Well, the new year is upon us, and what better time to try to change every last aspect of your life for the better and finally fix everything you’ve said for years that you would, right? I kid, I kid…but really, though, I do find the new year good inspiration for starting fresh on goals. I think the key is just to make the goals attainable. That’s what I love about the traditional foods diet: it’s both a healthy goal and is also attainable.
What is a traditional foods diet?
So you could call this diet by several names, a traditional foods diet, whole foods, real food, etc. But there are basically three keys to understanding the traditional foods diet.
1. No more processed foods.
One of the most important keys to eating a traditional diet is to stop buying processed foods and only get things that contain whole ingredients. So think ingredients rather than products.
This doesn’t mean you can’t buy anything that has been made ahead of time, but you do need to be conscious of what those things are and check the ingredients to make sure that they contain only whole foods ingredients.
2. Use the best quality ingredients you can.
Not only do you want to find unprocessed, whole foods, but you want to get these foods in the best form that you can. So what that means varies depending on the food, but generally speaking that would be organic, grass-fed, unrefined, raw, etc.
3. Prepare your foods using traditional methods.
To truly follow a traditional foods diet you have to take it another step beyond just buying better ingredients, although that is a great place to start. It also matters how you prepare the ingredients that you get.
When I mention traditional methods of preparation what I am referring to are things like soaking, sprouting, or fermenting beans, nuts, and grains and adding in things like fermented produce or dairy as you can.
The reason you want to do these things is because it’s often not enough to simply buy good quality ingredients and call it a day. Some foods that you would typically think of as healthy (whole grain bread, quinoa, beans, etc) are actually kind of hard to digest. That’s part of why you see so many people nowadays with food sensitivities.
Using traditional cooking methods helps to optimize a food’s nutritional value and make them easier to digest.
Here are some of the main whole foods categories to give you an idea of how it works:
Conventional meat is not the healthiest. The living conditions of the animals are often pretty bad, and their diets don’t lend themselves to health, either (they usually include soy and corn).
When it comes to buying quality, whole foods it is therefore important to source beef that has been grass-fed (and grass-finished) and, in the case of pigs and chickens, were pastured. Pastured is different than grass-fed because pigs and chickens also forage for things like insects so are not solely grass-fed.
If you can get your meat locally that is also a plus because then you can know where your meat is coming from and support local farmers. Another way to get better meat is by ordering it or maybe even starting a meat subscription box from a website like Crowd Cow (use this link for $25 off your first order).
In regards to dairy, to eat a whole foods diet the focus should be on consuming raw, grass-fed dairy products. Now, if your response to this is to think that’s only the sort of thing that hippies do and that consuming raw milk a stupid risk to take just hear me out.
I know people generally think that pasteurized is better for you because it’s safer, and yes, technically it is safer. You are around 9 times more likely to get sick from drinking unpasteurized as pasteurized. But that is a difference between a 1 in 888,000 chance versus a 1 in 94,000 chance.
Well, according to the National Safety Council you have a 1 in 106 chance of dying in a car crash. Yet we all still drive cars. So honestly, the risks are pretty minimal. The rewards of drinking raw milk, however, are pretty great.
When milk is pasteurized this basically kills off all of the nutrients that are good for you along with anything that is potentially bad. This means that drinking conventional milk, nutrition-wise, is kind of worthless. Pasteurization also kills off the part of the milk that makes it easier to digest.
In a traditional foods diet produce should definitely play a prominent part. I think we all know that in order to be healthy we should be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If you are able to source your produce from local farmers through a CSA (community supported agriculture) or through farmers markets that is a great option, though this is not always possible.
Personally, I just try to get quality fruits and vegetables from good grocery stores and follow the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists.
The thing about foods like whole grains, rice, quinoa, beans, and so on that are typically thought of as healthy is that while they are healthy, you are only getting all of their benefits if you are preparing them right.
In order to prepare these foods for better digestion, all you really have to do is pick a preparation method. When it comes to wheat you can either sprout the wheat berries (or buy them already sprouted) if you have a grain mill to grind fresh flour or you can sour them with a sourdough starter.
For rice, quinoa, beans, and other legumes then you will want to either sprout them or soak them for 8 hours before cooking. Doing these things doesn’t take a whole lot of extra effort, but makes the foods much easier to digest by breaking down the outer bran that is meant to protect the food.
Using traditional cooking fats is actually healthy for you. Our bodies need fat so it’s not a good idea to try to cut all of that out of your diet. The key is just to use the right fats.
Fats such as grass-fed butter, grass-fed tallow, pastured pork lard, quality olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are all great choices for a traditional foods diet.
Just make sure to stay away from the conventional vegetable oils because those ones aren’t so healthy.
Why should you switch to traditional foods?
1. It’s healthier than other diets.
You’ll see a lot of diets use different aspects of the traditional foods diet, but I find this one to take a very holistic approach. I have never liked how most diets are so restricting in one way or another. This diet focuses on getting down to the source of what makes various foods good for us (buying quality ingredients and preparing them properly).
2. You don’t have to give up foods you like.
Do you have certain foods that you absolutely love but feel like you shouldn’t be eating because they aren’t healthy? Well, with the traditional foods diet there is probably a way to simply tweak that food so that you’re making it in a healthy way.
When making macaroni and cheese, for instance, you can swap out the noodles for a healthier variety (I like to use Jovial einkorn noodles which are made with the original, ancient wheat, einkorn) and use raw, grass-fed milk and cheese for the sauce. I also like to stir in some broccoli florets for added vegetables, and then you have yourself a whole, healthy meal!
3. It’s more sustainable.
I just don’t find other diets to be sustainable. I can go on a certain diet for a short period of time, but ultimately I’m going to eat what I want to eat. By doing more of a whole foods, traditional diet it doesn’t even really feel like you’re on a diet because you can eat many of the same things.
4. It’s better for the earth.
Generally when you are eating this kind of diet and buying more quality, grass-fed, organic types of ingredients then you will likely be purchasing more often from smaller farms that do a better job of taking care of the earth.
Conventional farming methods are hard on the earth, which is part of why the crops they produce aren’t as nutritious. The Bible actually tells us how to treat the earth when farming by doing things like leaving a field fallow for a period of time so that the soil can regenerate.
If you want to start eating in a way that takes better care of your body I would encourage you to consider switching over to a traditional foods diet. It is such a versatile, sustainable way of eating healthy as it really gets to the root of food health issues–ingredients and preparation.
I am so excited to share all that I am learning about this way of eating so be on the lookout for my next traditional eating post where I’ll be sharing some tips for how to switch your diet over!
If you’re looking for some help with how to meal plan more easily then check out my post The Ultimate Guide to Super Simple Meal Planning.
Here are some resources for more information and/or recipes for traditional eating:
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.