10 Easy Ways to Eat Real Food

STACK Expert Kait Fortunato offers ten ways to eat real food and maintain a diet free of artificial ingredients, sweeteners and flavorings.

When it comes to healthy eating, it's more important to focus on the foods than the calories. It's too easy to rely on pre-packaged convenience foods when you're on the go. But consuming artificial ingredients, sweeteners and flavorings will hurt you—and your sports performance—in the long run.

Here are 10 easy ways to eat real food:

1. Read the ingredients list first. "Low calorie" does not always mean better calories. Before you look at the nutrition facts panel, check out the ingredient list to make sure you recognize everything.

2. Use real protein food sources in smoothies. Instead of scooping in protein powders and supplements, boost your smoothie with real foods like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, egg whites or silken tofu. Here are some of my favorite recipes.

3. Make your own wraps. Bread products, including tortillas, commonly have added sugars or artificial ingredients. Try making your own homemade easy whole wheat wraps with only four ingredients (salt, olive oil, whole wheat and water) for your breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

4. Make your own protein bars. I'm the first to admit that I always have a stash of protein bars in my house and at work for easy snacks on the go. However, some products are better than others in terms of their ingredients. Not to mention, the price really adds up! Here are some delicious and easy homemade options.

5. Add your own fruit to yogurt. Flavored yogurts generally have a lot of added sugar. For a healthier option, buy plain yogurt and add fresh fruit.

6. Make pre-made hamburgers for quick meals. Frozen beef or turkey burgers are easy to keep on hand for quick meals throughout the week. Instead of purchasing frozen patties from the grocery store, form your own burgers and freeze them yourself. These turkey zucchini burgers are excellent!

7. Make your own nut butter. I recently started doing this, and I like homemade nut butter even more than store-bought. All you need is a food processor or a blender and raw, unsalted almonds (if you're making almond butter). Pulse for about 15 minutes until a paste forms and tailor it to your liking. I add a drizzle of olive oil, salt and cinnamon.

8. Spice up oatmeal on your own. Limit your intake of packaged, flavored oatmeal. Instead, use steel cut oats, which are higher in fiber and less refined; add your own sweetener, such as agave, honey or maple syrup; and top with fresh fruit and cinnamon.

9. Rely on Crock-Pot meals for busy nights. The Crock-Pot might be my favorite kitchen gadget. It allows you to prepare fresh meats and vegetables simply, yet they taste extra good because they've been stewing for so long. If you know you're in for a long day, set up your Crock-Pot before you leave for work or school, and come home to a meal that's ready to enjoy. Start with these three delicious, healthy recipes.

10. Cook ahead on weekends. Eating real food is easier if you prepare things in advance. Make your own snack bags, freeze your own meals and make your own breads and oatmeal for the week. The more you can do ahead of time, the easier it will be.

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