Where Has All The Real Food Gone?

Looking around at the grocery store, I am seeing more and more products in boxes and bags–single serving soups, instant oatmeal cups, microwaveable brownies–and I’m sure there’s even more on it’s way.

But amidst the pretty packaging and innovative marketing, where is the real food? Sure, I can have a meal ready in less than 5 minutes with no cleanup required, but can I get real food with that?

I understand the allure of these products. Cooking means planning ahead, going grocery shopping (maybe even at multiple stores for all the ingredients), slicing, chopping, and shredding, cooking and/or baking, and then, to top it all off, cleaning. With a packaged meal, there are only three steps: open, heat, and enjoy.

What’s more, you can get tasty beverages that can give you an energy boost, a bunch of vitamins, and all for zero calories. Why would you drink water anymore?

There’s supplements for any vitamin, mineral, herb, or combination thereof from a dozen brands. Take your pick!

So, what’s wrong with this picture?


 A Perfect Storm

The main problems we see in health seem to stem from this perfect storm. When we fall into a lifestyle where we don’t prioritize nourishing food and pleasant meal time, we will drift into this pattern of choosing that which is convenient, not that which is health-promoting.

Now I am not condemning moms who are overwhelmed with all the pressures and requirements of the day, or any of you for that matter.  I just want something better for us all.


Eat Real Food

I encourage you to get back to real food. That means more foods in their natural form–fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes. That may sound like a short list but think of the hundreds of varieties of veggies out there not to mention the number of different recipes you could make combining all of the above. Choosing real food doesn’t mean that your food is going to be boring. It will be what you make of it.

That’s where the next step comes in. After committing to buying and eating real food, you may need to reach out to a dietitian or someone else who can help you discover ways to make the whole process of meal planning, shopping, and cooking a pleasure instead of a burden. You may benefit from cooking classes, grocery store tours, or help stocking a healthy pantry.  These things will be a lasting investment in your health and will help you to see food and eating in a new light.

When you eat real food, good things will happen. You will lose your taste for super-salty, artificially colored and sweetened foods. You will appreciate a ripe piece of fruit, a local tomato, and your own cooking. Eating a variety of foods and colors will also ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals that you need. Save your money and forego the supplements! Getting them from your food is better in so many ways. There is something amazing about how our food is naturally packaged with a combination of nutrients that works together in a way that can’t happen when you extract those nutrients out from their source.

There also can be an amazing enjoyment in the process of obtaining fresh ingredients from a farmer’s market, your own garden, or the store, and a gratitude for the bounty that is always available to us.  Not only that, but the act of cooking can be so fulfilling as you take totally distinct food items and bring them together into a delicious synergetic combination.  Sure, not all your meals will be stellar or an orchestra in your mouth, but coming to appreciate not just eating, but all the elements of nourishment brings a deeper more lasting satisfaction that can be had from a frozen dinner.



So, what keeps you from eating more real food? What is the most alluring about ready-made foods and beverages? What are you giving up in exchange for convenience? And…is it worth it?

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There are 15 comments

  1. Serena

    I love this post! I am a little biased as a RD myself, but the importance of whole foods is so often overlooked in today’s society. Drinking juice made with veggies or eating veggie chips is just NOT the same thing as eating the real mc-coy. Thank you for the simple yet powerful post :)

    1. Michaela Ballmann, MS RD

      Thanks Serena! Yes, I can see that making a change from soda to juice with veggies is an improvement, but where I really want people to get is where they are eating veggies and drinking water (for the most part at least). Whole foods are tasty too and I think by weaning off a lot of artificial flavors and packaged foods, the nuances of flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables can be tasted and appreciated.

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