Why Cut Processed Food

  1. Processed foods are an illusion, often appearing to be healthy (with claims like low fat, low carb, vitamin fortified, no trans fat, contains omega-3s, etc.) when these foods are in fact the very thing making a lot of Americans unhealthy, sick, and fat.
  2. Coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer – four of the top ten chronic diseases that kill most of us – “can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food” according to Michael Pollan.
  3. Making smarter (and sometimes more expensive) food choices now may reduce your healthcare costs later in life.
  4. Why would one want to eat a processed food-like substance that is scientifically designed to never rot?
  5. The food industry has proven that it is not very good at seasoning our foods by adding way too much salt, sugar, and/or oil to almost everything.
  6. When you eat white bread and other foods made with white flour (which is a highly processed version of wheat) you are basically consuming empty calories with far less nutrition than the whole-wheat or whole grain alternatives.
  7. It is estimated that up to 90% of processed foods* in the supermarket contain either a corn or soy ingredient in the form of an additive under a variety of different names. Now how is that for eating variety?
  8. Cutting out processed foods could lead you to experience a variety of personal health benefits such as having more energy, losing weight, improving regularity, or just feeling healthier overall.
  9. Rather than counting calories, watching fat grams, or reducing carbs for “healthy eating,” simply eat whole foods that, as Michael Pollan puts it, are more the product of nature than “the product of industry.” It certainly is less complicated.
  10. It just makes plain old sense to fully understand what you are eating, be able to pronounce everything on the list of ingredients (if there is a list), and know exactly where that food comes from…don’t you think?

*Statistic courtesy of a food scientist interviewed on the documentary “Food, Inc”

459 thoughts on “Why Cut Processed Food”

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  1. Really industrialized foods are poison for our bodies. I’m sorry that the big companies are not sensitive to this, because for them the important thing is to make money, even if the population dies because of the food they eat.

  2. Hi ,
    I really like this blog and learning about true clean eating. My questions surround shopping list samples/ideas and just basic food ideas.
    I do a pretty good job of sticking to the outside areas of grocery stores, but I’d still like to do more.
    I gained 9 lbs last year and trying to lose it and get healthier overall. I stopped eating the packages bread and was eating sprouted/Ezeki type ones, but grew tired of that and went back to whole wheat packaged bread.
    Thx for any advice

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Mari. I’d be happy to answer specific questions. Not really sure what you are asking. :)

  3. I love the site! So helpful and we are on our way to a healthier lifestyle. It’s day 30. Woo-hoo! I had a question. Some research and sites I am reading are categorizing whole wheat as a processed food and toxin. What’s the story there? I see that it’s allowed on 100 days and am using it all the time to make pancakes, muffins, etc. I also have Esekial bread with my eggs, etc. I am confused so figured I would ask the expert. See the exerpt below which is what I am referring to.

    from Natural news:If you are a regular Natural News reader, then you are likely already aware of some of the major processed food ingredients and additives that are harmful to health. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), refined sugar, wheat flour, natural and artificial flavorings, etc. just a few of the many toxins commonly added to processed foods that you will want to avoid.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Mag. If you are concerned about wheat, you might want to consider using sprouted wheat flour which is easier to digest. Lisa’s family has shown no sensitivity to wheat or other glutens so whole wheat flour is a common ingredient in her recipes.

      1. Thanks! I don’t have sensitivity to wheat or gluten either. I just saw recent things here and there bad mouthing wheat. Ha!

  4. Make chicken stock in your crock pot:
    1 Chicken carcass – great use for bones after you’ve eaten a roasted chicken
    2 C coarsely chopped onion – or just get an onion and cut into 8 wedges
    1 C coarsely chopped carrots – or just get a carrot and chop into 8 pieces
    1 C coarsely chopped celery – or just chop into 8 pieces
    3 cloves garlic – smashed
    4 bay leaves
    1 t whole black peppercorns
    2 t sea salt – adjust to taste
    1 t dried thyme – or use a sprig of fresh
    1/2 t dried rosemary – or use a sprig of fresh
    1/2 t dried oregano- or use a sprig of fresh
    Put all ingredients in crock pot.
    Cover with water.
    Cook on low overnight. Your house will smell so yummy in the morning.
    Cool. – Freeze some in ice cube tray so you’ll have small amounts handy.

  5. What steps can I take to cut out refined sugar? Cold turkey or gradual weaning? What do I use as a replacement is recipes? Do I cut out all types of sugar or just white sugar? I welcome all the tips and ideas you have ! Thanks

    1. Heather, I just recently started a journey to remove sugar from my diet and eat whole foods. Read a lot of articles online and done a lot of research. It’s amazing how all of the processed foods along with sugar have such detrimental health effects on all of us. From what I have read the only suggested sugars are maple syrup, honey and I found palmyra jaggery but it is expensive and not very cost prohibitive for my morning coffee which is where I miss the sugar the most. The journey has been difficult at best and at least once a day, typically in the evening I find that I typically fall off the wagon. But I still keep getting back on and trying again the next day. I have read both ways to stop sugar, cold turkey and gradual using natural alternatives, I suspect which ever works best for you would be the best option. Good luck on your sugar free journey.

    2. Go cold turkey! The funny thing is once you get it out of your system you will not crave it or seek it out. Cold turkey is quickest. Otherwise you will dabble in it and be on sugar for weeks before you really switch. This way after about four days – you’re done! It’s great. I used to have a huge sweet tooth. I would pick at the brownies, eat cake at parties, etc. I don’t miss it at all and my energy levels are much more stable. No 4 oclock lulls. Good Luck! Oh and I do use honey in my pumpkin muffins and on my yogurt and it’s basically the same satiating taste.

