6 Steps To Working Your Way Into Eating Real Food | Growing Up Herbal | Is making the switch to real food overwhelming? Here's how to work your way into it nice and easy.

Have you ever tried making the switch to something new only to feel overwhelmed by it all and resort back to what you know… what’s easiest? I totally have, especially when it comes to making the switch over to a real food lifestyle. Today, I wanna share 6 steps I’ve learned to take when it comes to working my way into eating real food. I hope that, if you too find yourself slipping back into the easy, less healthy parts of eating, you’ll be able to get yourself out of that rut with these 6 simple steps.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve tried to start something new or adopt a new habit into my life by diving head first into it only later to burn out and fall terribly short of my goal. Too many times to count. It’s awful. It doesn’t make me feel any better about myself. In fact, I tend to wonder why I should even try doing anything new. I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever been able to do it before.

But then, I had an epiphany. LOL! No, not really an epiphany. More like I came to my senses… finally.

I realized that I was going about making changes in my life all wrong. Instead of going full steam ahead, I needed to slow down and chug along so that I didn’t run out of fuel too fast. Plus, I really wanted to “get it” and have whatever I was learning really stick. Does that make sense? Big changes take time, and there’s so much information online, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I realized I needed to be patient and take it slow. It’s exactly the same when it comes to eating a real food diet… especially if you’re trying to do it and get kids on board.

It’s exactly the same when it comes to eating real food… especially if you’re trying to do it and get kids on board.

We adults get used to the types, tastes, and textures of foods we’ve been eating, but we can reason with ourselves the need for change. With kids… it isn’t that easy. Reasoning doesn’t seem to work too well.

For example, I got in a bad habit of buying “healthy” boxed cereal for my kids because I wanted them to eat breakfast, but as I’ve grown and learned more about eating real, whole foods, I’ve realized that even healthy boxed cereal is processed. It’s not like I’m going out on the farm and finding that growing on a plant, right? So I decided that I’d start making my own cereals. I still wanted my kids to eat a healthy breakfast, and I still needed it to be quick. I found several different granola and cereal recipes online and made them. Now we have real, whole food homemade cereal occasionally throughout the week that I’m happy to give my kids. But… they don’t love it. They like it… they tolerate it, but they don’t love it. What I realize is that whether they love it or not, this is what we’re eating because it’s best (and it saves us money). I’ll do my best to find recipes they like, but I’m not going back to buying boxed cereal. 

Okay, so now that you know why going slow and steady is best… let’s talk about the actual steps you can take to make eating real food a bit easier.

6 Steps To Working Your Way Into Eating Real Food

#1 – Start Planning Your Meals

I’m not going to go into the details of how to do this yet because I’ll be writing a letter to you soon that’s totally devoted to this topic. But, this is probably the first thing I decided to do when I got started trying to eat real foods. By planning out your meals for each week (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) you not only simplify your life by limiting your meal choices and having them in front of you, but you also make life easier by knowing exactly what to buy each week at the grocery store.

And… if you’re really crunched for time, check out my free weekly real food meal plans that my family uses right here.

#2 – Know What Real Foods Are

This is going to make life easy for you because you’ll actually know what foods are “real” and what’s not. Besides printing off the “real food defined” list and keeping it handy, you can also make a list of actual foods that your family likes that are “real food approved” to help make picking, choosing, and substituting easy. Compare this list to your meal plan and grocery list so you can double check to see if you’re including real foods on your list. You can also see the things that you’re buying that aren’t real foods and you can decide to buy it and work on that area later (like I did with the boxed cereal) or you can go ahead and make substitutions that are healthier (like trading in frozen pizza for homemade pizza).

#3 – Follow The GOOD-BETTER-BEST Formula

When it comes to anything in life, there’s always a good-better-best formula.

Let’s take reducing toxins in your home by using natural cleaners. Good is to switch from store-bought cleaners to store-bought natural cleaners, better is to switch from store-bought natural cleaners to homemade cleaners, best is to switch from homemade cleaners to homemade cleaners using healthy ingredients, correct bottles, and appropriate essential oils. Same goes with eating real foods. Not everyone is gonna be able to start out buying organic everything. Not everyone knows how to find grass-fed sources of meat. Start at the bottom and work your way up.

