10 Ingredients and Labels to Avoid

10 Ingredients & Labels to Avoid

Since we’ve been on this real food journey for awhile now, I have learned over the years the difference between what many labels and ingredients mean. It’s become second nature to me. It’s important to know what foods to buy but also what foods to avoid. Food marketers have become very sneaky and savvy in their advertising. Knowing that consumers want healthy food, they bet on the fact that many may not read or know exactly how to decipher food labels. It becomes a big marketing game at your expense. Keywords such as “natural,” “low-fat,” “whole grains,” and more are used to give us the illusion that we are buying healthy products.

This list contains ingredients or labels that I try to steer away from while shopping. I think it’s important to be aware of these so that you, too, can easily avoid them and make better choices. And while it may sound restrictive, the good news is that there are always alternative real food options that are easily found at many conventional grocery store, health food stores, or even on the internet in places such as Amazon.

  1. The words, “healthy,” and/or “natural.”
    Even after all these years, seeing these words still makes makes me pick up the package or box. It’s a truly magically marketing word that makes us think we are doing something good for ourselves. Avoid products that use these words on the front of the package to proclaim it’s qualities.
    Alternative: ALWAYS read the ingredient labels!
  2. High Fructose Corn Syrup, Refined Sugars, and Artificial Sweeteners.
    Stick with sugar that is as minimally processed as possible. Look for sweeteners such as raw honey, 100% maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar, or stevia. Read the ingredient labels as many products contain hidden sugars.
    Alternative: Look for products without refined or added sugars. These can include corn syrup, cane sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
  3. Carrageenan
    A highly debated product, carrageenan is found in many products ranging from dairy products to toothpastes. It’s used to make the texture of products creamier, but can be harmful if ingested in large amounts. I choose to steer clear of this ingredient since it’s not something that fits the real food rules and I would NOT have found in my great-grandmother’s pantry.
    Alternative: Look for products without carrageenan. Silk brand of almond milk does not contain this ingredient. Or make it yourself! This almond milk recipe is easy and tastes delish!
  4. Canola, Soybean, or Vegetable Oils
    Even though “vegetable” oil sounds healthy, in all actuality it’s not. All of these oils are highly refined and most likely genetically modified.
    Alternatives: Coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee. You can even use unsweetened applesauce as a substitute in baking or use water when sauteing.
  5. Low-Fat or Fat-Free Products
    In the late 1980’s the “fat free” and “low fat” craze hit and these products flew off the shelves. In turn, these companies added sugar, artifical flavors, and carrageenan for flavor and texture. Any time you see the words, “low fat” or “fat free,” put down the product and run!
    Alternative: When purchasing dairy products, always purchase full fat, plain varieties. For all other products, read the labels and avoid any artificial ingredients and sugars.
  6. Flavorings
    I try to avoid all artificial flavorings including the infamous “natural” flavorings. You’d be surprised how many granola bars or cereals contain “blueberries” or “strawberries” that are nothing more than an artificial flavor.
    Alternative: Buy real ingredients. Flavor foods yourself including oatmeal, yogurt, or baked goods.
  7. Food Dyes
    There are many questions to the effect of food dyes on our children, particularly their effects on mood and behavior. Naturally, we avoid it whenever possible.
    Alternative: When you need food dyes for things like a birthday cake, try to use whole food options such as strawberries or blueberries.
  8. Soy Lecithin
    Used primarily as an emulsifier, you can find soy lecithin in anything from salad dressings to tea bags to chocolate. Because it’s derived from soy, it most likely is genetically modified and is refined.
    Alternative: Make your own foods to avoid this ingredient. Try chocolate made without this ingredient. I love Theo’s chocolate bars and use Enjoy Life’s Dark Chocolate Chips.
  9. Too Many Ingredients
    A huge red flag for me is an ingredient label that is loaded with unidentifiable ingredients. Most companies will highlight ingredients on the front of the box to make you think they are healthy, but the ingredient list doesn’t lie. When you turn the package over to read the list, if you see more than 5 ingredients that you most likely wouldn’t find in your own kitchen, put it down and walk away.
    Alternative: Try to purchase ingredients rather than ready made products. If you do purchase a product, make sure the ingredient list is short and you can pronounce each ingredient.
  10. Pasteurized Juices or Ultra-Pasteurized Milk
    Pasteurizing or ultra-pasteurizing heats juice or milk to a high temperature to kill any bacteria. The problem is, it also kills any beneficial nutrients resulting in a  “dead” food.
    Alternative: Make non-dairy almond milk easily from scratch. If you are looking for a dairy milk, and your state allows the sale of raw milk, then purchase grass-fed raw milk from a reputable farm. You can make  your own juice at home using real fruits and vegetables. All you need is a juicer or try a green smoothie in your blender.

