How to Start a Real Food Diet Without Getting Overwhelmed
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
I know you’ve heard it before. Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu was right on. Often when we come to the beginning of a long journey in our life the path to the end goal seems impossible. Breaking the journey into one small step at a time makes it manageable.
Celebrating the small steps we take makes them rewarding. Sometimes taking your eye off of the end result and focusing on what’s good in the moment will help you to press on and avoid feeling defeated when the target seems so far away.
This was my approach to starting a real food diet. I knew changing my diet was critical to my health, but I wasn’t in a place financially to throw away everything in the pantry and replace it all with the best of the best. In fact, even if I’d had the money to do that I wasn’t particularly motivated to give up some of my favorite less-than-real foods. And, the process seemed complicated. There was so much conflicting information about what was healthy and what wasn’t!
So, I made a plan to start a real food diet the easy way – one step at a time.
Start a Real Food Diet by Replacing Just ONE Food
My first real food diet change was from store-bought, industrial-dairy milk to local, raw milk. I didn’t stop buying cereal for the kids right away or jump straight to making homemade cheese. I just replaced one food with another food that was more wholesome and nutritious.
Although the cost of milk doubled when I made that change, I was only adding a few more dollars per week to my grocery budget.
A few weeks after I made the switch to raw milk, I began buying local, pastured chicken eggs from my farmer. After that I started soaking, sprouting, and souring grains, which cost me nothing more than I was spending already.
We introduced one new real food or healthy food preparation method every few weeks. That gave me time to figure out how to work real food into our budget and it gave my family a chance to adjust to the changes slowly.
Keep Your Same Grocery Budget – More Nutritious Food is Less Expensive Food
When you’re starting a real food diet, don’t let the cost of real food deter you.
You may be thinking, “Are you kidding me? Have you compared the price of free range eggs to the price of conventional ones? Or what about organic vs. conventional produce?”
Yes, I know real food costs more. However, the more nutritious your food is, the less of it you need to consume.
Don’t Go Completely Organic
A lot of the foods I eat aren’t organic because the organic label means very little to me.
The raw milk I buy isn’t labeled organic. It would cost the farmers too much to get that organic label. But, the milk is certainly organic. Same with local eggs, produce, and meats.
The organic label is government-regulated. It costs farmers a lot of money to jump through the hoops to get the organic label.
I care more about visiting local farms and seeing their organic practices in person.
In addition, when I buy organic produce I make sure I’m only buying the dirty dozen in their organic forms. I don’t buy organic bananas, avocados, melons, or anything else with a thick skin that I won’t eat anyway.
Don’t Strive for Perfection – Shoot for 80/20
I know you may feel compelled to eat a perfect diet. The urge is strong to completely clean up your diet when you learn how unhealthy the Standard American Diet really is.
I struggled with that after starting a real food diet. After I’d replaced many of the conventional foods I was eating with whole, real foods I wanted to eat a perfect diet.
The stress of trying to achieve perfection in your diet can lead to overwhelm and negate the healthy effects of a real food diet.
Striving for perfection is not healthy. Striving for a 80/20 balance is healthy. If you’re eating real food 80 percent of the time, your body can handle the other 20 percent.
Giving myself permission to eat fun food now and then has helped me stick to a real food diet.
Figure Out What Real Food Means to You
Start by reading Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck.
Then, decide what kind of real foodie you want to be.
Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to change your mind as you learn more.