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.

My Top 5 Favorite Kitchen Appliances

my top 5 Favorite kitchen appliances

Today we are going to take a little sneak peak into my kitchen and look at all my recommendations for my favorite kitchen appliances.

I am not one that likes a lot of “gadgets” in my kitchen. I don’t have a lot of space so what I do have is sacred and reserved for only the best and most necessary appliances. And while I’m no expert on what is the “best,” I can at least attest to what works best for me.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

1. Vitamix 5200


This machine is nothing short of amazing. I can make smoothies, grind coffee beans, chop veggies, shred chicken, make hummus, knead bread (in the dry container), make bread crumbs, grind flours out of corn, oats and wheat berries, and most importantly, make “nice” cream. This machine does it all and it’s been going strong for almost 8 years. I take it on vacations with me and I’ve even thought of giving her a name. How do you like the name, Bessie? Too much?

2. Cuisinart 11-cup Food Processor

cuisinart food processor

I don’t pull out this machine very often as I mostly use my Vitamix for everything, but I am still glad I have it and use it enough to make it worth keeping around. Food processors come in larger and smaller capacities, but for what I use it for, I believe the 11-cup size is perfect. Not too big, not to small. Cuisinarts are built to last, too, as proven by my mother’s model that is probably just as old as me. It can do much of what the Vitamix can, so, if you can’t afford the higher price tag of the Vitamix, then a food processor is a great alternative.

3. Programmable Cook Crock Pot


Too busy running around to work, school and extra curricular activities to get a good, wholesome meal on the table for dinner? Then you need a Crock Pot. With a little prep in the morning, you can throw everything into the crockpot, walk away and in 6-8 hours have a hot meal ready to go. It works well on super busy nights when it seems like everyone is running in a different direction. I specifically like this programmable version because after the set cooking time it will turn down to the warm setting until you are ready to eat. The settings are simple enough while not being too “overly techy” for those of us who are technology challenged.

4. Presto Belgian Waffle Maker

waffle iron

There is nothing like fresh waffles on a Sunday morning. Topped with a simple fruit compote and served with some fresh squeezed orange juice … oh yeah. That’s what’s up. I often pull this out during the week as well to make a simple oat waffle before my kids run off to school. So much better than the frozen boxed kind full of sugar.

Admittedly, this is not the waffle maker I currently own. Right now I use a Proctor Silex Belgian Waffle Maker and it does a decent job for the money. But I included the Presto brand one because it’s what I used prior to the Proctor Silex machine. While, both are good machines in their price point, I have to say the Presto has a slight edge for me. I like the fact that you can flip it over and seemed to store slightly better in my cabinets. Either way, if you are looking for a waffle maker that doesn’t take up a ton of space, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, then this is your machine.

5. Aroma Rice Cooker

rice cooker

Again, I am so not a gadgety person, so I never ever thought I would have owned a rice cooker. But we got one as a free gift when we bought a massage chair. True story.  And while the massage chair is now sitting in storage, the rice cooker sure does get a lot of use.

Cooking rice, especially brown rice, is somewhat harder than expected. Unless you are able to find the “quick cook” variety I would strongly recommend you don’t attempt cooking brown rice on the stovetop. I have never been able to get it to turn out correctly no matter how long I leave it cooking. Spend the $30 and save yourself the frustration. And while I can no longer find the brand I own, this Aroma model gets great reviews and does all that mine can.

What are your favorite kitchen appliances?

Until next time, keep it real.

Our recommendations:

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 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.

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.

Real Food Rules


Real Food RulesHow can you make better choices when going to the grocery store? Follow these 10 simple real food rules.

