Newsflash: We Are Not “just fine”

If I could have a dollar every time someone said, “I grew up eating highly processed junk food, and I turned out just fine” then I would surely be rich. And another one I’ve been hearing an awful lot lately is, “Easter only happens once a year so my kids will be getting candy.” Before I dive into the dozens of facts that prove we are truly (and unfortunately) not “just fine” I must first get this holiday thing off my chest.

Yes, Easter Is Once a Year, but So Is…

  • Christmas and Halloween and several other candy-filled holidays
  • Every kid’s birthday in the class
  • The junky packaged snacks given to kids after soccer practice and church service
  • Candy-filled party favor bags
  • The “100th Day of School” celebration
  • Visits from the ice cream truck
  • The Box Top “cupcake party” at school
  • The candy “reward” from the treasure box
  • The sucker from the bank
  • The frozen yogurt fundraiser for the elementary school (sorry but contrary to popular believe frozen yogurt is not “real food”)
  • The piece of candy after dance class
  • The visits from the in-laws bearing edible “gifts”
  • The playdate at someone else’s house where Oreos are a standard snack
  • The list goes on…and on…and on

My personal philosophy is that if I almost never give my children highly processed junk food they’ll somehow manage to still get plenty of it (from outside sources), and guess what…that’s been ringing true for quite some time now. I personally think one special treat a week is plenty and that’s what seems to work for us. It is a rare enough treat for it to actually feel, well, special. Seriously, if your kid eats a piece of candy after almost every meal how can it even be considered a special “treat” anymore? As I’ve said time and time again the problem is not necessarily the sweet treats themselves, but it’s the quantity in which they are consumed!

Sugar Consumption Is Out of Control

Did you know that according to a recent 60 Minutes story that “Americans are now consuming nearly 130 pounds of added sugars per person, per year?” Yikes! That’s more than a third a pound per person per day (approximately 3/4 cup a day!), and I would venture to say that most people don’t even realize they are consuming this much “added sugar” because it lurks in unexpected places like beverages, salad dressings, dried fruit, condiments, yogurt, crackers and even bread. “Sugar” comes in many different forms, which means it’s listed under many different names like brown rice syrup, honey, cane juice, agave, Sucanat, corn syrup, etc. making ingredient labels tricky.

Some Scary Statistics…All Related to the Food We Eat

So how is it that we are “just fine” when:

  • “Our children have the destiny of a shorter life span than their own parents…your child will live a life 10 years younger than you because of the landscape of food that we’ve built around them.” (Source: Jamie Oliver)
  • “We spend our lives being paranoid about death, murder, homicide, you name it…it’s on the front page of every paper. Any doctor any specialist will tell you … diet related disease is the biggest killer in the United States right now here today.” (Source: Jamie Oliver)
  • 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.” (Source: Michael Pollan)
  • “Two-thirds [of America] is statistically overweight or obese.” (Source: Jamie Oliver)
  • “[To reduce heart disease] a government commission in the 1970s mandated that we lower our fat consumption. ‘When you take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard,’ says Dr. Robert Lustig. ‘And the food industry knew that, so they replaced it with sugar…and guess what? Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and death are skyrocketing.’” (Source: 60 Minutes / CBSNews.com)
  • “Americans enjoy the cheapest food supply in the world, spending the smallest share of their income on groceries of any country.” (Source: Chicago Tribune Reporter)
  • “No other nation on the planet spends as much as we do on medical care.” (Source: Robyn O’Brien)
  • “People are fed by the Food Industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the Health Industry, which pays no attention to food.” (Source: Wendell Berry)
  • “Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes expensive statin medications and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before.” (Source: Dr. Dwight Lundell, Heart Surgeon)
  • “I freely admit to being wrong. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact. …The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.” (Source: Dr. Dwight Lundell, Heart Surgeon)

If you aren’t personally overweight or don’t experience any major health problems I can understand how you might think your health and eating habits are “just fine,” but how do you expect to feel, let’s say, 10 years from now? Plus I would venture to say that today there’s not a single person reading this that doesn’t know someone with a food-related health problem like heart disease, certain types of cancer, hyperactivity (in children), asthma, diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, autoimmune disorders, and/or constipation. And the amazing thing about all of this is…as soon as you change your diet the majority of these food-related health problems are completely reversible.

