As discussed in our Sunday HLG meeting, we have an opportunity to participate in a “real food” pledge. The duration of the pledge is up to you – there are 10 day pledges, 100 day pledges, and mini-pledges. The information listed below is from the website www.100daysofrealfood.com. I encourage you to go to the website and learn more about the author (Lisa Leake) and the various pledge options. Have fun!
We invite you to read along and hopefully join in as our family seeks out the real food in a processed food world. Our hope is since our family (that does not live on a farm, has two young children, and a husband that travels frequently) went 100 days without eating a single ounce of processed food or refined ingredients that you will consider taking our 10 Days of Real Food pledge. To make the boundaries clear we set some ground rules. If we did it for 100 days, then I am absolutely convinced that anyone can do it for only 10 days! And in case you need some more convincing, check out our list of 10 reasons to cut out processed food. If you would like to make some changes without going “cold turkey” also check out our 100 Days of Real Food Mini-Pledges, a 14-week guide for slowly cutting out processed food.
Our original 100 Days of Real Food pledge ended September 4, 2010 and boy was it a wild journey. You can start reading the blog from the beginning on “Day 1” if you’d like. During that pledge, one piece of feedback we heard often was…isn’t real food expensive? And the honest answer? Yes. So we decided to set out on yet another real food journey by taking a 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget pledge. This one began on October 4, 2010 and allowed us to spend only $125/week on food for the four of us. That is less money than a family would have on full food stamp benefits! You can read more about the rules for this second pledge by starting on “Budget Day 1.” Thanks for stopping by!
A little more about our family and why we are doing this…
At the beginning of 2010 our eating habits were just like those of any other average family. We thought we were making fairly healthy food choices, although we certainly weren’t following any special rules. Then came along the Oprah show “Food 101 with Michael Pollan”. After the show, Jason and I (Lisa) both decided to read Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food” which ended up being life changing for us. As it turned out, a lot of what we thought were “healthy” food choices were actually just highly processed and what the food industry was labeling as “healthy.”
Jason’s background is fairly different from mine. As a young child he lived with his parents and aunts and uncles on a hippie commune in Oregon. They grew and raised all of their own food. Jason and his parents have since become more industrialized when it comes to eating, but that doesn’t change their basic understanding of where our food comes from. On the other hand, as a child I had both Doritos and Kraft macaroni & cheese as staples in my diet, and I barely stepped foot on a farm. This shaped my views as an adult. As most other wives and moms can relate, I do most of the meal planning and food shopping, therefore I was (and still am) the biggest influence on our family’s food choices. And after reading “In Defense of Food” I decided it was time to make some big changes to those food choices.
So it wasn’t easy at first, but we slowly revamped everything from what we bought, to where we shopped, to how we cooked. It’s been such an eye opening experience for us that we didn’t want to keep all this exciting information to ourselves. So soon after we started making changes I launched a blog called The Food Illusion (which has now been moved over to this site) and began to build an audience. After a few months of blogging I decided it was time to do something big, something bold, and something that would get as many other people as we can to not only read about eating real foods, but to also make a commitment to this important change. Which is when the original 100 Days of Real Food pledge was born. You see, every time we food shop or eat a meal we are voting for either processed food-like substances or real food. If all of us make the right choices together then we can make a big impact, which will help change our country’s food system for the better.
Take 10-Day Pledge
We would like to ask you to join our mission by taking the 10 Days of Real Food pledge. Taking the 10-day pledge means following our same real food rules (that we followed during our 100-day pledge) just for a shorter amount of time. Thousands of people all the way from Austin to Australia have signed up so far! Check out the blog post with their feedback to see how much the 10-day pledge has impacted their lives. As you’ve probably noticed, this website is about our family taking the 100 Days of Real Food pledge. If all four of us did it for 100 days, I am convinced that absolutely anyone can do it for only 10 days. And what harm is there in trying?
On the other hand, if you feel the need to ease into things then check out our weekly “real food” mini-pledge series or our list of suggested pledge alternatives on the rules page. These may help you get ready for the 10-day pledge or simply help you make some general changes for the better. However, if you want a true wake up call to just how pervasive processed foods are in everyday life, we believe there is no substitute for the 10-day pledge! We promise that your new-found perspective will be worth the effort.