Real Food Rules 

  1. Choose local/organic produce whenever possible.
    This means the produce has been grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce use the Dirty Dozen list to help you avoid the most contaminated. *Tip* when looking at a produce sticker, conventional produce starts with the number 4. Organic produce begins with a number 9 and genetically modified produce starts with a number 8.
  2. Opt for 100% whole wheat or whole grain products.
    Look for the word “whole” in the ingredients. (i.e. whole wheat flour instead of just wheat flour).
  3. Choose foods that are NOT genetically modified.
    Corn and soy are the 2 most genetically modified crops, so always buy organic when products contain either of these two ingredients.
  4. Do not buy foods that contain artificial ingredients, artificial flavors, dyes or preservatives.
  5. Choose sweeteners such as raw honey, 100% maple syrup, coconut sugar or stevia instead of white sugar. Dates also make a great natural sweetener.
  6. Drink water, tea, fresh pressed juices or whole food smoothies. Limit coffee. If you do enjoy coffee choose organic and fair trade.
  7. Shop local whenever possible.
    Join a CSA or visit your local farmers market. Better yet, go straight to the farm. Take a look around, ask lots of questions and learn exactly what you are eating.
  8. Buy foods with 5 or less ingredients.
    Make sure they are all ingredients you can pronounce and you would most likely have found in your great-grandmother’s pantry.
  9. If you choose to consume animal products, limit it to 1-2 times per week.
  10. Animal products:
    -Grass fed meat is best as cows were designed to eat grass not corn.
    -Buy meats that were raised without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or other drugs.
    -Avoid factory farmed meats.
    -Wild caught fish.
    -Eggs and chickens that are pasture raised.

Need more help figuring out how to eat real food? Start by making these simple real food swaps.

Until next time, keep it real.

Real Food Made Simple


Real Food Made Simple

If you simply google “real food” you will come up with no less than 808,000 articles on the subject. Most of them have one thing in common: they assume that you know everything about real food already. But I know most of you simply want to know “where do I begin?”  To someone that is new to real food or a family stuck in a junk food rut, just figuring it all out is overwhelming.

The learning curve is steep, so today we are keeping things extremely uncomplicated and talking about crazy simple things you can be doing to get started eating real food. Remember, it’s not about making huge changes overnight, sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

  1. Read labels but concentrate on the ingredient list. If it’s got more than 5 ingredients, refined/artificial sugars or flours or ingredients you can’t pronounce, you might want to reconsider throwing it in your cart.
  2. Start consuming more fresh produce.
  3. Stop buying low-fat/fat-free, sugar-free and/or low-calorie anything!
  4. Save all of your veggie scraps/ends and start making your own veggie broth.
  5. When baking, sub out 1/4-1/2 all-purpose flour for 1/4-1/2 cup whole grain flour.
  6. Use coconut sugar instead of “regular” sugar in recipes.
  7. Replace instant oatmeal with rolled oats. Doctor them up with 100% maple syrup, pumpkin puree, or make overnight oats.
  8. Eliminate soda and start drinking more water.  Try this fruit infused water for something different.
  9. Buy bread locally or make it yourself!  I used to be intimidated by making my own bread, but now I feel empowered by the fact that my easy go-to bread recipe has 5 ingredients rather than 35! If you are not ready to make your own, Great Harvest Bread Co. has a tasty Honey Whole Wheat bread you can try.
  10. Meal plan! (Are you tired of hearing me say this yet?!?!) Even if you only meal plan one meal it makes a HUGE difference. Use my favorite meal planner, Plan to Eat, to make it easy!

What are some struggles or successes are you having when trying to switch over to real food?

Until next time, keep it real.

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.

Green Smoothies 101: Why You Should Rotate Your Greens


Why You Should Rotate Your Greens

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the green smoothie. Adding more greens to your diet is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health. Chock full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein, antioxidants and more, greens are the shining star of your green smoothies and can help protect you from cancer, arthritis, heart disease, dementia and can even slow down your bodies aging process. Yet, when drinking green smoothies day after day, there is something you need to be aware of called “alkaloid buildup.”

All leafy greens contain alkaloids. Small amounts of toxins occur naturally in every leafy green (a defense mechanism for predators—you know, scary bunny rabbits and caterpillars). Tiny amounts of alkaloids cannot hurt you and may even strengthen the immune system. However, if you keep consuming the same leafy green for weeks on end, eventually the same types of alkaloids can build up in your body and cause unwanted symptoms of poisoning.

HELP! I’ve Never Rotated My Greens!

Settle down. There aren’t any stories making the evening news of people who are poisoning themselves with green smoothies. Sometimes I think people create controversy over healthy eating in general (when they should really be focusing on the people eating Big Macs day after day) which can create fear where it isn’t needed. Don’t sweat rotating your greens too much as alkaloid build up is rare and wouldn’t be something to send you to the doctor’s office. This is simply information to be aware of and as long as you are consciously rotating your greens from now on, you will be fine.

How Often Should I Rotate Greens?

Start by rotating your greens on a weekly basis. One week you might buy kale, the next you might buy spinach. Once you get the hang of it and want to make green smoothies a habit, (I know you will love them as much as us!) start rotating 2-3 greens per week. One week you might use spinach and kale the next week chard and romaine.