  6. An abundance of specific food intolerances is actually unlikely. If you are experiencing digestive problems with a range of foods, it’s likely an undiagnosed systemic problem. I have had two friends who were diagnosed with chronic appendicitis – which is not the most common digestive ailment, but if celiac and Crone’s disease are ruled out, please get tested! One of my friends had two years of digestive problems, and she blamed it on a plethora of foods, until her chronic appendicitis became acute, and she had to have an emergency appendectomy! Now she is back to eating all the the things she once ate.

  7. I am wondering if I was to make my own bread, which is the best type of flour to use as I have been diagnosed with diverticulitis

  8. Zena, if you have not already done so, you might consider being tested for Celiac disease. Make sure they run ALL antibodies in the test. Many doctors leave one out of the test, considering it “statistically insignificant” but a few Celiacs will be incorrectly diagnosed as a result. With the symptoms you describe, it’s worth eliminating that as a possibility. Hope you feel better soon.

  9. Zena,
    You may want to explore food intolerances. Intolerances don’t show well on allergy tests. I’m not 100% real food yet, but am moving that direction because of food intolerances. My dietary transformation started out as a byproduct of weeding out things in my diet, one by one, that were affecting me. No soda, then no sugar substitutes, etc, etc, till I found soy was my personal nemesis. When I finally looked at the overall of the things I had weeded out that helped me, they all fell into processed foods! Soy is in practically everything processed.
    I haven’t had the skin issues you have, but I’ve read that intolerances can cause those too. Best part is when I finally figured it out, I was able to focus on what I could eat and I don’t feel deprived anymore.
    All the best in your journey to real food, Denise.

  10. I just recently cut out all sugar from my family’s diet (only using honey, agave & maple syrup), buy organic whenever possible and cut our meat/dairy consumption in half. Its been a month now, and things are going pretty good :) I just found your website here today, and want to say thank you for compliling such a great resource of recipes! I just tried your tortillas tonight and they were yummy.
    Thank you!

  11. Hi, I just found this blog. I have been suffering on a daily basis for the past 4 years from all sorts of allergic reactions. It seems like I’m allergic to everything I eat yet the tests for food allergies appear to be negative. I’ve also had eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, body odor, as well as sudden severe cystic acne.
    I truly beleive most skin conditions I have are from a bad diet(alot of sugars, processed foods and dairy)
    I would like to switch to a natural diet with zero processed foods but I feel soooo hungry. How do I replace bread & pasta? How do I replace tomato paste or Chicken stalk?
    Are canned foods and jarred foods safe??

      1. I know several months later, but me and the Mrs use spaghetti squash to sub for, well, spaghetti..
        Jarred food are safe, but nutritionally, alot of them are just plain crap in a can

    1. I have found that I do not have to replace bread and pasta or even dairy. Just get it in its most natural form. I bought a Komo grain miller from Pleasanthilgrain.com. I now mill MY OWN FLOUR from 100% organic whole hard winter wheat (they also sell tons of organic wheat and spelt and rye and whatever other grain your heart desires (no pun intended).

      We’ve lost the art of REAL cooking. Most recipes use short cuts and say things like ” 1 bouillon cube” ……heres an idea….. OR………just boil chicken (on the bone to get the cellulose) Go back to basics! It takes time and at first your devoid of energy because of eating the empty calories. Push through it and you’ll see you have energy you thought only possible with a cup of esspresso and it will amaze you.

      My staple kitchen appliances for this type of eating and cooking are: VitaMix, Breadman Breadmachine, Cuisinart Food Processor, Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (with pasta roller attachments) and a Jack LaLannes juicer along with a good set of knives, bamboo chopping boards and cast iron pots, pans and dutch ovens (with no chemical overlay disguised as “non stick”)

      Stick with un processed food purchases (whole foods) and Organic where possible. The recipes are endless, the effort is minimal (once your energy picks up) At first I found it expensive and tiresome but once your body gets the nutrition in needs you dont need to eat nearly as often or as much to feel satisfied and energetic.

      I work full time (50+ hours a week) in a corporate environment, have a husband and religious obligations that take up quite a bit of time outside of work. And I can do it all………… because I have energy!!! Listen to your body. It took all these years for us to destroy our bodies so dont be discouraged if the recovery is equal in length. Only good can come from this sort of eating so keep reading about how you can make healthy, whole food recipes at home and invest in the appliances that make it just a little easier to keep up with.

      I’m not an expert but I know my body and I know that when not even bacteria will touch the grocery store food, its no longer food no matter what it looks like. I feed my dogs the same way. Because our food is unprocessed what I eat they eat (minus the dangerous foods like grapes, onions and garlic etc) and we are all productive, healthy, happy and love it.

    2. I’ve been eating Paleo(ish) for a little while and after the first couple of days of sugar withdrawal (from sugar and other carbs) I don’t miss the bread and pasta. I’ve had a few people be pretty critical over my choice – i think because they don’t know much about it. They think you eat bacon every day :). What it really boils down to is protein, tonnes of veggies and a bit of fruit. You eat more fat, but it’s all good fat. When eating this way it’s not even possible to eat processed food – its all real food – nothing in a package. I’m not hungry and I have better energy.

    3. I came across a new health food product that offers you 43 essential nutrients in every serving. I had back surgery last sept where they did a fustion. I’m at the gym 6 days a week now doing weights and cardio. With little to no pain anymore . I’m also diabetic that has never been able to get my sugar to be consistently under 115 and now that I have added Yevo it runs about 85 to 90. I can’t say it’s from the Yevo but that’s the only thing I have changed. biofoods.myyevo.com

    4. Zena, my skin issues almost disappeared following THe Zone Diet and then The Wheatbelly diet. Google them, both are Very Healthy.

  12. I teach honors level nutrition at our local high school. Both of my classes are going to take the ten day challenge next week and the kids are excited to give it a try.

