The Real Food Diet: Eliminating

When I introduced the idea of The Real Food Diet, there was understandably some confusion and skepticism. Sounds a bit too good to be true, no? Husband most certainly thinks so, and the majority of people that I’ve talked to about it have expressed similar reservations.

The other thing I’ve found is that a lot of people say “Oh I already eat that way”, but really, they don’t. It’s not a competition on who does it best, and really I don’t care how they eat, but I think their assumption that they are already eating “the Nina way” stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the diet is all about.If it is a food altered from it’s original state, or includes ingredients not found in nature, it’s not “real”. Graham crackers? Out. Pretty much every kind of cracker? Out. Laughing cow wedges? Out. Every single type of chip you can imagine? Out. Margarine? Out. Lowfat yogurt? Popsicles? Anything other than 100% whole wheat bread? Flour tortillas? White rice? Fruit snacks? Anything other than whole wheat pasta? Cereals containing some form of corn oil (most do)? Out. Out. Out. Out. Out.

All of the above listed are things I used to eat on a somewhat regular basis. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had any of these things since I first read Nina’s book, but like anyone trying a new eating plan, I’m doing my best to avoid and minimize them in any way.

Overall I’ve attempted to eliminate 4 things that have really revolutionized my diet.

Trans Fats

This one should come as no surprise to anyone. If you haven’t eliminated Trans Fats from your diet you should do so immediately, no matter what you believe about The Real Food Diet. Trans fats = bad. You know what item is filled with Trans Fats? Chow Mein Noodles like these . I was so sad when I realized this as the Mormon staple dish called “Hawaiin Haystacks” was one of my favorites growing up.

Paritally and Fully Hydrogenated Oils

Oh those sneaky food manufacturers. They always know how to find the loopholes! Did you know that under the new guidelines Trans Fats only have to be declared present in a food if the product in question has more than .5 grams of Trans Fat per serving. What’s the best way to get around the rule then? Change your serving size! I urge you to go into your kitchen right now and read the ingredient list of every single food item you have. Did you know most peanut butters have hydrogenated oils, and thus Trans Fat? That’s why graham crackers are out. I never pick up a single thing at the grocery store anymore (unless it’s produce) without reading the label. I learned that lesson when I brought home a container of trail mix and realized that the raisins found inside were coated with hydrogenated oil.

Now on to the ingredients eliminated that modern science might disagree with!

Plant Sterols

It’s industrial, so it’s no surprise that Nina advocates staying away from plant sterols. The ADA loves them, but did you know that Plant Sterols were once regarded as mere waste products of the wood pulping or soybean industries? According to the Weston Price Foundation:

As reported in the BMJ, sterols can trigger adverse reactions in people taking statin drugs. This occurs because both sterols and statins lower cholesterol, thus causing potentially dangerous dosage problems. In addition, plant sterols can increase heart disease risk by thickening the arteries. Consumers should also be concerned about hormonal disruption, as sterols are estrogenic. In Australia and New Zealand, sterol-containing “functional foods” must carry warning labels advising against their use by pregnant women and children.

All authorities, including the FDA, should publicly and conspicuously warn consumers that phytosterol-containing products are unsuitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and for infants and children. This is because they accumulate in the fetus by transplacental transfer.17, 18 As they are fat-soluble, they can be found in breastmilk.Studies have shown that phyto- sterols have adverse effects in ovarian structures, and also alter follicular development;19 they work synergistically with the natural hormone estradiol to promote anabolic effects,20 and to alter the sexual balance of the neonate’s brain. It is an accepted axiom that “the hormonal environment during the critical period exerts permanent organizational effects that may affect the behavior in adult animals.”21

I won’t be eating them even after the baby comes, but if you are pregnant or nursing, you might want to think about avoiding them as well.

