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. I have printed out the meal plans and I like what I see. However, until I begin working, (which is provng hard seeing how I’ve been a stay at home mom for 13+ years with no formal education) our grocery budget is $400 a month for a family of 5. (My husband is our sole provider)Food tax here in Oklahoma is 8.375%.
    My question is, where do I begin with eating whole foods without going over budget? We have been doing this as best we can for about 5 months but we end up running out of food about 2 days before its time for me to gocery shop again. No, I don’t starve my family. I end up running to the store and buying something thats easy and unheathly. We are planting our very frist garden this year–scary–so that will help. We LOVE frutis and veggies. My husband and kids love me. I on the otherhand can do without. Any advice?


  2. Can you tell me if Stevia is considered off limits if one is eating real food.
    And what should I drink at lunch to replace the caffeine boost I get from Diet Dr. Pepper (i have drunk one a day for lunch for years)

    What about Ezekiel bread? Is that ‘okay’

    Thanks! My daughter-in-law recommended your site.

    One other Q – can you direct me to any posts about adults and decreasing constipation problems after following this plan.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Maria. Stevia is off limits for the pledge. Outside of the pledge, this post might help: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/04/25/stevia-food-babe-investigates/. Coffee or tea is my recommendation for an afternoon pick me up if you want to get that in the form of caffeine. :) Ezekial bread is a good choice among store bought breads, for sure. Regarding constipation, we do not have posts on that subject but I can recommend drinking plenty of water throughout the day as well as adding fiber rich fruits and veggies to your meals and snacks. It should take care of itself. ~Amy

  3. Hi guys! I remember a few months back, Lisa had posted a query to see what types of medical issues etc. had been helped or turned around by people eating real food. Do you happen to know what I’m talking about? If so, could you please please please post the link? I think it would be helpful to a Mom group on Facebook that I belong to and would LOVE to share it!!!

  4. Hi, I’m wondering if you consider pasteurized almond milk acceptable for the pledge? I would like to do this, but cannot eat cow’s milk.

    Thank you

  5. I have celiac disease, so cannot use wheat and certain other grains. Have you addressed this issue with other subscribers? I am eating healthier these days and am wanting to take the pledge, but feel a bit overwhelmed to deal with this issue and still comply with the rules.



    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Linda. We definitely have lots of readers who have issues with gluten, myself included. It may be necessary to adjust the rules slightly to make it work for you. Many of Lisa’s recipes do contain gluten and we have not have adapted recipes but you are welcome to experiment. These posts will be helpful: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/06/28/food-allergies/ and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/08/07/gluten-free-multi-grain-and-organic-junk-food/. Also, check out http://deliciouslyorganic.net/ for a great place to find gluten free recipes that are also real. Hope that helps. ~Amy

  6. My family and I have been discussing doing something like this and I have just found your website today. We don’t participate in facebook but would like more information on the menus. We have just begun to look through your site. The biggest problem that I am having is on where to start our family at in order to make this change. We have 5 homeschooled children and know that this will be a great move for their education and overall lives, as well as ours.

    Any assistance is appreciated.


  7. I just read your 109 days of real food on a budget posts and I loved it! But I have one question. Why don’t you bake your own bread to save money?

  8. I recently found green bean chips at whole foods and my daughter loves them. At first I thought it was a good snack instead of just regular chips, but as I searched the web looking for a recipe to make them myself I read that bean chips are really just deep fried. Is that true even for the whole foods brand? I looked at the ingredients and all it says is the beans, salt, and dextrin. Which I also have a question about that. Is dextrin ok? is it natural? is it what it’s giving the beans that sweet taste?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Isabel. Sorry, but I am not at all familiar with the chips and I can’t find a good reference to point you toward. In general, however, we avoid processed snacks which are fried, as well as those with additives and preservatives. When looking at questionable ingredients such as dextrin, ask your self; “Is it something that would be in a whole foods pantry?” ~Amy

  9. I really like this article and agree with all your points. I only wish you had better sources. Links to specific stats and articles; harder facts would go along way in convincing my husband!

    1. Get your husband to watch the movies “Food Inc” or “Supersize Me.” The book “In Defense of Food” is full of research and “Food Rules” is basically a condensed version of those findings.

  10. Does Pollan have a citation for this claim? I’ve read many of his books, and usually the things he says are just assertions, and not backed by science.

