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. Sherri Lechner |

    You should make some of your pages printable.
    Great site. Gonna slowly change my family over to healthy.

  2. Wendy |

    Most of the things you listed are every day life for our family. The only exception is whole wheat products. This is because both my son and daughter have a wheat intolerance. Instead I grind my own flours and make my own bread that is safe for them.

  3. |

    This blog collects a lot of ideas for a healthier lifestyle. Thank for sharing them with us.

  4. Brandon Mahon |

    I have been reading the debates on “MILK” and I am wondering why we drink the milk that was meant for another animal in the first place! No other animal on earth relies on milk past “adolesence” nevermind relying on it from another species. Your body can live without a cow’s milk so just get off the stuff. The whole business of having to market milk as “it does the body good” tells you that it is all about marketing an industry, not about keeping you healthy!

    • Jackie |

      I fully agree, Brandon. I stopped drinking milk about 15 years ago and I have never looked back. When I learned that there is substantial cow PUSS in the milk from their poor over-milked teats. Made me sick to think about what they put those poor animals through. You get more calcium from spinach than milk anyways.

  5. Keri |

    I am wondering why the focus on eating less meat? Is that a lifestyle choice for you? Protein is a very important part of the human diet. There is nothing processed about a steak or a chicken breast.

    • Green Fury |

      Well, the truth of the matter is that steak and chicken breasts can be some of the most “processed” foods out there, depending on your perspective. Most beef and chicken in the market today is fed GMO-corn and GMO-soy based feeds, as well as ground-up chicken feces, feathers, etc., cottonseed meal (which is loaded with pesticides), and blood and bone meal from equally-poorly-fed cows and chickens, and then topped off with cocktails of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals. Not good stuff.

      But, if you can get meat from organically-grown, grass-fed, free-ranged, pastured animals that are humanely-treated on small, family farms, I’d say go for it! Beef from healthy, grass-fed (100% grass fed/grass finished) cows contains healthy amounts of omega-3s, protein, minerals, etc., and pastured eggs and chickens likewise–homemade chicken stock from healthy chickens can be really good for you! And one last note, if you happen to find meat from healthy, humanely-raised animals, don’t just eat the white meat! The only way you’ll get all the yummy nutrients from these animals is by eating the whole animal–even the organ meats… if, you’re sure they’re healthy animals (you don’t want to be eating liver afterall from a cow that’s been filled with the toxic chemicals I mentioned above).

  6. Shauna Mae |

    Hi, I absolutely love this way of life! A good friend of mine told me about this site and it’s great. I do have a question that I didn’t see addressed in the prior comments, I am severely allergic to fruit (all of it) and veggies (most of them) and on top of that I’m lactose intolerant… I make/cook most of my food so I know what’s in it, do you have any advise for someone with such bad food allergies and trying to follow this diet? Or is a slightly adjusted version my best bet?

  7. Louise |

    Thanks for a great website and all the good content! Keep up the good work!

    I noticed in these comments that there are some concerns about the safety of consuming soy. Personally, I never thought that soy is a problem since billions of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have consumed plenty of soy products over thousands of years with no ill effects. But for a more scientific perspective, one of my favorite writers addressed the issue here: Check it out and decide for yourself if soy consumption is safe.

    • Lyddie |

      It was either Pollan or Planck who pointed out that newer soy products were more troubling, but soy in traditional foods were good to consume (i.e. tofu) I like to think of the rule of thumb that if its been eaten for 100’s of years it is good to eat! I don’t remember exactly but I think the traditional soy products are cultured/fermented and that makes a big difference. Alot of the newer products, ie. substitutes for meat, aren’t and may not be good for us.

  8. Sandra |

    Any thoughts on Raw Organic Blue Agave? I’ve been using it occasionally instead of honey. I’m seeing conflicting reports on it!

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      I also see a lot of conflicting information on agave so we personally do not use it. Seems the way it is being used in the U.S. is a little “newer” than honey and maple syrup.

  9. |

    What about dark chocolate?

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      It still has sugar in it… so that is a “no”

  10. sherice |

    agave isn’t that good for you.. when they make it it produces high fructose.. but doesn’t spike insulin so that’s why so many think it’s ok.

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