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. June Cleaver |

    Wow, wish we could afford to eat like that (with the exception of I’m from the south so sweet tea with sugar and biscuits and gravy made with white flour are a must or I would just die! LOL)

    What’s sad is not everyone can afford to eat like that. And everyone should, in a country such as ours, be able to afford to eat good, wholesome food!

    It’s sad that we can afford to buy junk processed food much cheaper that real, whole foods to feed our children. And what the schools pass off as food is beyond disgusting.

    We eat as whole as we can, raise our own chickens for meat and eggs. We get all the veggies we can out of our garden….but it’s not enough to live off of :/

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      I know I hope in time I can get better at doing this on more of a budget so I can share the tips with all of you. Also, I believe that we are each voting with our dollars (for those of us who can) and hope that in time we can change things to eventually make the real food more affordable!

  2. Christy |

    I make all of our jam/jelly using organic local produce that I either grow myself, pick myself, or get from the local farmers market. When I make it I use sugar and pectin in addition to the fruit (the high amounts of sugar actually help preserve it). Would we still be able to eat this in moderation?

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      Well, that would have to be up to you. I certainly won’t be there watching your every move, but any sugar at all is technically against the rules! We personally decided that going cold turkey for a little while would be a great eye opening experience for us (and let me tell you it sure has been). If you are considering doing the 10-day pledge it is only for a short period of time and rather than eating different store-bought jelly maybe you could just consider going without jelly all-together during your pledge. Just a thought if you want to go all the way with this!

  3. Susan Johnson |

    I really think that my family may actually be able to do this! After watching Food Inc., reading its companion book and Jillian Michaels books, we have been doing some of this already. They say it only takes 15 days for something to become a habit, so here goes! I love seeing the change in my local community and national community with regard to the Slow Food movement and real food movement!

  4. Susan Johnson |

    Question- does raw sugar count as real food or only honey?

  5. |

    I have a question about the rules for the 10 day pledge. Is brown rice flour exceptable? Or whole spelt flour? I eat brown rice bread and usually bake with brown rice flour or whole splet flour.

    Thanks! Love your blog and hope it inspires many!

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      Thank you! And yes, brown rice is acceptable and so is whole spelt flour. Anything that is whole grain is allowed and I was told by The Whole Grains Council that if the rice is brown it means it is definitely whole grain.

  6. Beth |

    Yeah for whole foods! And kudos to your family for taking on the challenge. I have just peeked in here for the first time… what day are you on now?

    About the above comment that animal foods are not “natural”: there is no society that has ever thrived on a diet entirely free of all animal foods. Milk and meat, fish and eggs, yogurt and cheese, insects and honey… all have been a part of extremely healthy cultures for thousands of years, some even thriving on milk, blood and meat as the bulk of their diets. Even mostly vegetarian cultures that have survived (meaning that their diet could sustain them past two or three generations without serious physical degeneration, including loss of reproductive capacity) have included some form of animal foods in their diets.

    Milk does become indigestible when cooked. Plus all the natural enzymes, beneficial bacteria and even naturally occurring vitamin C are eliminated in the heat. Lactase, present in raw milk, is necessary for lactose conversion/digestion. The reason we see so many “lactose intolerant” people these days is modern pasteurization rather than the inherent quality of milk in general.

    Finally: The only thing I see that I would consider questionable in your list is fruit juices and only because of the quantities consumed by most people and the source of the juice. Did you just squeeze or press it from whole fruits and veggies or has it been “concentrated” and reconstituted and then maybe pasteurized? Seems that concentration process is a bit too much processing to be considered a whole food. The other thing about juices is when you ask yourself: would I really sit down and eat half a dozen apples or oranges at a sitting? That is how many you are consuming when you drink a glass of juice. Lots of fructose for the poor body to handle! My kids still think excluding juice is akin to child deprivation and we do occasionally indulge but I still think it fails on the “real” food agenda unless it’s freshly squeezed or pressed. Just my personal bugaboo!

    I hope you are enjoying your journey and I look forward to reading more… thanks for sharing.

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      Thank you for your comment! Someone else commented on fruit juices and while we also indulge in moderation (on organic all natural juices) I have to agree that not everyone follows those same guidelines. I appreciate your input and will have to do a little more research when it comes to juice!

      • CeCe |

        i have always heard that juice is wasting calories. your body processes it as a liquid and you miss out on the fiber and feeling of fullness that comes from eating the actual fruit. also in my experience drinking fruit does not satisfy my craving for the fruit. i would rather drink water and eat my half a orange than drink 4oz of fresh orange juice. but that is just my 2cents.

        • 100 Days of Real Food |

          I agree and we only drink/use juice in moderation around here for the same reason. And the couple times a week my daughters get to drink it I always water it down!

  7. Patty |

    I use a lot of black beans – via can – how do i make them and or other beans…chick peas…

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      When you buy them dried you typically want to rinse them and then soak them overnight in water (that is at least 2 inches above the beans). Then the next day you rinse them again, add more water (2 inches above again), and then bring them to a boil. Once they boil lower it to a simmer and about an hour and a half later (give or take) they should be cooked and tender! I use the water I boil our chickpeas in as sort of a broth to make hummus so don’t throw away the water!

      • CeCe |

        my mom taught me to make beans when i was about 12. she always said soak them overnight. rinse them in the morning and bring them to a fast boil. let them boil for about 20 minutes-the water will get dark. then rinse them again. she swore this took a lot of the gas that comes from beans away. then you bring them to a boil again, lower them to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. during the second boil is when she would season the beans. who knows if this really takes the gas away, but this is how i have cooked beans since i was a child. i also save my broth to cook rice.

  8. |

    I applaud you on your challenge and was wondering if have ever heard of the Weston A Price Foundation or a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, President? It has at least one chapter in North Carolina.
    Another site that I’m sure would interest you is Nourishing Our Children –

    I hope you check these out. What a wealth of information on whole foods and much more!

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      I am not familiar with these and will definitely check them out. Thank you!

  9. Haunted |

    You’re doing the right thing for you and your children. Just a quick note – although cutting way back on grains is best (your body does not need grains if you’re eating fruits and vegetables) sprouted grains are healthier than whole grains. Try some Ezekial bread. It’s found in the freezer. Your children will love the cinnamon-raisin variety. BTW, I’ve been eating a whole food diet for years but I recently cut out all carbs(except fruits and vegetables) and caffeine and now I feel even better than I did before. I haven’t felt this great in years.

    • 100 Days of Real Food |

      I have done some research on the sprouted grain stuff…very interesting concept! And good for you in making such great food choices as well!

    • Rich |

      Unless you know a lot about nutrition (which you may well do or most likely do not) totally cutting out carbs in not a good idea, why did you do this?

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        We have not cut out carbs. We just eat whole-grain carbohydrates.

  10. Haunted |

    P.S. If you’re going the whole food route, you really need to consider organics and watch the mercury levels in your fish. Pesticides and toxins like mercury are just as unhealthy as any other “additive.”

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