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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2,377 comments to Real Food Defined (The Rules)

  • Jessica

    Are you familiar with the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and Weston Price’s work? It’s all whole food based recipes and there are so many great articles on Weston Price’s website.

  • Jessica

    Oh and one more thing- my husband CANNOT consume any pastuerized dairy or he gets very sick. However, he can consume as much raw dairy as he wants, without any reactions. It’s just nice having the option if you want it.

  • Ann

    Are we allowed to drink soy milk?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      As long as it doesn’t have any sweeteners or more than 5 ingredients!

      • Green Fury

        … but soy isn’t exactly healthy for you. Soy mimics estrogen, and also contains higher levels of phytic acid than other legumes. Soy should really only be eaten if fermented, as in honest-to-god soy sauce, bean curd, and miso.

  • Anon

    I must say, forcing this on your children must drive them nuts. They will grow to hate you for being such a horrible mother.

    • Green Fury

      Woe! That is like totally uncool… Try turning this around on yourself; maybe you are the horrible mother for allowing your kids to eat all the processed, chemically-altered, genetically-altered junk that’s in the market today.

      • Green Fury

        Sorry, that wasn’t very nice to say it that way — I definitely don’t want to accuse anyone of being a “horrible mother”. I guess what I meant was to try looking at it from the oppositie perspective. We’re all starting at step 1, since our society is built around fast food, junk food, and highly processed foods. The challenge is to escape from the norm.

    • Arcadie

      Gosh, if you aren’t interested in this program, don’t come back. Mean people need help. This is a great site and concept!

    • Natasha

      ~WOW could you be anymore bitchy!! This woman is not only take the time to ensure that she and her family eat healthy,she is taking the time to share her knowledge with us,saving us the time of researching every little thing.WOW Just Wow,maybe if you kids grow up to be the size of a house from all the junk food that you seem to think is better ,they will hate you!!!!

    • Monica

      Just my guess…this message from ANON was not from an adult, whether father or mother. I’m guessing this post was from an adolescent or teenager who panicked at the thought that his/her parents would join this movement to eliminate processed, fast and other junk foods from our diets. Bless his/her little heart! : )

  • After finding your website, I spent two days reading both the 100 day and 100 day Budget posts as I was so intrigued about how you did these projects. I would love to try this, if not for 100 days, then maybe the 10 days, as both my husband & I want to lose additional weight and eat more healthy (along with saving money- our food bills are awful. However, I’m just not sure if we would be able to. I am assuming you don’t work outside the home and you seem to spend an awful lot of time in the kitchen. Though I don’t have small children at home, I don’t get home from work until 5:00 (one day 7:00) and my husband is in bed by 8:30 at night because we both get up early. I am also vegan and hubby is not, so even though we eat a LOT of fresh produce, I do not eat any animal products, and the cost of non-animal products is considerably higher. Also, most items have more than 5 items in them. You are also fortunate to live in an area that has many sources of organic fresh items. We do not. To find anything organic within a 30 mile area(that is not all moldy and shriveled) is rare (& costs a small fortune). We only have one small farmers market during the summer months, which consists of about 2 tables of produce. We also have ZERO restaurants that serve Local foods. I would LOVE to eat real food using a budget, but I am very skeptical that we would be able to do it and not go hungry. I am not trying to make excuses, it just seems a bit overwhelming. I am however, willing to give it a try. I will see what hubby thinks, but I wish our area offered some good options. I will continue to read your posts to see if I can find some helpful tips. I really want to be able to do this. Thanks for the site. It is very interesting.

  • Susan

    I am going through my pantry and we have Mission tortilla chips. The ingredients are: ground corn treated with lime, water, vegetable oil, salt. Not sure if ground corn counts in the “real food” category or not?

    • Green Fury

      Ground corn can count as real food, just make sure you’re not getting genetically-modified (GMO) corn. Also, what’s the vegetable oil — watch out for soy, corn, and palm oil in particular (palm oil plantations are one of the leading causes of habitat destruction in the rain forests of Borneo… destroying habitat for the orangutan).

