(To give credit where due, my thinking here is greatly influenced by Michael Pollan.)
Real food is food that is cooked or prepared, rather than manufactured. Most of it would be recognizable to our great-grandparents. If they wouldn’t recognize it (such as for ethnic foods) then someone else’s great-grandparents would. A homemade chocolate chip cookie is real food, even if its nutritional value is a little questionable. A chocolate chip cookie bought from the store in a plastic tray covered in foil is not real food.
I’m not saying that we should never eat anything else, but that most of what we eat should be real food. Closer to real food is better, but we all sometimes get that craving for factory produced fake food.
I’m going to be using the term ‘modern food’ to refer to the food products that aren’t real food. These are produced in a factory. The alternate terms ‘fake food’ or ‘industrial food’ both are more negative than my attitude toward modern food.
As another example, consider yogurt. In the strictest sense, real food yogurt is homemade, with no dry milk added (dry milk is a factory product by nature). A quart carton of plain, full fat yogurt without added gelatin or other thickeners from the store is one step away from real food. More chemicals or sickly sweet fruit flavors are more steps toward an industrial product instead of real food.
Sometimes modern food is the best we can manage. I think most families go through a time like this if a family member is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The carbohydrate counting is just so much easier from the package of industrial food. As time goes on, those families that want more food cooked from scratch pick up various methods to carb count real foods. My hope is that this blog will make this transition easier.
Meat can be real food. Meat raised more naturally is perhaps more in line with real food, but for me that’s not required to be real food. Real food means that to make a hamburger, you buy ground beef (or even better buy a roast and grind it yourself), shape it into a patty, and cook it. A premade patty (only meat, not seasonings or flavors) that is cooked at home is almost real food.