Make 2015 the Year of “Real Food”

— Written By and last updated by Kathy Lee

As a foodie dietitian, I enjoy reading food trend predictions every year. Some seem odd, such as cricket flour being introduced into foods for the protein. Others could have value, like the forecast of no food shaming attached to diets. If this came true, gluten, dairy, carbs or soy would no longer be villains, except for those with allergies, specific diseases, or intolerances. With more pre-prepared, processed foods in stores, another predicted trend that I am in favor of is consumers choosing more “real food”. Food blogs, magazines, and even the food network have been revealing how scrumptious recipes can look when wholesome, unprocessed ingredients are used.
When creatively prepared, food that is close to nature is enjoyable to eat, boosts your immune system, and makes you look your best. You can prepare a PEACE even with limited cooking skills.

P.E.A.C.E: Practical, Easy, and Complete Entrée
Cook your grain: whole grain pasta, couscous, barley, quinoa, or rice.
Cook your protein: any kind of beans, meat, seafood, lean sausage, tofu, tempeh, or nuts.
Add vegetables. Some added fruits are delicious.
Add seasonings and/or sauce/cheese.
Layer in a bowl and enjoy!
Here are a few examples:
Whole wheat penne pasta
Lean chicken Italian sausage
Onions, bell peppers, fresh spinach
Italian seasoning and marinara sauce
Chick peas
Braising greens
Curry sauce made with ½ light coconut milk and ½ plain almond milk
Chicken thigh, toasted walnuts
Bok Choy, pineapple
Seasoning packet in couscous package
Brown rice
Black beans, cheddar cheese
Tomato and pepper salsa
Chili, cumin, oregano
Whole wheat spaghetti
Light alfredo sauce
Rice noodles
Carrots, broccoli, green onions
Peanut butter sauce
Whole wheat pasta
Marsala sauce

A recipe is a starting point for a basic cooking concept. Once you have a few concepts down, cooking can be a creative, enjoyable outlet.
To get started or increase the amount of “real food” in your diet, take a close look at your kitchen. Do you have the equipment needed to prepare unprocessed food? Good knives and cutting boards are essential. Make an equipment wish list as you try new recipes and increase your skills.
The New Year is a great time to clean out your pantry. Out with the processed, junk food and in with the basics, such as beans and lentils, healthy snacks, whole grains, oils and vinegars and healthy sauces.
If you would like to develop skills with a little assistance, take a cooking class. Locally, I offer skill building classes periodically through N.C. Cooperative Extension. Check the website at or e-mail me and I will let you know about upcoming events.
Boone Healing Arts Center also offers cooking classes.
If you have the funds, week long cooking classes are available as a vacation option. This idea is becoming more and more popular, as classes are usually in beautiful settings and include visits to farmers’ markets, wineries and other outings. Plus you get to eat the delicious meals you cook.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. (828)264-3061