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What Is Real Food?

Apple slad

What is real food? It seems like such a simple answer. I know I thought I was eating real food. And in a lot of ways we were but when I really stopped and pondered this question I realized I was not sure. What got me asking this question in the first place was when I heard about a certain blueberries and pomegranate cereal? 100% nutrition, its packaging extolled. Well it turns out this cereal had no blueberries or pomegranates in it. I mean NONE, not a drop. What is does have is propylene glycol which is antifreeze. I will say it again antifreeze. I will also say it is a food grade antifreeze but that does not make me feel any better. I am a smart girl and I figured this cereal had very little blueberries and pomegranates but I did not realize it had none. I did not realize that the manufacturer had taken chemicals and artificial components and claimed it as fruit. I mean talk about lying. I guess you can totally lie (as opposed to fudging things) on food packaging and it is not illegal. I must sound so naive to you but I did not comprehend how far things have come. I hit my braking point, my wake up call, I cannot not trust anything I read now!

   This has lead me on a search. One I probably will always be on. I have learned that there are all kinds of toxic things in our food like TBHQ (aka Butane), wood pulp, catoreum (trust me you do not want to know what this is), Phosphoric Acid (the military uses it to clean the rust off battleships) and so much more. This is beyond scary to me. Between the genetically altered foods, chemicals pretending they are food and the lies we are told in packaging, it forces me to cut back to simple, real food.  I have two daughters and I want them to understand this. To understand they cannot trust what they read. That they need to learn what is in their food and what names additives and chemicals go by. Did you know there are over 50 different names for MSG and they change frequently? We have been watching movies like King Corn to understand how our food has changed and moved away for being real. I remember my MIL holding up a raw chicken, extolling the fact that it had such large breasts. In her mind it was because it was a happy, healthy chicken. The horrifying reality of that cheap chicken with enormous breast was the opposite of what she was thinking. So I am educating myself, so I can educate my daughters. I found out from a friend there is a kids version of The Omnivores Dilemma, I highly recommend it. I am collecting recipes using real foods and getting my girls involved in cooking them. Mostly we are looking at everything we eat with new eyes, reading all labels, questioning everything.

    As I asked at the begining of this post, what is real food? Here are some words of wisdom from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules, an eaters manual .

Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food

Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry

Avoid food products ingredient that a third grader could not pronounce

Avoid food products that make health claims (that is an interesting one, think about it?)

Avoid food with words "lite" "low fat" or "nonfat"

Eat food that will eventually rot

If it came from a plant eat it, if it was made in a plant, don't

When you eat real food, you don't need rules!!


Speaking of real food the image above is a wonderful julienne of apple, parsnip, celeriac salad


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Great post- Yay for real food!


Your post is so timely! Did you know that May 19th is Food Revolution Day? Here is the official site:

I think that we are all thinking and acting more wisely when it comes to food - but the industry seems content to lull us into a false sense of security. It will be up to us as consumers to eat what is indeed real food. Thanks so much for your thought provoking post!


Dear Clarice,

Good advice, dear friend, and a great reminder to be attentive to every little thing! I rarely buy anything packaged, myself, and we've been weaning ourselves off of the canned olives that we used to love, realizing how bad they are.

Blessings to you!




What a really amazing post, Clarice. I enjoyed this very much. I should check out that last book - sounds fabulous. I am always searching for cleaner and healthier ways to eat. Thank you!


Sadly, it's getting harder and harder to find real food. Here in Canada GMO food does not have to be labeled as such and we don't know what we're eating. I try to cook from scratch as much as possible. My pantry is getting leaner and leaner as I stay away from cans and packaged food.

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest

Yes, it's amazing what's allowed to be in our food and drinks! It's ridiculous!

Gumbo Lily

I am SO with you on Real Food. Have you read the book "Real Food" by Nina Planck? I loved that book and found it very eye-opening. She wrote another one for mothers & babies which was good and I have shared it with new moms.

I like to find just one ingredient on my food labels like: honey, spinach, peanuts, olive oil, and so on.


Better yet don't buy anything in box. Shop just the outer extremities of your super market for the real foods section. All foods have to be prepared there is no instant.

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