Take Aways

  • Read ingredient labels.
    Always ask yourself if you would use those ingredients in your own kitchen. If not, put it back.
  • Use ingredients instead of buying pre-packaged foods.
    Learn to cook with these ingredients and make your own homemade versions. Your food will taste better and you won’t have to worry if the ingredients are real or not.
  • Be informed!
    Question products and get to know which companies you can trust. Once you learn, shopping will become easier!

Until next time, keep it real.

Our recommendations:

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but we earn a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.

Real Food Halloween Tips

Real Food Halloween Tips

Halloween is just a few days away and we will be inundated with candy once more. A little candy once a year is probably pretty harmless, but more and more I am realizing that candy in today’s culture is not just a one-time isolated event. Candy is being dressed up into sugary drinks, granola bars, and cereals. It’s used as rewards for good behavior, perfect attendance, and even for doing a great job at the doctor’s office! It tricks us into treating all year long.

Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard we try, junk just follows us everywhere we go! So here are a few ground rules to set so that you can still have fun during the holiday, but also keep focused on making it a real food Halloween instead.

  1. Set limits on candy.
    While I’d love to just throw all of it in the trash, I know that’s not reality. We often talk about letting life happen some of the time and that pertains to holidays as well. While we don’t let our kids go crazy with candy, we do allow them to have a few pieces on Halloween night and also let them keep 10 of their favorite pieces  for later. We put it away in a cabinet to pull from on occasion to put in their lunch or for an after dinner treat. Honestly, those 10 pieces last us almost the entire year until Halloween comes again!
  2. Focus on the dressing up.
    Try to make Halloween more about the fun of picking and creating their costume. That involves creativity and imagination!
  3. Create candy alternatives.
    I often try and steer my kids into more real food treats whenever I can. When they ask for candy, I tell them that I will make chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip blondies (made with chickpeas!), or mint chip “nice” cream. That way they are not deprived of getting a treat, but we do it without all the added junk.
  4. Be proactive.
    Knowing the possible inundation of sugar at a party or trick or treating, make sure there is good food in your kid’s belly before and after. Pull your kids aside and tell them they can have one piece of candy with her friends. Everything else has to come home and gone through later.
  5. Be a role model.
    Parents are important role models in their children’s food choices. We can determine what types and how much food they are exposed to all year long, why should Halloween be any different?

What to Do with the Candy You Get

Doing an internet search, you will find some ideas for leftover Halloween candy including donating to your local Ronald McDonald House, nursing homes, food pantries, children’s hospitals, veterans’ homes, or women’s shelters. I am personally not a huge fan of donating candy to other people. As a real food advocate for everyone, if it’s not good enough to keep around my house then I don’t want other people eating it either! Especially low income families challenged with access to real food, or kids or adults that are battling potentially life threatening diseases that are fueled by sugar like cancer! Oy Vey!

