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. maggy |

    What about stevia, and what suggestions do you have for gluten free, esp. since
    the flour used to make bread has more than 5 ingredients

  2. Tara |

    Hi, I just wanted to thank you for opening my eyes! I’ve been reading and doing some research on processed foods, organic foods and reading up on vegetarian diets. It wasn’t until last night when I came across your post on Facebook that made me jump in head first!
    Long story short…I went food shopping today…first thing I did was look at the label on the very first product I picked up lol i could not bring myself to buy any products that had ingredients in them I’ve never heard of! It really made me sick to my stomach and disgusted at these companies as well! 100daysofrealfood has changed my whole outlook on food and what I will buy and feed my family of 5! My kids are really excited as well and in only one day have learned so much about processed foods and how there shouldn’t be a paragraph long list of ingredients on the labels. I bought a few examples home for them to compare. One was olives and the other was ranch dressing. I bought both organic and regular and also asked them if they thought it was necessary for those companies to put all those added “ingredients” in them. After they compared….what they did next was priceless! They went through the cupboards and looked at all the labels and started asking if we could throw them away! I told them we would donate to the needy instead. And from now on nothing but “real food” will be in our kitchen!
    Thanks again for putting together 100days! God Bless you and yours!
    Our real food journey begins today! :)
    The Z Family of NJ

  3. Meghann |

    Re: Wild caught over farm-raised seafood…
    I am concerned about the long term damage that over-fishing can and does cause to the wild fish populations. Why do you recommend wild over farm raised when farm raising is a more sustainable source of seafood?

  4. |

    You and I have the exact same definition of “real food”, the only thing I cheat on more often than I like is the white rice because it cooks sooo much faster than brown. White flower is reserved for very few occasions where whole grain just doesn’t do the trick “chemically” when baking for example. Sometimes I’m tempted to use sugar because of the chemical reaction, too. I have been able to completely stay away from refined sugar though and am so glad!!! Keep up this amazing work of teaching others about real food.

  5. Leland |

    My schedule can be pretty hectic and I try to plan my meals as much as possible. However, there are some days that I stay too late at work and have somewhere else to be and can’t make it home in time to grab one of my planned meals. Do you have any suggestions of what and where to eat when you are on the go? (Love this blog by the way!)

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