Earlier in the week, my colleague Elisa Zied emailed asking for my definition of “real food”, she also posted the question on Facebook. Many of her dietitian friends weighed in.  Some had eloquent explanations. You can read the article here but to summarize many said real food was “minimally processed” or “food you can grow yourself”, the way Mother Nature intended us to eat. Makes sense, right?
I was at my son’s soccer practice reading the post and rattled off a reply. I have noticed many parents feed their children what I would consider real food. Clients who I cannot convince to purchase organic anything are suddenly filling their kitchens with organic milk, eggs and fruit once they have children. Noting a disparity I will sometimes ask, “do you give your children artificial sweeteners or soda?” and they’ll quickly assure me “NEVER”. I also added that real foods aren’t generally packaged and that real foods don’t require factories. Again, I wasn’t writing a research article I was giving a quick opinion. However, it’s a statement I stand by and might tell a client or friend if they asked.
Not a minute later someone replied to my comment. I wasn’t aware opinions could be incorrect but I was told I was WRONG! By my definition hummus and yogurt weren’t real. I resisted the urge to get in a Facebook fight and said I’d stand by a diet of unpackaged food over packaged and processed food any time. Whatever.
This same person was quoted in the article saying, “terms like real food and clean eating are elitist.” Another dietitian felt the descriptor like “real food” is full of judgment. Here’s the thing, when it comes to food I’d rather be elitist than underachieving any day. The reason Michael Pollan, who is quoted at the start of the article, has such a platform is that he wasn’t afraid to hurt the public’s feelings by saying we need to eat plants, we need to eat foods with few ingredients and we need to cook. He also wasn’t afraid to make waves with food companies (something many dietitians worry about especially if they are working with them).
I’ve written about the fact that the words thin and skinny are suddenly taboo. I’ve discussed  “everything in moderation” which I’ve seen RDs use to include soda and cheez-its and things that aren’t even moderately good. If it’s judgmental to point out that we all can benefit from more greens, more fish and less sugar, food dyes and processed food I’m judgmental and I’m fine with it. Off to sip my snobbish green juice and “eat clean”.
What would be your definition of real food? What do you think of the term? Is it elitist?


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