Try these alternatives instead:

  1. Trade it in for money.
    Determine an amount of money you will pay for each piece of candy. Let your kids take the money they earn and add it to their savings, spending, sharing jars.
  2. Find a local dentist that participates in the Halloween Buyback Program.
    Again, I hate that they are sending the candy overseas as our troops deserve to eat healthy too. So, maybe you can find a local dentist that will take the candy and donate money to a local charity or give out toothbrushes to the underprivileged instead.
  3. Leave it out for the Switch Witch to take. 
    On Halloween night at bedtime, kids leave a heap of their trick-or-treat sweets with their Switch Witch pal… and in the morning they will see their candy has been switched for a special switch gift!
  4. Allow them to trade in their candy for the “gift of an experience.”
    We started asking for family members to do this for Christmas last year. We’d much rather experience something together than have more “stuff!” So why not trade in candy for a night out at the movies (bring your own homemade popcorn), or some jumpy time at a bounce place…or a new favorite of ours is going roller skating!
  5. Get Crafty!
    The wrappers can be used for decoupage or other crafts and the candy itself can be re-purposed for your gingerbread house at Christmas. You can even make glossy paint out of Skittles!!!
  6. Use it for math games.
    M&M’s can be used for addition and subtraction or, you can sort your candy (chocolate, gum, lollipops, fruit snacks, etc.) and figure out what percentage each group contributed to your total amount.
  7. Donate your candy to science.
    Have a science fair coming up? There are lots of great candy experiments you can do at home.

How will you be handling Halloween this year?

Until next time, keep it real.

Our recommendations:

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but Keepin’ it Real earns a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.

Is Organic Food Really Better?


Is-Organic-Food Really-Better

Walk down the aisles of any natural grocery store and you have your pick of all the organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy and meats you could ever want. But the organic choices don’t stop there. Because organic food is becoming more mainstream, companies are starting to produce organic versions of their processed foods like organic cookies, potato chips and chocolate bars. But is buying organic food really healthier? The short answer is yes…and no. Let’s take a look at why.

Junk Is Junk No Matter What the Label Says

Just because it says organic on the label doesn’t always mean it’s now magically healthy. Take for instance Cascadian Farms Fruity O’s cereal. Certainly a better option than the Original Fruit Loops we all ate as children, but clearly not void of refined oils, sugar, natural flavors and other processed ingredients. Many of these organic junk foods are giving you a great deal of calories, sodium and sugar with little nutrient payback.

Read those labels! The most important part of the food package is not the claims made on the front, but the list of ingredients on the back or side. If you see highly refined ingredients such as white flour, sugar, oils or ingredients you wouldn’t normally keep in your own kitchen, then it most likely is a junky processed food and needs to be put back on the shelf. Organic foods to look out for are sweetened drinks, cookies, crackers, energy bars, granola bars and chips. They are just organic junk foods with little nutrient reward.

Organic Crops

The scientific debate has raged on for many years about the benefits of buying organic produce, but if you are in the camp that believe toxic chemicals can have dangerous effects on your health, then the answer is clear cut. A large scale study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that:

“Overall, organic crops had 18 to 69 percent higher concentrations of antioxidant compounds…consumers who switch to organic fruit, vegetables and cereals would get 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants. That’s the equivalent of about two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with no increase in caloric intake.”

Another study done by the Consumers Union covered about 94,000 samples from more than 20 different crops. They consistently found organic crops had about 1/3 as many pesticides than conventionally grown crops. They also found 31% of the conventionally grown crops had residues while only 6.5% in organic samples, and found multiple residues 9 times as often in conventional samples.


In the United States, more than 80% or more of many major crops (including corn, soy, and sugar beets) are grown from genetically engineered seed. This means that pesticides are either bred directly into the seed to ward off pests or the seeds are modified to withstand pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on the crops. (read more about GMO’s) And while Monsanto and the EPA consistently claim there is no impact at all on consumers, in a 2011 study done by doctors at Sherbrooke Hospital in Quebec, they found the presence of several GMO remnants in non-pregnant and pregnant women and the umbilical blood of their babies. I also love this video showing what happened to a family after they made a switch to organic food. No effect? I’m not convinced.

The only way to avoid GMOs is to eat foods with the USDA Organic Certification and/or foods that are Non-GMO verified.

Is Organic Worth the Cost?

