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  1. I am new to your website, where should I start?

If you’re new here you should definitely check out the “Start Here” page, which details the site’s key resources and posts that you’ll want to visit.

  1. Why don’t you consider sugar to be a “real food”…isn’t it natural?

Sugar comes from a plant so it is definitely a “natural” food. Some other “natural” foods that we like to avoid are high-fructose corn syrup (from corn) and white flour (from wheat). What all of these have in common is that, aside from being natural, they are so highly refined and processed that the good stuff is stripped away leaving mostly empty calories. Here’s a little more about our decision to avoid sugar and other refined sweeteners – Mini-Pledge Week 9: No Refined Sweeteners.

  1. What does your family eat now that your strict “100 Days of Real Food” pledge is over?

When we are at home I estimate that we eat 95%+ real food. Since our pledge ended we’ve incorporated a once-a-week “special treat.” This could be anything from a homemade chocolate cake to a donut from Krispy Kreme, although I do try hard to steer my family away from artificial ingredients and food dyes no matter what. With that being said, we do believe moderation is key so we most certainly let our daughters participate in school celebrations, birthday parties, and other events that often involve junk food.

  1. Have you noticed any health-related changes since your switch to real food?

Yes! We switched to real food because we thought it was the right thing to do. What we did not expect was for our youngest daughter’s constipation and asthma to completely disappear. We were equally surprised by how much my HDL level increased (a.k.a. the “good” cholesterol that should be a high number), which jumped up by 50%! I also feel like I have more energy (no more afternoon slumps), and my husband and I both lost a couple of pounds without even trying. For more details check out this link: Our personal changes in health.

  1. What kind of milk does your family drink?

We’ve switched both our type of milk and source for our milk a couple of times over the last year. We currently drink the least processed type of milk available in North Carolina (where raw milk is illegal). We buy Homestead Creamery’s non-homogenized whole milk in half gallon glass bottles from Earth Fare. Since switching to whole milk we’ve also been working to reduce our consumption.

  1. What kind of cheese do you buy that is “real food” approved?

When it comes to cheese we go for blocks of cheese that are organic and preferably from grass-fed cows (if we can find it). The pre-shredded stuff contains an anti-caking agent (to prevent it from sticking together) which is a little too powdery for our taste. Also, most cheese is actually supposed to be white so even though the orange coloring is natural and probably a harmless additive I like to stick with white cheese just to make a point. :)

  1. I see that your family enjoys foods like cream cheese and boxed whole-wheat pasta, but aren’t those processed?

Actually even cooking is technically a form of “processing” or changing your food. So since we are not on a raw food diet I guess you could say we avoid all “highly processed” foods, which we define as having more than 5 (or any refined) ingredients. Check out our real food rules for the full list.

  1. Is there anywhere that you can shop without having to read labels and scrutinize the ingredients?

Unfortunately, no. But the closest you can get is a growers only Farmer’s Market. At a growers only market all of the produce and meat will be locally grown/raised. There are a surprising number of farmer’s markets out there that allow third party vendors to sell you anything from Chilean blueberries to Florida oranges (which is of course okay if you actually live in Florida!). But even growers only markets have local “bakers” that use their fair share of white flour and sugar so you still have to ask questions. We also like to ask our local farmers if they use any chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers on their offerings because we prefer to eat foods that are as organic as possible, even if they are not USDA certified organic.

  1. Where else do you shop for food?

I’ve made a list of some of my favorite places. Most are in Charlotte, but some have other locations as well – Where to buy real food.

  1. Are you still on a budget now that your “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget” pledge is over?

Umm, for the most part, yes. I try my best to track our spending, but I am not nearly as meticulous as I was when I knew I had to report out my spending to all the blog readers! At the moment our weekly food budget is about $150 for the four of us (including entertaining and eating out).

  1. How do you deal with eating at someone else’s house when they don’t exactly follow a “real food” diet?

It can be tricky to try to eat a certain way without offending your host. For us, taking our “100 Days of Real Food” pledge was a great conversation starter as to what we were doing and why. I am not saying everyone around us fully understood or agreed, but at least they knew about it. :) During our pledge we did not have any flexibility at all so for the most part we either brought our own food wherever we went (and people were thankful because it meant they didn’t have to figure out what feed us) or we ate beforehand. Now that our pledge is over we have more flexibility so we pretty much just eat what is offered especially since it doesn’t happen everyday. We might still sometimes eat a little beforehand or bring a few key food items with us when we travel (like good whole-wheat bread, granola, and tortillas), but for the most part we just go with the flow. But I will say that after watching us complete our real food pledge, it’s no surprise to our friends and family if we suddenly decide to bring something special along to the next BBQ (like our own organic, grass-fed, nitrite-free, dye-free beef hot dogs)!

