real food

Posted by on August 2, 2011 in cook | 20 comments

I've been wanting to write this post forever, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. Food, eating, weight, nutrition, they can be such sensitive topics. Earlier this year I started reading and learning more about these things, and have discovered some stuff that has really helped me a lot, so I wanted to share. I'm sure there are others out there with similar experiences, so if this can help even one other person, it will be worth writing this all down here!

image from

A favorite breakfast: slow scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, sliced tomatos, red onions, and capers

Last year I talked about trying to eat less meat. I didn't become a vegetarian, but I did greatly reduce my meat consumption. I made up for that by adding lots of pasta, bread, and soy into my diet. I gained back a lot of the weight I had worked hard to lose a couple years before, I was feeling tired and depressed, and in a nine month period I was sick three separate times (as in stay in bed for a few days, fever, achey, sniffley, sick), for most of my adult life I am pretty sure I have also suffered from IBS. I was feeling like there was no way I would ever be a healthy weight, unless I starved myself (and how is that healthy, mentally or physically?), and I was destined to be tired and have a crappy immune system for the rest of my life. After all, I was eating "healthy," right? 

In March, I happened upon a book called Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes. Coincidentally, Netflix kept recommending a documentary called Fat Head, in which Taubes is briefly mentioned. I read the book and watched the movie, and found myself going down a nutrition rabbit hole that I still haven't crawled out of four months later. I am not good at explaining science, so I will mostly just give you lots of links to things that explain things better than I can. 

So first of all, Why We Get Fat, despite the title, isn't a diet book in the sense that it gives you meal plans, it's more about the science behind how our bodies use the food we eat. The theme of the book is basically that the conventional wisdom we've all been hearing for the last thirty years (low-fat! healthy whole grains!) or so is completely wrong, it's not as simple as calories-in-calories-out, and it's not dietary fat that makes us fat, but rather sugar (in the form of HFCS and other sweeteners, grains and other carbohydrates) that is the cause of our current obesity epidemic. He cites lots of studies, so he has the science to back up all his ideas.  In Fat Head (be aware, the documentarian is very much a libertarian, and while there is not a lot of political content, it is there. I tend to be libertarian-leaning, but I keep politics away from my blog đŸ™‚ so I didn't mind it, but if you have strong, differing views, I just hope it won't keep you from all the other good information), there are some great bits explaining all this too, and also some stuff about cholesterol, and why it's not quite so evil as we might think. 

image from

Homemade Pho

Next up, I found the Weston A. Price Foundation, which is all about eating traditional, whole foods, like raw dairy, natural meats including organ meats, eggs, and of course fruits and vegetables. There's tons of nutrition info on their site. 

I also bought a copy of Real Food by Nina Planck, that I'm still reading. She was a vegetarian and was becoming increasingly sick and gaining weight, but now embraces a similar diet to the Weston A. Price Foundation. Speaking of vegetarian, I am also reading The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Kieth, which is very eye-opening. She was actually vegan for 20+ years, and her health has suffered drastically because of her diet. She looks at all the arguments for not consuming animal products, and explains, logically, why she no longer supports those arguments. I'm not done with that one yet either, and I don't know if I will agree with everything she says, but so far she has made some very compelling points. 

image from

At the sushi bar: field greens with tuna sashimi

Of course I also watched Food, Inc. and another documentary about the corn industry, called King Corn. Both of which are very educational about the sad, sad state of the industrial food industry in this country. Cows should not be eating grain, for one thing! And chickens shouldn't have to grow up in such deplorable conditions. We need to support local farmers as much as possible, there are better ways to raise our food. I knew all of this already, but I don't think I let myself realize just how bad it was. It's become very important to me to not participate in that any more. I wish I lived near Polyface Farms, they are doing some amazing things. All that is really another post, however, so I'll save it for another time. 

All this led me to all the various incarnations of the paleo diet (caveman diet, evolution diet, primal diet), and I read The Primal Blueprint. I liked the philosophy in this one, it's very much just a blueprint, you decide exactly what you want to eat within certain guidelines (no grains, no processed food, limited dairy-depending on your sensitivity, and carb consumption is based on your goals, but definitely under 150g per day, everything as natural and organic as possible), and try to stay within those guidelines 80% of the time. No calorie counting, no strict menu or stringent meal times. It's not a Diet-with-a-capital-D, it's just a way to eat that will nourish your body and help you make the switch from burning sugar for fuel to using fat as fuel. There's also more about exercise (avoid chronic cardio, move slowly, lift heavy things, and play!), but again, no strict regimen to follow.

image from

Almond-crusted chicken Parmesan with zucchini noodles

I started following these guidelines on April 1: no grains, no seed oils (canola, soybean, corn), no soy, no legumes, limited dairy. There were a couple weeks of carb flu-I was tired and felt foggy, but even with those negative symptoms, everything else started feeling so much better, things that I didn't expect. I slept better, my mood improved, I didn't wake up with my sinusus full of snot, I was full and satisfied with the food I was eating, and the minor sweet cravings I had were easily satisfied with fruit or dark chocolate (Green & Blacks 85% dark is my favorite!). I have been a sugar addict as long as I can remember, and I feel like I've really kicked the sugar habit.

