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Simple Real Food Changes That Make a Big Impact

 Written by contributor Stacy Karen of A Delightful Home.

As we think about living a healthier lifestyle this year, it is worth considering the benefits a real food diet has to offer.

The real food movement has gained momentum over the past few years and is challenging politically correct food rules, while encouraging consumers to examine their food choices and let go of the low-fat lie!

While there are many larger steps to adopting a real food diet (like eliminating refined sugars, drinking raw milk and eating grass-fed beef), today I’d like to highlight five simple changes that are easy to implement and will go virtually unnoticed by your family.

1. Replace table salt with unrefined sea salt

Table salt is void of any nutritional value. It also includes additives such as anti-caking agents, dextrose and aluminum. To top it off, table salt is often bleached.

On the other hand, unrefined sea salt has been through minimal processing (usually just filtering) and is full of minerals and trace elements which are beneficial to the body.  It also tastes better, in my opinion.

To get the best salt available, be sure to look for unrefined sea salt as there are brands that have been greatly processed.

Celtic Sea Salt is a brand I use frequently which actually doesn’t say unrefined, but does explain that the salt is dried at a low temperature and then finely ground without any further processing.

Sea salt can be used in all recipes as you would regular salt. Finely ground is best for baking and cooking.

2. Use butter instead of margarine

Margarine is not a real food by any stretch of the imagination. It is synthetic, highly-processed, and devoid of nutritional value.

Butter has received a bad wrap over the years, but in contrast to margarine, it actually contains beneficial vitamins ( A, D, E, and K). It also provides essential fatty acids that are good for brain development.

Whenever possible it is best to buy organic butter that is from pasture-raised cows. Kerrygold is one of my favorite brands; Tillamook and Organic Valley are other good choices available in stores.

Advanced Step – I imagine that many Simple Organic readers already use butter instead of margarine, so I’d like to encourage the next step of choosing raw, pastured butter. Butter made from raw milk contains many beneficial enzymes and nutrients that are usually destroyed through pasteurization.

Some helpful reading:

Photo by Snowpea&Bokchoi

3. Use eggs from hens raised on pasture

Chickens that are free to roam in the grass and peck at the ground, produce eggs far superior to those available at your local grocery store. They contain less cholesterol and saturated fat than their commercial counterparts and significantly more vitamin A, E, and D as well as twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

The only complication here might be locating said eggs, but once they have been found, you won’t be sorry. Check Local Harvest for suppliers near year.

Use pastured eggs as you would any other eggs. In fact, eggs from pastured-raised hens are generally thought to be safer that eggs from caged hens, so you can have more confidence as you lick the bowl after mixing cake batter!

4. Add fat to vegetables

Many Americans have been persuaded that eating veggies without any fat is the healthiest way to go.  The problem is: fat helps the body absorb nutrients. Without it, you are missing some key vitamins and minerals.

In her book, Real Food, What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck reports the findings of an Iowa State University study which compared people eating salad with fat-free dressing to those who added traditional dressing (with fat). Researchers found that those who ate fat-free did not absorb lycopene (found in tomatoes) or beta-carotene (found in orange, yellow, and green vegetables).

The conclusion was made that fat helps the body absorb vitamins.

So, add butter to your steamed veggies and toss salads in dressing made with a healthy oil (such as olive oil), preferably homemade.

5. Make your own broth

Homemade broth is bursting with nutrients.  Store bought broth contains many undesirable additives, such as MSG.

Broth is a great base for soups and useful in making sauce, gravies and casseroles. It is also an excellent way to add the benefits of real food on a tight budget.

Making your own broth may seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll see it’s very simple; toss a few ingredients in a pot, cover with water and simmer.

This recipe for chicken stock is easy to follow.

For more information and instructions read: Homemade Soup Broth – An essential Element in Any Healthy Frugal Kitchen

Each of the above steps will increase your health and set you on the road to a real food lifestyle. Once you feel comfortable with these set out to tackle larger changes such as switching to raw milk, eliminating refined sugar and eating grass-fed beef.

For further reading see: My Top Ten Real Food Resources

What do you think? Do these changes sound doable? Which ones have you already implemented?


Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Jeanette

    These are great suggestions!! This Christmas I actually had to make my own butter, and with added Celtic Sea Salt, it was both tastier and more nutrious than the store bought version. I’m considering making all my butter myself now, it tasted soo good. After all, it’s no more complicated than whipping cream and wringing a cloth! 🙂

    • Stacy

      That sounds awesome! How fun.

  2. Gayle

    Have you tried making the chicken broth in a crock pot?

    • Stacy

      Yes. It works great.

