Making the Transition to A Sustainable Diet

Stage 1: Become a Real Foodie

The switch to REAL food, begins with a simple, yet profound shift in perception. The individual becomes conscious that there is a difference between foods that are found in nature, vs. food that is processed in combination with man-made chemicals. This distinction is no longer considered trivial.

We may begin to notice that what we previously considered food, is actually a “food product” consisting of many non-food ingredients- namely difficult to pronounce chemicals. The source of these chemicals is unknown to the average consumer and the cumulative effects are unknown to us all. We might have a gut feeling that consuming chemically altered food is not so good for us, so we start to pay more attention to what we eat. The first step for many in transitioning to a REAL Food diet is to begin to read the labels, and start to gravitate more and more toward food that is found in its natural form and away from boxed “food products”.

At this stage of the transition to REAL food, we spend our time shopping in the periphery of the grocery store. We notice that the centre isles are full of processed food, namely items that are canned, boxed or otherwise packaged and preserved, while the periphery contains food that we recognize as REAL food. Typically the centre isle “foods” have a very long shelf life because they are either full of preservatives or they are essentially stripped of their nutrition (with synthesized vitamins and minerals added back) thus becoming literally non-perishable.

In our quest to “eat REAL”, we find that our diet expands as we discover foods that we have never tried before. In the bulk bins, we find a vast array of grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds. In the coolers we find raw fruits and vegetables, meat and milk products. These foods are the mainstay of the REAL foods diet.

When the bulk of our diet consists of these foods we are beginning to “eat clean”. The nutritional value of our diet also increases because we are now eating REAL food and not just the empty calories of processed food products. At this stage of the transition, we are also making a shift in our lifestyle and learning to cook. No longer is it possible to merely add hot water, put it in the microwave or open the package to sit down to a meal! At this stage, we must cultivate some skill in the kitchen. Moving from the SAD diet to a REAL food diet is for many, a logical choice in the maintenance of good health.

Getting Started with a REAL food diet:

√ Read labels and avoid foods with additives

√ Avoid pre-packaged, pre prepared and junk foods

√ Eat foods in their “whole” form.

√ Shop at the periphery of the grocery store and purchase primarily fruits, vegetables, meat and milk.

√ Buy grains, seeds, nuts, dried fruit and legumes in bulk.

√ Purchase or borrow cookbooks from the library and learn to cook!

√ Begin to make the shift to a organic foods diet by following the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides @

Stage 2: Making the Shift to Becoming a Whole Foodie

At this stage of the journey, we begin to look at our dietary choices from a more holistic perspective.  Not only are we interested in eating foods in their whole and natural form, but we are concerned about the impact of our food choices- beyond the goal of our personal well-being.

We become more familiar with the words organic, fair trade, food conglomerates, factory farms, Monsanto, irradiation and GMO’s. We try hard to wrap our head around food politics, although at this stage, it typically remains somewhat confusing for most people. The more we learn, the more we become concerned about the implications that pesticides, fertilizers and commercial farming practices have on the food we eat and subsequently on our health. We are concerned about how it impacts the health of our planet.

At this point, we often begin to be willing to pay more for our food- if it means that somewhere a farmer will be paid more fairly, or if it means that a worker will be spared dangerous or unhealthy working conditions. We get that our food choices impact other people and other life forms, and so we really take the time to look at where we can make some personal sacrifices (time, money or energy invested) for the good of the whole. At this point, we rarely if ever purchase commercially processed foods, but we will likely purchasign some organic processed food items, for the sake of time and convenience. We know that while we are still sacrificing some of the nutritional value, we feel that we are at least doing a bit of damage control.

We will most likely purchase at least those certain fruits and vegetables that we know are more heavily sprayed than others from a certified organic source, and we begin to opt for organic animal products when possible, because we know that chemicals accumulate and concentrate in the animal’s fat cells.

We begin to eat less meat and more vegetables. Or we choose to forgo animal products altogether. We do this because we care about the well-being of animals and we know that much more vegetable food can be produced on the same amount of land used to factory farm animals for meat and milk.  We agree that a vegetarian diet is not only more sustainable for the planet, but also for our health (but we eventually come to even question this, as we begin to gain an even wider perspective of the system).

At this point we start to discover a whole new array of flavours and vegetarian dishes, making it quite easy to give up our steak and potatoes! At this stage there is a tendency to eat low fat dairy and meats (but we come to discover later that this is not ideal) while slowly adding in the essential or “good” fats to our diet.

Getting Started with a Whole Foods diet:

√Purchase primarily certified organic food (therefore limiting exposure to GMO’s and irradiation).

√Purchase organic meat and dairy (therefore limiting exposure to hormones and antibiotics- and to avoid financing the factory farming industry).

√Buy Fair Trade

Make some simple lateral shifts:

√ refined sugar to unrefined cane sugar

√ bleached, refined and deoderized oils to cold-pressed or expeller pressed oils such as Olive Oil, Sesame Oil and Coconut Oil

√ table salt to unrefined sea salt

√ Eat more leafy greens, nuts and seeds to add more minerals and good fats to your diet.

