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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2,348 comments to Real Food Defined (The Rules)

  • Mark Jenkins

    Hi I am a personal trainer and heating and plumbing engineer. I try to live the life I ask my clients to live, in the respects to diet and healthy living. It’s hard in Uk as we don’t have great choice in the supermarkets and when you go down the organic route it’s often very expensive. Health is all about the balance of good and bad. Like the see saw effect. I love making my own dinners for my family but it’s a time allocation that mucks it up and it’s easy the grab something out the fridge and put it in the oven. All good food but it’s processed to make it frozen. My kids are really healthy and fit, they often have too much energy. They have the odd sweet and fizzy drink none of the low sugar type only full fat. They often waste it and it gets poured down the plug hole. This is on a treat and not a common thing in our household. We are always giving them water to drink or the odd small glass of Apple juice not from concentrate. All I am trying to say it’s all about balance. I lost my Aunty and uncle over the last few years both under 61 years old, they lived very healthy lives and didn’t even drink alcohol or smoke yet they both died of cancer. They even keep there own bees and goat .

  • Cheryl

    Eggs are NOT dairy. They are protein that comes from chicken. Only products that come from cow milk are dairy.

  • Nancy

    I have been reading your book and share your dilemma about mayonnaise. I have just found a mayonnaise that pretty well fits your criteria called “Just Mayo” from Hampton Creek. ( Check it out!All organic ingredients. I also cut it 1/2-1/2 with organic yogurt, often made at home with my raw milk.

  • Cindy

    I’ve been gearing up for this way of life and inching towards it for the past 2 days…my question is for sweetners..agave and organic coconut palm sugar allowed? Also, I made a cheesecake out of honey and the coconut sugar the other day which is Awesome!!!

  • I was thinking I would take the challenge, but we already eat like this! I do keep a couple of boxes of organic, whole grain crackers in our pantry, and they have more ingredients than I would like.

    They also don’t taste as good as homemade, but I have yet to find a cracker recipe–or to develop one–that we love enough to make the labor worthwhile.

    Any suggestions?

  • Cathy

    I have a question about teas. Many brands include sweeteners like stevia or brewers malt in their organic teas. Permissible?

  • Stephanie

    What would you suggest for someone like me that lives in a tiny town wit no access to anything organic? I clean the fruits and vegetables that I get from the store but I still worry about the pesticides, because I know there are so many, it’s just dreadful.

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