I believe there is compelling reasons to buy organic whenever possible so as to avoid contributing to toxic chemical accumulation in our water, soil and our bodies. However, buying all organic can get expensive. If organic food doesn’t fit within your budget, then focus on the ingredient list instead. The ingredient list on a package is far more important to me than any other label. It is better to eat conventional fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds and beans than foods found in a box, can or bag regardless if they are organic or not. As discussed earlier, even organic processed foods can contain a plethora of questionable ingredients.

If you like the idea of eating more organic and have some extra money in your budget, use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to identify which produce has the highest pesticides loads. If you are interested in reducing the antibiotics and GMO feed that is given to animals you may be eating, find a local, organic farm and purchase your meat and eggs from them. Often times you can buy in bulk and save money overall.

For more ideas of how to save money on organic foods, read Real Food on a Budget.

What’s your thoughts on organics? Do you buy a lot of organic foods? I’d love to hear!

Until next time, keep it real.

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How to Eat Real Food When No One Around You Does



I’ve come to realize that everything nowadays revolves around food. Not good, wholesome, healthy food…junk food. It’s everywhere and we can’t get away from it. Whether it’s birthday parties, school parties, first day of school bus stop treats, lollipops at the bank, snacks after sporting events, rewards for good behavior, extracurricular activity treats, BBQ’s, hanging at a friend’s house, church snacks, work vending machines, break room sweets, etc. It’s everywhere!

We obviously try to practice healthy eating but it often seems like everyone around us is making it more difficult. So how can you change your life, stay healthy and stay on track when those around you are not on the same page?

Create a Healthy Home Environment

When your home is filled with real food you will eat real food, right? In a perfect world we would have access to real food everywhere we went, but that’s not reality…yet. I feel good knowing when we are in the confines of my home, my family and I have access to real food whenever we are hungry. Don’t know what to keep on hand? Check out what’s in my real food pantry or real food refrigerator. Sign up for our newsletter to get access to a real food grocery shopping list or let me help clean out your cupboards!

Bring Your Own Real Food

After eating real food for the past 3+ years people know me by now and it doesn’t phase them when I show up with my own meals at parties or bring lunch/snacks for my kids to playdates. It’s not uncommon for me to pack a few bags of food when we go visit family or take a vacation. In a world when a lot of people suffer from allergies, I believe it’s not taboo to bring your own food. Just give your host a heads up prior to your arrival.

  • Work-Brown bag your lunch, keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk and steer clear of the break room.
  • School-Since my kids were in preschool I have been packing their food. In preschool they had their own “snack box” they picked out of each day when the snack brought by the other kids wasn’t on my “approved” list. I even made their own cupcakes on birthday party days. That way, they still could participate, but didn’t consume the store bought, blue icing treats being brought in. You can even pack school lunches with items that look like their processed food counterparts. Lunchables, baked chicken nuggets, homemade pizza, breakfast for lunch or homemade Go-Gurts.
  • Parties-Offer to bring a dish. We recently got invited to a BBQ where they were serving hamburgers and hot dogs. Because we allow the occasional hot dog or grass fed burger from time to time, I told the host we would love to come but due to dietary restrictions we would be bringing our own hot dogs and veggie burgers (for me). This way my kids still “fit in” but I felt better knowing that at least the hot dog was organic and grass fed!
  • Playdates or Other Activities. Don’t leave it up to other families to provide snacks for you. This summer, I started making my own Otter pops using these Zipzicles to bring to our community pool. If parents rotate snacks for sporting events, volunteer to be the team mom and send out an email asking they consider bringing fruit and water instead of chips and cookies. Offer to bring a healthy snack for playdates, church activities or school functions

Request Substitutions at Restaurants

We rarely find going out to eat enjoyable anymore. Mainly because we usually come away disappointed knowing I could have made the same thing at home, cheaper and with better ingredients. But if you do go out to a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Only order meat dishes if they are grass fed, pastured and/or local. Sub fruit or salad for fries. Order kids dishes off the adult menu since kid menus are usually full of fried foods. Request foods not be cooked in margarine or oil as they can usually bake or steam them. When it doubt, order a salad with all the veggies they can find and top it with salsa or balsamic vinegar.

