Real Food Tips: 14 Steps to Cut Out Processed Food

We took our own pledge for 100 days in part to convince others that they could follow our same “real food” rules for only 10 days. We realize not everyone is keen on the idea of going “cold turkey” with the 10 Days of Real Food pledge though, which is why we also developed 14 weeks of mini-pledges. If taking baby steps is more your speed then check out the weekly “real food” challenges detailed below.

Earlier this year we finished up these mini-pledges with our readers as a group, but just because we’re no longer taking these pledges together doesn’t mean people can’t do them on their own. If you’re interested in giving it a shot you could start at the beginning or go in your own preferred order. You could also build each week on top of the next or simply tackle one weekly challenge at a time. Our hope is if you take these mini-pledges (or the 10-day pledge) that you’ll gain a new perspective from the experience and make at least some positive long-term changes as a result. No matter what though…these pledges will get you to start reading ingredient labels (if you don’t already)!

14 Weeks of “Real Food” Mini-Pledges

  • Week 1: Two fruits and/or vegetables per meal – Eat a minimum of two different fruits or vegetables (preferably organic) with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal.
  • Week 2: “Real” beverages – Beverages will be limited to coffee, tea, water, and milk (only naturally sweetened with a little honey or 100% pure maple syrup). One cup of juice will be allowed throughout the week, and wine (preferably red) will be allowed in moderation (an average of one drink per day).
  • Week 3: Meat – All meat consumed this week will be locally raised (within 100-miles of your hometown). Meat consumption will also be limited to 3 – 4 servings this week, and when it is eaten meat will not be presented as the “focal point” of the meal. Instead meat will be treated as a side item or simply used to help flavor a dish.
  • Week 4: No fast food or deep-fried foods – No fast food or any foods that have been deep-fried in oil.
  • Week 5: Try two new whole foods – Try a minimum of two new whole foods that you’ve never had before.
  • Week 6: No low-fat, lite or nonfat food products – Do not eat any food products that are labeled as “low-fat,” “lite,” “light,” “reduced fat,” or “nonfat.”
  • Week 7: 100% Whole grain – All grains consumed must be 100% whole-grain.
  • Week 8: Stop eating when you feel full – Listen to your internal cues and stop eating when you feel full.
  • Week 9: No refined sweeteners – No refined or artificial sweeteners including (but not limited to): white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, sucanat, splenda, stevia, agave, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and cane juice. Foods and beverages can only be sweetened with a moderate amount of honey or maple syrup.
  • Week 10: No refined oils – No refined or hydrogenated oils including (but not limited to): vegetable oil, organic vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, organic canola oil, margarine, and grape seed oil.
  • Week 11: Eat local foods – Eat at least 1 locally grown or raised food at each meal. This includes, but is not limited to: fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, nuts, meats, and sweeteners like honey.
  • Week 12: No sweeteners – Avoid all added sweeteners including, but not limited to: white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, date sugar, maple sugar, sucanat, splenda, stevia, agave, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and cane juice.
  • Week 13: Nothing artificial – Avoid all artificial ingredients including, but not limited to: sweeteners, flavors and colors.
  • Week 14: No more than 5-indredients – Avoid any and all packaged food products that contain more than five ingredients no matter what ingredients
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  • Comments

    1. |

      Amazing – these goals are challenging but doable when broken down like this. Thanks for doing this project with your family. Very inspiring!

    2. |

      Some of those would be fairly easy for me, but some would definitely be challenging.

    3. Greg |

      I’m surprised you didn’t mention agave nectar as an allowed sweetener along with honey and maple syrup. It is not a refined sugar, either. The agave sap is extracted, filtered and heated at a low temp. to break down the carbohydrates into sugars. The amount of filtering can result in a nectar that can be as light as honey or darker like maple syrup. I find it doesn’t have a strong a flavor as honey and does a great job sweetening.

      I’ve been using it as a sweetener for a lime juice and chia seed drink in place of OJ.

      Here’s how I make it:

      For each 12oz of total fluid:
      1 lime
      1 tbsp agave nectar
      1 tbsp chia seeds (white or black doesn’t matter – they’re very nutritious!)
      Fill with water to 12oz. Let it sit for at least 15-20 minutes for the seeds to absorb the liquid. I usually make a 72 or 84oz pitcher the night before and keep it in the fridge to drink during the week. You do have to shake it up to distribute the seeds evenly before pouring and stir as you drink it.

    4. Melissa |

      I have been so inspired by your website/blog! I stumbled across it while searching for recipes on Pinterest and have been hooked ever since. I am in the process of replacing my family’s old food with new real food! It will take some time bc financially I can’t afford to waste too much:) But I did just go to the store and made my 1st completely unprocessed purchase! Thank you so much for all these wonderful tips and recipes!

    5. Lindsey |

      Can I ask a dumb question? Can you define “moderate” for the amount of honey used in an 8oz cup of coffee, or a cup of hot cereal? I’m noticing my kids adding more and more sugar to cereal, and I know I certainly have a sweet tooth. I think I don’t even know what moderate is anymore.

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        I think 1/2 teaspoon of honey would be considered “moderate” …hope that helps!

    6. |

      I am going to try this for our family. I think we will do it as a cumulative effort (each week building upon the last) with a week off for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We already eat quite healthily so some changes will be pretty easy. I am going to see if I can get a team of friends to join our family. We will see!

    7. |

      Stumbled upon your site, and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. I have been eating a diet very similar to your own for a year now and have never felt better! The only difference is that I avoid all grains, and I don’t consume legumes either. I have embraced the Primal lifestyle :). Although they diets are not the same it is still wonderful to see people like yourself educating people about how bad processed foods are. Keep up the great work and keep spreading the word :)

    8. Sheena |

      I’m working my way through these right now. I use Google Calendar to plan my menu each week, and I have these set up as recurring (every 14 week) events, so I’ll get a reminder on each one a couple of times a year.

    9. Natalie |

      I like your website, but I find it interesting that coffee is one of your “real” drinks you allow yourself to consume. Coffee contains caffeine and is highly addictive. Also, over 70% of the world’s coffee supply may be contaminated with toxic pesticides and chemicals. It’s estimated that just one cup of coffee contains thousands of chemicals, many of which are gastrointestinal irritants and cancer-causing agents. Also, The high heat used in roasting coffee beans causes the natural oils to turn rancid, further contributing to its chemical load. There may be some health benefits, but in my opinion do not out way the dangers. I am not trying to be critical of your blog, I find it great. Just wanted to shed a little light.

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