Encouragement for the Newbies FAQs

The Real Food Living FAQ and reprints are provided as information only. The comments contained in the FAQ are the opinions of our readers. Before making any radical changes in your diet, please talk with your personal health care provider.

1. What exactly ARE “whole foods” or “REAL” foods?”

A. We are seeking to return to eating foods in the way God created them, i.e. not processed. But what about taking whole grains, milling them and baking them, are they no longer whole? If you are eating the whole grain, that is using the grain the way God made it, and therefore it is a whole food. Whole foods mean returning to an unprocessed form of food source, but in some homes, other foods are eaten as well. REAL foods means less-processed, more natural, no “Frankenfoods” (chemicals and created additives), basically eating foods that are the way God intended them to be eaten, without a lot of processing, or genetic messing around with or artificial junk tossed in.

2. I really feel overwhelmed! How can I learn all this “stuff”, let alone do it?

A. Pick one or two areas and start reading everything you can get your hands on about it. There is an abundance of information available – books, recipes, etc. A good place to start can be your local library. There are many “quacks” out there, though, so be careful and diligent in researching your questions. One of the worst things that you can do when trying to change your diet is to go “cold turkey” and make drastic changes all at once. Then all you will do is crave what you are missing. Try and substitute a better choice for a less healthy one (like honey for sugar).

3. We like to eat meat! Is that wrong?

A. Romans 14 (ESV) 7 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! If we make the choice to eat less meat, it is not because it is a sin to eat meat. There are some very good sources of organic meat, and also poultry that is not saturated with antibiotics, hormones and chemicals. I don’t believe we are “missing” anything, nutritionally, spiritually or anything else if we choose to limit or avoid meat totally. But, we must be diligent in making sure we are not looking to the “lifestyle” as our god, and also to make wise nutritional choices to supply ourselves and our families with adequate nutrients, especially when we are expecting and nursing. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs can be very healthy choices and essential for a Real Foods diet promoting better health through better nutrition. Choose organic, free-range, grass-fed whenever possible, or buy from a local grower / farmer. It helps sometimes to join with several families and buy a large bulk purchase, as this saves money and you can get the meat direct from the farmer.

We also recognize that some people choose not to eat meats, or even any animal products and we respect and support those individual choices. Some people feel better and are healthier on a vegetarian diet or vegan diet and some are not. The point is, eating meat or not is not right or wrong, it is an individual and family choice and one that we encourage families to study and seek the Lord’s wisdom in prayer about.

4. What is the difference in nutrition between commercially and organically grown produce and grains?

A. Studies show that organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grains contain roughly twice the vitamin, mineral, and protein content by weight of those grown with synthetic fertilizer. (Journal of Applied Nutrition, Vol. 45, No. 1, 1993-“Organic Foods vs. Supermarket Foods: Element Levels”). This article has been challenged by conventional growers, and we should also note that it is a dangerous practice to get caught up in fear of commercially-grown or conventionally-grown produce and grains. This could lead to us not eating an adequate amount of these vital sources of daily nutrients.

The bottom line is that organic is healthier because it contains or has been processed with less harmful ingredients. This is always a better choice. However, not all foods are available in organic and sometimes buying organic is prohibitively expensive. Again, joining with other families and buying bulk direct from organic farms or food co-ops is an excellent way to get quality organic foods at a reasonable cost.

5. What does “organic” mean? Is it the same as “pesticide free?”

A. They are NOT interchangeable! The term “organic” means that the product was grown without the aid of synthetic chemicals, including pesticides and fertilizers. However, not all foods sold as “organic” truly are; look for the phrase “certified organic”. In 1973, Oregon became the 1st state to pass laws defining labeling standards for organic produce. “Pesticide free” products have been grown THAT season without pesticides, but there may be residual pesticides in the soil. It takes approximately 7 years for pesticide residues to be washed away. “Certified organic” means that the produce has been tested and certified to have been grown without any pesticides and without any residual effects of pesticides in the soil. There are organizations, which certify produce as being organic. Some of these organizations are: The California Certified Organic Farmers, Demeter, Farm Certified Organic, Natural Organic Farmers Association, and the Organic Crop Improvement Assoc. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a new law which requires that the EPA begin safety testing pesticides and determines the allowable “residues” in foods. This is still an evolving issue, and the standards will hopefully become clearer in the near future.

6. How can I buy organic foods without busting my budget?

A. This IS a problem, but it is one that is, fortunately, getting easier to solve. Organic foods are gaining a larger share of the market now, which means larger grocery chains are beginning to carry them! Some basic tips:

1. Shop farmers markets as often as possible. They are cheaper than heath food stores, but higher than commercial except for in season produce. Buy the IN SEASON produce.