Be a Leader

You may be presently surprised that your commitment to eating real food inspires others to follow. Ask to pick the restaurant when going out with friends. Eating with the work crew? Suggest a place to go with a healthy menu. Generally speaking, people want to be healthier (New Year’s resolutions anyone?!) but maybe need some support from others along the way. Be that person, but don’t offer advice unless you are asked. Otherwise, keep your trap shut. The best thing you can do is show people what real food looks and tastes like by setting a good example. Let them watch for themselves as you feel and look better.

Remember, life happens and sometimes we need to just go with it because we can’t be perfect in every situation. But that also doesn’t mean you need to compromise your values and beliefs just because “everyone else is doing it.” Going along with the crowd has gotten us to where we are today, a nation that is fat, sick and unhealthy. Sticking with an 80/20 rule will still allow you to feel and look your best.

Tell me how you stay real in an unreal world?

Until next time, keep it real.

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for your FREE Real Food Shopping List. Also, find us on Facebook where we post fresh content everyday!

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but Keepin’ it Real earns a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.

Easy Homemade Fruit Popsicles


Fruit Popsicles

It feels like summer out there and if your kids are anything like mine, they come craving popsicles…and often bring the neighborhood kids with them. I love being a house where the kids find refuge from the heat, but I refuse to buy popsicles containing artificial colors and flavors. 

I started making fruit popsicles a couple years ago and they are so super simple that it’s almost silly not to make them yourself. There really are no rules to making your own fruit pops, and as with most of my cooking, I kind of just throw things together and hope for the best. But my favorite seems to be these babies below made with orange juice and a mix of kiwi, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.

Easy Homemade Fruit Popsicles
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • Fresh fruit. Peaches, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or kiwi are some of my favorites.
  • Liquid. Orange juice, blended watermelon, coconut water, etc.
  1. Wash and slice the fruit. Add to the popsicle molds arranging some fruit along the side if you are concerned about the appearance. Pour liquid into molds and insert the stick. Freeze overnight. When ready to eat, run the mold under hot water for a few seconds to remove the popsicle.


If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and tag us @realfood_life or hashtag it #realfoodlife. I’d love to see what you make!

Until next time, keep it real.

Our recommendations:

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but Keepin’ it Real earns a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.

Real Food Refrigerator and Freezer


Real Food Refrigerator

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little afraid to show you what’s lurking inside my refrigerator. There could possibly be a half eaten sandwich or a cut up tomato I forgot about rotting somewhere in the black abyss. It wouldn’t be the first time I found something on the verge of growing legs and walking by itself, and I sure as heck know it won’t be the last.

I started a series of posts on what to stock your kitchen with now that you have thrown out everything you previously bought that didn’t fit within the rules of real food. If you missed it, you can take a peek into my pantry and see what I stock it with. Today we are going to snoop inside my real food refrigerator and freezer. Enter at your own risk.

In the fridge

  • Fruit-grapes, pineapple, apples, blueberries, strawberries, lemons, oranges, roma tomatoes and grape tomatoes (tomatoes are actually a fruit!).
  • Vegetables-spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, spring mix, cucumbers (both large and small), red, yellow and orange bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, ginger, turmeric, celery, cauliflower, yellow squash, zucchini and carrots.
  • Grains-(Always refrigerate after opening) whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, almond flour, and spelt flour.
  • Seeds: Flax seeds (whole and ground), chia seeds, and quinoa.
  • Almond milk (both store bought and homemade almond milk)
  • Condiments-yellow mustard, dijon mustard, ketchup, vegan mayo (NOT real food), hot sauce (hubs likes things spicy!), organic tamari, organic vegan Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, red curry paste and low-sodium veggie broth.
  • Dairy-organic mozzarella cheese (buy in blocks-not already shredded), organic butter (best to find grass fed butter or Ghee)
  • Garden of Life kids probiotics
  • Organic hummus
  • Peanut/almond butter (homemade), sunflower butter, strawberry jelly.
  • Ezekiel brand english muffins
  • Organic pastured eggs
  • Coconut milk yogurt-unsweetened
  • 100% maple syrup
  • Organic salsa
  • Vegan cream cheese (NOT a real food, but I’ll replace once I find a suitable recipe to replace it with)
  • Homemade elderberry syrup (to combat colds and flu).
  • Brita filtered water

