Almost everyone who has ever been a child in an industrialized nation can tell you that the above is not a question. It is the demand or encouragement, depending on your mother or maternal figure, issued to the dismay of all Cheetos deprived children at one point or another. But what is real food? Michael Pollan gives his answer in his book In Defense of Food.
Pollan tells us that real foods are what you find in farmers markets and at the parameters of grocery stores. Real food is what our grandmothers ate. Real foods are whole. Real foods don’t have more than five ingredients in them. What Pollan is excluding is the products of nutrionism—processed products enriched with nutrients touting health benefits.
This is a challenge to reductionist food science, corporate interest and bad food policy that ignores the complex interactions within foods for a more simplistic—add up the parts—approach. But while Pollan aptly calls out the reductionism in a nutrition obsessed food economy, he lays the solution in the hands of individual consumers to spend more for quality, to which even he admits is only possible among relatively few financially secure individuals in the world.
So, why don’t you eat real food? Maybe the better question is who can afford to?