2. Buy the commercial produce on sale; peel what you can and wash the rest well.

3. Join a co-op and buy grains, oats, and beans in bulk so they are cheaper (and organic).

4. Buy what is on sale of other items where you can’t afford the better choice, and trust you are doing the best to eat healthily and the Lord is with you the rest of the way.

5. Feed the less desirable alternative – like natural peanut butter on sale instead of one of the over-sugared, over-processed national brands

7. Does anyone have cookbooks or publications that they just couldn’t do without?

A. There are many, many good books out there. From members of REAL Foods Digest, here are the ones which garnered the most endorsements:

Of course, Vickilynn Haycraft’s book “Wrapping It Up!” is essential!
Sue Gregg cookbooks (http://suegregg.com)
The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson
Hearth and Home by Kary Swan
Rodale’s Stocking Up III
Rodale’s Sensational Desserts
The New Laurel’s Kitchen
What the Bible Says About Healthy Living
Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart

8. Where can I get herbs?

A. Please see more in the “Nutritional Supplement Companies” part of our “Resources” section.

9. What is a co-op?

A. A co-op (short for cooperative) is a group of people who buy together and get lower prices than if you were to buy from a Health Food Store. The savings are really significant on many items. A co-op is usually one or more persons who get together and order food in bulk direct from a distributor, thus by passing the “middle man” (grocery store). Most co-ops charge a percentage over the catalog price if you have a co-op job and a higher percentage if you don’t have a job. (This makes it more like buying retail, but still cheaper than the health food store). Most co-ops are pretty relaxed about having children with you as you work.

10. I was going to make homemade bread. Since it is free of preservatives, should I keep it in my refrigerator?

A. You may find that once you start making bread it will disappear so fast (being eaten) that you don’t have to worry about freshness! If you won’t be eating it right away, try freezing your bread double wrapped, it will thaw as soft as fresh as just made! Making my own bread was the first change I made in our family’s diet. The early attempts were not glorious; in fact they were barely edible. But with practice I got better at it and now my family loves my homemade bread. Bread with freshly ground, whole wheat flour has nutrients in it that haven’t even been discovered yet! It is a wonderful food, very satisfying and provides health-sustaining nutrients. Placing your homemade bread in the refrigerator will sometimes increase the mold production. So, if you need to store it, store it in the freezer. Otherwise keep it on the counter wrapped in a bread baggie and it will stay good for a few days.

11. I really like to have sweet things! Are you telling me I can’t have them any more?

A. I crave sugar, too, because I am a diabetic, so I know what a struggle that can be. I was raised with bad habits, as were probably most of us. When we grew up with certain foods, it is difficult to adjust our taste buds to new foods. Also, our gastrointestinal system may have a difficult time getting used to these new foods, particularly foods, which are high in fiber like beans! Treat yourself to some of your favorite fruits and munch on them instead of candy or cookies. If you DO want cookies and cake, try making them with honey, Agave, stevia etc. instead of refined sugars, and gradually increase the amount of whole grain flours you use. There are plenty of really yummy whole foods desserts and sweets, and eaten in moderation they are fine. See Part Two, “Desserts.”

12. How do I weed out the “hype” on my evening news from really good nutritional information?

A. When you read or listen to health news, keep the following points in mind:

1. Don’t jump to conclusions. It is almost always never a good idea to change health habits based on a single study.

2. Try to distinguish between promising advances, reported as scientific news, and public health recommendations.

3. Keep your skepticism in working order. Science is an uncertain undertaking. Progress is measured less often by dramatic insights than by the slow accumulation of knowledge. “Astounding” medical advances are rare. No matter how enthusiastically a finding is hailed in the press, see what experts are saying next week and next month.

4. Notice where the information is coming from. Does the author of the article cite any authorities, appear to rely on scientific evidence, or simply tell a lot of anecdotes. “Thousands of people say…” “It’s well known that …” Is any source given for astounding statistics? Even carefully-sourced statistics can be wrong, of course, but if the author is willing to give sources, that may be a good sign.

5. Use your own logic and common sense. If the article says that the Japanese are healthier than Americans and claims it’s because they eat more fish, stop and think: The Japanese also eat a lot of rice. They also sleep on mats instead of mattresses. How does the writer know it’s the fish? What other variables should be considered?

6. Be wary when studies are cited to sell you a product. Manufacturers and industry have been known to stretch the truth. Try to find out if the author is somehow related to the company, which makes the product, either through endorsement or as an employee.