Leafy greens come from different “families.” Each family has their own DNA and minor amount of toxins. By eating from different families, you are eliminating toxin build up as well as getting varied nutrients from each.  You can rotate however you see fit, I choose to use 2 or so different greens each week.

To help you get started in mixing up your greens, here is a list of greens separated into family groups:


Spinach: A staple in most green smoothies, it’s a great starter green since it is classified as one of the “5 magic vegetables” leaving little to no taste when added to a green smoothie. It’s health benefits include cancer prevention, lowers blood pressure, asthma prevention, strengthens bones, improved vision, skin smoothing, reduces inflammation and more.

Chard: Chard is a colorful leaf which may have abilities to help stabilize blood sugar levels and may provide special benefits in the diets of individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Beet greens: The last time you bought beets, did you think to save the greens? Not many people do, but by throwing them away you are missing out on many nutrients. Besides being a good source of protein, phosphorus, and zinc, beet greens are also a great source of fiber. Studies have also shown the vitamin K in beet greens contains blood clotting properties, helps ward off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach, and a higher nutritional value than the beetroot itself.


Parsley: Used more than just a garnish, parsley is among some of the foods containing the highest concentration of myricetin (per 100 grams), a flavonol shown to have chemopreventive effects on skin cancer. Parsley is rich in many vitamins, including vitamin C,  B 12, K and A. This means parsley keeps your immune system strong, tones your bones and heals the nervous system.

Cilantro: Cilantro is good in more than just your guacamole. It has been found to suppress lead accumulation in rats, which gives promise for the use of cilantro to combat lead and other heavy metal toxicity. In addition, it has also been found to have an antibacterial effect against Salmonella making cilantro a great detoxifier.

Celery: Despite it being made up of mostly water, celery provides a fair amount of dietary fiber. Celery is also rich in vitamin K and contains folate, vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C. It can have a potentially potent flavor in smoothies, so make sure to use only a little bit and balance it out with a fruit.

Carrot tops: When you buy carrots, do not throw out the greens! Carrot tops are filled with chlorophyll, shown to fight against tumor growth and acts as a cleansing agent. To lessen the bitterness of their flavor, add a banana or two.


Romaine: Not typically thought of as a nutrient powerhouse, romaine lettuce has some heart healthy properties. It contains vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help prevent build up on artery walls and help lower cholesterol.

Dandelion greens: A serving of dandelion greens will give you near the amount of calcium as milk without having to touch dairy as well as other vitamins and nutrients. Bitter in taste, use a banana to help cancel it out.

Others in this family include butterhead, loose-leaf and crisp-head lettuce.


Kale: It’s no surprise that kale has been ranked as one of the world’s healthiest foods. One cup of kale packs 3 grams of protein and over 1000% more calcium than a cup of cooked spinach. You will most likely see either curly kale, lacianto, or red russian kale at your local store. Try them all, but start with only 1-2 leaves to your smoothies until you get used to the taste.

Collards: Maintaining a high intake of cruciferous vegetables has consistently been associated with lower cancer risks. High in vitamins A, C, calcium, iron, protein and fiber this green is not one that you want to miss out on.

Cabbage: Both the green and red cabbage made the “5 magic vegetables” list making them a great choice to add to your green smoothies. It’s another diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer fighter.

Bok choy: Also knows as “Chinese cabbage,” bok choy is best bought in the winter months. It’s taste is pretty mild and is wonderful in soups and mango pudding as well as your green smoothies.

Although pretty spicy in flavor, arugula, turnip greens, and mustard greens are also in this family and can be added to green smoothies in small amounts if you don’t mind the taste.

Spirulina – The “Other” Green

If you really want to take your green smoothies to the next level, try adding some Spirulina. Technically not a green that you would find growing in your garden, this blue-green microalgae is found in warm, fresh water bodies. It comes in a powdered form and is the world’s first superfood, and one of the most nutrient-rich foods on Earth.

Spirulina has between 55 and 70% protein (more than beef, chicken, and soybeans), 8 essential and 10 non-essential amino acids, as well as high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, phosphorus, nucleic acids RNA & DNA, chlorophyll. It helps improve the immune system, and provides exceptional support for the heart, liver, and kidneys. Spirulina is also a natural detoxifier, oxygenates the blood, and helps cleanse the body of toxins and other impurities that may be causing illnesses or other health complications.

