There are so many steps you can take when it comes to ditching the Standard American Diet and switching to healthy, real food eating. Here’s a look at what we chose to prioritize in our first year of eating a real food diet! I’ve included links and resources for starting your own real food journey, too.
It’s been one delicious year since I began blogging about food. In that time I’ve read about dozens of strategies for better nutrition and diet, from soaking grains and sprouting beans to culturing milk and consuming grass-fed beef. I’ve incorporated only a small slice of what I’ve learned into my routine, but even so I can see the positive impact that real food practices have made in my overall health, energy level and appearance. My parents have always fed me extremely well, but now that I’m managing my own kitchen I’ve learned to be more personally conscious of what I eat. I decided to start with the staples.
Here are the priorities I set for my first year of eating real food:
1. Find a source of raw milk.
When I learned of the beautiful and overwhelming health benefits of raw milk, the fact that it doesn’t go bad like pasteurized milk, and the fact that we could even live off of it if we had to, I was totally sold. Our herd share allows us a half gallon of milk every week, which we use for straight up drinking and for baking. We found our dairy through realmilk.com.
2. Find an inexpensive source of virgin coconut oil.
With much research, I found some good prices for coconut oil on Amazon. (But do your research, the prices do change!) I now use coconut oil for frying, baking, making popcorn, and as a skin and hair moisturizer. Here are 5 favourite ways I use coconut oil in my home. For some of the benefits of coconut oil, read here.
3. Start making sourdough bread.
I did a ton of reading on whole wheat, bread baking, and grain soaking. I decided that sourdough is the cheapest, most simple, and most healthy route to go for our daily bread. The only ingredients I use are water, white whole wheat flour, and sea salt. I keep a jar of starter in the fridge and bake two loaves of bread every other week. To make your own starter, follow this picture tutorial.
4. Make my own yogurt.
Yogurt is a powerhouse of good bacteria for your body. Making it yourself is much cheaper than buying it. To keep most of our raw milk for drinking, I purchase a half gallon of whole milk from Meijer every two weeks to make into yogurt, thus reintroducing many of the health benefits that are lost when the milk is pasteurized.
5. Explore natural sweeteners.
Since I am well-known for my love of “los postres” this one was a big one for me! I shopped around a bit and found a good source of raw, local honey, $20 for 80 oz. You can also find raw honey on Amazon. We use honey in smoothies and tea, to sweeten yogurt and oatmeal, to make elderberry syrup for colds and flues, and in some desserts, such as this custard eggnog. I even wash my face with honey upon occasion!
I also purchased a few bags of sucanat from Vitacost, which I use in place of white sugar. Sadly, Vitacost no longer sells it, but I’ll be able to buy some from an Amish bulk foods store. Amazon also carries it. Sucanat (or Rapadura) is evaporated cane juice that is minimally processed and contains all its original molasses. I’ve found that it has a more mild effect on my body than white sugar. Sucanat is excellent for baking (sticky buns!) and sweetening coffee. Learn more about sucanat here.
Lastly, I just bought a jug of dark maple syrup from Amazon to use on pancakes. I was delighted to find that dark syrup (formerly called “grade B”) has a stronger flavour than light grade A and contains more trace minerals.
Note: Even though we strive to use “healthy” sweeteners as much as possible, we still use white sugar from time to time! Here’s why I keep white sugar in the house.
6. Make a list of top ingredients to avoid.
For me, these ingredients are MSG, nitrates, dye, hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, and most soy. Here’s a list of top 10 ingredients to avoid in your food (and why you should).
My food goals for this year? Here’s a sampling: make more condiments from scratch, sprout beans, find an inexpensive source of local free-range eggs, and experiment with homemade beverages like kefir, rootbeer, and mead.
More real food resources:
Stocking the Real Food Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer (with a printable checklist)
3 Years a Real Foodie: What I’ve Kept Up, and What I Haven’t (a follow up on our real food journey, written two years after this post!)
My cookbook, Real Food for the Real Homemaker, is all about making real food from scratch! It includes 75+ recipes that are simple to make and use wholesome, familiar ingredients, and has 8 chapters on topics like food substitutions, kitchen tools, and freezer cooking. Pick up a copy HERE.