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. |

    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.

  2. |

    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.

  3. Cori |

    Can you drink wine?

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      Yes, of course! I don’t think I would have survived the pledge otherwise :)

  4. Ash D |

    It did state on the original rules that you can drink wine :)

  5. Kate |

    Hi, What a great idea for a challenge! I completely agree with all of your inputs on what to eat/what to avoid except one. I lived in Japan for almost half of my life where white rice is a staple at every meal. I eat short grain sticky rice quite often. The only ingredient is “milled rice”. Were you referring to the minute rice/fortified white rice? If so, that is completely understandable. Yes, brown rice is more nutrient dense just as whole wheat pasta/bread is as well. However, white rice is not refined as white flower is. I just wanted to clarify your meaning on “no white rice”?!

    • Green Fury |

      White rice is in effect the equivalent of white flour in that they are both “polished” grains. And indeed the practice of “polishing” grains started at approximately the same time in both the East and the West. White rice is no healthier than eating white bread, though there are certainly different degrees of “white” — e.g., eating home-made “white” bread is a lot better for you than eating wonder bread, if only because you can make your bread without any additives, and you can also purchase unbleached and unbromated white flours. With rice, the short grain sticky rice is better than minute rice for sure, but it’s still white rice.

      • Kate |

        AHH! How crazy! Then my stance is made, I will follow the rules except for my rice! haha :)

        • Green Fury |

          Indeed, eating is supposed to be pleasureable as well… so if you can’t live without your white sticky rice don’t make yourself suffer :)

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      Kate – Here is what Michael Pollan recently said about white rice: “In general you’re better off eating brown rice than white, which (unless it has been fortified with vitamins) is pretty much pure starch. But a little white rice isn’t going to kill you or give you diabetes. Especially if you eat it with lots of vegetables and some fats, which will compensate for the lack of nutrients and slow your body’s absorption of all that glucose. That said, the Harvard School of Public Health estimates (how, I don’t know) that changing from white to brown rice will reduce your risk of diabetes by 16 percent.
      Yes, it’s true that people have been eating white rice for centuries. But the rice has changed, and so have we. Millers today do a much more thorough job of “polishing” rice than they once did — that is, whitening it by removing the nutritious bran and germ from the grain. (The same is true of “white flour” as well — it’s a whole lot whiter now than it used to be and therefore less nutritious. Nice going!) As for the eaters of old-timey white rice, chances are they were working in the fields, and so burning those extra carbs that sedentary people store as fat.”

  6. Christina |

    What about raw sugar is it considered a real food?

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      Nope…it is still refined.

  7. Karena |

    My family is going to take up the chan. for 100 days. We are a family of 6, having 4 children ranging from 11 monthes to 7 years. I am homeschooling the older two, so your page will really help me out for I don’t have much time to do much research. Thank you for your work that you have put into this. We are starting our 100 days Sept. 1st and we are looking forward to it and talking it up to the children!

  8. Dena |

    What do you use in place of mayonaisse? Have a few in the family that use it a lot. Would love any suggestions. Thanks. Especially to make deviled eggs.

    • Wendy |

      We use organic plain yogurt instead of mayo. Works great for most recipes.

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      A lot of people make homemade mayonnaise, although I never had much luck with the recipes I tried during our pledge. I now just used the least processed organic mayo I can find and I use it sparingly.

      • look_alive |

        Just stumbled upon your site and love all the info. Already planning to do the challenge!

        I just wanted to share that I just made my own homemade mayonnaise this week, and it literally took just a few minutes, and was so easy I felt stupid after I made it. :-) I don’t think I’ll ever buy store-bought mayonnaise again.

        If you have failed at other recipes, I wanted to share the post from the Serious Eats blog (I am in NO WAY affiliated with them!) that got me brave enough to try to make my own. And now that I see how easy it is, I can’t imagine why more people don’t do it. The secret is a hand-held stick blender. That makes it virtually idiot-proof. If you don’t mind me posting the link, I really urge you to try your hand at may just one more time! :-)

        I happened to have an old, 15yo, hand-me down stick blender for this, but they can be found at local stores for about $10-$20. Worth it for 15 years of the best damn mayonnaise you’ve ever put in your face. I literally couldn’t believe the difference in taste. Plus it lasts 3+ weeks in the fridge, I can make it in a reusable glass jar, and I know with some certainty where each ingredient came from.

  9. |

    Hey! Thank you for responding to my question. We are seriously considering taking the challenge, but we have one more question about the 5 ingredient rule. What if it’s a product that has a bunch of organic ingredients like the ezequiel 7 sprouted grain bread?..we like it so much that we’re trying to replicate the recipe at home…thanks!

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      That is up to you to decide. We didn’t eat anything over 5-ingredients during our pledge (even if they were all whole food ingredients) just because we had to draw the line somewhere to make the challenge easy for everyone to follow.

  10. Lauren Gray |

    Great Site!!!

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