Real Food Defined (The Rules)

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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  1. Casey |

    My daughter may suffer ADHA/ADD will find out more in few days but people have suggested to change her diet and i was wondering if fallowing the 100 day food plain might help with some of this any info is helpful

    • fred |

      no junk food
      no tv
      no cellphone, tablet

      go outside and play
      take up art – drawing, painting
      learn to listen to and play music
      read books
      go for long walks

    • Shannon |

      This diet would help because processed food can cause add/add and it’s just healthier. However the Feindgold diet worked wonderful for my child. It is an elimination diet. We found out my child it was fresh oranges causing behavior problems! I thought I was doing the right thing by giving her fresh fruits. Some fruits have salicytes that are found to increase add/adhd.

    • Vanessa |

      I can say from experience that yes she would likely benefit from this type of diet. Also teaching her better eating and dietary habit now will help her to continue with them as she grows older. The worse place for your child to eat is in their own cafeteria.

  2. candy s |

    Is gluten-free bread and pasta acceptable?

    • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

      Hi Candy. We understand that the rules have to be adjusted for allergies and sensitivities. Look for gluten free pasta and breads made with whole grains.

  3. Wendy |

    A question about the point regarding the use of sweeteners. The acceptable sources listed aren’t useful for someone with diabetes. (Agave, honey, maple syrup, etc ALL raise blood sugar levels.) Any other suggestions for sweetening up my morning coffee without the splash of artificial stuff I’m currently using? Thank you!

    • Mel Young |

      Try a drop or two of liquid stevia.

    • Brooke |

      I have found xylitol is low on the gylcemic index and a GREAT tasting, natural sweetener (no aftertaste like stevia). However, it is not safe for dogs to consume, so be aware of that!!!

  4. Jessica |

    You can use blackstrap molasses or coconut nectar.

  5. Sam |

    I have allergies to dairy products and going to stick with my rice milk and unsweetened almond milk for now if that is allowed

  6. Robin Crone |

    I have to eat gluten free, what is an acceptable flour to use for baking?

    • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

      Hi Robin. Lots of people like gluten free whole grain blends but I’ve yet to find one that works for everything. I like Bob’s Red Mill. I also like using Buckwheat. This post might be helpful:

    • Elizabeth |

      I eat gluten free as well. There are a number of GF flours out there that work fairly well. My favorite is GF Mama’s coconut and rice blend. When you try to substitute GF flour for other flours substitute ounce for ounce not cup for cup. America’s Test Kitchen has a GF cookbook out that gives you a wealth of information about cooking GF as well as some delicious recipies. Just keep trying different ones and you will find you own favorite.

  7. Liz Massa |

    I have been drinking unsweetened organic soy milk instead of cows milk. Are there any reasons I should reconsider?

  8. Deborah |

    When you say sweeteners in Moderation, meat in moderation, how many times per week/or grams (or oz) per meal would “moderation” be?


    • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

      Hi there. The RDA on sugar is no more than 6 teaspoons per day. With meats, one of the ways to think about it is that they should be a compliment to a meal and not the focus of it.

  9. lacey |

    My question is, what about seasoning? I know whole and natural foods are best but I’m a seasoning kind of person, if it don’t have flavor I’m not eating. So are seasonings ok or are they not? And which ones can we use? Thank you.

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