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“Honey, we’re out of lard.”
“No problem, I’ll just render some tomorrow.”

Said no one ever, right? Except in my house, this is a commonly overheard exchange. My friends joke that our home is the land of “Said No One Ever”, and I’m OK with that. Why? No, we’re not trapped in a 1940’s time warp. It’s because my kitchen is a nourishing Real Food kitchen.

If you’re here, then you may have already heard of the nourishing Real Food diet, interchangeably with Primal and Paleo. If you are a newbie of the nourishing persuasion, then the next two posts are for you! I’m going to give you the who, what and why of my Ten Pillars of Real Food, and show you how you can get started incorporating it into your lifestyle.

Students, class is now in session. It’s time for…

Real Food 101 - Featured - Maverick Mama

Real Food 101: So, what is Real Food anyway?

Here’s a great definition of Real Food that I think sums it up quite nicely:

[perfect_quotes id=”452″]

Much of the Real Food philosophy is grounded in the research of Weston A. Price, a visionary dentist and nutrition expert who observed ancient, traditional cultures and linked their clean, unprocessed diets to their radiant health. Unlike Weight Watchers, South Beach and endless other diets that rely upon pills, shakes and packaged meals,

Real Food is a lifestyle that will provide the clean-burning fuel your body needs to perform its best throughout the course of your life. It doesn’t come in a box, can or pill. Pleasant side effects may include weight loss, clearer skin, increased energy and a stronger immune system. Ya pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? Sweet! Then let’s get cracking on the first six Pillars of Real Food:

Pillar #1: Real Food Is Born of the Earth, Not a Test Tube

Test Tube Food - Real Food 101 - Maverick Mama

Did your food come from one of these?

The Real Food diet is one our ancestors thrived upon for thousands of years before the industrial revolution. The food they ate was unprocessed, unrefined, unhydrogenated and unmarketed. If you peek inside our pantry, you won’t find any brand names with a annoying jingle or manic cartoon character. I try to avoid any products with the words “Instant”, “Quick” or “EZ”.

Instead, our refrigerator is stocked with mostly local and seasonal whole fruits, vegetables, eggs and meats. Real Food is extremely nutrient-dense, meaning you are getting the maximum nutritional value ounce-for-ounce.

I seek out small, family-owned businesses over food produced by the same conglomerates that make cigarettes (you know who you are.) Is Real Food more expensive and tougher to find? Honestly, yes. Is it worth it?


Pillar #2: Real Food Respects Your Body

Last time you were watching Planet Earth, did you spy any chubby cheetahs slogging around the Serengeti, or mountain lions with a muffin top? No? Well, that’s because in their native environment, wild animals eat the exact type and amount of food they have evolved to digest and fuel their bodies. You don’t see Mr. Cheetah belly-up and bloated after downing a box of Big Kitty Kibble.

The American food supply chain has grown capable of producing such vast quantities of processed “food” at cheap prices that we’ve forgotten how to judge our limits at each meal. If you’ve seen Supersize Me, you know what I’m talking about. Think about how you felt the last time ordered the family-style portion of penne vodka at Carmine’s. Real food is about quality over quantity, and it treats your body like the temple it is.

Pillar #3: Real Food is Naturally and Sustainably Grown Fruits and Vegetables

I probably don’t have to sell you hard on this one. There is a growing body of evidence showing correlations between GMO and pesticide-riddled crops and a host of health problems including autoimmune disorders, autism and a host of other human, environmental and economic issues.

Des GMO, I prefer not to take my chances with produce that’s been intentionally infected with bacteria designed to reprogram its DNA to synthesize its own pesticide. This pesticide is designed to explode the stomach of insects once ingested. Guess what other “bugs” these pesticides explode?

Your gut bugs. As in, your delicate microbiome, designed to keep your immune and brain in equilibrium. No thanks. Eating organic produce not only ensures minimal exposure to these environmental toxins but also supports the balanced cultivation of our dying farmland.

Pillar #4: Real Food is Happy Meat, Poultry, and Fish

Grazing - Real Food 101 - Maverick Mama

Happy animals make happy meat.

You might already be buying meat and eggs labeled “organic”, but do you know what that actually means? An organic meat label simply means that the animal’s feed was not sprayed with pesticides, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the animals lived their lives the way nature intended.

Real Food meat is grass-fed (applies to beef) or pastured (applies to pork and poultry), meaning the livestock had free access to their natural menu of grass and grubs, sunlight and fresh air. This lifestyle creates meat that is chock full of Vitamins B12, D3 and other essential nutrients only naturally found in animal sources. It also reduces the stress of the livestock during its life, which results in more tender flesh.

Same goes for fish: salmon and tuna that is wild-caught contain vastly higher amounts of Omega-3, while limiting mercury and other environmental toxins. Remember this: Happy meat is tasty, healthy meat.

Whoever coined the term “The Incredible Edible Egg” was on to something. In order to fully reap the benefits of eggs, they should come from pastured chickens happily foraging for sticks and grubs (not corn and soy). Pastured eggs contain up to 2/3 more Vitamin A, double the Omega-3 and 6 times more Vitamin D than conventional eggs! [source] That’s music to a categorically Vitamin D-deficient population’s ears. And guess what: most of that nutritional gold is found in that golden center:

And guess what: most of that nutritional gold is found in that golden center: the yolk. You know, that thing we throw out when ordering a “low-fat” egg-white omelet? Yes, pastured eggs main run you up to $8 a dozen, but think about the last time you dropped $6 on a triple-venti-red-eye-frappa-wappacino at Starbucks without batting a lash. For the same dough, you are getting 12 beautiful, nutrient-dense

For the same dough, you are getting 12 beautiful, nutrient-dense health soldiers waiting to fill your belly with eggy love. We buy our pastured eggs at $4 a dozen from a little farm a few minutes from our house, so it doesn’t get any more local, economical and healthy than that!

