WARNING: Stepping on my RD soapbox!!!
This post is regarding CNN’s article entitled, “An Inconvenient Challenge: Eat ‘Real Food’ for a Month.” This article stemmed from a challenge one blogger posed to her readers, asking them to commit to eating ONLY “real food” for a month.
Simple enough, right?
Nourished Kitchen author, Jennifer McGruther (neither chef nor dietitian), defined “real food” in a way which includes:
consuming nothing from a box (i.e. noodles, flour, etc.)
no skimmed milk or pasteurized dairy
no refined (iodized) salt
cultivating your own yogurt
milling your own flour
rendering your own lard to avoid processed oils
Sure, okay. When I find time for a full-time job committed to creating “real food” (amidst this thing I called “life”), I’ll possibly entertain this idea. The bigger issue being the extremist approach McGruther takes. I “get” the sustainable, unprocessed, and balanced intake McGruther supports…but it’s just not feasible for most all Americans.
As a dietitian, when I encounter a patient who consumes a fruit or vegetable “outside of the box” (think parsnips, papaya, and dates), I consider this a victory. Or if they eat red meat less than 4 times a week — a victory. Or if they know where trans fat comes from — a victory. Or what foods contain fiber — a victory. These people are far and few between, sadly. And “our” reality as American’s is not found in rendering our own lard to avoid processed oils!! While the nutrition-savvy blogosphere and trendy kitchen gadgets are the reality of many of McGruther’s readers (and my own), this is a far cry from THE reality of our nation. Think obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes, not nutritional yeast and Greek yogurt 😉
Furthermore, the safety and accessibility of these “real food” practices have to be considered. Oh, and cost. And time. Four HUGE barriers in leading a “real food” lifestyle.
My biggest “beef” (grass fed, of course) with McGruther is that her stance on “real food” diminishes efforts which fall short of 100% “real foods” (by her definition). Efforts to eat more fruits and vegetables, include whole grains, and increase healthy fats in the diet should never be discredited, even if they are not completely all-natural and “real”. [I officially hate the word “real” as much as “clean”!!]
Kassandra Mier, a Canadian “real food” challenger, stated that her efforts to eat 100% “real” were time-consuming. She was also quoted in saying, “I felt like a slave in the kitchen.”
I tend to side with a dietitian and author (and Chicago resident!), Dawn Jackson-Blatner, who explained that while limiting processed foods can be rewarding because it encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables, it is important not to demonize all processed foods. You know, a thing called “moderation”.
Unlike McGruther, I will continue to support the masses of non-extremists in an effort to achieve balance, health, and happiness…all-in-one.
Question: What are your thoughts on this “real food” challenge and lifestyle? Do you feel that such extreme opinions make health and nutrition an elusive goal?