access to food at all, so nitpicking about micrograms of Red 40 is truly sad.


123 KathEats September 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Love that quote!


124 Xiomara @ Parkesdale September 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Great post! I am looking forward to more posts like this!


125 Maryz September 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Love this post! Looking forward to more in the series!


126 Jane September 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Perhaps this is a comment for another post, but I’ve somewhat recently cut down on my nut and seed butter consumption (eating them quite seldom in a tahini-based dressing or almond butter-based stirfry sauce) in light of reading about out-of-balance ratios of Omega-6s and the fact that our cave ancestors had to work hard to extract the meats of a few nuts a week. Soon after I made this change, I noticed that I was losing weight despite it being a goal. I recognize that people depend on nut butters for protein, but when Greek yogurt alone has 20g, it’s easy enough to rack up the additional 40-60g an active woman needs with some tuna on a lunch salad and lentils with rice for dinner. I think that the caloric density and over-portioning tendency of nut butters and nut flours make them a diet pitfall.


127 KathEats September 6, 2013 at 5:43 am

I think they can get out of control very easily…I speak from experience!


128 Andi September 5, 2013 at 11:26 pm

All of the nitpicking from above really takes the fun out of eating food that is good for your body. The snarky foodie movement can be a bit too judgmental.


129 Christine September 6, 2013 at 8:53 am

Really great post Kath, I never stop learning from you! Only we have control over what we decide to get out of reading this blog. If you choose to gain only the opportunity to criticize others while feeling superior, I guess that’s your right. But it’s also your loss by not opening your mind to both the facts and opinions of the intelligent, honest and educated person that Kath is. Perhaps if some of you had an occasional bowl of Lucky Charms you wouldn’t be so cranky.


130 April September 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I LOVED this post! A very simple and helpful explanation as to the importance of eating “real” foods. Keep spreading the word!


131 Livi September 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

great post! Love this info!


132 Samantha @ aussi belle September 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

I’m very much looking forward to this series.

As usual, thanks for sharing.


133 Gina G September 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Kath, I give you so much credit. You have an amazing blog! Keep your head up and keep doing what your doing :)


134 Lauryn September 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Hey Kath! I just bought by first loaf of bread @ great harvest charlotte…(and maybe a brunette bar too haha) and it was so good. I am looking at some of your older posts and I have gotten some great ideas, thank you for always being so detailed and putting so much effort into blogging!!


135 [email protected] September 9, 2013 at 9:35 am

You continue to inspire me! Recently you did a report card on your nutrition which I have incorporated into my monthly check-ins and now this. I try to be wary about what I eat but sometimes I stray. Your example of smoking is perfect though! I look forward to more posts and perhaps helping me change my habits one small thing at a time! Thanks Kathy!


136 Heather L. September 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

I linked to this post on my blog because I thought it was great and really helpful. I received a couple emails from my readers about how brutal some of the comments are, so I came to see for myself and I am a little shocked. I really enjoy your blog and I find the information you share interesting and helpful. I also enjoy that you are so open with your life and things outside of food. I think blogs like this one are a great resource for people on a food/health journey, and I think the scrutiny is unnecessary. The road to health and well being is complicated and difficult for a lot of people and there is a lot of conflicting information. Do your homework and your research and make the choices you think are best for you. I think someone said it earlier, but the nit picking is a bit much. Keep doing what you’re doing Kath!!


137 KathEats September 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Thanks Heather!


138 Nicole September 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Love this post! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve commented before about how much I appreciate your sensible approach to eating real food. I’m very excited for the posts that are in the making!

Sad to see so much scrutiny in the comments. What the heck? People can be soooo rude and judgmental. Makes me sad. Keep your head held high and keep doing what you are doing! The majority of your followers are in support of you and love what you do with your blog!


139 Stephanie @ Legally Blinde September 15, 2013 at 11:51 am

Very well-written post, Kath. I’m looking forward to more posts in this series.


140 Sanne September 30, 2013 at 3:46 am

Love your blog:) Keep up the good work! Looking forward to reading on.


141 Dave October 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Good article. Good title.
Sensible people everywhere are waking up to the hazards of our modern world and are trying to do something about it.
We, my wife and I, avoid processed foods and try to eat healthy with plenty of fruit and veg etc but we also have to be realistic.
People live in different parts of the world and sometimes it is difficult to eat ‘fresh’ , ‘local’ or ‘organic’ all the time (we live in the North) so whilst it is easy, and cheaper, to avoid processed foods, sometimes there has to be a compromise.
That is the way it is and being abused by other people for not being ‘perfect’ does not help.
Do your best, live as healthily as you can and hopefully have a long and productive life.
Nice blog Kath. Coming back so keep up the good work.


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