If you have watched EAT REAL FOOD, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES (VIDEO) or seen anything similar on social media or YouTube, or read one of the many magazine and newspaper articles about right now, you may be contemplating buying real food.

Finding real food, can be a challenge. Not all of us live in or near the country. We may be forced through lack of time or money or transport, to buy locally. Local stores often concentrate on shelf-stable products in tins, packets and bags. Some will have a frozen section, but it might have a lot of pizzas and chips, instead of meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

Supermarkets, until coronavirus struck, had a huge range of products, which can be bewildering. One tip for finding real food, is to shop the edges of the store ie the meat and fish, fruit and vegetables. However many supermarkets have gotten wise to this. Now, you may find fruit and vegetables right in the middle of the store.

So instead of thinking about an area in a store , think about the food. Real food, is simple. It isn’t made in a factory, it’s grown, raised, caught or shot eg asparagus, steak, tuna, pheasant.

Buying fresh is great, but for certain things like fish and peas, they can be better when frozen straight away. As long as they don’t have additives, and aren’t processed, they count as real food. Fish fillets = real food. Fish fingers (fish sticks) aren’t. In many, the fish is just a fish mush of unspecified white fish in a hard crumb case. Same with fish cakes.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

Canned food such as sardines and beans, without additives, counts as real food. So canned sweet corn without added sugar, canned cooked beans eg cannellini, pinto, red kidney, flageolet – these are cooked (often steamed) and canned. Water is preferable but if they are canned in brine (salt and water) just rinse well in water before using. What you don’t want, is canned veg, with additives, if you can avoid it. If you are looking at canned fruit, it’s better to for natural juice, rather than syrup. Low carbers will avoid the corn, beans and canned fruit. Frozen berries would be fine.

Corned beef is processed food, but usually only contains beef and salt. A can of corned beef can go a long way and is a regional recipe in Newfoundland (see YouTube). Corned beef can often be found in discount stores eg Poundland, Poundstretcher, Heron Foods, Farmfoods, B&M, Home Bargains.

Parma ham or prosciutto is another processed food, which takes a long time to cure but has just two ingredients, pork and salt. FOODIE FIND: PROSCIUTTO PARMA HAM

Dried beans and peas will often be a lot cheaper than canned, fresh or frozen but they need more prep, to rehydrate and cook them. It’s important to follow prep and cooking instructions, because some beans contain toxins which need to be cooked out. Dried fruits can be full of sulphites so choose fresh, canned or dried without them, for preference.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

In the UK it is possible to buy organic frozen veg, but there aren’t very many different kinds of organic veg. Generally only garden peas, petits pois and green beans. If you find an Ardo stockist however, you may well find a bigger range of frozen organic vegetables. In the USA, you will find it much easier to find organic frozen vegetables and if you have the freezer space, it’s worth stocking up whenever they are on special.

Organic food is produced with fewer pesticides than conventional food. A jar of organic pesto, containing organic fructose corn syrup, is just as bad as the non-organic one however, and costs more. Ingredients matter.

Fish can be fresh, frozen or tinned. If fish is fresh, it won’t smell fishy and it won’t have sunken eyes or faded markings. If you are uncertain about the freshness, just don’t buy it. If the fish says ‘previously frozen’ it shouldn’t be frozen at home. It’s entirely possible to go into a supermarket and find that all the fish in front of you, at the fish counter, is farmed and often from Asian countries. Nothing wrong with that, but it adds food miles and therefore means the fish is likely to have been frozen. Also, you don’t know whether the standards used for fish stocking and the chemicals used to de-louse the fish, for example, meet your legal standards.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

If you see a good offer on whole wild fish that hasn’t been frozen previously, you can ask the fishmonger to fillet it or cut it into fish steaks, usually free of charge. You can ask for the trimmings, to freeze and use to make fish stock.

Frozen fish is ready prepared and you won’t have to gut, scale or fillet it. Do read labels carefully. Sustainably sourced, can be a euphemism for farmed fish. This is not necessarily good for the environment. Fish might be reared in a Scottish loch, for example, in a stocking density well beyond anything in nature. It’s not unknown for fish farmers to use tonnes of formaldehyde, to remove parasites from the fishy prisoners, which have deleterious effects on other marine life.