  13. Lindsay, that is classic signs of detoxing. Think of a heroin attack trying to get clean – you’ve seen the films, that’s kind of like what your body goes thru when detoxing from the chemicals found in processed foods. You feel worse before you feel better – but keep going! Drink LOTS of water to flush the toxins. Try to add fresh lemon (or lemon essential oil) to your water. It will help detox the liver. Once you get the toxins out you will start enjoying the benefits of more energy, better sleep and just plain feeling better!

  14. I was wondering if anyone has notes having side effects when switching to real food?? I have had headaches, irritability, trouble sleeping and even night sweats!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Lindsay. Are you still having symptoms? It is fairly normal for you body to go through some normal detox as you leave the chemicals in processed foods behind. The symptoms should dissipate pretty quickly. Be sure you are drinking plenty of water and talk to your doctor if you’ve not felt relief of your symptoms.

  15. There are 80,000 chemicals and additives approved to be added to our processed foods such as dyes, stabilizers, color enhancers, preservatives, MSG, and virtually all processed foods contain GMO corn and soy. Many of these additives are known to cause allergic reactions, many are suspected carcinogens, some are even suspected of being neurotoxins (they mess with your brain). Virtually all processed foods are dead (cooked over 118-140 deg. which kills all the beneficial enzymes). If you value your health, you will steer clear of all processed foods. That includes bread, packaged pasta, cookies, potato chips (which are simply salt and fat delivery system), bottled juices, and canned soups. We all need to eat more raw foods for the beneficial enzymes anyway, start by eliminating processed foods.

  16. Katlin Stewardson

    Do you have any success stories to share that include healing arthritis? I’m only 25 and pretty sure I have arthritis ( developed very quickly over the last month) and I am willing to do anything to get rid of it. I’m going in for lab work tomorrow.

    1. Katlin – I had the same symptoms, a sudden onset of arthritis pain in my hands. I got a blood test and found dangerous low levels of Vitamin D. You may have low Vitamin D-3, get a blood test, meanwhile, go to a drugstore and pick up a bottle of Vitamin D-3 supplement pills 2,000 to 5,000 IU and start taking them daily now. It would also be helpful if you spent 20 to 30 minutes exposing the painful parts to direct sunlight daily.

    2. I am 50 & had horrible arthritis in my fingers. January 1st of last year I gave up gluten, dairy & sugar & within 5 days my hands quit hurting. I still have the occasional treat but mostly compliant & the pain is gone.

    3. I’m 40 years old and I have arthritis. I hardly ever notice it though because I take mercola brand krill oil. If I forget for a while I can tell. Also, I trust mercola brand and haven’t tried any other brand. I don’t know if it makes a difference in the quality but I’m very happy with mercola. I actually take it to keep my pores from getting clogged. The help with the arthritis was a bonus!

  17. I just recently started cutting processed food I now buy real butter eggs cheese and make my own bread and I make homemade coffee creamer.

  18. Hello Lisa,
    I have discovered that sodium nitrate is a trigger for my migraines. So I have purchased a raw picnic ham to cook for Christmas. My dilemma is finding how to cook a raw picnic ham! Most of the directions reference a smoked or cured ham or a pork butt. I just want to know the best and simplest way to cook my ham!! Do you have any suggestions? The ham is 14 pounds and it’s beautiful! I’m just not sure what to do with it!!
    Thanks in advance for any tips anyone has!!

  19. I just download meal plan one and am planning to start it in January. How many does the grocery list feed? It is just me and my husband and I don’t want to spend a fortune on food that will go bad before we use it. We also live in an apartment and space is limited. Thanks so much.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Li Lauren. Lisa’s plans were designed for a family of four. You can certainly adapt them for your own needs. :)

  20. Where do you start – especially when you do not have money for fancy kitchen gadgets? We’re starting with the bare minimum.

    1. Click the “get started” button at the top. You don’t need a bunch of fancy kitchen gadgets. Also, consider buying her book. I just bought it and it’s a gold-mine of info on how to make the transition.

  21. I’m wondering where Cheerios falls on a the scale of prosessed foods? We are about 80/90% whole foods but there are still some things in my kitchen I’m not sure on and this cereal is one of them. It’s my go to “what the heck do I feed my girls” when I can’t keep up. So what are your thoughts please?

  22. Is there any type of saltine cracker that is a good choice? I have scoured everything on our grocery shelves and cannot find anything. My husband is willing to do a lot to change our eating habits but I got the evil eye when I tried to give him unsalted crackers yesterday because they had the smallest ingredient list…help!

  23. Hello, I ran across this site today. Great site. Our family got into a diet change back in 2007, my son was only 3 then, actually just turned 4. In 2010 I finished my certification in nutrition. Our son has benefited greatly from learning the whole foods way. However, we cut back on fresh food and went back to near completely processed foods for 2 years 2012-July 2014. I can’t believe we did that(well we were trying to save money and pay some things off, med bills) I got so so sick. oh so sick and it came on all of a sudden in May this year. Everything was wrong. My whole system tanked. I knew I needed to save myself, and I also knew a trip to the doctor would yield a plethora of pills.

    So, we went 100% non processed and I broke out our near century old Vitasphere Juicer we bought back in 2007 and haven’t touched in 2 years. I spend 80$ down at our local fruit market every week and we eat for the whole week, 4 people, and juice every day and blend everyday on it.

    In addition I have had to add in a yard of whole food vitamins to our diet. I am just now beginning to
    see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    My dad lives with us, and he is a Meat Addict, also a processed foods junkie, so the whole no processed foods thing is making him grumpy but at least he drinks the juice I make without complaining.

    It is so important to keep up this eating habit. I know so many very sick people around me and Its all nutritional in origin. I also knew better way before I got sick that I would end up nutritionally deficient eating SAD, I guess you loose your way sometimes. Nice to find sites like this out there. There is moocher out there now than there was in 2007 thats for sure.