I Used to Think We Were “Just Fine” as Well

I admit I thought our family was just “fine” and healthy before we cut out processed food. After all none of us have ever been overweight or had any serious medical problems. I grew up on my fair share of Doritos, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, candy and other sweets, and while still eating highly processed food I successfully completed my first sprint triathlon. Overall I felt like a young and active mommy. And while we didn’t get on this “real food” bandwagon to solve any health issues, the events that took place soon afterward were surprising. My HDL (a.k.a. the “good” cholesterol number that should be high) went up by 50%! My younger daughter’s constipation completely disappeared and her asthma improved 10-fold. I suddenly had more energy (I used to think experiencing “afternoon slumps” was normal, but those days are long over for me). Not to mention it just made sense to know where our food comes from and to not eat from packages with ingredients we couldn’t even pronounce.

Still to this day I honestly didn’t think our eating habits were “that bad” before cutting out processed food. We were never ones to frequent McDonalds, Domino’s Pizza or the prepared frozen food aisle, and sodas only made rare appearances in our house. Apparently all the refined grains and added sugars we were consuming was making a much bigger impact than I thought.

The point is this is our wake up call, and it’s time for some serious change. Smoking cigarettes used to be viewed as harmless and now look what’s happened to that industry. I fully expect the big food companies to follow in those very same footsteps because highly processed foods are clearly causing health problems. And if we, as consumers, “vote with our dollars” then they will surely get the message.

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214 thoughts on “Newsflash: We Are Not “just fine””

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  1. LOVE this article! People feel sorry for my husband because I never have processed sugar/food in the house. They think he’s being deprived. Seriously? Processed food is around every single stinking corner.

  2. I agree with you. Growing up “just fine” doesn’t mean that you’re going to feel the same when you’re 25, 30, 35, let alone 50 or 60. Eating healthy isn’t something that magically changes all your life (just like you can’t gain 50 pounds in a week, it’s a long process). Unhealthy habits just add up until one day you feel all consequences.

  3. That’s why I stated it was very misleading. What may work well for one person could not work well for someone else. I see patients all the time who have made massive diet changes and sadly that has had no impact on their cholesterol levels.

  4. Yes, some people respond wonderfully to changing their diet for cholesterol issues. However, some people’s bodies just naturally produce too much cholesterol regardless of what foods they consume.

  5. I don’t know about reversing cancer (however I do think and have thought for years that our food is a major contributor to cancer) or autoimmune disorders, but my father is living proof that changing your diet can reverse cholesterol problems. He used to take the “wonderful” cholesterol lowering drug crestor that physicians are so quick to try to shove down people’s throats, to no avail I might add, then later suffered a heart attack. He started his new diet as soon as he left the hospital, which is a real food diet, and both his LDL and HDL are at very healthy levels without the aid of any drug. My very close friend’s husband also reversed his climbing cholesterol by changing his diet…also without taking meds. Lisa didn’t say that all of these conditions can be reversed but cholesterol is one that most definitely can be reversed. I would also like to say that to those who were offended by this article,I don’t think lisa meant to target anyone with what she said. I think she just wanted to speak about personal experiences she has had and how frustrating it is to her personally. The article helped me to put into perspective how much candy and sugar my child is actually getting. I didn’t feel judged or attacked. I am a new reader of this blog and am trying to change my family’s eating habits and I love the information you put out there for us to read. I think sometimes people get offended by what they don’t want to hear. I for one like reading about your personal experiences and the things that frustrate you along the way. It gives me an idea of how to deal with some of the things that frustrate me. People need to realise we aren’t going to be puking rainbows all the time. Everybody wants everything sugar coated for them.

  6. While I agree that if you eat better you feel better, as a physician, I completely disagree with your statement- “And the amazing thing about all of this is…as soon as you change your diet the majority of these food-related health problems are completely reversible.”

