During the holidays a friend and I were talking about how difficult it is to make good food choices when everywhere we turn we are bombarded with “food” that is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, partially hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners and flavorings.

It seems like only a fraction of what is piled on the shelves in our grocery stores is truly food!

The instructor of a health class I attended said something that has stuck with me:

If it comes in a crinkly wrapping, don’t waste your money on it.

Real food is recognizable—not bearing a label with words that you have no idea what they mean. You can name it, and know what you are putting into your mouth. You can also expect to know how if will affect you, unlike all the chemicals and additives poured into packaged items. Real food sports appealing colors, amazing textures and distinctive flavors—because it was created by a Genius.

I admire the nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health for being willing to stand up against powerful lobbyists in the food industry through the creation of the new Healthy Eating Plate released in 2011 by Harvard Health Publications. The Healthy Eating Plate offers more specific and more accurate recommendations for following a healthful diet than MyPlate, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Service. The government’s MyPlate was designed to be simple—more easily understood than the disastrous pyramid. However, it provides very little educational information (and the Sample Menus and Recipes page on their website is currently blank).

Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, on the other hand, is based on the most up-to-date nutrition research, and it is not influenced by the food industry or agriculture policy. Check it out at http://www.health.harvard.edu/plate/healthy-eating-plate.

Yes, there is room for more in-depth research. But at least they have made a good start.

If we all would stop buying “junk” then the powerful food industry  would be forced to consider some changes. The friend I mentioned earlier believes—and I agree—that the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry have it all planned out: “Let’s sell lots of  attractively packaged stuff that tastes good but makes people sick and then we’ll sell them lots of medicine.” And, sadly, Americans have fallen for this!

We need to take a serious REALITY check here. Our personal health, the health of our families and the health of the entire nation is at risk. I’m planning to focus even more on eating REAL food in this new year. Care to join me?