Vegetable oils

This includes corn, vegetable, safflower, sunflower, and soybean. I find the argument against such oils rather compelling when obesity rates are compared to those of other countries around the world, and when one considers the immense amount of vegetable oil Americans consume, especially corn and soybean oils. Corn has been taking a particular hit lately, lampooned in the documentaries Food, Inc., and King Corn, both of which I watched recently on Netflix on Demand. Michael Pollan is one of the most recognized opponents of the overconsumption of corn in the US, and I agree with the things he says below:

Q. You look at the three food chains which sustain us: industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we hunt and gather. In industrial food, corn is king. Why is corn so important to the modern food industry?

To try to understand how we got into this predicament, and how we might get out of it, I decided to do some detective work, tracing a handful of the most common foods in our diet back to their source in nature. I quickly realized there are several different food chains in America, but the biggest and most important food chain—the one that feeds most of us most of the time—is based on a remarkably small number of plants, most notably corn. This was a revelation to me: if you follow a Big Mac or a Coca-Cola or a Twinkie or a box of breakfast cereal or virtually any snack food or soft drink back to its ultimate source you will find yourself, as I did, in a cornfield somewhere in Iowa. Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the beef; is refined into the high fructose syrup that sweetens the soda; is shaped into the Fruity Pebbles or distilled into any one of the hundreds of food additives in our processed foods. Of the thirty-eight ingredients in the chicken nugget, no fewer than eighteen of them come from corn. The Mexicans have always called themselves “the people of corn” but in fact, now, it is we Americans who deserve that label—without even realizing it we have become the corniest people on earth.

That’s not just a conceit, either. If you take a snip of hair or a nail clipping from an American and run it through a mass spectrometer, as I have done, you will discover that most of the carbon in his or her body (and we consist mostly of atoms of carbon) originally came from corn. We’re even cornier than the Mexicans, who still sweeten their sodas with cane sugar and feed their cows on grass. As the biologist who did some of these experiments for me put it, “to the machine, we look like corn chips on legs.” This plant has not only colonized our land—80 million acres of it—and our food supply, but it has literally colonized our bodies.

Q. What are the implications of eating so much corn?

There are several reasons it’s not a good idea to base your whole diet around a single species. First, we are omnivores, designed by evolution to consume a wide variety of nutrients and micronutrients. The need for a diverse diet is built into our biology, and there are all sorts of important nutrients we simply can’t get from corn. To turn a bushel of corn into so many different foods involves a lot of processing, and processing diminishes the nutritional value of any food. We’re finding that people who eat an exclusively fast food diet (highly processed corn-based food) not only get fat but are actually malnourished, because they’re not getting the essential micronutrients present in fruits and vegetables. Overweight inner city kids are showing up in health clinics with rickets!

Second, growing all that corn is disastrous for the environment. Corn is, as farmers say, a greedy plant, requiring more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop—nitrogen that runs off the fields into the water and has created a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that is now the size of New Jersey. It also requires more pesticides, so all that corn we’re growing is polluting the environment. Feeding livestock corn on feedlots produces huge amounts of pollution too, not to mention misery in animals which, like the cow, were never designed to eat a corn diet. It makes them so sick we have to feed them antibiotics.

Finally, it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, as the Irish learned in 1845 when the Potato Famine hit. The Irish had a relationship with potatoes much like our relationship with corn—it was the mainstay of their agriculture and their diet. Monocultures are inherently precarious, which is why you don’t find them ordinarily in nature. When blight hit the Irish potato crop, it was decimated overnight, and a million Irishmen starved. We’re tempting fate by basing so much of our food supply on a single plant. A more diversified agriculture would be much more secure as well as healthier. (Source)

Vegetable oils are made up of polyunsaturated fats, which the Weston Price foundation has detailed some of the dangers of here.

Eliminating vegetable oils from my diet was certainly the toughest step I had to take. In fact I think it’s impossible and so I should probably say I’m working to severely limit them. Grocery shopping takes much longer now as I spend the majority of my time scanning labels looking for any sign of vegetable oils, and often trying to decide if the offensive oil in question is far enough down the ingredient list to make it something I feel okay buying. Out of all of the things I’ve eliminated, I consider this to be the number one reason why most people aren’t following a “Real Food” or “Traditional Food” diet. Again, go to your pantry and start reading through your pantry ingredient lists. I was shocked at how many things are packed full of vegetable oils!

