Real Food Tips: 10 Common Misconceptions

Don’t be fooled by these misleading food myths:

  1. A healthy diet means eating “low-fat” and “fat-free” food products…wrong!
    Michael Pollan basically abolishes this myth in his book In Defense of Food, and you can check out our mini-pledge post from week 6 for some detail.
  1. Mutli-grain crackers are better than crackers made from white flour…wrong!
    “Mutli-grain” is a misleading buzzword because unless those grains are actually “whole grain” the product is really no better than those made from refined grains (like white flour).
  1. It’s “natural” so it must be a good choice…wrong!
    If a product is natural it simply means it wasn’t made from any artificial ingredients, which is certainly desirable, but don’t forget that white flour, sugar, and even high-fructose corn syrup are all derived from “natural” ingredients and they are also all highly refined.
  1. Organic packaged food is better than conventional…okay, mostly true.
    The problem is though that since the product is organic people sometimes just assume it’s also “healthy.” But there’s an awful lot of what I call “organic junk food” out there that’s still highly processed (like organic cookies, organic ice cream sandwiches, and organic candy) so no matter what the package says you still have to read – and scrutinize – the ingredient label.
  1. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is much worse for you than sugar…wrong!
    According to Michael Pollan HFCS has not been proven to be worse for you than sugar it’s just a “reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed.”
  1. The bread that’s being made in the grocery store bakery is “fresh”…wrong (in most cases)!
    I certainly haven’t surveyed every single supermarket in America, but all the stores I’ve been to have a bustling bakery where workers appear to be pulling “fresh” baked bread out of their ovens. While it’s true they’re baking the bread right there in the store oftentimes they didn’t actually make the dough themselves, which means it’s full of preservatives and other unnecessary additives like dough conditioners (just read the ingredients and you’ll see what I mean).
  1. I was told that margarine and Earth Balance are better for my family than butter…wrong!
    As Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, “Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not” because it’s best to just stick with the “real” thing as opposed to an imitation. Need I say more?
  1. Some people say, “Well, isn’t cheese a ‘processed’ food?”…right (sort of).
    Our family actually avoids all highly processed food because even cooking is technically a form of “processing” or changing your food…and we definitely aren’t practicing a “raw food diet.” Mainly to draw the line somewhere we define highly processed food as products containing  more than 5 ingredients. But – just for the record – no matter how many ingredients are on the list, if a product is made with anything refined (like “wheat” that’s not whole) or if it’s deep-fried in refined oil then we definitely consider it to be highly processed as well. That means bags of 3-ingredient deep-fried potato chips are out (sorry!).
  1. Following the latest food trend (that’s oftentimes led by the food industry) is the way to go…wrong!
    If something feels like an up and coming food “trend” I mostly try to avoid it because I prefer to stick to traditional diets that people have survived on for centuries, which certainly didn’t include “boosting your omega-3’s” with a box of enriched pasta.
  1. This cereal box says it will lower my cholesterol so maybe I should give it a shot…wrong!
    Do not believe – and in fact don’t even read – misleading health claims on the front of food packages. Only trust the ingredients.



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  • Comments

    1. Jennifer |

      Hi Lisa,
      I have a 9 year old daughter who, unfortunately, has gotten used to societal junk food. We have recently started encouraging healthy decisions but mostly have to make those decisions for her. (Grandma is no help, buying her ice cream!) My question is, how can we help her adjust to the fact that our family is just going to eat more healthily? She gets bored with it rather quickly and complains that I make her eat things she doesn’t like (broccoli, black beans, zuccini, etc.) Help!
      Thank you,

    2. Jamie |

      HFCS may not be necessarily “worse” than sugar, but it most definitely worse for the environment as most highly processed foods are… another good reason to avoid!

      • |

        Not to mention that most HFCS is more than likely made with GM (genetically modified) corn. So is plain sugar made with beets.

    3. Laura |

      HFCS is not actually a food. It’s a chemical. The only reason it’s been classified as a food is because there’s a powerful lobby behind labeling food in a misleading way. I don’t think we need to eat sugar either but we all will sometimes so I opt for that since it’s closer to actual food. There are sugars on the market that are less refined with names like sucanat, dehydrated cane juice, etc. Although they’re still refined they do maintain some trace minerals. In my everyday life I use very little sweetener at all since good whole food doesn’t need it.

    4. Laura |

      I just wanted to add that this article is great concerning the other issues and fallacies about our food supply.

    5. |

      Great list! These are all things we are trying to follow in our household. The less than 5 ingredients rule is key – although trying to get my kids to follow that one is very difficult!

    6. |

      Just came across your it! Great job!! As a health coach in training I will def be passing on your link to others!!!

    7. Annette |

      Hey Lisa! Just wanted to let you know that we have tried several of your recipes over the last week. We LOVED the steak fajitas! Our first try at the homemade tortilla was interesting, but so worth it. The granola is amazing! I can’t stop eating it. We also stole your idea of making pizza with our friends. We had two families over for dinner and everyone made their own pizza (with your homemade dough recipe) and all the organic toppings. It was a big hit! We can wait to try more recipes! Thank you!!!

    8. carole |

      I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and slowly heading towards real food. My kids are 11 and 13 and they aren’t big fans of everything, to say the least! This past week I cut most of the remaining sugar out…and this was the first week that my 11-year old didn’t ask for a snack in the afternoon…I don’t think it was because she didn’t like her choices, I think it was because she actually wasn’t hungry. Real food fills you up much longer than processed!

    9. LORI |

      as far as #8. eating cheese. dairy in general is not healthy for humans. last i checked i have 2 legs not 4. when i cut out dairy a couple of years ago, i had health problems clear up, that i had no idea was related, like breast pain, that i had, had for years, stopped 2 months after i quit. it is also leading cause of breast cancer because of the excessive hormones.
      if you eat dairy, at least make it organic and or goats milk, which is more closely related to our digestive system.

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