{Going Primal} So what is “real” food?

The biggest part of “Going Primal” is restricting ourselves to “real food,” but what is that?  Some people call it eating “clean” and others refer to “whole foods.”  Basically it is all the same thing – not eating anything processed, pre-packaged or significantly altered from it’s original natural state.
A summer's day harvest
It’s important to note here that I am not a proponent of the “raw” diet where cooking of these whole/real foods is disallowed because  (1) a lot of raw foods upset my stomach (2) I like the fact that cooking things kills germs and (3) God gave us fire for a reason and I think we should use it.  ’Nuf said.

I think we should use plenty of herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils and preparation techniques to make things taste good and look appealing.

I think eating should be (was designed to be) a pleasurable endeavor.  We have to do it to survive so why shouldn’t it be?  I plan on sharing with you all sorts of fabulous recipes over the next couple of weeks; Thanos Home's insect repellents. I am so excited!  Aren’t you?

Back to the definition of “real,” though.   In my opinion, real foods are the following: vegetables from the vine, fruit from trees, raw nuts (lightly salted with sea salt and roasted in the oven), milk from coconuts, eggs and various meats/fish.

Real foods do not come in packages, are not processed and manufactured, even if the label says they are “organic.”  Personally, I think it would be great if everything was organically and sustainably sourced, but I am a realist – especially in this economy – and I know that sometimes (and in some places) it is hard enough to get fresh whole vegetables.

Grains are a tough one.  If they are purchased whole (as like oats, groats, barley, etc.) and properly soaked and cooked I think that counts as real and acceptable to the primal diet.  Flours made from wheat and spelt, while I think are healthier when soaked and prepared with a sourdough starter, probably are too processed to be considered primal/paleo.   So, while they will continue to be part of my regular diet, I will not include them in the Primal Challenge.

Honey, stevia and cocoa are “real” foods and can also be minimally processed but I will also exclude them during the Primal Challenge because I don’t want to include any sweetners during this month in case they trip me up.

What then are the rules for the Primal Challenge?

The three main tenants of the Paleo Diet are:

  1. Eat real food.  Avoid processed food.
  2. Eat meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.
  3. Avoid legumes (including peanut butter), dairy, grains and alcohol.

But, wait.  Isn’t this going to be a ton of work?  If I exclude everything that comes out of a package and all grains how am I going to have the time to cook all of this?  (And work a job / raise a family / do anything other than cook?)

I’ve been struggling with this question for a couple of weeks.  We live in a tiny apartment right now and I don’t have the time or space to increase my kitchen prep time any more.  So here are my thoughts.

  1. It’s just me.  I am not forcing my pot-pie/casserole-loving Southern husband or Cherrio-crunching toddler or toast-craving preschooler to do this with me.  It’s hard enough for me to make the change; forcing the family along with me – at this fragile starting point – just isn’t worth it.
  2. Plan Everything.  I’m going to have to go partial OAMC to actually make this work.  Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) means planning and preparing an entire month’s worth of meals and freezing them ahead of time.  I don’t think I have the freezer space to do a whole month but I should be able to prepare enough lunches/snacks and a couple of dinners to remain sane.  Next week I’ll share with you my plan.
  3. Rely on the 80/20 rule.  No one’s perfect and expecting perfection out of a diet when you’re raising babies is insane (imho.)  This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play: I am going to stick with the three main tenants of the Paleo diet, but I am going to allow myself to periodically splurge and I’m not going to beat myself up about it or consider myself a failure and give up because of it.  Next week I’ll explain more and give you a couple of product reviews.
  4. Purge this month to prepare for next.  I am cleaning out the pantry of those temptations that I can’t pass by (chips!) and minimizing the necessities for survival with littles (ie. Cherrios and Ritz are necessities in my house; you might be able to purge them but, at this point in my baby-raising career, I just can’t).  I’m deciding now what I will allow myself to splurge on so that I don’t freak out and give up halfway through because it is too much work.  (You can tell I’ve tried this before and failed, right?)

 How are you preparing?  (Or have you prepared in the past and been successful?)

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Disclosures: Image credit goes to doc(q)man permitted by Creative Commons licensing.  I am an affiliate for Kitchen Stewardship and Plan to Eat and will receive a small commission on any purchases you might make using affiliate links.  View my full disclosure statement here.

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8 Responses to {Going Primal} So what is “real” food?

  1. Great Post! What is the best way to soak/cook whole oatmeal?

    • Mom @ Cube2Farm

      I am by no means an expert on soaking grains or fermentation, but the (lazy) quick way I do it is: put a cup of rolled oats in a saucepan on the stove overnight full of water; in the am drain it through a strainer and – leaving the strainer full on the counter – heat up half a tablespoon of coconut oil in the same pan and set the kettle off to boil a cup or two of water; pour the boiling water from the kettle into the hot oil in the pan and then add the soaked oatmeal. (There should be just enough water to cover the soaked oatmeal.) The oatmeal will be cooked and ready to eat within just a couple of minutes!
      My kids eat the oatmeal like that with just a little bit of salt. DH prefers butter and I like to add honey, cinnamon and crushed walnuts to mine. Easy hot breakfast customized for everyone! :)

  2. Hi, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (http://annesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com), and I’m visiting from the Barn Hop.

    I know very little about whole/real foods, but I’m interested in learning. One thing that confuses me is the exclusion of milk/dairy from the list. I buy raw milk from an Amish farm, and to me it doesn’t get any healthier or more natural than that, so I’m kind of scratching my head here. Guess I need to do some more research!

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. If you’ve never visited yet, I hope you can pop by my blog sometime to say hi…

    • Mom @ Cube2Farm

      Hi Anne! The only reason I exclude dairy is because it isn’t part of the Paleo/Primal diet as I understand it. Not to mention my kids and I are allergic to casein – the cow milk protein :) Good point, though! Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to checking out your blog, too.

  3. Dairy is one of those take it or leave it aspects of a primal/paleo diet. Some people tolerate it perfectly fine and there is evidence that we’ve been consuming dairy for longer than grains (as nomadic herdsmen – the in-between stage from hunter gatherer and grain-based agriculture). It really depends on the person. If you’re going to eat dairy though, raw is definitely best, organic and pastured are second best and conventional industrial is the least healthful. I am primal as well but do eat some dairy. I’d love to have access to raw milk – but as all the cow shares I’ve found are too much money and milk to be worth it for just little old me and it cannot be sold in stores in my state – I go for pastured organic and consider it an investment. Since I don’t eat much of it I don’t really spend any more than I used to anyway.

  4. “God gave us fire for a reason” LOL. As much as I love my salads, I couldn’t agree more.

    Just wanted to return the blog visit and say thanks for your comment on mine. I’ve not heard of this diet, but then, we try to grow what we eat and eat what we grow, so that pretty much dictates our diet.