  1. What kind of oils do you use for cooking and baking?

For baking we mainly use butter and unrefined coconut oil. For stove-top cooking we either use olive oil (cold pressed if I can find it), organic butter (preferably from grass-fed cows), ghee (a.k.a. clarified butter because it does well at higher temps), or yes, we occasionally use lard (from pastured animals) as well. People tend to look shocked when I tell them we use lard and I admit it isn’t exactly an appetizing word, but it is a traditional food that our ancestors survived on for centuries. Here’s more info on using unrefined oils – Mini-Pledge Week 10: No Refined Oils.

  1. I am completely on-board with cutting out processed food, but how can I get my reluctant spouse and picky kids to join me?

No fear…because you are not alone! Here are a few posts on this very topic:

  1. Where do you and your family live?

People are sometimes pleasantly surprised to learn that we do not live in a “real food” mecca like New York or California. Yep, we are just a regular ol’ suburban family living in Matthews, N.C., which is a suburb of Charlotte. You can find out more about our family on the “About Page.”

  1. Are there any “real food” books you recommend?

The book that originally inspired us to switch to “real food” is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Two other books I highly recommend are Food Rules also by Michael Pollan and Food Matters by Mark Bittman. I also highly recommend watching the documentary Food, Inc. Please feel free share any “real food” books or movies that you recommend in the comments below.

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753 comments to FAQs

  • Judy

    I am having a difficult time giving up sugar (baking and eating desserts.). Do you have any suggestions to help?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Judy! Sugar is incredibly addictive, so you are not alone in that struggle. Lisa’s recipes, with only a couple exceptions, do not contain refined sugars and can help you start to let go of a dependency on the over-sweet. For many individuals, while it seems initially more difficult than weaning, it may be most effective to fully eliminate added sugars for a few weeks to completely break the addictive cycle. It can be helpful to quell your sweet needs with whole fresh fruits instead of other choices until you have conquered those cravings. :) Hope that helps. ~Amy

  • Kadie

    What a wonderful website! Is there any simple way I can reduce the grocery list as I am just cooking for one?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kadie. We have not scaled the recipes down but you are welcome to give it a shot and shop accordingly. Keep in mind that freezing larger recipes can really save you time throughout the week. :) ~Amy

  • Jill Bugnacki

    Where do you buy the dye free sprinkles? I heard you talk about them in a previous post.
    Thanks so much.

  • Karin McGee

    I love this website, it’s so inspirational and motivational! I am trying to do more real food preparation at home, and one thing that my family enjoys are chicken tenders. It’s hard to find them without breading as my husband is allergic to yeast. I found a recipe on this page, but it uses breadcrumbs. Are there any suggestions on what else could be used (beside corn flakes) for a home made chicken tender / chicken nugget? Thank you!!

  • Christina

    So I have slowly been making changes over to more real foods at home. (Organic when we can afford it, whole wheat flour, making more from scratch, etc), but I’m not sure how to handle meals away from home. We actually homeschool, but consistently have 4-5 meals we have to eat away from home because of activities or speech/OT therapy appointments. On good weather days we can sometimes do a picnic lunch at a park or in the van, but I’m not sure what to do on rainy/too cold/too hot days. Do you have a suggestion of how to avoid eating out? When you do eat out are there places to eat that you find to be more real?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Christina. There are definitely places locally that serve real food and are favorite places for the Leakes. That does not translate, however, outside of our local area. You may have to do some digging and find what your best local options are so you have a place to go in a pinch. For me, personally, our meals are sometimes at strange hours and I almost always have fruit, nuts, cheese, veggies and hummus in tow just in case. :) ~Amy

  • Leighanna

    What’s your directive for “real” water?? We live in town and I don’t like the thought of drinking the tap water that’s processed from a waste water plant. But is bottled any better with things like calcium chloride and sodium bicarbonites?? I love water. It’s actually my drink of choice. But if that’s filling me up with chemicals too, where is a real water alternative. (No natural springs nearby, by the way…)

  • Caroline

    Hi, I have heard concerning info about slow cookers and the leeching of lead. There are some that are wrought iron but coated the with non-stick toxic materials. For this reason, I have not joined the ‘slow cooker’ craze ;)
    Which cooker do you use? And what are your thoughts on the lead leeching into your food?
    Thanks for any insight!

  • Stephany

    I know that gluten free products are pretty much always more processed, but I have a gluten intolerance. Do you have any real food gluten free options/recipes for those of us that cannot do whole wheat? Thanks!

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Tonia. That’s a tough one, I know. This post is helpful:http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/07/24/being-polite-vs-honoring-your-values/. If his grandparents are serving somewhat homemade meals made with love, you’ll likely feel better if you just try to enjoy the gesture. :) ~Amy

  • Elizabeth

    I am a teacher and don’t have a lot of time during the week, but during breaks I do!
    What items can I make over the breaks and store (freeze probably) that will last so I can get my family back on non processed foods?

    Last summer we did an awesome job and I felt a huge difference. But I am having a hard time with finding the time!!