So what is the GOOD-BETTER-BEST formula for real foods? I heart this infographic from Weed ‘Em And Reap. Pin it by clicking here and print it off. Keep it with your meal planning resources. Find where you’re at now and put a big fat “X” on it because you’re moving forward, right? Now look one step ahead and circle it. Base your meals and grocery list around finding foods in that area. When you’re ready, “X” that area out and move forward again. Remember, take your time.

#4 – Follow the 80/20 Rule

Yes… another rule, and this one too can be applied to many areas in life, especially to food.

I personally find it very difficult to do most things 100% perfect all the time. This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play. If I can eat healthy, real foods 80% of the time, then I have 20% to relax if need be. That means if I go to a friends house, I don’t have to send her a pre-planned meal and grocery list for her to follow (just joking… who does that?), it means that if my family and I are at the fair then I can eat a nasty but oh so good corn dog and funnel cake, it means that if my kid is having a birthday party that we can offer cake and ice cream or junkie pizza.

Let me encourage you not to let your food rule your life. Yes, choose the best when possible, and certainly, don’t use your 20% when buying food at the grocery store (sorry no Oreos or soda). The point is that you have 20% to play with when you need it and that makes life much more enjoyable and less stressful. Once your diet consists of 80% real, healthy food and 20% of the other, you can always up your healthy percentage and lower your unhealthy percentage.

Can I get an amen? Amen!

#5 – Limit Daily Supplements

This is something else I’m not going to go into much detail on now because I have some other posts for you on this very topic.

I will say that if you’re eating real foods 80% of the time, chances are you and your kids aren’t going to need a large amount of the health-food supplements you hear so much about as you will be getting a good amount of nutrients in your foods. Maybe you will need additional supplements when you’re pregnant or when someone is sick, but not all the time. Plus, there are ways of getting extra vitamins and minerals from whole food sources rather than a synthetic, lab-produced pill.

When it comes to daily supplements, here’s what the real foodies recommend. A good, food-based probiotic like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, water kefir, fermented foods, etc. and a quality source of cod-liver oil. There are a couple other things I’d add to this list as well, but like I said, we’ll talk soon about this topic. So basically you need real food, probiotics, and cod-liver oil. Pretty simple, eh?

#6 – Packaged Pantry Staples That Are OK

We can’t always, realistically, make all of our own foods. Learning to make homemade, fermented condiments, homemade bread, and buying fresh seafood can not only be time-consuming but sometimes very expensive. Is that a relief to anyone besides me? Great!

So here’s a list of some packaged foods from Weed ‘Em And Reap that are good to go on your grocery list and in your pantry in order to make life a bit easier on every real foodie out there. (DaNelle has a great real food blog and story. You should definitely check out her site!)

  • (BPA-free) Canned wild-caught salmon & tuna
  • (BPA-free) Canned organic tomato sauce & tomato paste
  • Jarred organic pasta sauce, artichoke hearts, & sundried tomatoes
  • Whole grain pasta (or even better, sprouted whole-grain pasta)
  • Organic jam, pie fillings, pumpkin puree, etc.
  • Organic coconut milk (a great replacement for sweetened condensed milk)
  • Grass-fed hot dogs (these are expensive unless on sale, so we only eat them occasionally – maybe every other month or so)
  • Foods for Asian dishes like canned water chestnuts, buckwheat soba noodles, miso, etc.
  • Organic condiments like mayo, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc.

So that’s it for working your way into eating real food, step by step. Again, this is just a starting point… something to help you not get overwhelmed when you’re starting out. Remember, you can always keep going if you want. We’ll talk about how to eat real food on a budget very soon. Stay tuned.

Have you stepped your way into eating real food? If so, what helped you? Did I miss something that I should keep in mind? Also, if you have questions about this, don’t forget to leave them in the comments below or on my Facebook page. There are many, many natural mamas in the GUH community that are willing to offer encouragement and suggestions!