So far this summer I've suffered very little from allergies, even cleaning my dusty shed hasn't sent me into never-ending sneezing fits like it normally would. I'm reserving full judgement until early fall, when my seasonal allergies are generally at their worst, but I'm feeling optomistic. And that IBS? I don't know how to put this delicately, but it is nearly 100% gone. I feel like what I am eating is so full of nutrients that my body is using almost everything I put into it, so there is very little waste coming out. Was that delicate enough? And you know what else? Gassiness is almost non-existent. I've also heard of lots of people seeing improvement with things like migraines and arthiritis by eating this way, so please consider this if you suffer from those problems.

I really think that diet and nutrition have far more to do with our health than we realize, and getting all the vitamins and minerals we need to function well from real food is far more effective than taking pills or supplements. I didn't expect to see such dramatic differences so quickly, but it has been amazing to see so many changes in the way I feel.

image from with basil mayonnaise, grilled zucchini, and sauteed spinach

So what do I eat these days? There are a few pictures in this post, and you can see more here. I eat two or three eggs nearly every day, I have big salads full of seasonal vegetables, doused with lots of olive oil and good vinegars, topped with various proteins. I buy grass-fed beef as often as possible. I regularly eat fish, and pot roast, and roast chicken-including the skin, with mashed cauliflower and vegetables over which I pour the pan drippings. I eat sushi (the rice is a once-in-a-while treat), and when I'm craving something sweet, I'll eat a yam. I don't eat things that have a list of ingredients on a package. About the only things I eat that come in cans are tomatoes and coconut milk, otherwise I'm just shopping the perimeter (excluding the bakery, of course!) of the store. 

Some days I eat three meals. Some days I eat two and a little snack of berries (with raw heavy cream, if I have it). Some days I might just eat once. I'm not constantly hungry like I used to be, and I don't get the 3:00 pm munchies like I used to. I'm eating and enjoying good food, but I'm not obsessed with constant thoughts of food any more. Saturday I spent the day running errands, and at 4:30 I realized I hadn't eaten and was starting to feel it. There weren't many good options nearby, so I went to Bob's Big Boy and ordered a burger and ate it without the bun (I did nibble some of the french fries, not the best since they were probably fried in seed oil, but I just considered them a rare indulgence and suffered no ill effects) and I was good for the next few hours. 

I'm sure there will be cooking posts in the future, and I'll share some of these delicious recipes I've been making. I probably won't be bombarding you with diet posts, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! This has made a huge difference in how I feel, and I think it could benefit a lot of people. Oh yeah, and weight loss? It's not pouring off of me like it does for some, but I've lost nearly 20 pounds over the last few months. I have more to go, but I feel confident that it will keep coming off almost effortlessly, as it has been.

And now for some links!

Paleo/Primal sites:

Mark's Daily Apple (by the author of The Primal Blueprint)

Latest in Paleo (a podcast I sometimes listen to)

Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution, which I haven't read)

Cooking Sites:

The Primal Palate (they just announced they are publishing a cookbook, and it looks really beautiful)

La Tartine Gourmand (Not specifically paleo, but I've made several of her recipes, many of which are just naturally gluten-free, and her stories and photography are beautiful.)

Everyday Paleo (I don't have her cookbook yet, but it's gotten some good reviews)

Whole Foods Advocates:

Food Renegade

The Weston A. Price Foundation

Balanced Bites

Nourished Kitchen

There are tons more, but that's a lot to get you started if you're interested. 


  1. Loved this! So many things hit home for me.

  2. Thanks Cara, I figured you would get it đŸ™‚ I wish I could articulate it all better, there's so much to think about when it comes to food!

  3. Oh girl, we are on the same path, in fact I’m putting up a blog post about this tomorrow-can I link back to you? I feel fantastic now. I sleep good, feel 20, and I don’t poop much either! I don’t eat any dairy, I kept trying but was just too sensitive. Please talk about this more! It’s vital to our well being.

  4. Yes, of course! Link away! I've loved reading about your journey, and you are right, people should know that they can fix so many things just by eating better (and not the "food pyramid" better, which is just crazy! 7-11 servings of grain a day! No wonder we've all gotten so chubby and feel so crappy!). I know dairy is rough for a lot of people. Have you tried raw cream or raw milk cheeses? I don't eat a lot, and I make sure when I do eat dairy that it's the best I can get. Kerrygold Irish butter comes from grass-fed cows, and is the only kind I will buy now. I also sometimes cook with ghee, which doesn't cause trouble for a lot of people who are sensitive. Still, even without dairy, there is so much good, real food out there to eat and enjoy! 

  5. Really interesting post! The only time I’ve ever successfully list weight was on the Atkins diet, which is pretty dire in many ways, particularly because it limits fruit and veg, but cutting out the carbs and refined sugar was a total revelation to me. Eventually I slipped back, and gained the weight again, but I’ve been thinking of doing something similar again and your links will be hugely useful. How do you involve (or not) the rest of your family?