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Elizabeth. Most of the recipes you will find in the index: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/real-food-resources/recipe-index/ freeze well. It is just a matter of picking which items you think will work best for your family and get cooking over weekends and breaks. ;) It does make a huge difference to just be able to walk to your freezer and defrost dinner for the next day. This might help, too: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/08/14/real-food-tips-10-recipes-to-freeze-for-school-lunches-which-makes-packing-a-breeze/. ~Amy

  • Janette

    Hi there – just wondering what your views are with microwaves?? Just wondering if I should throw mine out! Do you use them? What do you think with regards to real food and microwaves…?? Thanks for your time!


    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Janette. The Leakes feel comfortable using their microwave, on occasion. They have minimized it use, somewhat. ~Amy

  • HOPE

    What do you do to teach your girls to eat (only) their healthy lunch at school? One of mine (11 yr old) eats junk food from friends daily, no matter what I pack or how much she likes what I pack, still the oreos and chips allure. Help?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Hope. That’s tough. No matter what, your daughter is going to be making choices that you can’t control while she is at school. You want to keep encouraging her to be honest with you and nurture that “safe place”. The best you can do is help her understand why it is important to make healthy whole food choices and avoid the chemical-packaged stuff. Jamie Oliver’s Ted talk is a good tool for communicating with kids: http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver. ~Amy

  • Lisa


    I wanted to say how much I appreciate your facebook page. You are such an inspiration and in a few years when I am ready to start a family I definitely want to have good eating habits perfected. I am working on moving towards eating less processed foods, but I have been running into a few difficulties. #1 I am a vegetarian and sometimes have a hard time feeling full so I resort to pasta or breads #2 The more real food I eat the more often I seem to get stomachaches, have you experienced this or have any suggestions? #3 I have a sweet tooth and can’t seem to give up chocolate any suggestions for healthy brands or alternatives.

    Any advice is appreciated!


  • Cheryl

    do you have any recommendations for weight loss while trying to eat real food?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there, Cheryl. We don’t focus on weight loss, just on cutting out processed food. Many people do find themselves losing weight once they make the switch and choose to stop putting all the chemical and pseudo-foods in their bodies. We recommend eating a good variety of whole foods, recognizing what foods work best to fuel you, and letting the pieces fall in place. ~Amy

  • Samantha

    Is a whole food/clean eating diet generally low in calories? I am not counting calories, but I recently started logging my daily food on my fitness pal. For example today, I only have taken in about 500 calories and have already had breakfast, mid morning snack, and lunch. I am just wondering if this is normal or would this stall my weight loss? The amount of food I am eating seems to be a lot and I never go hungry, I just don’t want to do anything that could hinder my weight loss goals.

  • Beth

    Hi! I was just wondering if there is a real/natural version of bar-b-que sauce, or if it’s something you can make, or if you just don’t eat it anymore. I loooove BBQ, but don’t like the ingredient list on the ones at our local grocery stores! Thanks so much for all your inspiration and educational resources!

  • Merri

    Hi, first of all I want to thank you Lisa, and the 100 Days of real food team, for the work you all put into providing this website and everything in it – I regularly use it for information and recipes and so appreciate having it as a resource! Secondly, I love to bake and stock my freezer with healthy things for my family. One of my concerns is using bakeware with Teflon. I’ve noticed that many of your kitchen tools are nonstick and I’m wondering if you’ve considered looking for alternatives or may have any recommendations. For example, I’d love to make your whole wheat donuts, but can’t seem to find a safe choice for a pan and I’m assuming the little donut maker you use has Teflon. What are your thoughts on silicone bakeware? Thanks so much for any advice you can give! :)

  • Shannon

    Hi, I am just wondering about dry seasonings…garlic powder, garlic salt, Montreal steak seasoning, etc. Would all of those types of bottled store bought dry seasonings be considered whole?

  • Rio

    I know questions about sweeteners are not new, and I would like to see my family eating less of even the ‘good’ sugars, but that said I have been researching sweeteners and have found lots of bad things about the normal ones, I have however found what seen to be good things about ‘whole cane sugar’ , RAW agave, and maybe even molasses. I haven’t found anything bad yet and was hoping you could point me to any resourses you found that could help me find the truth on the subject. Thanks very much. Rio

  • Sarah

    My family was doing great for almost a year of real foods, then I got pregnant and my all-day sickness basically had us living on quick and easy, not-so-real foods. Our budget is tighter as well.

    Can you create a list of 10 or 20 Minute meals that won’t break the bank? My husband isn’t much of a cook so simple would be great!!!

  • Amanda

    What are you thoughts on decaffeinated teas and coffees? Do you feel they are safe or do you avoid them because of the chemical process involved in removing the caffeine?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Amanda. The process to decaffeinate is more concerning than caffeine. Herbal teas which do not have caffeine are a good option if you are looking for no caffeine. ~Amy

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