When I first started this blog, one of my good friends asked me to write a post about how to get started with eating real food (also known as the paleo diet). It took me almost a year, but I finally did it! Yay!
Switching from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) to eating real, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods is hard. It can be extremely challenging to change our habits and ditch the “you must eat 6-8 servings of whole grains a day” mindset that has been ingrained into our psyches for decades.
And as you probably already know, the idea that “food” made in a factory is better for us than food found in nature is just plain WRONG. That’s why myself (and hundreds of thousands of others) have been able to thrive on a diet of real food. And while giving up “healthy” whole grains, pasteurized dairy, and other processed foods may sound kind of insane and incredibly inconvenient at first, it’s actually SUPER simple.
I absolutely LOVE this cute info-graphic from Real Food Liz, which breaks down the concept of eating real food perfectly.
Pretty cool, right? What I like about this way of eating is that it just makes sense. No gimmicks, nonsense, sales tactics, or false promises. Just real information for real people.
But because the paleo “diet” isn’t a quick fix or easy solution, it does require some time, work, and commitment (especially in the beginning). Here’s some tips on how to make the transition towards better health easier.
9 Tips for Real Food Newbies
- Tip #1: Start slow. Committing to a complete overhaul of your eating habits is a huge shift to make. And if you’re confident in your ability to do that all at once, awesome!
I didn’t have the discipline to switch to real food overnight. Instead, it was a process that took about 6 months for me to make and really stick with. I started by just going gluten free, then grain free, and finally dairy and legume free (but have since added some raw dairy back into my diet).
If you’re comfortable with making a 180-degree switch to real food as fast as possible, that’s GREAT! But if not, don’t feel bad about doing it in stages.
- Tip #2: Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you CAN’T. At first, paleo can seem more like a long list of “don’ts” rather than a new and exciting way of eating.
Try not to get overwhelmed by all of the things that are suddenly off limits. Because even though it may not seem like it at first, the list of foods that are okay to eat is a pretty darn extensive. And if you need help finding creative ways to make real food-friendly meals, click here for a list of my favorite healthy cookbooks!
- Tip #3: Don’t stress. Stressing over food choices (or anything) is arguably just as harmful as a poor diet.
Try not to worry too much about what is and isn’t okay to eat at first. The longer you eat real food and educate yourself on its benefits, the easier it will be to make nourishing and healthy choices. And after awhile, it will become second nature.
- Tip #4: Pay attention to your body. Your body will undergo a lot of changes as you start feeding it differently.
Pay attention to how this new way of eating affects you. Do you have more energy? Are you less susceptible to getting sick? Has your mood improved? These subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) positive changes will make your new lifestyle all the more rewarding and easier to stick to.
- Tip #5: Don’t get discouraged. You may not see/feel changes right away. And especially if you make the transition slowly (which is totally OK), you may not get the results you want as quickly as you’d like.
When I started eating real food, the changes I noticed were subtle, yet encouraging. And it wasn’t until I went “all in” with a strict 30 days of paleo that I felt/saw changes that were truly remarkable.
If experiencing change is taking time, don’t panic. Stick with it! And if you start to really feel frustrated with your lack of progress, consider seeing a trustworthy medical practitioner to help you along in your journey.
- Tip #6: Use resources. There are SO many wonderful resources out there (books, foods, gadgets, etc.) aimed at getting YOU healthy. I made a list of my favorites a few weeks ago — click here to see it!
- Tip #7: Look at ingredients, not calories. This is a tough one for a lot of people, and it takes time to stop obsessing over how many grams of fat are in coconut milk or how many carbs are in a banana.
While calories do matter, they’re not nearly as important as the ingredients in our food. And when we eat the right foods (that don’t contain cheap chemical colorings, appetite stimulants, fillers, preservatives, etc.), we allow the body to naturally regulate how much food it needs and when to stop eating.
- Tip #8: Join a challenge group. For many of us, it helps to have support and encouragement from others when making a major lifestyle switch. That’s why it can be very beneficial to join a challenge group that comes with built-in support when making the shift towards real food.
I can’t recommend 21 Day Sugar Detox program enough. If you’re someone who struggles with sugar and processed carb cravings (like I did), this program might be a great option for you.
Click on the banner below for more information on the program and how to get started!
- Tip #9: Don’t beat yourself up. You WILL make mistakes. It’s going to happen. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it does.
Instead, try to understand the factors that led to you eating [insert unhealthy food here] and think about how to better prepare yourself next time. And if all it comes down to is that you, as an adult, chose to eat something that wasn’t necessarily the best thing for you, who cares! Accept it and move on.
Thanks so much for reading! Anything you’d like to add to the list? Feel free to share a tip or story from your real food experience in the comments section below!
Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.