      1. “Coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer” and directly related to the industrialization of our food. The hyperlink just leads me to Pollans book on amazon.

      2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hi again, Stephanie. I have the book in front of me now and there are plenty of citations throughout which support Pollan’s philosophy. I don’t think he claims to be a scientist, rather a crusader against the ills of the industrialized food system and the negative effect that food is having on the health of a nation. ~Amy

  11. Hi. It’s been almost a year since I changed the way my family eats. I have four boys 14-7. I started a blog called farfromperfecteating.blogspot.com talking about my journey how I made the change to healthier eating for my family. I noticed a HUGE change in behavior with my boys. Especially the two younger ones. I am struggling with my 14 year old. At times I feel like he is on board with eating healthy and it’s ok with him. But then there are times when he wants doritos and he gets mad at me and says why can’t you buy good junk food? Why do you have to change everything? It was fine the way it was. Then we get in an argument because he knows more than me. How do I get him to listen to me? I know I am doing the right thing for him. He just can’t see it now. I won’t back down and I told him that if he wants to eat that stuff, he will have to ride his bike to the store and buy it with his own money. The chances of him doing that are slim since he is a typical lazy teenager. I told him I will not buy that stuff knowing what processed foods does to your body. So I am wondering if you have any advice how to talk to your teenager about processed foods and how it affects your body without lecturing him?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Becca. I have found documentaries to be especially effective with older kids and teens. Food Inc. is a good one but there are a whole list (Google food documentaries). You should screen them yourself first, so you can assess what is appropriate for your guys. Jamie Oliver’s Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html is really effective as a broad brush look at what the Standard American Diet and many school lunch programs are doing to our kids and why it must change. Also, for the younger guys, this is a presentation we do within our elementary schools: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/04/19/how-to-talk-kids-about-real-food/. Hope those help. ~Amy

  12. After over a year of reading your webpage and thinking to myself wow that makes sense…. This new year I finally decided to make the commitment to Real Food – I admit I’ve committed one of your cardinal sins in not getting rid of the processed food that is in my house (with how tight our budget is I just can’t justify throwing it away) however, I refuse to buy any new stuff. I’ve told everyone I know (to keep me honest in this endeavor) that I’ve made a lifestyle change (not a resolution – resolutions get broken, lifestyle changes are permanent). Even though my life is hectic right now (new baby, working, and a grad student) believe it or not I’m actually finding that meals are going smoother since my commitment to real food. Each evening while my husband spends some quality snuggle time with the baby I get in the kitchen roll up my sleeves and cook something (might be muffins to have for breakfast, or buffalo chicken in the crockpot for sandwiches and salads later in the week, or just pre-chopping veggies and freezing them for later in the week). I’m finding that I love the chance to just zen out while I cook, prep or bake – but more than that I’m finding that the food tastes better and my mornings are smoother. With all the fresh veggies and fruits in my house, it’s easy and fun to make my lunches for the next day (and with all the muffins I’ve baked breakfast is a snap too). So I just wanted to send out a truly heartfelt thank you from me, my husband (who is thankful he finally gets a break from cooking since he did it all while I was pregnant and for the first two months post baby), and the little man who’s benefiting from all those natural vitamins and minerals through my breast milk!

  13. My daughter just turned 4, and she is lactose intolerant so she has drank lactaid milk since beginning cow’s milk. She eats a pretty clean, healthy diet in general. Any thoughts or info on lactaid milk?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Bea. I don’t know the particular details of Lactaid. There are certainly adaptations that have to be made for allergies and various sensitivities. I do think organic, when possible, is especially important for dairy in order to avoid added hormones and antibiotics. ~Amy

  14. It’s been my goal to eat real for the next year. I am starting slow, but I feel like it’s important to incorporate the little things first; wheat flour and pastas, no boxed foods, and no high fructose corn syrup. It’s sad to me, how hard it is to stay away from these things. I can’t believe how many things are “dead”, as my mother-in-law would say! Thanks for all your help with this process. I have really been inspired by you. Both my paternal grandparents have Parkinson’s disease and I am convinced that me or my children will inherit it and that with the help of real food, we can at least keep it from happening early on in life. my grandparents are, and have always been, real food eaters without even realizing it; living off the land and steering clear of boxed goods. I think that’s what’s kept them living well into their late 70s and 80s, despite their illness!

    Thanks, again!