Benefits of Taking the 10-Day Pledge
Upon completing your goal we predict you will gain the following:
- A first-hand, eye opening experience of how to identify the real food in our processed food world.
- At least one improved health benefit such as having more energy, losing weight, improving regularity, or just feeling healthier overall.
- The realization that some of those pre-packaged processed “food-like substances” don’t even taste that good compared to real food.
- The opportunity to teach your children (if you have them), by example, the healthiest way to eat and enjoy the food mother nature has given us.
- A congratulatory letter and complimentary gift – a silicone wristband debossed with “10 Days of Real Food” which you can wear to make sure all of your friends know what you accomplished!
- The ability to continue on with your life however you chose, but with the new knowledge of how and why to avoid processed foods. Hopefully your 10-day experience will convince you to consider making at least a few changes for life.
How to Take the 10-Day Pledge
- Review the rules that you must follow for the full 10 days. In case you need some more convincing you may also want to review 10 reasons to cut out processed food.
- Complete the form below including your start date. We recommend that you take at least a few days or longer to plan and prepare your kitchen with whole foods so you have enough to eat once your mission starts. Also, consider boxing away the stuff that might tempt you to break the rules – we want you to succeed!
- We also recommend that you spend a few moments reviewing our concise list of real food meal ideas (that link directly to recipes) on the Recipes and Resources page of this site.
- Don’t forget to update your facebook or twitter status to let your friends know that you are starting the 10 Days of Real Food pledge so they can provide you with support and accountability!
Once you have completed your 10-day pledge visit the Real Food Graduates page to tell us about your experience. We want to know how it went, keep track of how many people have come this far, and be able to send you your free gift.
What you CAN eat:
- Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
- Lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
- Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
- 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (find a local bakery for approved sandwich bread and check the Understanding Grains post for more info)
- Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
- Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
- Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
- Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
- All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation
- Also check out the Recipes & Resources page for a more detailed list of meal options including links to recipes
What you CANNOT eat:
- No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
- No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
- Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label
- No deep fried foods
- No “fast foods”
How to Avoid Processed Food in General
If you feel that you have the will, but not the skill to do the 10 Days of Real Food pledge then here are some general lifestyle changes to consider instead…
- Read the ingredients label before buying anything. For years, if I even looked at food labels, I was reviewing items such as fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this may be important to some, the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider before buying.
- Increase your consumption of whole foods especially vegetables and fruits. I am sure you’ve heard similar advice a thousand times, and I hate to tell you that it couldn’t be more true. This will help to displace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general very simple. No more counting calories, fat grams, or carbs when your only concern is selecting whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
- Buy your bread from a local bakery. I actually used to eat white bread, but what I bought for my husband from the grocery store was what I thought was whole-wheat bread. When we finally checked the ingredients and found 40 different items on the list, including white flour and sugar, we decided it was time for a change. Why would there be so many on the list if it only takes a handful of ingredients to make bread? We since started buying our bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. Not only do they grind their own wheat every morning, but their honey whole-wheat loaf only has five ingredients – whole-wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey.
- In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. And don’t just believe the health claims on the outside of the box. Read the ingredients to make sure the product is truly made with only 100% whole grains – not a combination of whole grains and refined grains which is unfortunately how a lot of “whole grain” products are made. The white flour or other refined grain alternative is simply high in calories and low in nutrition.
- Avoid store-bought products containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and those “that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients” according to Michael Pollan. Despite the mixed research on if HFCS is really worse for you than good ol’ white sugar, it just happens to be “a reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed”.
- Don’t order off the kids’ menu. The next time your family is out to dinner try to avoid the kids menu. Those selections are most often things like pre-made chicken nuggets, fries, and pasta made with white flour, among other things. Instead try assembling some sort of side item plate (like baked potatoes and whatever else your kid will tolerate) and/or try sharing some of your meal.
- Visit your local farmers’ market the next time you need to restock your fridge. According to Michael Pollan not only will you find “food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious”, but you will also find a selection of pesticide-free produce and properly fed meat products. It is also better for our environment to purchase locally grown products as opposed to the supermarket produce, which travels on average 1500 miles from the farm to your plate.
Lastly, to once again quote Michael Pollan, he says to “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” If you had to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you wanted French fries then you might not eat them very often. Only eating “junk food” such as cakes, sweets, and fried foods as often as you are willing to make them yourself will automatically ensure the frequency is appropriate.