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Lately, I’ve been making changes to my family’s diet, trying to eat more “naturally”. A lot of questions come to mind when one thinks about eating “naturally”. One of the first questions is often; “Are eating ‘naturally’ and eating ‘organic’ the same?” Well, the short answer is; no, they’re not. However, eating organically usually means eating naturally, though the same is not always true in reverse.
The basic premise of eating ‘naturally’ is to cut out any refined grains, added sugar, artificial sweeteners and coloring, and added preservatives. Often times it means avoiding added sodium as well (this is especially true if high blood pressure is a problem for you or your family). One of the first things I encountered was that there are several different schools of thought to eating naturally. For example, some naturalists don’t eat meat. Some don’t consume dairy. Some consume neither, and some consume both. The reasons behind each approach have different research supporting them, and there is also research disproving both. (This is something I’d highly recommend you researching yourself if you are considering going either route). As a nutritionist, I personally have decided that my family will continue eating meat and dairy, as I (again this is my personal/professional opinion) believe that both are essential to a full, balanced diet and essential for optimal health.
I, much like you probably are, was very much at a lost as to where to start on my endeavor to change my family’s eating habits. Well, the first place to start is to determine “why” you want to do it. Is it more energy, and less blood sugar crashes? Manage diabetes? Better heart health and cholesterol? Is it to help control appetite and manage your weight? Libido? Stress? Fewer headaches? Better digestive health? If it’s any of all of these, then eating naturally is a good idea! My own reasons were centered mostly around better fueling my body with less sugar/caffeine cravings, to improve my husband’s heart health, raise my son on good stuff, and eliminate toxins that are harmful to the body (thus eliminating stress, fatigue, headaches and stomach distress).
After you’ve decided if eating naturally is something you want to do, then you begin the tedious part; reading lots of labels. First, you want to eliminate refined grains. This is anything that reads on a label as “enriched”, “lecithin” or “refined”, as well as anything that LACKS the word “whole”. For example, if it doesn’t say “whole wheat” or “whole grain”, then it’s been refined, and is not good to eat. This also means cutting out any added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. For this, you simply have to read your labels and google each ingredient you are unfamiliar with. If there is a lengthy list of ingredients (most of which you can’t pronounce), it’s not natural. You want foods that consist of a short, recognizable list of ingredients.
This is just a starting point, and there are many grains that you DO want to eat. Here is a good list of good grains. Some not listed that are also good are spelt, buckwheat, durum wheat and freekeh (and the list goes on). Also, cut the sugar and stick to natural sweeteners like honey, truvia/stevia, and monk fruit. Opt for whole wheat breads and pasta whenever possible. Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. Opt for organic or hormone free meat whenever possible (as regular meat is FULL of additives). Organic fruit is usually a good way of avoiding consuming a lot of pesticides, but not NECESSARY to change your diet to a natural one. Though, I do suggest Googling how to make your own fruit wash out of water and vinegar to get some pesticides off your fruit! Organic milk is just a waste of your money, based on my research. Greek yogurt is a wonderful source of good nutrients your body needs. These are just a few things to get you started.
Also, note that this does not have to be 100% all-or-nothing. Just do your best to choose to eat naturally, shop naturally, and trust your body to adjust and start to crave what’s good. These changes should be gradual as not to shock your system. Expect to feel sluggish as your body detoxes from all the sugar and additives it’s used to. If you’re really committed to make a lifestyle changes like this, the payoff will be worth it. That being said, eating “naturally” is not for everyone; just like eating gluten free, meat free, lactose free, carb free or WHATEVER is not for everyone.
So, no matter how you chose to eat, I hope, as always, that you will choose to live long and age well!
Side note from Moni’s: You can count on Whole Foods minimum expectations being All Natural, and many things being Organic. They carry all our products because of this.
Until next time, age well and live long.