  15. Just took a look at your website today because i am completely switching to “real” foods as i like to say. I’m 23 and my moms boyfriend is a dairy farmer who raises beef cows, lamb, chicken etc. I’ve been drinking raw milk and consuming meats from these animals for months now and i feel better than ever. I just wanted to say that e-coli does not concern me nearly as much as the fact that we are pretty much embalming ourselves alive with all these preservatives we consume. I dont think we should be concerned with the possibility of getting sick from raw foods, instead we should be looking at the long term affects of prossesed items causing cancers, heart problems etc. Dont listen to media half the time they are lying to you. Thanks for listening :]

  16. My spouse and I stumbled over here coming from a different web page and
    thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following
    you. Look forward to checking out your web page for a second time.

  17. It’s interesting these comments on raw milk. I agree with the reviewer who stated about knowing your source (farmer). I know there is ALOT of controversy about raw milk. We’ve come a long way in our food handling over the years, including dairy. Much of the generation now raising young children and teens have only known the industrialized version of food. Going back to the era where things were much more simple and the distance between food from farm to table was much less, they were less concerned about the risk (if they even considered it a risk), they were more concerned about keeping food on the table to feed their families.

    And yes, I own part of a herd of cows, I’m relatively new to having raw milk, meat and eggs directly from a farm. I know my farmer and trust his standards. For those that are completely opposed to raw milk there are dairies who pasteurize the milk at the lowest temperature possible to preserve nutrients. And I was excited to have found those dairy products prior to having access to raw milk.

  18. I found your site yesterday when searching healthy foods on Pinterest, and I love it, VERY well done. I have been trying to move to real food for a few months now without any real direction, other than reading the labels and choosing those with 3-5 real ingredients. ( real as in I know what’s in there) I sent your link to my daughters. I am going to start a 100 day plan asap, to undo my 50 years of mindless eating and reverse the High Blood Pressure & CRAZY high Triglycerides.
    Nancy H.

  19. I recently learned from my endocrinologist that the FDA does not require labels to list trans fat if it is .5 mg or less. However, that can add up over a day and amount to health risks as trans fat is a leading cause of heart disease. Trans fat is more commonly found in processed food as well.

  20. I really like your website. It is really interesting to learn about processed foods. I hope everyone who reads your website will try and change their diets

  21. I love this website. As a Registered Dietitian, it is great to see people advocating healthy lifestyles. I teach my clients to eat whole fresh foods. Processed foods are unhealthy and we need to prepare healthier foods on our own. Managing your time is the key! If someone does not know how to cook, they should take a cooking class. It hard for people to remove processed foods when they can’t cook. Most of my clients have no idea how to cook. We recently have been lucky enough to use a local kitchen to teach clients once a month how to prepare healthy meals. Our first Menu is Balsamic glazed chicken wiht smashed sweet potatoes. Baby Spinach Strawberry Salad with slivered almonds with homemade Lemon Honey Vinaigrette. With a roasted sweet red pepper soup.

  22. Katrina, your reference to raw milk and car seats is like comparing apples to oranges…not the same at all. And to say raw milk is a real and present danger is being dramatic. Go to a farmer that is well known, has a nice clean dairy and healthy cows. That’s real healthy milk!! Enjoy!!!

    1. Orchid,
      Yes, some people feel that whole wheat products have an odd texture (crunchie if you will). I happen to be one of them. We are trying to incorporate more whole food products as much as we can and some are slower than others to accept. So, not that bizarre.

  23. Why do people who insist on writing about food feel that scare tactics are the way to go. Wheat is a grain. Flour is a product of milling the wheat, it is not a version of wheat. If you follow that logic, then “less refined” flour (aka whole wheat flour) is a version of wheat as well. This is continually pushed on people, however, some people really don’t like the texture of whole grain products (something about having crunchies in their food).

    I am not against anything in this list, and feel it should be presented early in life to create a healthy lifestyle, what I am against is the manner and methods of which the information is put out there, which is often times as misleading as that is being reported on.

  24. I agree with the message, but I really don’t understand why author Michael Pollan is the only person touted as the authority on this. This stuff is not news by any means, and the knowledge was around long before Pollan ever wrote a book.

    1. Why does it matter who is touted as the authority. As long as the information is getting more mainstream, in my opinion. Michael writes in a way that speaks to the general population and gets them to act, therefore it is the only recognizable reference with any clout! It is from there that people learn about other great references such as the Weston A. Price.

