I love that the term “real food” is becoming more commonplace.

It’s clear that a movement has begun, with people increasingly wanting to avoid processed and fake foods, and learn to eat a more nutritious and whole-foods based diet.

10 years ago, I was in the same place as many of you. I recognized that my diet wasn’t ideal and was damaging my body. I sincerely wanted to improve my poor health and change the way that I ate. Much as I wanted to make those changes, though, two things stood in my way.

For one thing, I couldn’t make a sudden switch and change everything all at once. My Campbell’s Soup, Wonder Bread, Doritos and Coke-influenced tastebuds needed time to adapt to the flavors of fresh vegetables and whole grains. My cooking skills were sorely lacking. Shopping became a more confusing and time-consuming process initially. Trying to make a 180-degree turnaround would have only overwhelmed and discouraged me.

Secondly, there was a lot of confusion about what eating healthy meant. I read a ton of different books and websites, talked to friends and family and nutritionists and doctors, and often found myself more confused than ever.

Should I become a vegetarian or vegan? I’d tried it once as a teenager and had become anemic, but maybe I just had to learn to do it better? Was dairy inherently bad and only meant for baby cows? Low-fat sounded sensible, but not very appealing.

The idea of healthy eating has become even more popular during this last decade, but it hasn’t become more clear what that really means. Today, conflicting dietary theories abound (take your pick from vegetarian, paleo, Atkins, organic, low fat, blood type, raw, or any other myriad of popular options), making it increasingly difficult to know what “real food” actually consists of.

Not to mention that in our society’s warped food culture, it’s hard to even distinguish real food from fake foods. Processed foods have insidiously wormed their way into even “health food” store products, and likewise conventional companies and Big Agriculture have taken on words such as “all-natural”, “whole”, “healthy”, and “farm fresh” among other terms, making them deceptive and utterly meaningless.

Real food is more than a fad, and more than a cute catchphrase, too.

But there are so many questions to be answered when it comes to real food:

  • How exactly do we define real food?
  • When you’re just starting out, what sorts of simple first steps should you take?
  • Which ingredients should you avoid? And how on earth do you read food labels in the first place? For that matter, can real food ever come in packages or from a regular grocery store?
  • And if a regular store is all you have, what do you buy?
  • Do you have to change how you cook, or are there simple switches and substitutions that you can make?
  • What about grains? Should we eat them at all? Should we just eat less of them or prepare them in special ways?
  • What if you’re a picky eater? How do you change your tastebuds?
  • Or one of the most common questions I hear… what if your husband and kids are resistant?
  • How on earth do you afford eating better foods when the budget is already tight?
  • What if all you know how to make are burnt offerings and things that come in a box?
  • How will you manage making your foods from scratch since you don’t have hours to spend each day in the kitchen?
  • Can you make healthier meals that still taste like the ones you’re used to? Can real food actually taste good?

We’re launching into a new series called Real Food Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Better, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Throughout the month of January, we’ll be answering these questions and many more!

I’m done with complicated eating.

Why does eating always have to seem so complicated? It doesn’t need to be. I’ve been studying nutrition for 10 years, gotten myself all twisted up and turned around at times, and take it from me… it can actually be boiled down to something far more straightforward and manageable that it seems.

Food, even (or maybe especially) healthy food, is meant to be enjoyed. You should actually want to eat these things that are good for you. And it shouldn’t require intensive study or complicated calculations to figure out what you should and shouldn’t eat.

Yes, science speaks to the matter, but I don’t think that what we put in our mouths should ever be reduced purely to scientific theories, iPhone apps, faddish diets, or deprivation.

We can focus on real, whole foods, the types of foods that our great-great-great-grandparents would have eaten and recognized, and make them delicious, without feeling like the nutrition police are out to get us.

If I can accomplish only one thing through this series, I hope that it’s this:

To convince you that anyone can make simple strides towards eating better.

If you’re in that place, wanting to change but unsure of how to go about it, we are so glad you’re here! We’re going to take it slow, break it down, and try to make it as easy and practical as we can.

If you have a friend or family member that you think would be interested or would benefit from what we’ll be sharing, please, send them our way! If you’re already further into your real food journey, would you consider sharing these posts with those around you?

Other posts in the series:

First Steps to Real Food

What Is Real Food?

Cutting Your Kitchen Prep Time in Half — Or More!

Confessions of a Formerly Picky Eater

How to Read Food Labels

The Grain Controversy: Should We Eat Them or Not?

Second Steps Towards Eating Real Foods: Switching Your Food Sources

Sweeteners: How They Affect You, Which Ones are Best, and How to Use Them

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Pantry Staples

5 Strategies to Help Your Husband and Kids Transition to Real Food 

7 Foods to Avoid

Finding Real Food in the Grocery Store

20 Easy Real Food Switches and Substitutions {with Free Printable Chart}

First Steps to Eating for Fertility

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

Raising Kids on Real Food

5 Ways to Get More Fruits & Veggies into your Diet

Food Is Not Cheap: 4 Steps to Budgeting in Real Food

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Baked Goods

Simple Roast Chicken (And Fabulous Side Dish Recipes!)

17 Homemade Spice Mixes {with Recipes & Why You Should Use Them!}

5 Ways Green Living and Real Food are Connected

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Soups, Sauces, and Simple Dinners

Where are you at on your real food journey? And what questions or struggles do you have that we could try to address?