Nuts_Spirulina_v04 (1)

Green smoothies can help change your health in extraordinary ways. I’d love to hear about your green smoothie praises or challenges and help you embrace the green smoothie habit.

Until next time, keep it real.

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.

5 Reasons to Start Meal Planning…TODAY!

5 Reasons to Start Meal Planning TodayDo you often find yourself at 5:00 scrambling to figure out what’s for dinner? Do you have the pizza shop on speed dial? Does prepackaged food take up more room in your refrigerator than real, fresh ingredients? If so, a long time tried and true trick of meal planning might be the answer to your mealtime woes.

I have to admit, I fought meal planning for many years. I’d tackle the task for a week or two scribbling our meal list for the week on the back of used envelopes, scraps of paper or on a dry erase board. I’d follow it for a few days then find I forgot to purchase ingredients for the next days meal or lose my envelope which I wrote everything on so I’d just end up bagging the whole idea all together. I’d serve cereal or PB & J sandwiches on nights when there wasn’t anything else in the house. I quickly found out that flying by the seat of my pants just doesn’t work.

I believe everyone has the right to real fresh foods at every meal. That will not happen unless you have, and stick to, a plan. You’ll hear me say over and over again that meal planning is absolutely ESSENTIAL in making a real food lifestyle work. Let’s look at 5 reasons you need to start meal planning…today!

  1. Saves you time
    A great benefit to meal planning is the time you will save during the week. I am able to prep and prepare for many meals in advance by just looking at what’s coming up on the calendar. Building in meals such as those prepared in a crock pot or eating up leftovers definitely helps to feel you are not constantly in the kitchen.
  2. Saves you money
    In my post Real Food on a Budget, I gave you some tips on how to make a real food life possible within the confines of your grocery budget. Buying only what you will need for the week eliminates impulse purchases at the grocery store or last minute take out when you don’t know what to eat for meals.
  3. Eat healthier meals
    This goes without saying, but whether you are a real food expert or just starting out, having a plan in place will keep you from buying convenience foods over real, fresh ingredients. Without a doubt, if there is no plan in place, you will probably choose foods that do nothing for your health just because they seem quick and easy.
  4. No waste
    I really try to cut down on waste whenever possible. So with meal planning I am able to plan my purchases and buy only what I know we need for that week. Leftovers are planned into the week as well so nothing gets shoved to the back of the refrigerator to be found months later. Eek!
  5. Less stress
    Before meal planning, without a doubt, one of the most stressful times for me was the dinner hour. My kids and husband come home from school and work hungry, and I’d have nothing planned, nothing defrosted and no ingredients that went together to form any type of proper dish. Having a written plan takes the uncertainty out of dinner time. I know which recipe to look at, what ingredients to use and how long it will take me to prepare the meal. Easy peasy!

Plan to Eat – Meal Planning Made Simple

It is our top priority to bring to you the best products and tools that will help you make a real food lifestyle possible in this busy, unreal world. There is a lot of confusing information out there, lots of companies to research and it takes a lot of time to figure it all out. My goal is to bring you only the best resources to help you along the way.

Because we are so passionate about the importance of meal planning, we have partnered with Plan to Eat. A simple, affordable organizational tool that makes meal time a breeze. All you do is copy recipes you love from the internet or input your own favorite family recipes yourself. Drag and drop them to your calendar and it will automatically create a shopping list for you. I have tried many methods of meal planning, and often fought the process because of the overwhelming burden of it hanging over my head each week. But, with Plan to Eat I find it so easy and it’s no longer a task I hate!

Use our link to try it for FREE for 30 days. After 30 days, if you love it, you can sign up for as little as $3.25/month. Having tried many different methods in the past that have failed miserably, I am confident you will find Plan to Eat to be a resource that actually works!

If you choose to sign up, either now or later, please do so through our affiliate link by clicking the image below.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat
Do you meal plan? What’s your favorite method? We’d love to hear!

Until next time, keep it real.

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 on a Budget

Real Food on a Budget

Feeding a family of 4 can be expensive. Feeding a family of 4 real, organic food can just about blow your budget if you are not careful. Most people will stop trying because they think it just cost too much, but in all actuality eating real food on a budget is very doable with a little planning. And while it may be a little more pricey upfront, buying good quality food is insurance for your future. You’ll get sick less, have fewer missed days at work and cut down on medications now and as you age. In my opinion, health is worth the extra cost.

There are several ways you can make a switch to real food without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look.

