A few years ago I was exhausted and unmotivated. My mental health was suffering. I had two small children and couldn't find enough energy to make it through the day without caffeine fixes and sugar highs. Then I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen and I knew that I needed to make changes immediately. Before reading his food manifesto I had never read an ingredient label on the food I was consuming. I had never considered finding out where my food was grown or how long it took to get to my grocery store. I didn't even realize that what we were eating on a regular basis wasn't even FOOD. We were eating a lot of processed food and I had no idea where to begin so I adopted Pollen's Five Ingredient Rule from his book Food Rules: "Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients. The specific number you adopt is arbitrary, but the more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is."
There is a ton of information out there about what to eat and why to adopt a particular diet (Keto, Paleo, Whole30, etc...) but I've found the most help from Michael Pollen's Five Ingredient Rule and by applying this quote from Jillian Michaels, "If it didn't come from the ground or the ocean or have a mother- don't eat it. Think about it. Twinkies and Cheetos- what the hell are these? There's no Twinkie tree, and I'm pretty positive that nothing ever gave birth to a Cheeto."
As we've adapted to the real food life, I've added a few more personal guidelines to my food choices to help us feel our best. When you are setting up your own guidelines you will want to keep your personal budget and diet preferences in mind,
When I am grocery shopping, I ask myself these questions:
1. Does this item meet the standards of the Five Ingredient Rule? (Bonus points if the item is in its purest form and doesn't need a label! Example: apple, carrot, brown rice)
2. Did this item come from the ground or ocean? Did it have a mother?
3, Does this item include refined white sugar? (We prefer to use coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup for our sweeteners)
4. Does this item include refined white flour? (We prefer to use Einkorn flour or organic oat flour).
5. Is the meat grass fed and local?
6. Are the eggs organic and cage free?
7. How processed is the dairy? (Milk isn't bright orange when it comes out of the cow, so why is the cheese?)
8. Are the fruits and vegetables organic if they fall on the Dirty Dozen list?
We have tried a variety of things in my home for various reasons (dairy free, gluten free, Paleo, etc...) but the one thing that has been consistent has been defaulting to the Five Ingredient Rule and finding food in its purest form.
I am happy to report that I am no longer the exhausted and unmotivated mother I was a few years ago. When we started consuming nutritious food, my energy levels came back and our bodies and minds were nourished. My brain fog is gone. My hormones have balanced out. My husband's skin has cleared up. And my kids have improved digestion. We are enjoying the meals we are preparing together in the kitchen and we know our bodies will thank us in the long run.
I know that I said mean things about Cheetos and Twinkies. And I don't want to lead you astray and believe that we never have a treat. We tend to follow the 90/10 rule. 90% of the time we follow our Real Food Guidelines. And 10% of the time we have treats. We enjoy a big slice of birthday cake on family birthdays. And we love ice cream on a hot day. I want my kiddos to have a healthy relationship with food. I want them to recognize that some foods make us feel icky if we eat them all of the time but occasionally as a treat they are enjoyable!
How do you determine the Food Guidelines for your family?