Real food also means making use of the entire animal. It’s sad to imagine the colossal waste created by our insatiable appetite for pre-packaged chicken breasts, when the animal organs, fats and even feet can provide invaluable nutrients for our bodies. The bones of healthy animals can be used to create a super cheap, nutrient powerhouse known as…the bone broth. More on that in a future post!

Pillar #5: Real Food is Fermented and Naturally Probiotic-Rich

Fermented Food - Real Food 101 - Maverick Mama


You may have already heard that much of our immune system resides in our gut, the labyrinthine network of stomach and intestinal tissue; did you know gut health is linked to proper brain function?  Real Food enables us to keep our gut health balanced through the friendly bacteria in fermented vegetables and beverages. This includes yogurt, raw sauerkraut, pickles, water kefir and kombucha. The best part?

This includes yogurt, raw sauerkraut, pickles, water kefir and kombucha. The best part? Vegetables are really simple and cheap to ferment at home, and fermented drinks provide amazing health benefits with a tangy twist. You like soda? Try a homemade fizzy kefir lemonade. Hankering for a milkshake? Indulge in a glass of creamy, probiotic-rich strawberry milk kefir.

 Pillar #6: Real Food is Grass-Fed and Raw Dairy

Ok, this one may not go down so easy, but hear me out. You probably already buy organic cow’s milk, which again is a great start, but only goes so far. Full-fat milk from grass-fed cows and goats, on the other hand, is loaded with more Omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than any other milk. Notice I said full-fat; the phrases “low-fat” and “skim” do not apply to the Real Food lifestyle, so let’s set those aside for a moment. Now, let’s talk about…

Dairy - Real Food 101 - Maverick Mama

Is your dairy doing your body good?


The advent of pasteurization has had several implications on American health: first, it did reduce the chance infection from pathogenic bacteria. However, it also killed something essential for humans to actually digest the lactose in milk, which is lactase. Raw dairy contains the lactase we require for digestion, and its removal through pasteurization has possibly ignited a disturbing trend in lactose intolerance. So while pasteurized milk that’s flown across the country from a conventional dairy may be “safer” to drink , it has been transformed into a potential food intolerance. This is critical knowledge, especially for children whose first liquids are mostly based

So while pasteurized milk that’s flown across the country from a conventional dairy may be “safer” to drink , it has been transformed into a potential food intolerance. This is critical knowledge, especially for children whose first liquids are mostly based upon pasteurized cow’s milk. Children today face more food allergies and intolerances than any generation before, and lactose intolerance plays a major role.

However…I’ll admit that raw milk is one real food arena I have yet to dabble in, the primary reason being that the sale of raw milk is banned in New Jersey. This prevents regulations from governing the hygiene standards of raw dairy farms. I myself am dairy-free at the moment, but I do buy VAT-pasteurized 100% grass-fed milk for the Judgey Bear’s homemade yogurt.

VAT pasteurization uses the minimum heat required to kill most pathogens while retaining as many beneficial enzymes as possible. If you live in NJ and wish to support the campaign for sale of raw dairy, you can download and mail in a signed Garden State Raw Milk petition. I did, only because I think New Jersey citizens should be able to make the choice for themselves!

Should raw dairy become legal in the Garden State and we decide to take the plunge, I won’t be pulling random raw milk off the ShopRite dairy shelf. The law is in place to protect citizens from being sickened by contaminated milk, and forging a relationship with a local raw dairy farmer to understand their hygiene measures is a crucial insurance policy. My advice is to thoroughly conduct your own research and trust your judgment for yourself and your family.


For such unprocessed subject matter, that is a LOT to process. Hop on over to Part 2 of this Real Food 101 primer, where we’ll cover the next four exciting and a bit more controversial Pillars of Real Food. In the meantime, check out my Real Food Shopping Guide for a one-stop shop of all of the foods I just talked about.

One thing I want to say is, adopting a Real Food lifestyle is a journey, not an overnight stay. Don’t get too stressed that all your food isn’t perfect; take it one step at a time and make changes at your own pace. I would love to hear your questions and thoughts about the first six Real Food Pillars!

And that’s my real food for thought.


Photo credits:
Real food: / Lewis Clarke
Cows: Flickr / Tony the Misfit
Test tube: Flickr / r. nial bradshaw
Pickles: Flickr / Maya 83
Milk: Flickr / Shards of Blue

My Personal Wellness Saga, Part II
Real Food 101 for Nourishing Newbies {Part 2}
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Lea, The Maverick Mama

Head Chef at MavericKitchen
Lea is Head Chef of MavericKitchen, where she offers real food for thought on healing nutrition, holistic health, and progressive parenting. She is a seasoned digital marketer and doting mother of the monolithic Judgey Bear, her delicious deputy in smoking out sneaky toxins in the food we eat and products we use. She lives in the gardens of New Jersey where she feverishly hunts down elusive farmers’ markets and pastured egg purveyors.