    I remember I told my best friend Back then, that GMO’s were crossing plant and animal life to make franken foods and put them up for sale (processed) in the grocery store…and he called me a crazy person. Now its common knowledge.

    Great site, take care Cheyenne, C.N.C

  24. Hi, I have been following your site for a while and I love it! I was wondering if you have any tips or tricks for weight loss while following your real food eating plans.

  25. It’s only been one day of eating “real food”, which is all the more reason to shout about how great I feel. I have been a sugar fiend as far back as I can remember, so I was nervous about diving right into this. I woke to have oatmeal sweetened with a T of maple syrup…and it was just sweet enough to be satisfying for me. Yesterday I took a Paula Deen “goulash” recipe (it was really just beefaroni) http://asoutherngirl.com/paula-deens-goulash-the-best-ever/#sthash.0nBL9TSz.dpuf and real foodified it as well as cutting down on some of the salt in her recipe (it called for both salt and soy sauce AND Paula Deen’s House seasoning [read: more salt!]–I also left out the onion and garlic due to having an extreme intolerance to foods in that family. Even without the onion & garlic, it. Was. Awesome! I’m 100% convinced it was the less processed, higher quality ingredients I used and not the recipe that made this meal so fantastic.

    I also wanted something sweet later on (big surprise) and made the 5 minute brownies listed on this site. I only had not quite half the (organic) sugar the recipe called for on hand, so I just went with that. The brownies turned out pretty dry and much cakier (sp) than I prefer a brownie to be, but they were sweet enough…and I used bittersweet cocoa as well as bittersweet morsels to make them. I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate! Perhaps I’ll try the brownies substituting maple syrup next time. ;)

    Bottom line–I feel better–almost “lighter” (not meaning in lbs) and just good overall after just one day of real food cooking. My thinking (brain fog) is clearer and I just plain feel better “inside”. I’m a convert already! I hate to cook, but I’m pledging to continue with this, no question!

  26. the government is letting corporations kill us USA with procssed food because they can make moor money this way because not using natural foods cost them moor. they can charge us moor to give us less healthy foods because our gov. says it ok under a suposed 2000 calorie diet putting the blame for over weight USA on us for not knowing how to eat right when they tell us this food is better for us. [DIET FOOD]!

  27. I have recently learned about the genetic mutation that does not allow you to convert folic acid into a usable form. Supposedly, fortified foods become toxic. I have been following this blog for a while, and am happy to have it for more inspiration as I continue to improve my eating habits (no more snack cakes and store bought cereals for me!).

  28. Thanks for all this great info. I eat pretty clean–but have a candy addiction that was just “ruining” all of the good stuff I was trying to do for myself. I live an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Every week that was bad and full of candy I would just write off and say I was going to start next week!! Then I found your website and blog and something clicked. While today is day 1 no candy and 5 ingredients or less in anything that goes into my body, it really hasn’t been difficult. Not only that but my teeth feel so much better and not gritty from all the sugar. So glad I found your website/blog/recipes. I am looking forward to the book release next week!


  29. Love the information. I am going to try to eat clean. There is so much to learn and so much information out there. It can be very overwhelming. Thanks for any help,

  30. My husband and I just heard about this program. We are extremely big into cooking at home. I go to the Farmers Market each week for our vegetables,and bought whole Wheat Pastas and breads. I thought we were healthy eaters until I started reading the labels. Our pantry is full of chemicals (so called healthy foods). This has been an education experience for sure. Thank you

  31. One thing I’m finding hard is that cutting out processed food means 90% of the food in the grocery store right?

    Can’t buy milk or cheese.

    I guess this really cuts down on what you can snack on since I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to cook everything.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Hanna. It does mean that grocery store shopping is limited mostly to the periphery of the store. Most of the highly processed stuff is in the middle. So, produce, meats, and dairy is where you would spend most of your time. Organic full fat dairy is fine. If you can find it from grass fed cows, that is even better. :) ~Amy

  32. I just started adding processed food to my diet because my caloric intake was too low. This article is all relative to one’s needs.

  33. The real problem here is the fact that the US population is getting fatter and more sedentary. The majority of these people don’t look at themselves as the problem and are quick to blame any type of processed food or non-organics, etc. Exercise and proper diet is the right way to be heathy, Not cutting ‘processed’ food.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Db. Of course exercise is essential for both physical and mental health but a healthy diet absolutely includes losing most processed foods. Otherwise, you are feeding your body chemicals rather than whole foods. ~Amy

  34. My family started the 100 day challenge last week. We cleaned out our pantry of anything processed and well….let’s just say we had nothing left! We spwnt one last week eating processed food from ONLY what we had still in the pantry and then donated the rest. We meal plan for a week at a time and we have been going to the farmers market to get fruits, veggies, MEAT( love local fresh meat). I started making bread at home and we even made our own jelly(using honey not sugar) and spaghetti sauce. We all feel better,sleep better, have more energy and are really enjoying finding NEW things to eat! I am so happy I found this site!

  35. I’m of average weight for my height, but I had a HUGE sugar addiction and would need something sweet in nearly everything I ate, then dessert on top of that. I couldn’t portion myself with sweets either, so I’d sometimes eat 3 ice cream sandwiches in one day, or a whole bag of Hershey kisses in a day, etc. I cut out all sweets, even in breakfast cereals, raisins, etc. and within a week my cravings decreased! Now I can have access to Nutella and not want to eat the whole jar! :) It has been a month since I did that, and now I can have a sweet cereal or a popsicle, but I do find that it’s harder to resist a second helping. I have to be really diligent in not letting it get out of control like before, so I think rare sweets are what I should do long-term. Research Dr. Mercola’s website and what he says about addictive sugars and how we’re all affected by insulin more than we think. Sugars are added to all processed foods, and that’s a huge part of why they’re addicting. His research articles helped me immensely in deciding to cut sugars, and the cravings really stopped quickly. I’d say that’s the most important thing to do if you choose just one thing. Good luck!