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      The problem with chips is that they are deep fried in refined oil. Sorry not allowed during the pledge!

      • Green Fury

        Well, the oil doesn’t have to be refined. The deep-frying of chips can be done with an unrefined high-heat oil like peanut oil. Chips can also be baked.

  • Laura

    I went to the grocery store yesterday to check out the whole wheat pasta and to see if there was any acceptable whole wheat bread (there wasn’t). However, I have a couple of questions about the pasta. What is acceptable as ingredients? The mainstream brand whole wheat pasta had very few ingredients but I wasn’t exactly sure what they were and if it’s ok!
    Also, I looked at canned tomatoes and and tomato sauce/paste and was wondering about those as well. The canned tomatoes were ok except they listed tomato juice as an ingredient and citric acid. Are these things acceptable?

    Thanks for the help!!!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      For pasta you can usually find some with only one ingredient: whole durum wheat (or something like that…it must say the word “whole” though). For tomatoes I try to buy the cans with the least number of ingredients, but I also like to buy organic b/c they have a thin skin and tend to absorb chemicals used on conventional produce. I also try to find some with very low sodium or no added salt. I’ve found a couple brands at Earth Fare that meet all these requirements. Oh and tomato juice is fine…citric acid isn’t ideal, but sometimes that is all you can find! You might also be able to stock up on some non-perishable stuff like that online if you can’t find ideal choices locally. I hope that helps!

    • Susan

      I bought Walmart Great Value whole wheat pasta today and the only ingredient is duram whole wheat flour :) Good luck!

    • Loida

      We eat gluten free at home. You can find some great pasta made with quinoa, corn or rice that is made with whole grains. I now prefer quinoa pasta to wheat. It is organic and non-GMO, with more nutrients.

  • I didn’t see this in the “rules” post, so I’m just wondering…did you do all organic? Or any specific items organic only, and conventional for others? I buy certain items organic (milk, eggs, cheese most recently) but cant afford to buy ALL organic.

  • As for laws regulating “Raw Milk”, they were not enacted against ecoli, rather TB. Since tuberculosis is once more rampant in the world I applaud the law though I hate pasteurized milk for my own consumption. But having spent some of my childhood on a dairy farm and in the testing lab at a milk distributor and having seen the filth in barns and corrals on dairy farms all over this country I can speak this with some authority, “Do not drink raw milk, unless you know the cow and the dairy farm very well and that the cows are tested often for TB.”
    As for the all organic, most of it really isn’t and for stuff that is raised with out the expense of insecticides and chemical fertilizers, why does it cost so much more than non organic?
    You lucky people who can hop in your cars and go to farmers’ markets and area fruit and veggi stands. I have to cab to a market once a month, cutting my food budget by $30+ each month and take what I can get and that isn’t much unless I want salted, sauced, MSGed prepared foods. Scream and yell at your super market manager for real food again! Scream and yell at the distributors that you want real food again!
    To those of you who say sugar is so terrible, well I will not say those words but these, “All things in moderation.” Want sweet tea? Add the sugar when it is hot and use about 1/8th of what you would use otherwise then add ice or chill it.
    Buy my bread at a local bakery? Lovely thought, but where is the extra money to pay the price. Make my own, I did for over 50 years, I can no longer do that.
    Maybe I my rich old aunt in the poor house will leave me a million dollars and I can buy a bread machine, hire a car and driver and shop every day and hire a cook to do all the prep work I can not do any more.
    Why cannot we get back to common sense. Use what is available, ask people who distribute and sell food for what you want and just stop buying the junk.

    • Mae

      I’ve been told that organic foods cost more than their non-organic counterparts because, without the use of chemicals like pesticides and herbicides, more of the crop is lost to bugs or other damage. As a result, farmers need to charge higher prices to make up for their losses. In this case (as in all others) it’s up to each individual consumer to weigh the cost against the benefits, and decide what they’re willing to pay for.

  • Cori

    Can you drink wine?

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