Fish sold in the European Union, has to be sold with information telling the consumer where the fish was caught, processed and packed. Some UK supermarkets are removing this information from labelling. If you can’t see where the fish comes from, buy another brand. Sometimes, brands will have extensive information on their website, but not on the bag, tin or jar.

When food processors make ready meals they use a conjuring trick, using other ingredients and additives, to bulk out the main ingredient and therefore make themselves more profit. Because they bulk buy, it’s possible that they can make a fish pie for 99p or 99c which you couldn’t do.

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In eating real food, you are basically trying to lower your blood glucose and blood pressure and build your immune system up, with healthier minimally processed food.

This means cooking more of your food yourself. You have more control then, over what goes into your mouth. A microwave can be a great help to those learning to cook. If you get a bit panicky, you can stop the microwave quickly and just let it be, rather than dashing about the kitchen with a hot saucepan, which can be dangerous. Just don’t use aluminium foil or any other metal in it.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

Carbs.. yes, the evil carbs. It’s pretty much essential to cut back on these, when lowering blood glucose. Doesn’t have to mean doing it all on one day and throwing half your pantry out. You can replace your usual chocolate with one with a higher % of cocoa solids until you reach one with fewer carbs, which you still find enjoyable, as an occasional treat.

Many people regard bread as essential, and many years ago, that might have been true. In the UK, most mass-produced bread is made from imported conventional wheat which often isn’t sorted to exclude GM wheat. If the wheat used is British, it may well be desiccated before drying, using glyphosate. This saves the farmer on drying costs, but it puts glyphosate residue in your bread. Usually, wholegrain bread is considered healthier, but when it comes to glyphosate, it means greater residue levels. Mass-produced bread uses the Chorleywood Process. It takes roughly two hours to go from wheat to wrapped to sliced loaf..

These days, many governments insist that flour is enriched with vitamins, even protein. It’s a sign that the food isn’t nutritious enough on its own. Breakfast cereals are often vitaminised, because when processed, they don’t have much going for them. Stand in an aisle and add up the sugar and the carbs (net carbs in USA) and see how many carbohydrates there are. ALL carbohydrates become glucose in the body. The more of them you eat, the more your blood glucose level goes up.

Yogurt, is a processed food, which has been made for thousands of years. Stand in a supermarket and look at the one with added fruit or fruit flavours. Likely, it has added sugar and maybe something to stop the yogurt separating. The yogurts which have had the fat removed, usually have a variety of thickeners eg locust bean gum and xanthan gum. They may even have carrageenan, which is basically seaweed.

Look for live plain natural yogurt and if you must, add lower carb fruit. Alternatively, grab organic pouches or jars of fruit baby food on offer to stir in. It’s just puree with no added sugar usually, with the highest food standards in terms of lack of pesticides and additives.

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Ready meals are generally a bad thing, but if you look around carefully, it is possible to find ready meals without additives. Usually they will be frozen. It’s easier to formulate a meal and freeze it, than it is to keep a meal chilled or at ambient temperature, without deterioration.

It is a good idea, to look at ingredients before you order online or go to the supermarket or store. That way, if there’s an ingredient you aren’t sure about like evaporated cane juice or soy lecithin, you can look it up. It may be more expensive in many instances, to buy organic, but buying additive-free food isn’t necessarily more expensive, especially in UK.

The coronavirus pandemic, gives an opportunity to people worried about their health, to make changes to their diet. Eating takeaways, ready meals, and endless baked goods, won’t make people metabolically healthy and more able to fight off Covid-19, if they get it. There are statistics available online, which shows that those with higher blood glucose (sugar) have worse outcomes.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

t’s no good going out or ordering in, buying organic breakfast cereals, vegan burgers and gluten-free fish fingers and thinking that you will magically be more healthy.

A potato is a potato. Organic chips may be grown in organic soil and have fewer or no pesticides, but they are still carbs. A gluten-free cupcake shouldn’t contain wheat, but it will be made with other flours, which are carbs. A gluten-free cupcake may even have more additives. Vegan food may contain soya, wheat, rice flour, hydrolysed vegetable protein and things like diglycerides of fatty acids. It can be quite high in carbohydrate.

Photo by Théroigne S B G Russell

Reducing blood glucose, means reducing carbohydrates such as sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cakes and high carb fruit such as bananas. Sweet as they are, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are lower in natural sugars.

It doesn’t mean giving up chocolate or baking or burgers. It means lowering your carbohydrate intake and switching to other foods, other products, other recipes.

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