    2. LEA you know, NO ONE is stopping you from going out and writing about it on your OWN blog. stop the critical/criticizing stuff, if she chose to put that in there its her blog and she is free to do so. She didn’t force this on you. Complainers need to go write their own blogs and leave others alone.

      1. Perhaps I should have worded it differently. My comment certainly didn’t warrant the hate mail you just spat at me (are you projecting?). I felt this blog post read like a Michael Pollan advertisement. If you disagree you can simply say so without being rude. There are far more prominent and respected whole foods advocates that I and many others would be more likely to give credence to. I’m entitled to voice my opinion wherever I please, and Lisa Leake has always replied very respectfully and constructively.

    1. To Dan…I drank raw milk from the time I was a baby…still alive at 60+ years and never get sick…let alone campywhatever nor ecoli!
      Farmer’s daughter, joann

      1. Joann…just because you never experienced any side effects (that you know of) doesn’t mean that it’s not a real and present danger. That’s like people saying that they never sat in a car seat as a child and they’re just fine.

    2. You know you can get diseases like that from raw vegetables too, so should we cook everything? Cigarettes and alcohol are legal but raw milk is not, it’s insane. So don’t bash those who say raw milk is not bad for you.

    3. My sons had got campylobactar and it dang near killed a couple of them. It is mostly found in chicken. Something like 45% sold in stores contain it. I have never heard of it coming from cow milk but could be possible. When we lived in mexico for a time, and even when growing up on a farm, we would boil the milk we got straight from the cow. Also, a friend of mine has a dairy and cant sell organic raw milk from their cows because of laws. What they did was have people that wanted that milk sign a paper that they own part of that cow and when they want milk pay a “fee” for its upkeep each time.

    4. People drank raw milk for thousands of years prior to the milk industry commercializing and adulterating it for profit. Can you imagine how crippling it would be to the industry if the masses found out the real benefits of drinking raw milk?

  25. Is there a website that lists easy food swaps? There’s no way we can change it all overnight but with little swaps here & there we could in the long term. I’d like to know better alternatives to everyday family products such as margarine for instance. I have no idea which one is better for us, I thought Canola based was a good choice (Til I saw something about Canola) & some taste like plastic which could be the ones you end up recommending & therefore we wouldn’t use it, but if there was a site that could list the item, than rank some alternatives, that would be helpful & easy to look up & make choices from. Milk is another one. After changing to Permeate free thinking it was better, then reading about the loss of nutrition, I went back to regular. Who knows? Not sure if it’s just marketing. Thanks. Not all families can make radical changes so I’d appreciate some simple everyday alternatives.

  26. I have shared your site with SO many people and make the Whole Wheat bread weekly for the kids lunches. Although I am not 100% “real” (more like 80%) our healthier habits this past eight months have really made a difference. And when I reach for those Ranch Doritos I remember how ill they made me feel, then I go home and slice my own potatoes for homemade “chips.” Thanks!!

  27. I experienced daily migraines before swititching to a whole foods diet. Thanks to my dietary changes, I am now migraine free!

  28. As a Registered Dietitian, I wholeheartedly support eliminating processed foods from our diets. However, I urge people to research the dangers of consuming raw milk. It contains dangerous bacteria and can make you very sick. In addition, coconut milk is very high in saturated fat and there is limited research to show there are positive health benefits. Fads come and go; don’t believe in the hype and make sure you check the facts from legitimate nutrition sites.

    1. Hi Carla,

      I have been consuming raw milk for two years now. For years I thought I was “lactose intolerant”, now I know it was the store bought, processed, nutrient deficient milk that made me sick. My five year old drinks several cups of raw milk a day, he loves it! Especially in the summertime when it’s ice cold, straight out the fridge. I also use it to make my baby’s formula since he was a month old; he is VERY healthy and has NEVER been sick (not a fever, not a cold, nothing). In my experience raw milk is one of the healthiest changes I’ve made to my diet. My family and I have never been sick from consuming raw milk.

    2. As a young person growing up, I drank raw milk any time my parents were able to get it. I remember as a teen going down the to neighbors to pick up our milk and watching her pour fresh milk that just came in from the barn through a strainer into our milk jug and I took it home still warm. It was wonderful. Never been sick once! For years I’ve tried to find a source and finally over a year ago, I found a source and it is wonderful! I hope I never have to go back to the store stuff!