I’m also working to limit several other foods (admittedly, with varying success), including:

White flour


Carbage (carb garbage)

Attempting to buy organic produce when it comes to The Dirty Dozen (when our teeny tiny food budget allows)

High Fructose Corn Syrup

I don’t think anyone can argue that my diet is better off without these things. Well except firm believers in the benefits of plant sterols and the producers of vegetable oils. I’m hoping for good cholesterol levels in my future so that my kids can consume diets low in the above ingredients as well.

Next week? Ingredients I re-introduced. (Whole milk!)

The Real Food Diet: Introduction

I’ve been hinting at my new approach to eating for weeks now, but as with all serious posts it has taken me awhile to get there because I only have so much time in a week to sit down and type out these high-quality posts.* I wanted to introduce you to my midwife, and my insecurities about my weight, and a host of other things first, but I’ve dragged this out long enough and it’s time to stop teasing those who are curious and tell you all about my new lifestyle.

I was introduced to Nina Planck and her very unique views concerning nutrition (by todays American standards) through an article publish by FitPregnancy magazine (thanks to Kelli Nicole for that treat in my mailbox each month!). The magazine cover announced the header with the usual gimmicky headlines “EAT REAL FOOD: The very best prenatal diet”, but the article title that stated “Simple, fresh, unprocessed foods are your best choices during prenancy. A new book explains it all” made it sound a little bit less like a fad, and a lot more like something I would be interested in.

Although I think raw and vegan diets can certainly be a great choice for some, they’ve never appealed to me as I’m a lover of dairy and the calcium it provides. Milk and meat are my favorite parts of my diet and I have no interest in cutting them out anytime soon, especially during pregnancy, a time when iron and calcium are vital for a developing baby. I grew up in a family of dieters, and the one thing I’ve held firm to is that saturated fat is bad, bad, bad. Meat and milk were always present in our house, but our choices were always the leanest meats and dairy products. I drank whole milk (unpasteurized, delicious!) and ate butter on my toast at my grandma’s dairy as an indulgence, but generally my dairy intake consisted of fat free milk/yogurt/sour cream, throwing away the yolks and only keeping the whites, limiting my cheese intake to the least amount possible, and other typical American practices when it comes to dairy. My dietary focuses were low -fat, high amounts of lean protein, and as many whole grains as possible, although I spent most of my energy focusing on fats and protein so carbohydrates and vegetables often took a backseat. Nina took all of that and turned it right on its head, and I love the changes I’ve made and the new way I’m approaching my diet.

Nina defines real food as old and traditional. Meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, berries, potatoes, leaves, lentils, chickpeas, honey, sea salt and all other old foods should be emphasized in one’s diet. Dishes and recipes made with real food like mayonnaise, sausage, dark chocolate, whole grain bread, coffee, tea, wine and beer.

The antithesis of real food is industrialized food, ingredients and recipes introduced into our diet within the last few hundred years. Nina cites white sugar (1600’s), margarine made from vegetable oil (1900s), and corn syrup (1970s). She believes that real food is whole and fresh, while industrial food gives us spray-dried skim milk, powder and pasteurized egg whites, and cattle fed on grain instead of grass. Soybean juice flavored with brown rice syrup and vanilla, vegetable oil mixed with orange dye and other additives and labeled as cheese, corn oil pumped full of hydrogen atoms to keep it solid and sold as the replacement for butter. High-protein bars, low-carb bread, low-fat diary products like cheese, those are all industrial.

The easiest way to know if an ingredient is real or industrialized? Use the great-grandparents test. Did your great-grandparents have access to this ingredient? Did their parents? And their parents before them? If you can answer yes each time, then you’ve found a real food. Marshmallows, jello, yellow oils, hydrogenated oils. Those are new, and thus, industrial.

Sounds pretty easy to accept, right? Not so much. In a society where saturated fat is the ultimate devil, it can be hard to embrace the idea that modern science may not be keeping us alive any longer with the crusade against traditional fats. That Husband is still having a tough time with this, but I think the research that the Weston A. Price Foundation in defense of traditional foods is thought provoking. Read more about their viewpoint on fat here.