  36. Thank you. I also use buckwheat, teff, and millet. I guess I will get their book and see what I can do with it. I just had a quad bypass last month and now all of my numbers are too high for the new lists. I do love quinoa, it subs for lots of things.

    1. Hi Nancy,
      Have you seen the movie Forks over Knives, Dr. Caldwell Esselst’s book reversing heart disease and the movie will blow you away and prevent any future heart issues. I know because I had a heart attach at 49 and now follow the program of a whole foods low fat plant based diet. I love explore Asia gluten,free, high fiber and high protein pasta. I also make lots of zucchini noodles with my spiralizer and top them with my favorite heart friendly sauces. You can rent Forks over Knives from Amazon for 3.99 and its on netflicks as well. Hope this info helps.

  37. I am very interested in eating more naturally. I am not able to eat wheat, barley and rye. My grains must be gluten free. Fresh fruits and vegetables, meats without chemicals, I get. How do I do my grains gluten free with this program?

    1. Nancy, I am not on a gluten free diet but I don’t use any of the grains you listed. I use Oats, Quinoa and brown rice. I believe these are gluten free.

  38. Jessica,

    I suggest starting your day with a green smoothie, eggs/oatmeal/healthy cereal.
    If you start introducing dark leafy greens, veggies & fruit – your body will start to crave those types of foods because your body will ask you for nutrients…which is what cravings are. If all you eat is processed, your body doesn’t know any other alternative. You can start by buying foods that are easy to make. Quinoa & cous cous are examples of quick & easy to make grains to replace white flour breads & white rice.
    Fish is so quick & easy to cook. Make a tuna salad instead of a sandwich…have an organic raw almond butter & organic fruit spread sandwich on spelt/whole wheat/sprouted wheat bread instead of the usual one…use raw honey as a sweetener for your shakes or in place of syrup on flax/multigrain waffles…don’t buy any canned/boxed foods….make quinoa/whole wheat pasta with a healthy home made marinara sauce (it’s actually easy to make…replace sweets with natural ones that are only sweetened with organic cocoa powder or cane sugar for example. If you like soda, buy seltzer water & add an all natural flavoring/sweetener.

    It’s all about making a plan & tracking it by making gradual replacements & changes…until you no longer crave bad stuff & get into a healthy lifestyle. It’s only difficult in the very beginning because it seems like such a major change at first.

    I used to eat bad stuff all the time & I grew up in a Cuban household eating red meat, a lot of white rice & plantains every day.

  39. @jessica: the simple answer to you question is “gradually”. Even the smallest “good choice” can make a huge impact on your health. Eventually, you’ll be able to run your small good choices together end to end (or stacked up) and call it a big choice, aka: lifestyle change.

    The secret is that you have to first desire to make good choices.

    1. While organic cookies are safer than the processed ones which use a lot of chemicals such as artificial flavours and vegetable oils, I reckon that it is better to eat whole foods, such as fruits, nuts and veggies. Organic cookies can still be high in sugar, fat and calories, so health-wise, it does not make much difference.

      If you really want cookies, it is always better to make them yourself because you will have FULL control of the nutritional content of the cookies. There are many such recipes online such as Chocolate Covered Katie, Oh She Glows etc.

      It is okay to eat organic cookies-as a once-in-a-while treat, though!

  40. I grow a lot of my own food, and participate in the local farmers market . fixed income , then become an ant.. learn how to can freeze and dehydrate your food in season . pick your own when you can , grow in containers and raised bed gardens if you can , then save save save the food. I have a small farm , -6 acres, and I raise almost all of our fruits, with trees I have planted, I make jelly, and bbq sauces, chutneys compotes, and preserves, I can my green beans potatoes and tomatoes, and I also raise our meats , small yard see if u can raise your own backyard chickens, you dont have to have a rooster to get eggs, and believe it or not, even a VERY small yard, there are birds, called bantams, that can live just fine in rabbit cages, the eggs are smaller , but if its just you , 3 little hens could provide you with 2-3 eggs a day .. and you can feed them table scraps .. if your more adventerous, raise some backyard chickens and also some rabbits, you can suppliment your food with rabbit meat and chicken … you can find small local farmers selling lambs, pigs and even half or whole cows.. I sell 75-90 lb lambs at about 90 days of age, for 150.00 thats from 35-40 lbs meat in your freezer, and with processing it comes to around 4.50 a lb for LAMB.. if you have the space .. and can savethe money to buy a whole animal and freeze it . you pay alot less per lb , AND your sure of how it was raised… how many of you know any farmers? look on craigs list local to you , the farmers market and state agricultural sites… THIS is how u get better food you can afford.

  41. Yes, this is great advice and all. Now, can we also do something about our poorest folks who rely on assistance to obtain their food? Your food stamps go a whole lot farther when you buy cheap garbage like $0.80 for a box of macaroni and cheese vs. $$$$ for regular chicken and produce, let alone organic.

    You know what’s going to do it? Stopping government subsidies to the corn and soy industries. Why do you think the food is so cheap? If real food were less expensive, I’m pretty sure a lot of people would buy more of it.

    And while we are at it, can we make Home Ec a required course in high school again? You know, teach kids how to cook, what to cook, how to balance a checkbook, etc.

    OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now…

    1. I hear where you are coming from. Healthy food in the grocery store can be expensive! But my personal CONVERSION TO REAL FOOD HAS ACTUALLY SAVED ME A TON OF MONEY ON GROCERIES! Some of the cheapest foods that can be bought are unprocessed real food. I buy bulk beans, wheat, brown rice, potatoes, etc. and grow as many veggies as I can like tomatoes and peppers (peppers keep well in the freezer for cooking.) Spinich actually grows year-around if it is covered (even in below 0 temperatures) and I harvest carrots year-around, under the snow. Bananas and carrots will always be cheaper than the value-french-fries at McDonalds or Wendy’s, and water is cheaper than even the cheapest soda pop.

