Real Food Defined (The Rules)

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Below are the rules we followed during our original 100 Days of Real Food pledge. If you are taking the 10-Day pledge you will follow these same rules.

100 Days of Real Food Rules

What you CAN eat:

  1. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
  2. Lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
  3. Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
  4. 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (find a local bakery for approved sandwich bread and check the Understanding Grains post for more info)
  5. Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
  6. Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
  7. Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
  8. Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
  9. All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation
  10. Also check out the Recipes & Resources page for a more detailed list of meal options including links to recipes

What you CANNOT eat:

  1. No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  2. No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  3. Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label
  4. No deep fried foods
  5. No “fast foods”

Please leave a reply below if you have any questions about what is okay to eat during your pledge.


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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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”.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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2,077 comments to Real Food Defined (The Rules)

  • Tami

    Thanks for the link to your recipes Rachel! It is a great help to get started on this :)

  • Melissa

    Started avoiding processed food today. I have a question about minimally processed. I have found the ludenburg rice products to be healthy and tasty but they use dehydrated veggies for seasoning. How bad is this?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Melissa. Veggies in their whole form is a better choice, obviously, though dehydrated veggies are not a bad choice if the rest of the ingredient list is clean. ~Amy

  • Cynthia

    Where can you sign up for 100 day pledge I see where u can do it for the 10 day

  • Vaughn

    In re: breads, add Ezekiel breads ( to the list. I usually avoid the bread aisle as I’ve found most of the breads there are refined to some degree–regardless of what the deceptive label says. Only buy bread from the frozen section.

  • Ashley

    Wondering if True Lemon lemonade packets to add to water would be okay? They do no contain aspartame.

  • 100 Days of Real Food

    If you are using/processed the leaves yourself then it’s fine otherwise I would avoid the commercial stevia/truvia stuff.

  • Kathleen

    Was this in reply to my questions? I’m confused…

  • Amy West

    I grew my own stevia, dried the leaves and crushed them. Now what? LOL should i treat them kinda like tea leaves? any idea?
    Someone else suggested boiling them in water and making like a “simple syrup” straining off the leaves and have a liquid stevia/water blend.


  • Shannon

    Truvia is splenda mixed with stevia; fun trick food industry.

  • Jason

    Is there something wrong with the commercial process for getting stevia extract that I should know about?

  • Amber

    I was looking forward to the answer to Kathleen’s question…

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

    Hi Amy. I’m sorry but I don’t have an answer for you…I have no experience with this. Perhaps you could find some ideas online? Jill

  • Sherrie

    I’m not sure if you’ll see this but Common Sense Homestead (on fb) has a recipe for stevia extract.

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

    Hi Jason. I think the simple fact that it is a “process” speaks to what the issue with it is. Jill

  • Tess loeffler

    I have grown stevia and the leaves are very sweet with a little bitterness. They are also dark green. When I saw the stevia in the store, it is pure white and does not taste the same as the natural leaves. It did not get that way naturally. I live in So California and our nurseries have that plant occasionally. Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow we’ll in my garden but I wanted to do the syrup from the Common Homesteading blog for my next crop.

  • Food for thought….10 years ago, I had cardiac surgery for an anomaly I was born with. Two years into my healing process, I had been eating Stevia from Trader Joes (before it became popular). I had such severe chest pain while on vacation I was held up in the hotel room most of the time and wound up in the hospital as soon as I got home. By the next morning my pain had subsided completely, and the only change that happened was that I was no longer consuming Stevia. My cardiologist had told me to be leery of supplements. I am convinced it caused this pain, which I have not had since. I have never heard of it from anyone else though.

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

    Thank you. Jill

  • Megan

    Actually no. It is a refined for of the leaf, Rebiana. This is to lessen the bitterness. It is then mixed with erithrytol, a sugar alcohol. Not natural but a far cry from Splenda.

  • Cara R

    Truvia is NOT mixed with Splenda. There is a product on the market that is a blend, but Truvia isn’t it. I get violent migraines from Splenda and I use truvia all the time. Also, the only processed aspect about Truvia is the part of the plant that is bitter has been removed. One of the big obstacles in trying to eat less processed and more naturally is that people don’t have unending amounts of time to cook foods in this day and age. Truvia only contains stevia leaves and is a great sugar substitute (the only one I can use without getting headaches)…so to tell people they can only use stevia if they grow and process the leaves themselves seems, to me, just one more way to make eating more naturally that much harder. As a popular meme says, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!”

  • Amy U.

    I had the same experience with Splenda. After a few weeks of excruciating stomach pain, including a trip to the ER and a colonoscopy to find a cause/relief, I went out on a limb and quit eating foods containing Splenda, noticing that I experienced this pain everytime I ingested it. Bingo! I have never run into another person who had this experience with Splenda. Artificial sweeteners are troublesome ground, huh?

  • Eileen

    When I was taking high blood pressure medication I was told to stay away from Stevia. It can cause your BP to rise. Not too many people know this. I am glad that you no longer use Stevia!

  • Quinn

    Oops, no, you are wrong. Read the trivia article on this site..l40 processing steps, gmo’s etc. Truvia is trash.

  • Karen

    Trivia is mixed with erythritol In fact stevia is not the first ingredient. Read the box.

  • Amanda

    I too get very sick migraine and upset stomach as soon as I ingest any sort of Splenda…aka sucralose. I tried Truvia in hopes of a new sweetner but it too gives the same symptoms as Splenda. As does the other forms of liquid stevia I have tried so far.

  • Angela

    My doctor told me that artificial sweeteners contain phenylalanine, which causes a host of symptoms. I had severe migraines for years and never knew why. Diet sodas, gums (such as Orbit and Trident), and other products with phenylalanine were the culprit.

  • Becky

    This seems a little illogical to me as I would assume even 100% maple syrup must go through some process before being bottled.

  • Angela

    Maple syrup is only heated to remove water, filtered and bottled.

  • Jackie

    You said, “when I WAS taking high blood pressure medication.” Are you not any longer? And, if so, how did you get off of them?

  • David

    Thats so great. It really is working for you. you look good.

  • Donna

    Phenylalanine is a natural and necessary amino acid that all of us need to survive. An amino acid is the building blocks of proteins. It is found in high quantities in animal breast milk, including humans. Breast milk is as natural as you can get. The only people who should avoid phenylalanine are those with PKU, a recessive, genetically inherited disease. These people can not digest phenylalanine so it builds up in their brain and causes mental retardation. All babies born in America are tested for this at birth. If they test positive, they avoid mental retardation by eating a modified diet. Actually, it is the chemical sorbitol that is present in the sodas and chewing gum you mentioned that give you the symptoms you are experiencing. Sorbitol is sucralose and it causes a host of symptoms. So avoid sorbitol, not phenylalanine. The phenylalanine warning on labels is directed to those with PKU, phenylketonuria.

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