  1. Get cooking!
    Be aware of convenience vs. saving when shopping at the store. Those premade/prepackaged convenience foods we have all become accustom to don’t come without a hefty price tag. For example, a small container of sliced fruit can run you $3-4, while buying the whole fruit may cost you $2. With 5 minutes of time you will potentially save $2 and get nearly double the amount of fruit. Not only will you save money, but often times prepackaged foods require unwanted preservatives to be added to keep them fresher longer.There are a ton of items at the grocery store that are easy and cheap to make yourself. I make our muffins, breads, granola, nut butters, condiments, some salad dressings, dips, cakes, almond flour, almond milk and more from scratch. While I know it’s not always feasible to make everything from scratch, spending a little extra time in the kitchen can save a lot of money, and even better, you will know exactly what is going into your foods making for a healthier you!
  2. Buy locally and in season.  
    Buying local, in season produce not only taste better but cuts down on the overall environmental impact and supports small local farms. During peak season, we visit the local pick-your-own farms, pick way over what we will eat and I prepare, package and freeze the remaining produce. This way we can enjoy peaches, blueberries and other fruits all winter long without paying top dollar for out of season fruits that travel thousands of miles to my grocery store.
  3. Stock up.
    Whenever I find a staple item I use frequently on sale I typically buy more than what I need at that very moment. Items like flour, honey, maple syrup or oats all store easily and are used often in my home. Most fruits and veggies can be frozen as well, so if you find organic produce on sale make a large purchase and freeze.Likewise, if you do eat meat, you can plan large once-a-year purchase of pasture meats from local farmers. It might seem like a hefty price upfront, but over the long term it’s considerably cheaper to buy in bulk  The freezer is your friend.
  4. Get to know the “clean fifteen.”
    While it would be nice to buy all organic produce every time we are at the store, I know it’s not always accessible or affordable to do so. Luckily for us the Environmental Working Group has done a lot of research and organized a list of the most contaminated and uncontaminated produce. They call these lists the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” So if your budget doesn’t allow for ALL organic produce, try to stick to at least the Clean Fifteen. But, remember, even if you can only buy conventional produce, it is far better to do so than to buy prepackaged convenience foods.
  5. Plant an organic garden.
    What better way to save money than growing your own produce?! If you are short on space, at least try some potted plants or consider adding a small herb garden on your windowsill. You may even find a community garden in your area.
  6. Join a CSA
    We eat a lot of produce in our house. I mean a LOT! So last year when we joined our first CSA I thought a half share would be nothing for us to tackle each week. Let’s just say, even for us, eating a half share was sometimes a struggle. That gives you an idea of just how much produce you actually get for your money! Find a neighbor to split a share with. You’ll help support local farms for a great price!
  7. Don’t waste food. 
    Turn unused vegetable parts into veggie broth, run lemon peels with water on HIGH to clean a blender, soak orange peels in vinegar to make a homemade citrus all-purpose cleaner, crush egg shells or banana peels to fertilize plants, turn almond pulp into almond flour, freeze greens that are starting to go bad and add to smoothies, freeze the ends of bread and make breadcrumbs….in other words, don’t waste anything!
  8. Beans are your friend
    Good quality grass fed, humanely raised meat can be expensive, especially if you are eating it everyday. Cut down on meat to 1-2x’s per week and you will save big. Beans and lentils are an easy way to add protein to your meals and are very cheap! I love Dr. Fuhrman’s Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe or Engine 2’s Beans and Rice Extravaganza is easy and super duper yummy.
  9. Shop online or at a wholesale club.
    We are members at both Costco and BJ’s. With organic becoming more mainstream, wholesale clubs are stepping up to the demand as well. I have found organic chia seeds, quinoa, brown rice, hummus, fruits, veggies, vinegar, nuts, whole grain crackers, frozen produce, Kerrygold grass fed butter, spices, sunscreen, coconut sugar and more all at great bulk prices.Shopping online at sites like Amazon or Vitacost are a great place to start and find deals on your staple items. Not only will some items be cheaper, but they are delivered right to your door which keeps you from having to drive to multiple stores just to find the best deals. It’s a win/win!
  10. MEAL PLAN!
    Probably the MOST important task you can do to help your grocery budget is meal planning. Not only will you eliminate food waste, last minute trips to the grocery store and eating out, but you will get healthier meals on the table and spend far fewer dollars doing it. I admit I have not always been good about meal planning and struggled with finding time to actually sit down and do it. Since signing up for Plan to Eat, meal planning has become a breeze. Try it out FREE for 30 days and see how easy it will be!

