Written by contributor Stacy Karen of A Delightful Home.

As we think about living a healthier lifestyle this year, it is worth considering the benefits a real food diet has to offer.

The real food movement has gained momentum over the past few years and is challenging politically correct food rules, while encouraging consumers to examine their food choices and let go of the low-fat lie!

While there are many larger steps to adopting a real food diet (like eliminating refined sugars, drinking raw milk and eating grass-fed beef), today I’d like to highlight five simple changes that are easy to implement and will go virtually unnoticed by your family.

1. Replace table salt with unrefined sea salt

Table salt is void of any nutritional value. It also includes additives such as anti-caking agents, dextrose and aluminum. To top it off, table salt is often bleached.

On the other hand, unrefined sea salt has been through minimal processing (usually just filtering) and is full of minerals and trace elements which are beneficial to the body.  It also tastes better, in my opinion.

To get the best salt available, be sure to look for unrefined sea salt as there are brands that have been greatly processed.

Celtic Sea Salt is a brand I use frequently which actually doesn’t say unrefined, but does explain that the salt is dried at a low temperature and then finely ground without any further processing.

Sea salt can be used in all recipes as you would regular salt. Finely ground is best for baking and cooking.

2. Use butter instead of margarine

Margarine is not a real food by any stretch of the imagination. It is synthetic, highly-processed, and devoid of nutritional value.

Butter has received a bad wrap over the years, but in contrast to margarine, it actually contains beneficial vitamins ( A, D, E, and K). It also provides essential fatty acids that are good for brain development.

Whenever possible it is best to buy organic butter that is from pasture-raised cows. Kerrygold is one of my favorite brands; Tillamook and Organic Valley are other good choices available in stores.

Advanced Step – I imagine that many Simple Organic readers already use butter instead of margarine, so I’d like to encourage the next step of choosing raw, pastured butter. Butter made from raw milk contains many beneficial enzymes and nutrients that are usually destroyed through pasteurization.

Some helpful reading:

Photo by Snowpea&Bokchoi

3. Use eggs from hens raised on pasture

Chickens that are free to roam in the grass and peck at the ground, produce eggs far superior to those available at your local grocery store. They contain less cholesterol and saturated fat than their commercial counterparts and significantly more vitamin A, E, and D as well as twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

The only complication here might be locating said eggs, but once they have been found, you won’t be sorry. Check Local Harvest for suppliers near year.

Use pastured eggs as you would any other eggs. In fact, eggs from pastured-raised hens are generally thought to be safer that eggs from caged hens, so you can have more confidence as you lick the bowl after mixing cake batter!

4. Add fat to vegetables

Many Americans have been persuaded that eating veggies without any fat is the healthiest way to go.  The problem is: fat helps the body absorb nutrients. Without it, you are missing some key vitamins and minerals.

In her book, Real Food, What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck reports the findings of an Iowa State University study which compared people eating salad with fat-free dressing to those who added traditional dressing (with fat). Researchers found that those who ate fat-free did not absorb lycopene (found in tomatoes) or beta-carotene (found in orange, yellow, and green vegetables).

The conclusion was made that fat helps the body absorb vitamins.

So, add butter to your steamed veggies and toss salads in dressing made with a healthy oil (such as olive oil), preferably homemade.

5. Make your own broth

Homemade broth is bursting with nutrients.  Store bought broth contains many undesirable additives, such as MSG.

Broth is a great base for soups and useful in making sauce, gravies and casseroles. It is also an excellent way to add the benefits of real food on a tight budget.

Making your own broth may seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll see it’s very simple; toss a few ingredients in a pot, cover with water and simmer.

This recipe for chicken stock is easy to follow.

For more information and instructions read: Homemade Soup Broth – An essential Element in Any Healthy Frugal Kitchen

Each of the above steps will increase your health and set you on the road to a real food lifestyle. Once you feel comfortable with these set out to tackle larger changes such as switching to raw milk, eliminating refined sugar and eating grass-fed beef.

For further reading see: My Top Ten Real Food Resources

What do you think? Do these changes sound doable? Which ones have you already implemented?