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Help for Obese Kids?

The other day I was responding to a question that went something like this.

If you could give 1 health tip designed to decrease childhood obesity, what would it be?

After thinking about it for a minute, I realized that I would give this health tip to anyone, assuming I could only give 1, and assuming that the person would have to follow it.

That last part is important because everyone is different, and before I start spouting off cookie cutter health tips I need to determine where a particular person is coming from. I also have to determine what kind of commitment a person has, since we may need to start small, and work our way up to something more substantial. For example, an athlete may be willing to do anything to gain the smallest improvement in performance, while a sedentary office worker may not even be willing to give up fast food. I am usually willing to work with what I have.

So this particular answer assumed the person absolutely had to follow the advice like it was some kind of good curse that could not be broken. If the instruction weren’t followed, the person would turn into a pillar of salt, or in this case, a pillar of fat might be more appropriate.

Anyway, the answer I gave was this: Change your diet by eating Only Real Food.

Not profound enough for you? I hope that doesn’t sound easy, because if it does, then you likely have no idea what it means to only eat real food, and how difficult it might actually be. So first I’ll define what I meant by real food.

There is no actual definition of real food that I am aware of, but there are general rules I use when trying to figure out if something is actual food or not. For one, most real food won’t need a nutritional label, since it is what it is. There are no ingredients listed on an apple. It’s just an apple. Same with almonds. They are almonds. Chicken is chicken.

If it has a large list of ingredients it’s probably highly processed. This is what some would call a “food product”, and not real food. These “food products” are exactly what I was trying to avoid. Basically, if it’s a processed food product, then it is not real food.

In some cases, differentiating between food and food product may be difficult, but below is a list of things to look for. If it falls under one of the following categories, then it’s probably not real food.

  1. It has a nutritional label with more than 5 ingredients.
  2. It has high fructose corn syrup listed in the ingredients
  3. It has partially hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredients
  4. It has natural or artificial flavors listed in the ingredients
  5. It has food coloring
  6. It’s made with refined grains.

So I’ve basically just killed the soda, twinkies, candy, ice cream, packaged sweets, frozen packaged dinners and snacks, white bread and white pasta. All of these things have either been processed to the point that most nutritional value has been removed, or have been filled with strange chemicals that cannot be pronounced by most humans.

There are exceptions of course. You can probably find a spaghetti sauce at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that has more than 5 ingredients, but would be considered real food, since all of the ingredients are real foods themselves like dried peppers and dehydrated onions, and may be sweetened with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. You have to use common sense.

What’s left over after taking away the processed foods is mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, beans, and meat. You can also find chips that are in the real food categories, corn tortillas, and even home made chocolate chip cookies, assuming you use whole wheat flour and chocolate chips made with real chocolate. So it’s not like this diet would be unreasonable.

So this is my challenge to anyone reading this. Try to go 1 week only eating real food. You can’t do it, but if you could, you would be better for it.

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