    Many of the conditions you mentioned are heavily influenced by genetics and/or complex environmental factors. It’s very misleading to say that by avoiding processed foods you can reverse conditions like cancer, autoimmune disorders, and cholesterol problems.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Thank you for sharing your input. That’s exactly why I said “the majority” and didn’t say “all”…there are always exceptions to the rule of course, but there have been some amazing stories of people reversing so-called “Western diseases” with diet.

  7. Do you have any tips for converting your family/kids to healthy eating? We have been eating poorly and having candy treats for so long I don’t kno where to start? Do you just go cold turkey? My kids will revolt

  8. I couldn’t agree more. Too many times, I’ve encountered: it’s just one candy, it’s just one soda, let her enjoy some juice, etc. It’s so frustrating because when you add up all the daily opportunities to eat processed food or sweets, it isn’t just ONE.

  9. Christy Dolinger

    I love following your blog. My family strives to eat whole food and we have been following that path since 2007. I had my first child in 2008, fed only breastmilk and homemade organic baby food (mostly grown from my own garden). At 19mths., my child (not overweight at all!!!) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a genetic autoimmune disease. The patients immune system destroys insulin making cells within the pancreas. The pancreas “dies” in a sense and is rendered useless. The patient is immediately insulin dependent for life and most closely monitor blood glucose levels just to stay alive on a day to day basis.

    The diabetes spoken about in the media is type II diabetes, a completely different disease rooted in metabolic issues. Cells receiving insulin have been used and abused over time (bad foods/obesity) and become insulin resistant leading to type II diabetes. Most times this disease can be completely reversed by following the dieting practices that you and I so firmly believe in.

    Just wanted to raise awareness for type 1 diabetics. They are few and far between, but are judged and criticized due to the media’s portrayal of diabetes (if they would just say type 2 all the time, we would all be happy). This post is for my skinny, well-fed, type 1 diabetic son who is now 4!

    1. Thank you, Christy!! As a type 1 diabetic for over 16 years, I hate the stigma that we get for our disease. It’s not my fault I was diagnosed with diabetes – thank you genetics, environment, or whatever it was that caused it – I wasn’t an overweight, unhealthy 8-year-old. Eating real food definitely helps me control this disease, but we don’t know for sure what caused it, and won’t for a long time… if ever.
      It’s too bad that type 1 awareness has been overshadowed by all those type 2s (90-95% of the diabetic population)!

  10. I like this post. Thanks for listing all those occassions our kids get “special treats” – it really went a long way in pointing out that, oh yeah, kids get treats A LOT. I feel the same way. I have no problem dumping candy in the trash if necessary, why? Because that is what it is. I put some of the chocolate candy aside for that special treat but the other stuff got dumped. My mom bought my three year old these cupcakes from Cosco the other day. Six giant cupcakes full of frankingredients that were made to look like Elmo and Cookie Monster. One cupcake had 39 grams of sugar! That is almost 10 teaspoons of sugar per cupcake – about twice what he should eat for an entire day. I let him eat half of one over her house as to not cause a stir. She insisted I take the rest home so he could enjoy them. I smiled and took them and then into the trash they went when I got home. That is what they were so that is where they went. It’s harsh but what my mom doesn’t know won’t bother her. I’ve been gently pointing out to her that I don’t want him eating that so please don’t waste your $$. It is amazing the amount of junk that is out there to tempt us and our children. We need to demand better food. We need to nourish ourselves not just consume calories.

    Lasly, I’m assuming you mean frozen yogurt that is factory made is not real food? I buy plain yogurt and flavor it with fruit and then freeze it for a healthy special treat – I do consider that real food.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Good for you…one of Michael Pollan’s quotes that I remind myself of often is “better to go to waste, than go to waist”. It’s drilled into us not to “waste” things, but sometimes that is unfortunately the best choice. And yes I am talking about frozen yogurt (similar to ice cream…that’s been sweetened). Plain organic yogurt that you flavor yourself is totally fine!

  11. I have metabolic syndrome. My cholesterol numbers are really out of whack. We cut out fast food and started preparing “fast” food of local eggs and toast, changed our dairy to full fat, grass-fed from a local dairy, and meat to locally raised beef and bison (grass-fed), turkey, and chicken, and started getting a CSA box from a local organic farm. I also added flax-seed oil and more greens (green monster smoothies) to my diet. Just with these changes, my HDL is actually normal, and triglycerides are down by 100 points!

