What is Real Food?

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I could write pages and pages about the definition of real food, however for the purposes of this article and especially for people who are new to this way of eating and are still learning, “real food” can be defined as food which is closest to its natural state as possible. i.e. unprocessed and unrefined.

Lots of people have been talking about ‘clean eating’ lately and the “Eat Clean Diet” (made popular by Tosca Reno). This is a fantastic way to look at eating real food and helps you to choose foods based on how “clean” they are (i.e. how unprocessed they are).

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” – Michael Pollan (In defense of Food)

This quote from author Michael Pollan shows the essence of eating real food condensed into one line. The first part of it which says to “Eat food” is describing food which is unrefined and unprocessed. Any food that has been altered, added to processed, packaged or chopped up with a bunch of additives and sugar and salt added can really be referred to as ‘Edible food-like substances” sometimes.

The second part of that sentence “not too much”, is referring to the portion sizes that we as a western society tend to consume. We have lost touch with how much one serve of something is and I feel like some people do not realise how small the human stomach actually is!

To eat mostly plants, as the third part of the sentence instructs helps us narrow down our food choices (or does it broaden them?) into things that grow. You need to ask yourself, does this food I’m about to eat grow? This helps us to choose healthy and vibrant plant foods as opposed to dead processed foods.

Everyone’s definition of what real food is and what clean eating is can be different but based on my research and experience here is my definition of clean eating and the foods that can be judged as ‘real’:

What does the term ‘real food’ include?

1. fruits and vegetables

2. lentils and pulses

3. nuts and seeds (raw and unsalted)

4. wholegrain flours (preferably non-wheat flours like buckwheat, coconut, quinoa, spelt,  chickpea, almond, rice flour and also wholewheat flour if desired).

5. Wholegrains (like buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, barley, rolled oats and oat groats)

6. High quality organic meats like grass-fed beef, free range chicken and poultry and wild oily fish (salmon, sardines etc).

7. Organic full cream dairy like milk, cheese and yoghurts. (Can use organic non-dairy substitutes like almond, soy and rice). Also organic, grass fed butter is amazing!

8. Good quality cold pressed, organic oils (like sunflower, coconut, safflower, olive, flaxseed etc).

9. Unrefined sweeteners (esp. for baking!) including organic honey, Pure maple syrup and agave nectar.


This list is by no means a complete list. I have come across lists which are very comprehensive but by following these simple guidelines and judging for yourself (is this food unprocessed and as close to its natural original state as possible?) then you can build yourself an amazing and healthy diet that doesn’t require calorie counting, fibre counting, or anything counting for that matter!

Eating real food is the only diet guideline you’ll ever need!



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