In the freezer

  • Ezekiel brand english muffins (extra package)
  • Ezekiel raisin bread
  • Parsley cubes (I froze parsley that was starting to go bad to add to my green smoothies)
  • Muffins-blender peanut butter muffins and banana chia muffins.
  • Homemade “unmeatballs”
  • Pureed crookneck pumpkin
  • Wheatgrass
  • Green Vibrance
  • Soaked almonds (for making almond milk)
  • Homemade veggie burgers
  • Pastured chicken drumsticks
  • Blueberries and strawberries
  • Whole bananas (peeled and frozen)
  • Applegate Farms turkey lunch meat (for occasional lunches)
  • Organic pizza crusts
  • Ian’s chicken nuggets (for fast dinners when mama needs a night off)
  • Leftover juice pulp from juicing (to make homemade veggie broth)

On my counter

  • 3 bunches of bananas, package of dates, garlic, 3 avocados and organic whole grain bread.

There you have it! Hope you enjoyed the tour of my fridge and freezer. Remember, the best real food fridge and freezer is one that is overflowing with fruits and vegetables. Let the other items serve as condiments to your meals.

Also, check out my favorite real food snack ideas.

Until next time, keep it real.

Real Food Pantry

real food pantry

At this point, you may have begun to clean out your fridge, freezer and possibly even tackled your pantry. Good for you! Now one of the biggest stumbling blocks is trying to figure out what exactly you need to buy to restock your kitchen, real food style. Keeping a well stocked kitchen is essential for following and sticking to a healthy lifestyle. Without it, it is so easy to be led astray as you run through the drive thru or reach for that box of processed “quick food” because you failed to have anything else on hand to make a quick meal.

I remember those early days in our quest for all things “real.” I’d go to the grocery store excited to try to find things that would fit within the rules, only to wander the store for hours and come home with what seemed like nothing that would sustain us for a few days let alone the whole week. How was I supposed to make a meal out of a can of beans and a bag of oats? Through trial and error, and a whole lot of research, I have finally figured out what a well stocked pantry looks like for us. Welcome to my pantry. Come on in and take a look around, but please excuse the mess.

Nuts and Seeds

  • What to buy: Buy a wide variety of raw, unsalted nuts (preferably organic). Avoid nuts roasted in oils if possible.
  • How to use it: Nuts and seeds technically should be soaked first (then dehydrated) to neutralize enzyme inhibitors which make them harder to digest. The only time I soak nuts is when I am making nut milk. Shame on me.
  • How to store it: I store most of the nuts in my pantry in glass jars. Some items such as chia seeds and flax seeds I store in my refrigerator after they have been opened.
  • What’s in my pantry: Walnuts, hemp seeds, whole flax seeds (I grind my own), whole almonds, slivered almonds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Grains and Flours

  • What to buy: If you can tolerate grains, buy a wide variety of grains and flours. When purchasing whole grain pastas buy whole wheat, quinoa pasta, brown rice pastas and soba noodles. Always look for the word “whole” in the ingredient list.
  • How to use it: Grains, like nuts, should be soaked.
  • How to store it: Some I store in my pantry such as pastas, oats and rice, while whole grains and flours should be stored in your fridge or freezer for optimal freshness once opened.
  • What’s in my pantry: Brown rice, arborio rice (not a whole grain), quinoa, bulgar, spelt flour, whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, corn flour, brown rice flour, rolled oats, wheat germ, almond flour, whole wheat spaghetti, black bean spaghetti, buckwheat soba noodles and brown rice spring roll wrappers. I also have a few boxes of Annie’s organic whole wheat shells and cheese for those “just in case” kid meals.