From Real Food For Mother and Baby:

Some real foods, such as red meat and butter, have been blamed for modern diseases, especially heart disease. More precisely, experts said that too much fat, and saturated fat in particular, was killing us. On close inspection, this theory, known as the lipid hypothesis, has some notable weaknesses. One problem is timing. We’ve been eating pork and butter for milennia, but heart disease is a modern problem. The first heart attack was diagnosed in 1912. Epidemiological evidence also contradicts the assertion that traditional foods cause chronic metabolic condition. People who (still) eat traditional diets, diets rich in real food–saturated coconut oil, whole milk, and red meat–don’t get fat. They don’t get diabetes and heart disease, either–that is, not until they switch to industrial foods, like white flour and corn oil.

We’ve got sat fat equals bad pretty deeply ingrained in our psyche, so it’s a pretty huge change to make in regards to one’s approach to nutrition. My next few posts will be on foods I’m working on eliminating, introducing (or reintroducing), and the different ingredients/nutrients I’m focusing on.

Anyone else heard of the diet the Real Food Diet? Following it like I am?

*I use the term high-quality loosely, as it seem a bit presumptuous to assume my own writing is high quality. 🙂

My Discectomy

The night before the surgery I was up late, a product of my nervousness and screwed up sleep schedule. I wasn’t actually nervous about the surgery, just the needle they would put in my hand for the IV.


Gotta get my last minute blogging done!


No contacts, no glasses, no jewelry, no makeup, no valuables, my crocs, and my Enders game/Dashboard Confessional sweatsuit.


That Husband took the day off (well, maybe he “worked from home” I’m still not sure). I told him he had to be there in case I died. I knew I wouldn’t actually die, and he knew that too, but it’s always a possibility when you have surgery, you know? I’m a fan of facing reality head on.


All smiles, even with that nasty IV in my arm. I think it’s because I might have been thinking that going braless, in a backless hospital gown, with no makeup and a green cap on my head was a good look for me. What say you?


Right before they wheeled me away, the Dr. came in to talk to us and answer any last minute questions. Too bad he didn’t realize that it would be a 15 minute visit with That Mom around. I really liked his answer for what he expected to find when he opened me up and looked at the disc. He asked if we had ever seen a tire run so bald that the outer lining had cracked and the inner tube was poking through. He was going to open up my back, move aside some ligament and bone, and snip off that “inner tube” poking out, and then stitch things up as best he could. As had been explained to me many times before a Discectomy is not performed to “fix” the bad disc, just to alleviate the pain I was having due to the “inner tube” pushing on my  nerve.

The operation went well (as far as I know) and when I got back I was apparently in a contemplative mood. What could I have been considering…

But look how well I was doing just moments after awaking from the anesthesia.


Oh wait, maybe not that well.

Man, this picture makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it.


This one too. I must have lain funny on my cheek causing it to feel a little bit swollen. Pointing this out was of the utmost importance.


And one more. Good thing that hot guy sitting across from me was already stuck with  me or he may have been reconsidering things at this point.


Once I stopped scratching and slobbering it was time for the pain chart. If you would like to read a heee-lareeous story about the pain chart, head over to my friend Darci’s blog.


Awww look at that lower lip poking out. This was a tough choice for me! I went with a 7.


What was the first thing I asked for? A kiss from my husband? A drink of water? Nope, the crackberry. I sent my first post-surgery tweet as soon as I could type one out.


Clothes on, crackberry in hand, smile on face, juice in belly. I think it’s time to scram!


In my first post back after the surgery I hinted that the diagnosis post-surgery was even worse than the news before. TH and TM filled me in on what the Dr. told them while I was drooling in the recovery room. Remember the inner tube poking out of a tiny crack? Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha. I go big or go home my friends. Who needs a crack when you can have an entire broken back wall? That’s right my friends, I basically have a big doggie door of a back wall, allowing the inner tube to squeeze on out.