Do you have any tips for eating real food frugally?

Until next time, keep it real.

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.

Simple Real Food Swaps

Simple Real Food SwapsEven when you are aware that making a switch to real food is the right thing to do, it can sometimes be a struggle. What do I buy? Where do I start? Does this fit within the rules? I know that confusion well, as I was once brand new to real food. It’s taken me 3 years of baby steps to get to where I am now. Each day I seem to learn something new which is a constant reminder that it’s a lifelong journey into a real food lifestyle, full of daily decisions to pick health over convenience.

The best way to dive into a processed food detox is to start replacing common foods with their real food counterparts. It’s pretty safe to say that any recipe you use can be turned into a healthy meal by just swapping out ingredients for their real food equivalents. Let’s take a look at some simple real food swaps you can start with.

  1. Artificial sweeteners and white sugar
    Over time, sweeteners have crept into a large variety of products such as salad dressings, boxed cereals, spaghetti sauce and flavored drinks. We can’t seem to get away from them and they are linked to a whole host of different problems including weight gain, headaches, depression, chronic fatigue and more. The good news is there are many other natural forms of sweeteners. Try raw honey (local if you can find it), coconut sugar, stevia or 100% pure maple syrup. As always, no matter what sweetener you choose, natural or not, consume in moderation.
  2. White flour
    Refined white flour has very few redeeming qualities as all the positive traits of the whole grain have been stripped away. When a recipe calls for flour, choose a whole grain flour instead. Whole wheat, white whole wheat, spelt flour, almond flour, oat flour, brown rice flour or coconut flour are all good alternatives. Often mixing a few flours will give the recipe a different flavor and consistency so some adjusting may be in order.
  3. White rice
    White rice, at one time looked exactly like brown rice, but has been stripped of iron, vitamins, zinc, magnesium and other nutrients during the refining process. Choose rice in it’s whole form by buying brown rice. Or better yet, try quinoa or make cauliflower rice for something different.
  4. Boxed cereal
    Many boxed cereals are loaded with preservatives, artificial colors, sugar, salt and empty calories. Opt for oatmeal which comes with a short ingredient list (just oats!) and will keep you full until lunchtime. Top it with fruit and nuts for an extra nutritional punch.
  5. Sugary snacks and chips
    When hunger strikes make sure that you have some smart choices on hand. Grab a handful of raw nuts and seeds, stove top popped popcorn, fruit or veggies. In a pinch you can also grab a Larabar which is made out of dates and nuts. Check out my list of 40 real food snacks for more ideas.
  6. Processed salad dressing
    Heading to the salad bar is a great choice for lunch but salad dressings are loaded with scary ingredients helping to prolong shelf life and give it that creamy consistency we all love. Try some balsamic vinegar or 1/4 of a mashed avocado mixed with 1/2 fresh lemon juiced and save yourself from the added junk offered up in your favorite bottled brand.
  7. Soda, bottled juice or sports drinks
    Hydration is important but before you go grabbing a can of soda, bottled sports drink or juice, remember it’s mostly filled with sugar. Go for water, fresh squeezed juice, green smoothies, pure coconut water or, for a special treat, try fruit-infused water.
  8. Flavored yogurt
    You will run into problems when you eat yogurt sweetened with added flavors. One cup of a “fruit sweetened” yogurt can have some 30 grams of sugar. That’s equal to 7-8 teaspoons! Instead, buy plain whole milk grass fed yogurt and sweeten it with local, raw honey. Better yet, skip the dairy and make a chia yogurt from 1 cup plant-based milk, 3 T chia seeds, 1 date and a splash of vanilla extract. Blend and chill for about 2 hours.
  9. Conventional meat and eggs
    Look for animal products that are local, pasture-raised, grass-fed, and antibiotic-, hormone-and pesticide-free. Stick with wild caught fish. Remember, animal products should only be eaten 1-2 times per week with plant foods making up the bulk of your diet.
  10. Iceberg Lettuce
    Aside of it’s water content, iceberg lettuce just doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Choosing greens that are dark and vibrant provide you with more vitamins and nutrients to fuel your body. I’ve always been a big fan of adding more greens to our diet so start experimenting and find your favorites!

Everyday you have the power to chose how you will fuel your body. Making simple switches like these can help transitioning to a real food lifestyle much 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 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.