Beans and Legumes

  • What to buy: Beans and legumes are highly nutritious and really cost effective. While canned are often more convenient, they do contain more sodium. If you are buying canned, choose ones that are no salt added and are in BPA free cans. I like Eden Organic brand.
  • How to use it: Beans can be thrown into all kinds of dishes. On top of salads, in soups, in chili, replace meat in tacos, in veggie burgers, blended for dips and even made into great tasting desserts. Chickpea blondies anyone? If you are preparing dried beans they need to be soaked prior to cooking them. At least 8 hours should do it, but if you want to soak overnight, that’s fine too. Adding a seaweed like kombu or kelp while cooking help make the beans more digestible. Rinse canned beans thoroughly in a colander before using.
  • How to store it: Dried and (unopened) canned beans can be stored at room temperature in your pantry.
  • What’s in my pantry: Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, green lentils and a bean soup mix.


  • What to buy: Sweeteners, both refined and natural should be used at a minimum. When you do need a sweetener, it’s best to choose ones that are in their most natural, raw state.
  • How to use it: In tea, coffee and in all your favorite baking recipes. Coconut sugar is substituted in a 1:1 ratio. Up to 1 cup, honey can be subbed equally for sugar. Over one cup, use about 2/3-3/4 cup of honey for every cup of sugar. This will affect your liquids, however, so remember to reduce by 1/4 c for every cup.
  • How to store it: All can be stored in your pantry, except for maple syrup which needs to be stored in your refrigerator once it’s opened.
  • What’s in my pantry: Organic coconut sugar, 100% maple syrup and raw honey are my favorite sweeteners. I very rarely use stevia or organic Turbinado Sugar (for my occasional coffee drink) but have it on hand as well as blackstrap molasses and brown rice syrup.


  • What to buy: Keep all of your baking and cooking essentials on hand at all times. I like to bulk bake muffins, pancakes and other baked goods and freeze them. They make fabulous snacks, lunches and are great for breakfast on the go.
  • How to use it: In all your homemade baking recipes. Throw away those boxed mixes. Homemade is where it’s at!
  • How to store it: In a cupboard or pantry.
  • What’s in my pantry: Baking soda, aluminum free baking powder, organic vanilla, organic unsweetened cocoa powder, cocao powder (notice the difference in spelling. They are two separate items), arrowroot powder, organic cornstarch, organic cold pressed olive oil, organic canola oil (only for occasional baked goods), organic extra virgin coconut oil, Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar (I’ll replace with brown rice vinegar once it’s gone), balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar.


  • What to buy: Buy a wide variety to “spice up” any meal. (I know. I’m cheesy.)
  • How to use it: In all your baking or cooking. Don’t be shy to try lots of different spices to find a flavor that you like.
  • How to store it: In a cupboard or pantry away from the heat of your oven or stove top.
  • What’s in my pantry: Himalayan sea salt, kosher salt, sea salt, ground pepper, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger, whole cloves and ground cloves, cardamom, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, dill, basil, oregano, Italian spices, wasabi powder, cayenne, garam masala, bay leaves and thyme.

Miscellaneous items in my pantry

  • Raisins, goji berries, dried mango, canned coconut milk, cereals (Ezekiel sprouted whole grain cereal, Trader Joe’s bite sized shredded wheat, Uncle Sam original cereal, Cascadian Farms multi grain squares and Joe’s O’s), homemade granola, homemade muesli, jars of cashew and peanut butter (made with one ingredient and used if I get in a pinch and don’t make my own), rice sticks, can of wild caught tuna (hubs likes this every now and then), silken tofu, diced tomatoes, no salt tomato sauce (in case I’m in a pinch and can’t make my own), low sodium veggie broth, organic ketchup, unsweetened organic applesauce (made with just apples), nutritional yeast, organic popcorn kernels, raw cocao nibs and, of course, vegan chocolate chips.

Hopefully this is helpful in beginning to stock your pantry real food style. Don’t forget to check out some real food snack ideas and how to stock your fridge/freezer.

Until next time, keep it real.

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