  3. Kara E.

    These changes are easy to make. I already do 2 (grew up with it), 3 (when the farmers markets are open or I can find them at the grocery), 4 (grew up with it), and 5 (started a few months ago; it’s so easy and cheap). I’m going to have to look for unrefined sea salt now. I have…regular(?) sea salt that I cook with, but it doesn’t go to the table when we eat. I’m not sure I’ll be making my own raw butter though…

  4. Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable

    Great tips and ideas! The best part about raising your own backyard hens is the peace of mind knowing exactly what their diet consists of:) Thankfully I have been able to source everything on this list! LOVE real foods!

    • Gayle

      Thanks Andrea! I’m going to the grocery store tomorrow and will be buying all the things to make chicken stock in the crock pot. I’ve been craving homemade chicken noodle soup. Yummm…

    • Stacy

      One of my dreams is to have my own hens int hr backyard! One day, one day . . . 🙂

  5. Charis

    we do all of these. for us, i think the next step would be to sign up for raw milk… i think once i do that i will try my hand at making our own butter from the cream on top. until then, buying raw butter is just too pricey to justify on our budget. we have backyard hens, so we get great eggs for cheap (just taking care of our hens). there are always ways to eat better for good prices if we are willing to think creatively.

    • Stacy

      Charis, you’re right, raw butter can be quite expensive!

      It would be great if you could sign up for raw milk. That is definitely a change that holds many benefits.

      I’ve been surprised at the different ways there are to save on real food. I know of someone who found eggs from pasture-fed hens through Craigslist. A place I hadn’t thought to look!

  6. Sarah

    I usually fail completely at lists like this, but the only item on this list I don’t already do is pasture-fed eggs. The only consistent way I know of to get them in my area is to sign up for a weekly delivery of a dozen, and I just don’t eat that many eggs. I do buy “good eggs” when I see them at the farmer’s market, but I’m usually grabbing a half-dozen at the grocery store just to do some baking.

  7. Lacy

    Thanks for this post, it was very informative. I’m still trying to convince my parents that butter is better for them. I’m already using butter and sea salt… looking forward to making more changes 🙂

  8. Tiffany

    We do all of these except we are using sea salt, and I’m not sure it’s unrefined sea salt. I’ll definitely check that next time we need some. As for the butter, Kerrygold butter is SO good. I only buy it occasionally because of the cost but we do use Tillamook regularly. Great tips!

    • Nicole

      The salt is something I want to look more into, too. I use sea salt, but I’m not sure it’s unrefined.

  9. Tony Scott

    I agree with your post. My family always use home made broth; it is more delicious than store brought ones.

    Regarding margarine, I remembered reading a very old Reader’s Digest article saying that margarine is man’s way of competing with the cow. In other words, unnatural.

  10. theblindbride

    I used to think Martha Stewart was so pretentious for always suggesting recipes me made only with homemade stock… until I started making my own! tastier, healthier and better for the environment. Now instead of throwing away bones and veggie leftovers, I throw them into a pot and use them for a new purpose!

  11. Audrey @ Mom Drop Box

    Good tips! I don’t do homemade broth yet, and I know I need try it. Everyone always says it’s easy & totally superior to store-bought.

  12. cat @

    I’m always amazed at how many people reach for vegetable shortening or margarine. That stuff is just gross. So many products these days have so many artificial ingredients. Good old butter is a great thing!

    Store bought stock in a box was a standby for me for years. I just started making homemade bone broths this year. (oops I mean last) It is incredible how much of a difference it makes to many of our meals. It tastes better, its heartier and its practically free to make!

  13. Living the Balanced Life

    One big change we are making as we transition to real food is to make our own salad dressings. Part of that stems from a milk sensitivy (and we love a ranch dressing) but mostly from the LONG list of ingredients that I can’t pronounce!
    We do use sea salt but don’t know if it is unrefined. We do use butter. I try to buy the cage free eggs in the naturals part of the grocery store. We also want to find some local sources of meat and chicken, even though we are reducing how much we take in.

  14. Kimberly

    Just be careful! I started off doing things like this three years ago. Now, I am milking my own cow and making butter and yogurts and cheeses and raising my own chickens on a few acres in the middle of nowhere! 😉

  15. Angel Collins

    I didn’t know about the ‘fat’ thing. I always thought that it is bad for health. Stereotyping. 🙂 Can I just ask if unrefined salt is just the same with iodized salt? I just thought about it while reading your article. I am definitely going to follow your advice and start buying healthy stuff. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  16. Sarah [mamalotsoftots]

    I would love to have chickens & cows and make everything from our own property. Organic items are so pricey! I didn’t know that about the veggies needing a fat to help absorb. I usually just steam them with some garlic & salt.
    I do make our own stock, never tried it in the crock pot tho! Maybe I’ll give it a whirl.

  17. Amy Pearson

    Eating organic food is a great step towards a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, many organic fruits and vegetables are a bit more costly. To combat the increased cost, and to ensure that the food you are eating is 100% organic, you may want to start your own organic garden.

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