by Gretchen Powell
“Eat real food.”
How many times have you heard this slogan passed from person to person, doctor to patient, article to reader? Put real, whole foods in your body and reap the rewards. It’s true that I feel better, both physically and emotionally, when I’m fueling my body with honest-to-goodness, grown-in-the-earth food.
The thing is, even after you take out the fact that sometimes the fake, pre-packaged stuff can be terribly delicious (Velveeta Shells & Cheese, anyone?), real life is not always conducive to eating real food 100% of the time. We live in a busy, fast-paced world where pre-packaged and processed food exists for a very specific reason.
There isn’t always time to make your own crackers or bake your own bread from scratch. I made my own chicken stock one time and that’s all it took for me to know it wasn’t worth doing again.
So the real question becomes, how do you balance out the cost and convenience of pre-packaged items with the knowledge that fueling your body full with preservative-laden and chemically-altered foodstuffs probably isn’t the greatest thing?
Because of my tendency to have an all-or-nothing mentality, I generally am either completely on the wagon when it comes to eating clean, or I’m on a train headed straight to junk food city. I could be munching on nothing but Tupperware containers filled with grapes, strawberries, and celery with natural peanut butter one week, but the following week I might be heating up a Hot Pocket, eating it with a side of Triscuits, and having a spoonful of Nutella for dessert.
In the end, as cliché as it sounds, it does come down to balance. Find the mix that works best for your lifestyle. I have the luxury of working from home, so creating healthy lunches that I prepare myself isn’t too difficult.
However, I also have a job that keeps my nights and weekends quite busy, which tends to mean more eating out or convenience foods during those times.
I’m still working on trying to find my own middle ground. And, granted, some brands of pre-packaged products are much better for you than others and that’s something I’m trying to be mindful of as well.
Of course, then you also have to bring cost and budgeting into the equation a lot of the time as well, but that might be a discussion for another day. The bottom line is this: eat real food, yes. But as with all things health- and wellness-related, make it work for your real life.
Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more, visit honeyishrunkthegretchen.com.