Step 3: Becoming a Traditional Foodie

As time goes on, we often begin to make yet an even deeper inquiry into our food, a search for meaning that extends beyond the whole, into a vision and concern for the future. We start to ask not only “what is sustainable” in the now, but “what is natural and essential?” We want to know how we can best foster the health of our children for the next seven generations.

We know that our ancestors did not suffer to the extent that our generation does with degenerative diseases, and so we ask ourselves, “have we made what is simple, complex?” We want to know how to eat and live in such a way as to preserve and optimize the health of our children and our children’s children. We no longer underestimate the impact that our food choices have on our children’s capability to realize their optimal strength, resiliency, character and well-being.

We become less susceptible to the constantly changing nutritional “truths” as purported by the media, so called health associations and the industry funded research that is often unfortunately promoted by our educational and medical institutions. We are well aware by now that research is not always scientific, that it is sometimes intentionally misconstrued and can be applied in a way that is confusing and not relevant toward the betterment and health of humanity or the planet.

We begin to have a “systems view” of food and health, as we come to recognize that the systems and the institutions themselves, serve to create and perpetuate the problems and challenges that we wrestle with daily.

At this point in our journey with food, we discover that the instinctual food habits and practices of our ancestors served a very distinct purpose, being to optimize the amount of nutrition that can be assimilated from our food.

We begin to take an interest in “slow food” and to acquire a healthy dose of respect for instinct and intuition when it comes to food choices and preparation.

By now, we have discovered that saturated fat and cholesterol are not “bad”, but that they serve real nutritional and biochemical needs in the optimal flow of our physiology.

Not only do we “raise our eyebrows” at many common mainstream assumptions about health, but we also begin to even doubt the sustainability of the organic food industry (gasp!). Yes, we want organic food, but do we want it “trucked” and packaged to us or do we want it to come from our own land, or from a farmer in our own community?

We start to look at an even bigger picture and may come to the conclusion that the organic food industry may just be the lesser of two evils.

We are left dissatisfied with the way things are. Although we can see that organic mono cropping may be better for the environment (and better for animals) than factory farming, we start to wonder if veganism is a band-aid solution to a problem that exists because of the system itself. We are no longer content to be dependent on a global system of food distribution. We start to think more and more about buying our own land or optimizing the fertility of the land we have.

We might begin to take more of an interest in the topic of hunting, small scale animal husbandry or in foraging and food preservation. We might at this point decide to turn our front lawn into a garden and thus make a contribution to urban agriculture or we might become a member of a local CSA (community supported agriculture) assuming both the benefits and the risks of farming, along with the farmers who works so hard to bring us the food.

If we do eat meat and dairy, we choose to purchase from a local farmer who compassionately raises animals on their natural diet (pasture) and thereby optimizing the nutritional density of both the meat, and the milk, while improving the quality of life for the animal. We may even want to have our own chickens or a goat, or even belong to a cow share so that we can drink our milk raw and unprocessed, just like our ancestors once did. We might learn to hunt our own wild meat and to gather our own edible herbs, flowers, mushrooms etc.

We continue to wonder how we can diminish our reliance on industry, so that we can be self-sustainable and interdependent within our own communities. We no longer want to be dependent on big box stores and food conglomerates (even if they are organic) and we don’t take food accessibility for granted anymore. We recognize that our food freedom and the capability to sustain our own selves and our family, is an essential life skill that we must regain for our own survival, for the survival of the planet and for the seven generations that will come after us.

Getting Started with a Traditional Foods diet:

√ Get to know the farmers in your area and purchase pasture fed animal products

√ Start or join a food buying co-op or local CSA

√ Buy the whole chicken and make bone broth

√ Soak and/or sprout your grains and legumes

√ Dry roast or soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds.

√ Eat organ meats

√ Grow a large garden to feed your whole family

√ Explore the idea of raising your own chickens and/or a goat

√ Learn the art of traditional food preservation techniques

√ Make food elixirs, herbal infusions and probiotic condiments

√ Discover milk and water kefir

√ Make yogurt

√ Grind your grains into fresh four and make naturally leavened sourdough at home from scratch

√ Hunt and gather

√ Cook the traditional recipes of your ancestors

√ Create community around your meals and share food with others

Gain your access to my FREE 4 Part Video e-course titled “First Steps to Becoming a Whole Foods Family!” @  where you can expect to learn how to upgrade the QUALITY of the foods that you already eat, so that you can IMPROVE your diet WITHOUT changing it!


4 responses to this post.

  1. What a great, thorough explanation of what matters in terms of choosing healthy and humane food. A more holistic mind-view is the best guiding principal I’ve yet found, too.


    • Thanks for your comment! I checked out your blog and I really like your book idea in the about page….I too have thought there needs to be support out there for vegetarians wanting to make the shift to a more traditional diet….it has taken me 3 years to add chicken…..we are now at 1 chicken per week, working toward adding red meat and organ meats……I am a very skilled vegan cook, but learning to cook meat has been a lot more challenging.


  2. Posted by Gail on July 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    This is a Fantastic and easy to understand description of real food Sherry. Great job!


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