  12. Whole-stic Living

    Great article , while my family is not perfect, we are working towards a healthier food and moving away from processed foods, when raised on it, it is not all that easy but baby steps and we are getting there!

    New reader here and looking forward to being a regular follower!

  13. Lisa,

    You are absolutely right. I am amazed and dismayed at the amount of edible substances given to my children that I have no control over–particularly at school. How have you fared when addressing this with the school or with other organizations? I would love to hear from others too… You do feel like a “crazy overboard parent”. People are so blinded by the culture–it seems that most people are quite accepting and believe all of this sugar and candy is normal. How can we say “Thanks, but no thanks” without offending?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Adrianne – It is hard to strike the right balance. Just the other day my kids were offered a treat by neighbors, and I felt like I wanted to compromise so I said my girls could split 1 instead of each getting their own. They still got to have treats with their friends, but it was half the added sugar it would have been otherwise. There is unfortunately no right or wrong way to handle these situations….I struggle with what to do all the time myself! I understand there is a social aspect of enjoying junk food with friends and I don’t want my kids to be completely left out…but sometimes it is just way too much.

  14. Love it! We recently completed the 10 days to real food. It was amazing but after 10 days we decided to not be 100% “overboard” with the kids, you know the aka occasional treat uuugh!!!… Well guess what hit right after 10 days Easter. Ok so one piece of candy..ok one cookie covered with yucky icing….And ever since we have seen a complete change in attitudes in our home with our 3yr old, 5 yr old and 6 yr old. So after a week of complete break downs. Crying for no reason. Last night I hit the wall. It is no wonder for the past week and a half they have been back to getting an oocasional treat! I hate that. It is just as bad as all the time. When you go off and then “occasionally” have it again it does just as much damage because every once in a while is so much more than an actual once a month or even once a week. It is crazy!!! So here we go again we have to put our foot down again and be called the crazy overboard parents again. But Im ready bring it on!!!!!!

  15. I enjoy reading particular articles from this blog and have added to our already healthy eating home with some of your recipes, but one thing I have such a hard time getting past is your condescending tone, and in all honesty, your “holier than thou” attitude. I, like you, want to save my children as well as myself from the dangerous of highly processed food in a world where it’s the norm. But you come in with this “I used to be stupid like all of you, (even though I was running marathons) and now look! We’re even better and we frown upon anyone who isn’t like us.” Grace is a mature and much needed trait, and I hope you learn how to stop looking down on people like you’re better than them.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Mandy – I have not had a chance to read through and respond to all the comments yet, but it really saddens me that a handful of readers are clouding an important message that I feel extremely passionate about by insinuating that there is a layer of negativity behind it. I take great care in putting these posts together and have recently been putting extra effort into ensuring I am getting my message across without offending anyone (even though offending readers has of course never been an intention of mine). Clearly it is impossible to please everyone, but please know I write this blog because I care deeply about spreading this message, which I hope will help others. And there is truthfully nothing more to it than that. I feel that sharing some of our personal story can help people relate, but unfortunately that has led a few readers (like yourself) to judge us in a negative light. Hopefully in the future if something rubs my readers the wrong way they can take a little more care in how they share that feedback with me, because just like the next person I do have feelings and to be honest your comment made me feel pretty bad. Regardless I certainly don’t plan to let the negativity keep me from trekking forward on this mission…

      1. If my comment is one of the ones to which you are referring, I apologize if I offended you. When I said “the tone of some of the articles I have read” I was speaking in general. I believe this is the first post of yours I have read. I do not believe you intend to convey negativity. I do believe my ideas were valid, though, and that there are others who can relate to the desire to learn more in blogging communities only to feel condemned when reading some articles out there and especially some of the accompanying comments. I understand this setting being an avenue for some to vent. I just wanted to remind people that some readers are “new at this” and relate how frustrating it can be. Again, thank you for sharing your experience and expertise.