  6. I think I lasted about 4 days when I tried to do Atkins years and years ago. I love tomatoes too much to ever want to give them up again! 
    As for the family, I do the cooking and grocery shopping, so my husband eats what I cook at home. I make rice now and then, and he likes that, and once he begged for some pasta, so cooked it for him and just had the sauce over zucchini noodles for myself. I think he actually felt a little bad about that and hasn't asked for it since.
    However! I know he does eat a good amount of crap when he's at work. I figure he's an adult and can make his own choices, but I do try to give him good ideas and pass on information when it comes up rather than preaching to him. He does get salads more often these days, rather than McDonald's, and he told me how he ordered his burger protein-style at In-n-Out recently, so that's progress đŸ™‚Â 
    I don't have kids, but for them, have a look at the Everyday Paleo site I linked, she does have a family and there's lots of good advice for feeding kids.
    Let me know how it goes for you! 

  7. Kudos for posting on a very important and controversial topic.
    One specific issue worth pointing out (which you may have discovered): don’t fall for the low-fat version of paleo; it’s nonsense, e.g. see
    In addition to your good paleo / primal links, I highly recommend this summary (and the rest of the blog): He’s an MD who has done lots of research about the effects of various foods on long-term health.

  8. Interesting. How are you getting adequate calcium intake? I’ve been off dairy for the most part because of my allergies right now, and it helps. But strong bones, nails and teeth are a concern.

  9. I think strong bones depend on more than just calcium, you also need vitamin D and magnesium. Most conventional dairy is fortified: so many nutrients are lost during the processing that they have to add them back! I don't consider that the best nutrition. I am still eating some dairy, I cook with grass-fed butter and have cream (I am addicted to iced chai lattes that I make myself with organic and/or raw cream, yum!), and occasionally cheese. I make sure to get some sun every day to replenish my vitamin D. I also eat lots of leafy greens and fish. I'm terrible about remembering everything I read and where I found it, but here is some good info about calcium:

  10. Love this post, dear friend. Perfect tone of sensitivity, encouragement, testimonial. And could the photos be more motivational?? I think not.
    Time to get centered, take hold of my bootstraps, and get cracking…!
    Thanks soooo much for this!

  11. Good point,  I should probably make that more clear, I eat plenty of good fats! I have some recipes to share in future posts, and I will make note of the fat content when I write them up. I have both the sites you mentioned bookmarked, although I wish Dr. Harris would start posting again! 

  12. Thanks Jeslyn! Yes, go make yourself some good food, you will be amazed at what a difference it can make! 

  13. I appreciate the link and your response. đŸ™‚ Though I agree that the processing of milk requires fortifying which isn’t the best way to get the needed nutrients, I can tell a huge difference in my fingernail strength when I regularly drink milk twice a day and when I don’t. So I do think it’s a good source of calcium that the body (at least my body) does absorb well.
    Nutrition is always so interesting, but it can, at times be overwhelming because of all the differences in studies out there. I’ve seen so many of them contradict each other over the years….Just gotta sigh sometimes, ya know?

  14. Hello, do you also include a workout program with your new eating pattern?
    Just wondering.

  15. Not really, actually. I walk a lot, and I sometimes do some bodyweight exercises (push ups and squats. I want to eventually do some weight lifting to get stronger. I do, however, move a lot more these days. I have a lot more energy, so I've been doing lots of projects around my house that I was too lazy to do before, like cleaning out our shed and working on the yard. I'm not a big fan of spending time in the gym đŸ™‚Â 

  16. Amazing… I loved reading about your journey. The pictures of your meals you posted look wonderful… do you have recipes to share or are they from one of the links you listed. I found your blog through Tales from the Coop Keeper… Keep up your posts… I love the encouragement!

  17. Thanks! The food is mostly just the result of my playing around in the kitchen, so I will definitely start sharing recipes in the coming weeks! Thanks for leaving a comment, that Jayme is the best! đŸ™‚
    Sent from my iPhone

  18. You are awesome! That book is awesome! It was lovely to hear someone from the list of blogs I read (crafty folk) talking about this kind of food. I read both of Gary Taube’s books and loved them. This past month I have cut sugar out completely (I am a pastry chef by trade, so sugar has always pulled me back to a crappy, carby diet). I feel so. much. better. I would love it you would share more recipes–first up, iced chai with cream!

  19. It's so good to hear I'm not the only one! I admit, I was a little bummed that I FINALLY learned how to bake good bread last year, and now I'm not eating it any more, but the way I feel and the energy I have now make it all worth it. For me, it's wheat that draws me in to the crap food, it was so easy to stop the sugar when I gave up the wheat. I totally didn't expect that because I've always had a sweet tooth. 
    I still need to read Good Calories, Bad Calories, I'm looking forward to that one. And I will definitely be sharing more recipes. I was worried that I wouldn't enjoy cooking as much, but I think that having a few limitations is only making me more creative and I'm having a lot of fun in the kitchen!

  20. Hi!
    Your blog is lovely. I find it a bit lonely eating this way as my friends all have vegetarian leanings and the paleo blogs can tend toward the jock side of things.
    It’s really wonderful to read a blog by another crafty girl who eats/lives this way too <3

say something nice...