  29. My teen has been having frequent, and severe migraines lasting days at a time and recurring every few days for months. No meds are helping. A nutritionist suggested we try eliminating foods for a test, so we are starting with gluten. I have fibro and another teen chronic fatigue. I am completely overwhelmed as we try to go gluten free to support our teen, and as a test to see if eating this way can help our other symptoms. What a relief to find your blog today! Thank you for all this effort

    1. Since being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s I was having migraines 5 days a week and regular headaches the other 2 days. As soon as I cut out SOY, which is in EVERYTHING basically hidden with words like flavoring, my migraines and headaches stopped. I found a brand of soy free whole grain organic bread and English muffins and read labels very carefully now. Research to find out all the words they use to hide soy in foods, My Thanksgiving turkey gave me a migraine because of the “flavoring” aka soy only safe turkey and meat is kosher/organic.

    2. You probably found a solution by now, but my best friend in high school (I’m 23) discovered he was getting crippling migraines from nitrates (found in processed meats like cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs etc). When he stopped eating them, the migraines stopped completely. Just wanted to let you know — hope you find the cause!

  30. http://www.foodandnutritionresearch.net/index.php/fnr/article/view/5144

    For those of you interested in why going on a ‘no-processed’ diet (despite our cultural beliefs on skim and diet stuff!) actually may help to reduce weight. This journal is free access.
    As a woman and regular active human being, I love the feeling of well-being that I get from clean eating (and yes, I consume milk and cheese, just not any crappy stuff). As a molecular biologist, I personally like to know why I’m getting these benefits and have thus gone through the systematic review process of the scientific evidence available. It’s amazing how overwhelmingly compelling it is!

  31. I’ve been following your page for a year now & I love it! Good quality content with lots of beneficial information. I recently got asked to be on the local school’s Health & Wellness Committee. I would love to see the school make a change from cutting out processed foods to fixing meals from scratch with real ingredients. They are already on the right path with implementing a salad bar. But more work needs to be done. I was wondering if you had any good resources I could use, or if you have done anything with your local schools that you could share.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Natalie. There is a lot out there right now to aid in the fight for more nutritious/whole food school lunches. One of our favorite resources is: http://www.foodday.org/ which educates kids, teachers, parents, and administrators on the importance of eating whole foods and reminds everyone where our food SHOULD come from. Jamie Oliver’s award winning Ted Talk is a great resource as is: http://angrymoms.org/. Hope those are helpful. ~Amy

  32. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Shawn. Lots of our readers can and it is a great way to save money and preserve produce for year round use. When you control the ingredients and the canning vessels, you know you aren’t getting harmful additives, preservatives, and other chemicals from can liners! Here are a couple of Lisa’s adventures in canning and preserving: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/05/10/how-to-can-some-jam-a-simple-method-without-pectin/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/06/22/recipe-no-sugar-green-tomato-relish-can-freeze/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/06/01/preserving-seasonal-foods-berries/, and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/07/13/preserving-seasonal-foods-bell-peppers/. ~Amy

    1. You are so right. I’ve been canning since 1974. The items I can each year may be different but one basic is tomatoes. I use them in soups, stews, spaghetti, etc. Tomatoes are easy to grow and easy to can. About five years ago I bought a Molly (or food grinder) it makes canning tomatoes ten times easier. Only wish I would have had one 40 years ago!

  33. Hi,
    I was wondering about home canned food? Does it have the same effects. When I can I use barely any salt, half the sugar when canning Jelly. We freeze most of our harvest but I have a family of 7 and canning is just easier for space. What

  34. I stumbled upon your site and I’m loving it! My husband and I cut out all processed foods entirely about ten months ago and it’s certainly been a journey! I started chronicling our journey with out diet changes on my blog thirtyeightfive.com. Thank you for your ideas on how to eat healthier as a family!

  35. I have been eating clean for almost a year. It is small steps or it is too overwhelming. Read labels! My nearest grocery store that sells organic is over an hour away so I still panic when I run out of something I use alot of. I also still feel betrayed when I shop that people actually sell food that is so bad for you and pass it off as healthy. My husband eats what I fix but adds in his junk like sugar free chocolate, diet soda, chips and tons of other processed foods. Try to notice what parents are letting their kids eat. Sad.I did it to my kids. My daughter figured it out and has switched her family but my son and his family think we are on a health kick and will eventually come to our senses. Don’t wait to start! It takes a while but food does taste better, you have to get the toxins out of your body.