      It DOES take more time to prepare food, but I make big batches of soup, chili, etc. and take it to work all week for lunches.

  42. I have been eating whole foods no processed for about 5 weeks. At 3 weeks I had blood work done. My cholesterol bad went from 118 down to 107 my doctor said it should be around 100 she was happy. My A1Cs went from 6.7 down to 6.6 my doctor was happy since this does take more time to show a difference she was happy. My blood pressure is now in the normal of low rang it was high normal before. I have lots more energy and am much happier things do not bother me like they use to. The food bill for just me is actually some what cheaper. I can make my food go futher do to I do not eat as much. I do have more choices and the flavor is much better. It has taken me a long time to get to this way of eating. I started with the whole foods that I liked and have added more each week until I have weaned the processed foods out. I do not deprive myself from eating out or having something sweet I have found I just do not want it when the choice comes up. I prefer to eat at home do to I know what I am getting and I can make it tasty.I have to laugh at myself today I was at the store getting crab meat for a sandwitch I saw chips and said that would be good to have with my sandwitch in the next moment the thought was no I want carrets as my chips they have more crunch. Eatting whole foods is a joy and fun.

  43. Keep in mind that even the fruits, vegetables and fish, along with most meats are genically modified, so what’s left?

    1. While it’s true that most of the factory farmed soy, corn, and sugar beets (labeled as sugar vs. pure cane sugar) are genetically modified (GMOs), there are many local farmers that don’t plant them and don’t use herbicides or pesticides. Go to your Farmer’s market and talk to the farmers. Most commercial livestock feed does contain GMOs that have been treated with herbicides and/or pesticides. This carries down through the meat eggs and milk of these animals. Although harder to find than produce, there are farmers that pasture their grass fed animals and only supplement with organic feed.

      The only true way to avoid GMOs at the grocery store (right now in the US) is to to buy only certified organic foods. Part of the requirements to bear the seal are no GMOs, no herbicides, and no pesticides. There are mail order organic stores and Farmer’s Markets online too, if you live in a ‘real’ food desert as I do.

      When I can find organic, I buy in bulk and freeze or can what I can get. This includes big batches of chili, soups, eggplant and chicken Parmesan, stir-fry anything, breaded shicken breasts and chicken fingers, chicken wings, spaghetti sauce, baked beans, bean soups, cooked rice, all veggies and some fruits, icecream- all my own breads, hamburger rolls, tortillas, english muffins, breakfast burritos and egg mcmuffinsyou name it. It’s my own personal stash of “processed” food, but I processed it myself, it’s healthier, and it is even cheaper than the boxed crap because I buy (and cook) in bulk. And btw, I cook just for myself and have a budget of just $190/month. I do have a small chest freezer and a lot of mason jars! I usually bulk cook maybe 3 or 4 days per month, and alternate what I put up so I always have variety.

      My point is, it is possible to eat an organic, GMO free diet on a very limited budget. I personally am most concerned about the bio-accumulation of the herbicides, which are not labeled in foods, and are widely used- especially on grains. That is why I make all my own whole grain organic breads. No more digestive, gluten or lactose problems for me since I switched off the pesticide/herbicide/chemical faucet at the grocery store! My (grown) daughter even stopped having regular migraines when she switched. Real, chemical-free food is the key to good health, it really is!

      1. If you cant go to a fresh farmers market then go to your grocery store, buy the veggies you want , when you get home wash them in a water and vinegar solution. fruits let soak for 10 min. this takes the pesticides off of every thing. I do this with all my veggies even my lettuce. It may getting use too but its really worth the effort.

  44. just start switching over .once you et a few days worth of organic food your whole body will feel so different and better you wont want to go back to additives, preservatives, and gmos. the cravings are there because of the additives in the food. the government is letting the food companies destroy us.its up to us to stop eating the poison

  45. if you stop putting things in your mouth that are unhealthy eventually your body will forget about them. You will feel better and will no longer crave the junky processed foods

  46. How is someone expected to just switch from processed foods to non processed foods? Take me for example. I’m 28 and I’ve been eating processed foods since I was a kid. They are cheaper and easily found at any food store. My mother didn’t shop at organic stores or farmer’s markets.

    I have constant cravings for unhealthy and processed foods. I get that I would be better off w/o them, but do please explain how do I switch and be successful? And most of all, not get bored with lesser options.

    1. Jessica,
      As you keep eating real foods some or all of the cravings for the bad foods go away. Just buy real food(yes you will have to cook), have salads, fruits, veggies and nuts. Start with the foods you know you like and then try new things too.

    2. Start by adding ahuge amount of dark, leafy greens … Preferably kale and spinach, then broccoli. Have a green salad with every meal. If you don’t like these veggies (I don’t), then make a smoothie with half greens and half fruits (1/2 banana, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 cup blueberries is my favorite – only 30 grams carbs ) and water. I add stevia for more sweetness. When your body is saturated with alkaline foods, it is easier to NOT CHOOsE processed “food.” Caution: most fruits are not alkaline, so don’t overdo those.

      1. Sorry, I should have mentioned that I am on blood thinners for life do to my disease. (Antiphospholipid Syndrome) So, I cannot just have a large amount of dark leafy greens.

      2. Jessica, it’s a common misconception that you can’t eat high-K foods while taking blood thinners. You can eat whatever amount of leafy greens you want while taking blood thinners just as long as you are consistent about it. This same rule applies to all the high Vitamin K foods, you just need to keep your K intake consistent. The problem happens when you eat lots of high-K foods and then stop because K helps with clotting. If you start eating a lot of leafy greens your medication dosage will change but then if you keep it up it will level off. When I was my grandma’s caregiver I fed her leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. regularly with no ill effects.