      2. Lisa, please don’t let other people’s sensitivity to a relative stranger’s opinion affect your work. You are doing GREAT! You have already made a huge difference in my life.

  16. I love this blog and read it all the time, as someone who believes very strongly in providing my family with whole foods. The helpful tips and recipes are amazing, and so is much of the information that explains why this food philosophy is so important to our health. However, I do have one constructive comment. It seems to me that there has been somewhat of a shift in the tone of this blog over time that is a bit more combative, for lack of a better word. With this post, for example, mentioning the statistic that our children will die at a younger age than us. I could be mistaken, but I assume that most of the readers, like me, already believe in the real food lifestyle, so I don’t see the purpose of this kind of scare tactic tone. I also don’t think that sharing that type of information with friends and family who may not share our thoughts on food is very effective, in fact I think it can have the effect of isolating or making one sound superior. I feel that the best way to share the message is to keep it positive and let others know how good it feels to truly eat well, and to present health information in a gentler way.

    1. I agree, but you were able to say this much more constructively than I did. I hope the blog can stay positive–at least most of the time, I know sometimes we need to vent–and keep providing helpful tips, recipes, and encouragement. That is the best way for us to both encourage each other and introduce our friends and loved ones who don’t share our knowledge and beliefs to the real food way of life.

      1. I think Lisa has evolved in her food journey & realizes more & more fully the implications of processed food, big ag,our declining health. The facts ARE scary, but I don’t agree she is using scare “tactics” which seem to imply she is exaggerating or overstating somehow. This is her blog and her story she is sharing in a passionate way. I got inspired by this post!

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      I couldn’t agree more… the fact that our children will die at a younger age than us is very scary and upsetting. But unfortunately I believe that if we don’t talk about these things (and raise awareness by sharing the statistics) nothing will change. Thank you for your feedback (and for reading)!

    3. It’s not a scare tactic, but you SHOULD be scared. I don’t see how it could isolate them. I see it as talking with someone, opening up about how scared I am about the possibilities of a lower quality of life for our children, which should in turn open up discussions on how to fix it. Everyone needs to stop getting their feelings hurt over FACTS. If you don’t like them, then ignore them. But we’re going to do something about it. My kids’ lives (and possibly other kids’ lives if I can get the message out to more parents) matter more than your hurt feelings.

  17. Lisa – I have a personal (locked down) blog to capture our family moments. Your blog was perfect timing and I had to share with you my commentary before sharing a link to your blog post. It’s rather lengthy – I apologize!

    It originally started when my son (now 19 months) was born to replace produce with organic(23 pesticides on my celery really messed with me). Then I began purchasing local eggs (yes it was more expensive but I was supporting local farmers and I definitely knew that they were raising their chickens properly). It has continued to expand as I research and also feel that we are capable of taking on more change. As a professional working mom making everything from scratch can be quite daunting from a time perspective and trust me you will still find processed foods (at least organic and hopefully little to no refined sugar) in our house – its a trade off – spend my entire weekend cooking or spend time with my son and husband.

    I have stood my ground to continue to pack his food on a daily basis for his daycare even though i continue to pay the cafeteria fee (it’s “baked” into our tuition). Thankfully the teachers are getting better and even provide me the menu for the following week so that I can make his food as close to what everyone else is eating (only healthier). There are times I am tired and frustrated and want to throw my hands up and say just eat whatever they give you. I mean really how I do match corndogs?! During one of those times as I dropped him off I noticed that instead of the kids getting the yogurt and fruit that was on the menu they were being given Lucky Charms. LUCKY FREAKIN CHARMS!!! That my friends is 100% refined sugar! There is nothing nutritional in there – I don’t care if the advertising says Whole Grain Cereal – there are no regulations about when and how you can even say that! In fact daycare in North Carolina must follow State Regulations about what is fed to the kids – every day I was instructed my lunches for him MUST provide a protein, fruit, and veggie. Lucky Charms passses State Regulations?!?!