For right now, things seem to be A-Ok. The leg pain that drove me to have the surgery hasn’t made an appearance yet (the surgery doesn’t come with any kind of guarantee that a positive result will be seen so I’ve been wary), and I’m hoping that the back pain I’m feeling now will go away in a week or two.

Unfortunately the doggie door diagnosis has larger implications for the future. The chances of me avoiding another surgery in the future seem slim, and the next one will involve removing the disc completely and fusing the spine. We pray that this doesn’t happen, but it’s a distinct possibility. I have a nasty, old, broken disc.

I left the hospital with a diaper patch on my lower back for a whole week. It was only after the week was over that I learned it was unnecessary to wear it for so long. I didn’t mind so much since it gave me an excuse to only shower two times in seven days. That’s a record even for me!


When I did shower I wore this fun little Aqua Guard. Aren’t these a genius idea? It had adhesive around the edges that didn’t sting when it was taken off. Those are the kind of scientific breakthroughs I can appreciate.


I wanted to show you a really nasty photo of my scar, but this is the best I can do. Is this gross? Should I have hidden this behind another photo? I didn’t think it was that bad.

Isn’t that tape induced border sweet?


I apologize to those of you who may have been overwhelmed or grossed out by this photo. It won’t happen again until the next back surgery. Or until I have children.

For the first week I was told to lift nothing more than 8 lbs, sit for no longer than 10 minutes at a time, and generally avoid anythin that made me say “ouch”. I was up on my feet within a few days, but only for about an hour each day. A week later my back feels sore when I sit for too long, stand for too long, or lay down for too long. I’m hoping this goes away soon.

I’m glad it’s over.

Period Suppression

One last post from the archives, but only because I want to talk about my period, fertility, birth control and other matter, and whenever I go to write a post I realize it would require a mention of this period suppression thing. Readers who’ve been with me since That Bride will have to forgive me since this is a post they’ve already seen.

The Weddingbee post”Letter to Aunt Flo” inspired me to write a post that I have been sitting on for awhile now. I (happily) could not identify with anything she was saying because I haven’t had a visit from my Auntie darling for almost 10 months now.


It’s techincally called Period Suppression and it all started when I read this article in the September 2007 issue of Glamour magazine. The article had two different doctors facing off against each other, one arguing for suppression, and one arguing against.

First let’s cover the argument against the idea. Christine Hitchcock, Ph.D., research associate, Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, University of British Columbia in Vancouver makes three distinct points. 1st that periods are normal and ordinary and that we shouldn’t be ashamed of what our body can do. 2nd is that the newest no-bleeding pill (at the time), Lybrel, didn’t completely suppress bleeding in all women. 3rd is that the long-term effects of taking period suppression pills still hasn’t been studied enough.

I won’t address the 1st and 2nd parts of her argument (because I think they are kind of ridiculous), but as far as the 3rd part, the the period suppression supporter in the article, Leslie Miller, points out on her website that the original birth control dosages contained about 10,000 mcg of progestin and 150 mcg of estrogen, compared to the 100 to 1000 mcg of progestin and 20 mcg of estrogen that daily continuous use pills have now. So 40 years ago women were taking much much higher doses than we are today, and I haven’t heard of any horrendous side effects yet, have you?

In her piece arguing for period suppression, Leslie Miller, M.D., clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington states that she hasn’t had her period in almost 12 years. Doesn’t that sound glorious? Her argument succintly states that there is no medical reason any woman needs to have a period, unless she’s trying to get pregnant. The last week of pills in the traditional 28-day pack are just sugar pills to help the user keep track of which pills they have taken, and when you skip those on a regular basis, your uterine lining will not build up, so you will have nothing to bleed out.

What originally got me was her argument that period suppression not only cleans up the messy side of things, but it can help with menstrual migrains, mood swings, reduce the risk of anemia and vaginal infections, and of course, eliminate those horrendous cramps I was enduring. It doesn’t have to be expensive because all you have to do is ask your gynecologist for any low-dose oral contraceptive (and make sure and explain what you are planning to do). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said it is safe, and so far no published papers in scholarly journals have indicated that there is any danger.

