What's Fake and What's Real? The Ultimate Food Survival Guide

May 19, 2013 | Sima Cohen

Must See Nutrition Videos

Food is not meant for pleasure as so many of us have been programmed to believe. It's got one true purpose: to provide our bodies with the vital nutrients we need to stay alive, healthy and functioning. (What are these, you ask? See Key Nutrients for Athletes.)

This doesn't mean food shouldn't taste good and that eating cannot be an enjoyable experience. No one will want to stick to a diet that forces him or her to choke down meals. The trouble lies in how we have conditioned our taste buds. We've made them believe that junk food and fake food is what really tastes good. (See How To Sustain Healthy Eating Habits.)

The Difference Between Real and Fake

Not all food is created equal. When a food is processed, it's stripped of its nutrients. During production, food companies may add hydrogenated fats, chemicals, preservatives, sugar and fillers. (Get the lowdown on Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Healthy or Dangerous?) These foods fill you up with useless calories, and can lead to potential health issues. For example, check out  the following comparison:

Fast Food Hamburger Meal

  • Hamburger on sesame seed bun with lettuce, onion, tomato, ketchup and mayonnaise
  • Small order of French fries (salted)
  • Small soda

Nutrition Facts: 1,160 calories, 50g of fat, 29g of protein, 157g of carbohydrate, 64g of sugar and 1460mg of sodium

Real Food (Homemade) Hamburger Meal

  • Hamburger (4-ounces 85/10 lean ground beef) on 100% whole-wheat bun with lettuce, onion, tomato, one slice of reduced-fat cheddar cheese, mustard and ketchup
  • Serving of French fries (sliced potato baked with one teaspoon of olive oil and a 1/2-teaspoon of salt)
  • 8-ounce glass of water with lemon

Nutrition Facts: 550 calories, 20g of fat, 36g of protein, 52g of carbohydrate, 7g of sugar and 542 mg of sodium.

The two meals are basically the same. But the homemade version is a lot healthier, even after adding the cheese.  (See how to Make Flavorful Meals Without Excess Fat, Sugar and Sodium.)

Bottom Line

Eating right is not particularly magical and it doesn't involve spending a fortune, going through the drive-thru or yo-yo dieting. You can eat out, at home and at parties, and you can splurge for holidays. You just need to eat real food.

Use the following guidelines at every meal (wherever it may be). I guarantee you enjoy healthier meals that satisfy your taste buds and fulfill your nutritional needs.

Food Survival Guidelines

  • A specific food should contain five ingredients or less
  • You can recognize (and pronounce) the ingredients (no preservatives or harmful chemical additives)
  • No added salt or sugar
  • No refined carbs such as white flour or high-fructose corn syrup; eat only 100% whole wheat and whole grain
  • Food is prepared in a way that you could have done yourself

If there is a magical secret, it's this: use your head and always read the ingredients.

Sima Cohen
- For over 20 years, Sima Cohen has inspired thousands of people to lose weight, improve their health, and transform their lives with just a yoga...
Sima Cohen
- For over 20 years, Sima Cohen has inspired thousands of people to lose weight, improve their health, and transform their lives with just a yoga...

Featured Videos

Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Views: 181,250
Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,271,129
Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Views: 80,757
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 896,781
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,195,981
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,292
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,437
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,995

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

9 Foods to Eat When You Want to Lose Fat

9 Foods to Eat When You Want to Lose Fat

Why You Should Say No to Diet Foods

Why You Should Say No to Diet Foods

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

How to Eat Healthy at a Dingy Sports Bar

How to Eat Healthy at a Dingy Sports Bar

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

10 Athlete-Approved High-Protein Cereals

10 Athlete-Approved High-Protein Cereals

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

What to Eat If You Hate Bananas

What to Eat If You Hate Bananas

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

Binge Eating Disorder and Athletes

Binge Eating Disorder and Athletes

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

Cookout Commandments: What to Eat (and Avoid) at Your Summer BBQ

Cookout Commandments: What to Eat (and Avoid) at Your Summer BBQ

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

Registered Dietitians Reveal Their Favorite Ways to Eat Fruit

Registered Dietitians Reveal Their Favorite Ways to Eat Fruit

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

The Boston Cannons' ‘Keep It Real’ Eating Plan

The Boston Cannons' 'Keep It Real' Eating Plan

YardBarker