    I posted on Facebook my frustration about this (this was not the first time I had seen this being given out). While I was mostly being given support for my decision on packing his lunch and for being upset about this sugar cereal, there were a few comments about “I was given this and a few other sugary cereals as a kid all the time and I turned out just fine”. The comments bothered me because I do hear that quite often. And honestly for a long time I thought I was fine as well. If you know me at all, you know to not get between me and a Snickers bar! I am talking at least 1 a week – it was my comfort food! It did have nuts after all! :)

    For many years I have dealt with terrible headaches, some that were borderline migraine. Now early on I am sure many of them were stress/anxiety induced but what I noticed in my college years was my exhaustion in the afternoon. I was tired with close to debilitating headaches that always required at least one dose of 2 Advil Liqui-Gels – sometimes 2 doses before I would fall into bed (there were times I took 2 Advil and 2 Tylenol together). I dealt with 3-4 of these a week at a minimum. I kept chalking them up to lack of sleep and/or stress/anxiety.

    In early January this year I was challenged to cut refined sugar out of my diet. Replace sugar with molasses or maple syrup in my baking, toss the candy and cookies, no soda. All of this was interesting because other then keeping a couple emergency Snickers bars within reach we have never had soda in our house, we rarely had candy as we never bought it and what we had was given to us at holidays. I took the challenge on and in the first week I texted my husband everytime I was confronted with sugar. Every single day it was in front of me. Between the donuts given out at daycare to the parents to the cookie cake in an all day meeting to the bite sized candies in the bowl next to my desk. And I did not partake. 2 weeks later I realized I had no headaches, no exhaustion. Granted I fell into bed tired but it was a different tired – one from working hard all day, going strong and now it was time to get some rest – but no headache. When we did the Krispy Kreme Challenge in February I ate 10 donuts! :) For the next 3 days I had a hangover – like I had drank a bottle of Vodka (sadly personal experience from a VERY long time ago). I had headaches, I felt sick, I had no energy.

    At that moment, I knew I was not “just fine”. As I have progressed in removing sugar I have found my general health improved. I am no longer suffering from the multiple colds/stomach issues/headaches/fatigue as I used to. I have had maybe 1 headache a month and I knew what caused it.

    I say all of this to preface this blog post from Lisa Leake who I follow daily (as well as a few others) to continue to motivate me to pack my kitchen and diet with real food. It is no longer I am organic, I am all about real food!!

    We are not perfect by any means – I still love my tator tots and french fries but we have tossed all the white sugar and are learning to replace with healthier alternatives as needed. My son loves his fresh fruit and veggies – we are still working to get him to love the various beans but that comes with time! And there is an indulgence once in awhile – but we treat it as a major treat and it really feels special versus just another day. So far it is working for us and I hope that we can keep it going as our lives continue to become more and more hectic!

    1. Great comment!!

      I felt the same way about 1 year ago, my son was just over 1 and at his daycare they fed him breakfast. It never matched what the menu said. I was late dropping off one day and there they were feeding just 1 year olds POP TARTS! I would pack his own lunch, but was sometimes told he wouldn’t eat it or that it was even being offered to him. We left and never looked back!

      Good luck on journey to eating healthier!

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Deborah – I’m glad to hear of your positive experiences with real food and that my blog (and others) are providing some motivation. It’s a lot of work but so worth it! You’ll be teaching your son great habits by your example. :)

  18. Thank you for your article. I did not grow up being taught to be terribly concerned about choosing “real” food or avoiding sugary meals, snacks, and drinks. (Although, I will say that growing up in a rural area, we did eat many home-grown vegetables.) I read this article because I am trying to be more educated in my food choices. I want to learn how to prepare and eat a variety of real foods. For instance, I finally learned this week that grilling asparagus was a winner with my family. However, I must say that sometimes the tone of the articles that I read and the comments that accompany them make me feel more discouraged than inspired. I feel judged disgusting or completely ignorant or a terrible mother for the things I haven’t changed yet instead of encouraged in our progress and joyfully equipped with more information and ideas on how to continue moving forward. Maybe that is my own fault, but I just wanted to share my struggle in case it helps in dialogue about better nutrition.