      3. Are you doctor? If you’re not, don’t give advice that is contrary to her physician. Do you really want someone else’s life in your hands because of errant advice you gave?

      4. Daren, Mary is absolutely correct. You don’t have to be a doctor to know this. These are basic well known FACTS about warfarin/coumadin. There are new anticoagulants (blood thinners) available that don’t have dietary restrictions. however, they are not indicated for this syndrome. if your doctor is a hematologist he might consider one of them (a primary care doc probably won’t)

    3. Jessica,
      I know it can be tough, but try starting out slow. Also, you’re an adult. You are in charge of what you eat, what you buy, etc. I’m 28 years old too and although I didn’t grow up on healthy foods, I learned to fend for myself because my health is my responsibility. Yes, processed foods are cheaper and more readily accessible. They are also more likely to cause obesity and other health issues. Most importantly, they aren’t actually food!

    4. It will always be easier to just grab a box or bag of food off the shelf and toss it in the oven/microwave. But once you learn to cook and prepare real whole foods, you will find that you are not limited at all, in fact there are hundreds of ways to prepare that nice piece of meat. Surround yourself with others who eat the same and you will have more recipes (and support) than you will know what to do with. Good luck and know that you can succeed the moment you really put your heart into it!

    5. Jessica- Sometimes I look at the ‘boxed’ food in the grocery aisle as inspiration then make it from scratch. Start slow, a meal from scratch once a week and build from there. Another trick is to add a fresh salad or fresh vegetable with your processed meal. Eventually your cravings will change and you can wean yourself off of processed food. Good luck!

    6. I ate processed foods for 57 years. Been reading real food now for close to three. Not perfect yet. But each step helps. You can see from my blood test results over the last 3 years when my cholesterol went sky high and when it was down. I’m still learning but the effort is so with it. One step at a time.

    7. Hi Jessica, Readest Digest put out a book called Changes One ( change one thing a week or a day). It may be daunting to learn to cook differently and use different produce and things but there is much more variety in start from scratch cooking than in processed. Have a look at Taste online and you will also find lists to keep in your pantry.As well as simple recipes. 4 ingredients recipes can be a good start, and you can add other things too.If you are into travel check out how they make the food you eat. SBS programs are fantastic for ideas.Don’t ever think you have to limit yourself to a recipe in a book ( unless baking cakes)Try a pressure cooker, or crock pot. steam vegies. Enjoy and treat yourself too !

    8. You start out simple. Where I am right now, I started on 11 years ago. I started by taking one bad thing and replacing it with one good thing; like not eating sugar alternatives. Know your bad ingredients; High Fructose corn syrup, sucralose, sucrose, modified food starch, etc.; choose one then look at the ingredients list, if the list has that item, put it back on the shelf.
      Whenever I had “that craving” I’d find a good alternative to replace it. Instead of candy bars, I grab one Andes chocolate. Craving sweets; grab some strawberries. Craving meat; eat a steak. Craving dairy; grab some cheese. We eat eggs of some sort before leaving the house so we have a protein and not feel empty until lunch. We microwave, scramble, or fry and egg.
      The key is to go as Simple as you can. Just know that diets do nothing, weight is not your goal.
      Your goal is healthy. And that goal is doable.

    9. @jessica: the simple answer to you question is “gradually”. Even the smallest “good choice” can make a huge impact on your health. Eventually, you’ll be able to run your small good choices together end to end (or stacked up) and call it a big choice, aka: lifestyle change.

      The secret is that you have to first desire to make good choices.

    10. Carol Cavanaugh

      Maybe start with some small changes. Add an apple, peach, pear, etc., to each meal. Use smaller portions. Try to have half of your plate with vegetables. I found small changes made a difference; pretty soon, I started craving the fruit and vegetables and enjoying them. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Small changes will make a difference over time. Good luck!

    11. The decision to switch over from processed foods to unprocessed is a life changer, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Start by replacing one or two things at a time that you would normally eat from a package with something fresh and healthy. It’s a process and it could take years, but if you don’t start, you’ll never get there.

      As for unprocessed foods lacking variety, the opposite is true. When you eat a processed food diet, you are eating the same handful of ingredients (flour, fat, sugar, soy, etc…) mixed with any number of a boatload of dangerous chemicals to trick your mind and your tastebuds into thinking you’re eating something special. Don’t believe me? Compare ingredient labels sometime and you’ll see the same ingredients (most of which we can’t even pronounce!) listed over and over and over again on all sorts of products that are supposed to be different from one another. On the other hand, an unprocessed food diet opens us up a world of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, meats and other foods that combine for a plethora of taste experiences.

    12. when you get really fresh ingredients (locally produced ie. in season in England if in England) there is a brilliant taste (organic especially). taste of raw courgette for example lovely. I have been getting a £10.45 weekly delivery from Riverford so all seasonal. you get recipes and have grown to love things like beetroot and fennel which I did not think I liked – love now.

      you can eat less meat and add pulses if you want to cut down on expense.

      good luck

    13. Jessica, the first line of my favorite book is “Life is difficult.” and you are living it everyday. Cutting out added sugar is no different and not always fun. I am taking the challenge and it requires making different choices and putting a lot more thought into what you will eat and it does not have to be boring. Whole wheat pasta and jarred tomato sauce, just be sure to read the ingredient list for sugar there are a lot of good options out there. I love Catanzaros and Scalfani. Salads do not always have to start with lettuce, try a chopped salad, Trader Joes has a Healthy 8 which is a colorful blend of red and green cabbages, carrots, broccoli, jicama, bell peppers, radishes and celery. Throw a handful in a bowl add chicken and maybe some pear or apple and you have a great tasting meal. I am a carb junkie so I like to add some chow mien noodles or a little bit of pasta, both have no sugar (read the label to be sure that the brand you choose does not add it. This salad has some many great flavors, I eat it all of the time and rarely get bored. Salsa is another great option for snacks, try it on a whole grain toasted pita. These are a few suggestions but your options are wide, you are not avoiding foods that taste good, you are simply not allowing sugar, honey, agave and artificial sweeteners to be added to your diet. Be strict on the no added sugar part, so read labels carefully. My opinion on the carbs is that you try to make the best choices and eat whole grains, but don’t beat yourself up you do not have to change your eating habits all at once, small changes can have a big impact but if you try to make a radical change, unless you are highly motivated, they will not be permanent. So all good advice in this article and it is better to go cold turkey on the sugar, it is hard but it will be worth it because you will become more aware of how pervasive sugar is in this country.