Before I went in to see my gynecologist, I tried to arm myself with a little more information (from the internet of course). The only other arguments I could find against the idea stated that it could be dangerous because a woman could be pregnant and not know it (because she isn’t having a period at all, and most women figure out they are pregnant because of a missed period) and then spend her time smoking and drinking and potentially harm her baby before she even knew she had one developing inside of her. This does not apply to me, as I do not ever smoke or drink, and I am not sexually active, so not only is there no chance of me harming my baby, there is no way to get impregnated in the first place. [Editors Note: Again, this was written before I was sexually active. Now I am in a monogamous sexual relationship and still do not smoke or drink.]

Yes, it is more expensive over time because I have to buy more packs of pills, but That Groom (now That Husband) is more than willing to pay for it. He LOVES That Bride (now That Wife) with no period, and I know he has tried to convince several of his guy friends to get their girlfriends to suppress theirs as well. I don’t get really really tired for a week before like I used to, I don’t have those weird mood swings where nothing can be done right, and I don’t have those horrible horrible cramps that sometimes had me moaning in pain.

Anyone else a period suppression advocate?  Those of you that say I am denying the very essence of my womanhood, you should know that I never felt very excited about being a woman when Aunt Flo was hanging around. I plan on having many many children to surround myself with in Poland someday, I want to enjoy a few years without the monthly visit while I still can. [Editors Note: Baby fever set in quite quickly didn’t it? No more few years without children for me!]

I Love You E-Friends

Just reporting in once again. My mom said I shouldn’t blog while on drugs anymore because it makes me sound crazy.

I still can’t walk around, sit, or lie down without pain. Which basically  means my back hurts all of the time.

But who can think of a hurt back when they see things like this? I found it on MCH’s blog when I woke up this morning.

Dear Jenna,

If we were closer to you, I am sure we would all love on you in this week of your surgery. Now we do it in a way we can and know you would love…. WITH PICTURES. Your blog and Fledging Photographer friends think of you and wish you well! We are sure your mommy takes great care of you.
MCH: “I would come over and just sit with you. Being quiet when you need quiet, telling stories when you need to get your mind of off your pain, reading you from the Word or from a girly novel to let time pass quickly and enjoyably. But all this we would do while enjoying a glass of Latte Natural Caffeine Free Coffee with a nice sweet flavor. (although some where I have read that Mormons do not drink coffee, would you drink this one? Either way, it’s a nice gesture ;)”
Yelena: “Jenna, I hope your recovery is smooth and restful. Wishing you the best.”
Michelle: “We just came back from Hawaii, so I haven’t had a chance to be more creative than this. While in Hawaii, we drove by a Mormon temple, and I immediately thought of you and took a photo.”
Laura Laing: “Jenna, thank you so much for all you have done for us fledging photographers! We really appreciate all you have done to help us! Feel better soon! We can’t wait to have you back blogging every day!”
Tasha: “Jenna, If Adam and I were nearby we’d come to visit (for a very short time so you could rest) and bring flowers. Since we can’t bring you flowers, we took a picture of one of my favorite plants that’s in my house. Yes, Adam did help me take the picture, sorta 🙂 We hope you get to feeling better and enjoy having your Mom there.
Love ya,
Tasha, Travis, and Adam
Dawn: “Jenna – These are three pictures that keep making me smile right now. I got in a pretty bad car accident, and so I’m feeling your pain from miles and miles away, but these ‘Indiana in the spring’ pictures make me feel happier and relaxed. I hope it does the same for you and that you recover quikckly! Love, Dawn.”

Tamara: ” This photo was taking out in Marsing, Idaho (where I grew up). The flower orchard is amazing because all you can hear is the buzzing of bees and all you can see is white flowers.”

This is absolutely one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me. I love you all so so much. I love you as big as the moon! I’m trying to hard to focus and really convey how much I love this, but my head feels a little cloudy. I’ve read it several times over now and it puts a smile on my face every time.
I should probably stop typing now, I think the crazy is on its way back. 2 vicodin 30 minutes ago means I’m starting to feel REAL good. I haven’t showered since 5:00 AM Tuesday morning. That is all.