13. What are some “whole foods” substitutions for refined ingredients?



  • 1 cup refined sugar = approximately 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup refined sugar = 1/2 to 2/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup refined sugar = 1/2 to 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup refined sugar = 1/2 cup fructose
  • 1 cup refined sugar = 1 cup Sucanat
  • 1 cup refined sugar = 1 1/3 cups rice syrup
  • 1 cup fructose = 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup fructose = 1 1/2 cups – 2 cups Sucanat
  • 1 cup Sucanat = 1/2 cup honey

When converting a recipe to honey, it is also recommended that you reduce the liquid by 1/4 cup, add 1/4 tsp. baking soda per cup of honey, and reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees, as well as adjusting baking time. When converting to rice syrup, reduce liquid 1/4 cup per cup rice syrup. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per 1 cup rice syrup. Store refrigerated. (*I’ve never done any of these things and it’s been fine.)


  • 1 cup unbleached flour = 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour = 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour = 1/2 to 1 cup barley flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour = 2/3 to 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 1/2 to 5/8 cup potato flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 1/4 cup potato starch + 1 cup soy flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 7/8 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 3/4 cup potato flour + 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 1 1/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 1 cup Kamut flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour = 3/4 cup amaranth + 1/4 potato flour or arrowroot


  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch = 1 Tablespoon arrowroot
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch = 1 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 Square Chocolate = 3 Tablespoons carob powder or unsweetened cocoa powder) + 2 Tablespoons milk/water
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa = 1 Tablespoon carob powder
  • 1 cup dairy milk = 1 cup rice, soy, or nut milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus milk to make 1 cup total
  • 1 egg = 1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds plus 1/4 cup water

This one comes from RFD member Marty Cast:


Replace 1 Tablespoon white flour with:

  • 1 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon brown rice flour
  • 1 Tablespoon corn flour
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 Tablespoon potato flour or starch
  • 1/2 Tablespoon arrowroot


  • 1 clove garlic = 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 small onion, chopped (1/3 cup) = 1 teaspoon onion powder or 1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 medium onion = 2 Tablespoons instant chopped or minced onion or onion flakes or 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon onion salt = 1/4 cup chopped fresh onion
  • 1 Tablespoon dried onion flakes = 1/4 cup chopped fresh onion
  • 1 Tablespoon instant minced onion = 1/4 cup chopped fresh onion
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger = 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard = 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon prepared mustard = 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard + 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon snipped fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon same herb, dried or 1/4 teaspoon powdered or ground
  • 1 teaspoons fresh lemon or orange peel = 1 teaspoon prepared peel
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley = 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning = 1/4 teaspoon thyme + 3/4 teaspoon sage
  • 2 cups tomato sauce = 3/4 cup tomato paste + 1 cup water
  • 1 cups canned tomatoes = 1 1/3 cups cut-up fresh tomatoes, simmered 10 minutes
  • 1/4 cup fine dry whole-grain bread crumbs = 3/4 cup soft whole-grain bread crumbs or 1/4 cup whole-grain cracker crumbs or 1/4 cup organic cornflake crumbs or 2/3 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup sour cream = 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

14. I’m confused by all the unfamiliar terms and ingredients I see, can you help?

A. Susie Wankerl wrote this for us…

“I am always sensitive to those here who are very new to whole foods and may get discouraged and confused
by all the “foreign” ingredients and terms that might be used on the RFD as various topics are discussed. So I am compiling a file of natural foods to help newbies feel less “in the dark” about these things. If you’ve been asking yourself….”what IS that??”…but haven’t gotten around to asking yet, hopefully you’ll find it here. If not, go ahead and ask! I’m sure I didn’t think of everything….”

The glossary list is compiled from various sources including Sue Gregg’s More Than Breakfasts; Rodale’s Basic Natural Foods Cookbook; Yvonne Turnbull’s The Living Cookbook; Weimar Institute’s Newstart Lifestyle Cookbook; Ten Talents; October 13, 1999 Food page of State Journal-Register (article on rice); and my own experience/memory, such as it is. (See “The Real Food Glossary”)

© 1995-2015 Vickilynn Haycraft and Real Food Living. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this content may be copied, stored or transmitted in any medium, for any reason without prior written permission of the author.

About Vickilynn Parnes

A student of health and nutrition for 40+ years, Vickilynn Parnes has over 30 years of actual hands-on experience reviewing and personally using different tools of the homemaking vocation, focusing on the areas of health and nutrition. Vickilynn is a magazine columnist, product reviewer, cookbook author and radio talk show host, as well as being full-time mom to 5 children.