  47. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, “Fed Up” about many of the same assertions. I really hesitate now before putting anything processed in my mouth, and my last blood work showed huge improvements on all levels across the board.I’ve lost weight and my energy and mood are much better. And, I have MS. So it’s that much more important to me to be vigilant.

    1. I want to see that too! So much garbage in our grocery aisles; stick to the produce and organic sections! I know it’s hard to make the switch because there is so much ‘convenience’ out there that we Americans have become way too accustomed to. But when you start eating more natural foods, your cravings for the processed foods will decrease.
      Convenience is NOT worth diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Your body will thank you in so many ways. Your life IS worth it.
      Good Luck.

  48. why you guys use whole wheat that contains gluten ??

    That you know about gluten is the silence killer of the XX1 century’s ???

  49. I agree with everything in this article with the exception of part of #9. While eating real foods, it is important to continue to monitor the amount of calories you consume in a day. If you eat over your maintenance calories (even with real foods) you will still gain weight. The point is to eat real foods, learn proper portion size, how many calories you need to consume in a day to maintain your weight. If losing weight is your goal, the only way to achieve weight loss is to eat less then your daily maintenance calories. It all comes down to calories, plain and simple. So while this is a great article, you are misleading people into believing that they will not gain weight if they eat real foods instead of processed foods. The key is to balance real food AND calories.

  50. Isn’t what we really need are the nutrients that whole foods provide, rather than the food itself? If so, wouldn’t it be better for us to simply have those nutrients if they can be processed without damage or the extra empty calories and unnecessary binding agents?

    The amount of whole foods we’d have to eat to get the nutrients our bodies need these days (because of increasing poor and nutrient-less soil in which these products are grown) requires consuming a heck of a lot of calories. There has to be a better way.

    1. The force of the nature is to embied in a fruit many elements that work together. What you are talking about is exactely what chemical companies have been doing and making profit, huge, on separating elements and selling them again for a higher price.
      It s like you have a house, you need all rooms, wc, bedroom, etc.

      Now your property agent is selling you the bedroom alone, plus a kitchen plus a wc. optional you can buy the living room, and get a bonus of a Hallway. If you re a long time suscriber you ll get 10% discount on the parking spot, and, and, and, 30% on a kid bedroom.

      Does it sound familiar?
      Maybe you ll get the kitchen from India, the wc from Soudan, the bedroom from Nprway, the hallway from Russia…
      Are you sure you ll like it?
      The worst is that you ll pay for this Lego House far more expensive, and you won t be able to complain later about inadequation of all elements.
      Plus you ll get the surprise that hot water is only 80 deg, electicity plugs are not in your homeland voltage, etc

      1. Although I appreciate your analogy, it doesn’t hold.

        I don’t need just a house, I need “more” of a house. The one bedroom doesn’t sustain me; I need five or six bedrooms to sustain me. So buying a single-bedroom home, although it is whole, does not sustain me because I need 5 or 6 bedrooms, which is a lot to handle and takes up a lot of space. Now, if someone can figure out a way to get me the benefits of 5 or 6 bedrooms without charging me more than a 1-bedroom house and keep it as small as a one-bedroom house, wouldn’t I then want to buy that, despite where all the parts came from? By the way, you’re talking to an Economist here, so don’t get me started on comparative advantage and then benefits of international trade! ;-)

  51. Please, everyone, start using the term ‘chemically-processed’ foods. If you are actually concerned about nutrition and health, using this term will remove the ambiguity and help get your point across.

  52. Hi there,

    I recently watched the documentary Fed Up (http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home) and for those people out there who are looking for more science and/or anecdotal information on the effects the industrialization of food you should watch it.

    Thank you for maintaining this blog! Love all of the useful information and meal plans.

  53. What do you recommend for individuals who are celiac and canNOT have anything with gluten in it…which means eliminating all wheat products and so much more. If we want pasta or a bread it is generally made from corn, rice, or soy. I’ve read a lot of bad things about soy and mix reviews of corn. SO what do we do?

  54. Have you tired ‘Newman’s Own Spelt Pretzels’? Ingredients are: Organic spelt flour, Organic sunflower oil, salt, yeast, soda. I assume this makes the “real food” list but wanted to check here tko see if you agree.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kelly. We have not tried them. The ingredient list is nice and short. I really like his brand and the good they do. Sunflower oil is a refined oil, however, so it does not “technically” fall within the rules. ~Amy

  55. Have you ever addressed allergy friendly foods. My one son has several food allergies as well as asthma. He is 7 yrs old. He is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, strawberries, coconut, eggs, wheat, gluten, and a tad to soy. When I read blogs like this and Food Babe and things about processed foods, which I already know are just so wrong, but with my sons limited diet and being picky, most of his commercial boxed products have a lot of ingredients. Xantham Gum is huge in his foods, even if baking from scratch. I was just curious if you have ever looked into foods say from Enjoy Life and other companies that specialize in foods that eliminate the top allergens. Thanks so much!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Tom. I can’t find anything definitive on this. I can say that to avoid additives, avoid flavored coffees in general. ~Amy