If I were to have just one eating rule it would be to just eat real food.
I am not going to give a big spiel about what is and is not real food. Chances are we would disagree on lots of bits and pieces and if I were to try and address all the possibilities and exceptions I would end up with a pretty huge essay....and who wants to read an essay? ( truth be told I would totally want to read that essay but we will leave that for another day).
In its simple form real food is:
- Fruit and Vegetables: Food which only has one ingredient
- Dairy: be sure to check the labels and only buy whole and plain versions. This is especially in relation to yogurt as otherwise you are opening yourself up to lots of colours and sugars. I would avoid anything marketed to kids in this section as they really pump the sugar into those things
- Meat: It may be more expensive but opt for local, grass fed and humanely raised where possible (if you need convincing then watch Food Inc). For us we were able to get around the cost issue by reducing our intake of meat
- Seafood: Wild caught and sustainable. A lot of places will have this information on the label in the deli - if theres no information available then chances are its not worth buying
- Dried fruit, seeds and nuts: again look at the labels to make sure no sugar has been added
- Sweeteners: use natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. Try to avoid refined or artificial sweeteners. There are plenty of alternatives out there that taste just as delicious without being horrible to your body
- Grains: Opt for 100% whole grains (i.e. no white bread or white rice) - it may take a little getting used to but once you make the plunge you won't be able to go back as the whole grain versions just add a whole new depth of flavour
- If you do buy packaged foods (and hey it's going to happen occasionally) look for something with less than 5 ingredients. You should know what all those ingredients are, and be able to pronounce them, if not then try to move on
Of course there are lots of other things to consider but like I said don't want to write an essay (I really do want to write the essay, and I probably will, but for the moment I am refraining).
Personally I find that the easiest way to go about eating real food is to shop at the local Farmers Markets. This way you will likely be getting produce that has been grown and produced locally. There’s a higher chance it will be organic or at least grown using organic methods (pretty much the same but without the farmer having to go through the expensive process of becoming certified organic). There is less chance of getting factory farmed meat, chicken and eggs which is better for everyone involved. Plus, depending on the market, it can also end up being a hell of a lot cheaper than the supermarket!! We get everything we can from here and just a few bits and pieces from the shops.
In terms of Eating Out….this depends on how strict you want to be. I am not strict (well not really). We are good about 80-85% of the time. During the week we try to make sure everything we eat is homemade using the above rules. On the weekends we get to cheat - we usually eat out once or twice, sometimes go for ice cream and sometimes get treats from a local bakery. But in all honesty we tend to make good choices on our treat days now as well. We don't have fast food but will choose restaurants which use quality ingredients. The number of treats we buy have seriously declined over the last couple of months as the craving for sugar and naughty foods becomes less powerful as we continue our whole food journey (seriously when we first moved to the US I was well on my way to becoming the donut queen and now I cant remember the last time I had one).
However, even if you just change one thing in your diet to real food, know that you are doing something amazing for your own health and the health of the environment!