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Blog of the month

Here is the third author in our new series of guest bloggers, Victoria Haschka.

She is not only the author of two books on real food,
but also a knowledgeable food activist.
Outside of being an incredibly kind person, Haschka is a Sydney born food and travel writer.
Her first, very successful book was
" A Suitcase and a Spatula " , in which she takes the reader on a culinary journey to the Mediterranean. Here we publish a short excerpt
from her latest book :" Cut the Carbs " which very convincingly takes a stand for unprocessed foods and the abundant variety nature has to offer when it comes to carbs.
She blogs regularly at www.eatori.com

Cut the Carbs !

I know what it’s like to use carbs as a culinary crutch. Until I was a teenager I would only eat things that were white. Rice. Bread. Potatoes. But most of all; noodles. A little lick of butter, or cheese was all the flavour I needed.

It wasn’t until I was 21 and scoffing white rice and a small slick of curry in Malacca that the tables really turned. The water I was sipping came from the local well. The meal was accompanied by a side order of e coli. Soon after I got glandular fever. Then came five years of a spluttering immune system and exhaustion which felt like weights were attached to my legs and my brain was swaddled by marshmallow.
Suddenly, the foods which I turned to for comfort provided anything but. Not only did they not give me lasting energy, but they encouraged a sugar spike in my body which made me feel even worse.
And so I was lost. I had been conditioned to use white carbohydrates as the base of every meal I cooked. I assumed that because they sat at the bottom of the food pyramid I grew up with, that they were best for me. So Monday nights were quick stir fries (with rice). The rest of the week; pizza, pasta, risotto, sushi. But as it turns out the white carbohydrates that I had grown to love were foods which were broken down quickly in our bodies, swiftly transforming into glucose. Some of them left me feeling bloated. Some drove me to rabid hunger only a few hours after I’d eaten. And most would deliver a sharp jolt of energy, before leaving me more lethargic than I was to begin with.
The only way out was to get creative in the kitchen. I needed to find some food that was smarter. And I needed to be a little cannier about how I cooked.

So what’s the answer?
I knew from the beginning that a strict no carb doctrine was not for me. I’m not interested in brutal regimes. I love food too much. But I had to break the habit of relying on bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as my everyday, every meal foods. Because losing a little bit of weight wasn’t the only thing I could do with. The honest truth is that white carbohydrates were doing me no favours in lots of areas of my health. And the reason for that, had to do with their glycaemic index.

What is the Glycemic Index?
It’s a way of ranking carbohydrates on a scale of 0-100, based on the impact they have on your blood sugar after you eat them. Foods scored with a high GI are digested swiftly and spike your blood sugar. Foods with low GI are absorbed and digested more slowly, which have a more moderate, sustained effect on blood sugar- helping to keep you fuller for longer.
And what foods have some of the highest GIs of all? The big four; white bread. white rice, potatoes and white noodles.
What are smart carbs?
Carbohydrates are what help give us fuel. They have a role to play in our diets- even the most famous ‘no carb’ doctrines incorporate them again at some point. But a smart carbohydrate is one which will work harder for you. Rather than eating a downy cloud of simple sugars smart carbohydrates come packed with fibre, essential nutrients and amino acids.
New foods, new options, new life
Yet I know better than anyone that the comfort of white carbs can be difficult to leave behind. For one, we associate them with filling us up - at least in the short term. Since then I’ve become a little evangelical about pulses, often replacing the staple side of mash potato and rice with white bean puree- and convinced others that not only is it quicker, but often tastier too. Canned beans really are the ultimate convenience food. I also found that chickpea flour has a nutty flavour that works particularly well in savoury dishes. And when it comes to an occasional sweet, instead of my default desserts of bread pudding, tarts, and pies I learned to love baking with ground nuts and fruits.
Once I started cooking this way I learned that a change really can be as good as a holiday. And I’m not alone. Friends and colleagues who with diabetes, heart conditions and polycystic ovaries, those who are breastfeeding and those who just want to lose a little bit of excess weight have all benefitted from shifting away from white carbs.
Concentrating on eating smart carbs has made a world of difference to my life. I’m healthier. I have more energy. My skin is better. I lost four kilos from what I thought was my standard weight. The recipes I now rely on are bound together in my book ‘Cut the Carbs’. What it contains is not really a diet at all. It’s just a new way of looking at what you eat.
Hopefully you’ll find that some small shifts can make a big difference. Try grating cauliflower and use that as cous cous or rice, experiment with quinoa or make a big vat of lentil soup for lunches. Try to not eat white stodge at least three nights a week to start- and then see how it makes you feel. As for me? The biggest change for me since we started eating this way has been that now on the days when I go to enjoy pasta, bread, rice or potatoes I do it because I really want to savour every bite; and not just because I can’t think of anything else that’s good to eat.

CUT THE CARBS is available here.

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