    1. Joni, I agree that the negative tone makes the posts less helpful. You should not feel disgusting or like a terrible mother! You are doing a good job even by seeking out this information and making changes, even if you aren’t perfect yet. Like you, I grew up in a rural area so I ate a lot of fresh veggies, but we also ate sugary cereal and weren’t taught to worry about refined sugar and flour, etc. I am I the same boat with you now, educating myself. We should encourage, not criticize each other!

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Joni – Thank you for sharing your feedback. I absolutely believe any changes in the right direction are better than none. Not everyone can nor wants to eat real food 100% of the time and that is of course okay! When I write about this topic it truly comes from the heart and obviously my baseline may differ from others, but in the end I hope people feel empowered to make the changes that are right for their family.

  19. My 34-year-old daughter who has a daughter sent me this comment after reading your blog post I sent to her:

    “you were so ahead of your time mama. you need to tell this woman you threw out our candy. in 1984!!!!!!!!!!”

    I would let them eat whatever Halloween candy they wanted that night, then threw away (or ate) what was left. They have NEVER forgiven me or stopped talking about it.

    Keep up the good work!

  20. Thanks so much for this article. I also watched the 60 Minutes story on sugar. I just have a question about trying to keep track of how many grams of sugar you and/or your child are eating a day. My struggle comes in when I’m looking at a jug of 100% juice and knowing that there is no sugar added, I see there is still 26g of sugar in an 8 oz. serving. So my question is, when you are consuming natural sugar from fruits, would you count that the same as you would refined sugars? I mean, we can’t really count the amount of sugar we get when we eat an orange or banana, so how do you feel about this type of sugar in your diet? I’m working very hard to watch the amount of sugar they are getting but wondered if this counted the same way. Thanks so much for you blog and inspiration. We are making great strides and are probably at least 80% real food at this point! Never would have gotten this far without you and the other great blogs that are living and eating this way! What did we do before the internet???:) I wouldn’t last one day!

    1. I consider fruit juice to be completely different than whole fruit. Juice is processed and has the fiber removed, so the sugars are absorbed quickly by the body and you don’t get a sense of satiety. The People’s Pharmacy radio program had a sugar expert on a few months ago, I think it was Dr. Lustig, whose description of fruit was something to the effect of “nature packaged the poison together with the antidote”, referring to the beneficial nutrients in fruit balancing out the negative effects of sugar. He did not have a favorable opinion of juice.

      You’ll probably see fruit juice concentrates popping up more often in “natural” snacks, as manufacturers are replacing cane sugar or corn syrup with white grape, pear, or apple juice concentrate. These are nutritionally similar to cane or corn sugar; they just sound healthier. I do not keep track of grams of dietary sugar, but I eat fruit every day and consider juice or products containing juice concentrates to be refined sugar. Of course, some juices (like purple grape) do have beneficial nutrients, but it’s probably better to stick with the whole fruit when you have a choice.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Michelle – I am so glad to hear that the blog has been helpful and that you are making some good changes! The 60 Minutes story on sugar really focused on “added sugar” which is not what you find in fruit. I will say though that juice should be consumed in moderation because the “sugar” from the fruit is very concentrated and you don’t get all the other good stuff if you were just eating an apple. After watching that episode I added up how many grams of “added sugar” I eat a day (including the honey in our granola, the maple syrup in my mocha, my square of extra dark chocolate after dinner, etc.), and I was honestly closer to recommended amount than I was expecting (whew!). I don’t count regularly though I think that one mental calculation was enough to confirm we are on the right track. I hope that helps!

  21. I whole heartedly agree with this post, as an educator it is painful for me to have a conversation with a concerned parent who is worried about their child’s academic progress but can’t see the link with the lunch of Sunny D, a Slim Jim and bag of Doritos (yes this is actually a typical lunch for more than one kid.)

    I know that the research is hard to wade through but I would love to see links to more actual studies and sources of statistics if possible. I am finding that some skeptics just write off people like Jamie Oliver as fringe crazies who aren’t to be trusted. Information from primary sources is easier to pass on as at least less biased. Thank you so much for all of your hard work!

  22. This is your blog and your opinion, and you clearly have tons of followers who agree with you. However, you have lost me with this post. The moment you start to be SO judgemental that you alienate people who you feel have not yet been “enlightened” to the real food way of life, you are no longer doing what you set out to do. (Which is, I think, share with people the changes you have made to assist them in taking on better eating habits). This is a great post to read for people who already agree with you. This is something that would be great spoken in private company with those you knew were already real-foodies. However, I wish you would leave out some of the meaner comments targeting people in a somewhat passive-aggressive manner. For instance: And another one I’ve been hearing an awful lot lately is, “Easter only happens once a year so my kids will be getting candy.” This is probably something you have heard from somebody who knows you and has access to your blog. This is not going to change their thinking. It is only going to make them angry with you. The same can probably be said for my post, but I wanted to share my input. I have been following this blog for a long time and watched it grow, but it has grown into something that I no longer see as helpful.

    1. I’m new around here (this is the first post of hers that I read), but I’m fairly sure she’s more concerned about her child’s health than stepping on someone’s toes because of a comment that was made. Judging from the other comments, it takes a lot of toe-stepping to stand up for health. It’s gotten to the point where a more direct approach is needed, and I applaud her for sticking herself out there at the risk of offending a few non-“enlightened” people as you call them.

      1. See Joni and Brittany N.’s comments below. I think they were able to say what I meant in a more constructive way than I did. It is not that I don’t agree that they way some people eat is hurting them. It’s just that of you scare someone or make them feel judged, I don’t see that as the best approac to helping them change their behavior. It is better to have a positive and motivating tone to educate people about healthier eating. It may be that you are new here so you did not witness the change of tone to the blog that has happened recently.

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        Natalie – Thank you so much for that…your comment pretty much sums up what I just wrote back. I know this is a tough topic for some to swallow, but I am willing to take a few risks in order to get this message out there because I think it is extremely important. Thank you again – Lisa

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Abby – As I shared in another reply on this post it truly saddens me that a handful of readers are perceiving a layer of negativity behind my words…because it is not there. I am extremely passionate about the message I am trying to spread and that’s honestly all there is to it. On a side note I do realize the truth can hurt sometimes (and in turn could offend a few people), but I suppose I am willing to take that risk to hopefully make an impact. I appreciate you following and supporting my blog thus far and hope you continue to be a reader. Thanks for sharing your input. – Lisa

  23. My family is slowly but surely eliminating processed foods from our diets. My concern now is my youngest child’s daycare snacks. I plan to address this soon. Does anyone have suggestions of what I can send with him? I know the obvious things like fruit and such (which he loves), but he is 23 months old, and I know he will pitch a fit if he sees his classmates eating snack-type foods.

    1. Try lisa’s cheese crackers, make homemade granola bars, and these graham crackers are good http://deliciouslyorganic.net/whole-wheat-graham-crackers/ Use small cookie cutters if you want so there are fun shapes…

      Also, you can make muffins (or mini muffins) and send them with him. We love lisa’s pumpkin muffins, and this banana bread: http://deliciouslyorganic.net/whole-wheat-banana-bread-recipe/ (in which I only use half a cup of sugar and really ripe bananas – it is plenty sweet)

      Dried fruit is always good too. Some veggies with dips (homemade ranch)

      Make good things look like snacks (with the cookie cutters- cheese, crackers, fruit…) and don’t be afraid to use recipes with small amounts of real sugar/honey on occasion.

  24. I’ve been thinking about this lately, after having something of an epiphany. I was looking for a recipe and flipping through a binder my mom gave me as a wedding gift, in which she included some of the recipes she uses often. I’ve been trying to make an effort to change our eating habits lately and cut out processed foods (although we’re not all the way there yet…) and was shocked when I realized almost every recipe included things like instant white rice, condensed soup/soup mixes and cheez wiz (in a veggie dish nonetheless!). See, here’s the thing. I thought I ate pretty well growing up because my mom always made what I believed were balance meals every night- usually a meat, a starch and a veggie or 2. But suddenly I realized that these dishes were full of processed ingredients and very few nutrient rich items. I don’t think my mom did this on purpose by any means- she’s been focused on eating healthier in the past several years, too. But I realized that when she grew up watching her mom cook (in the 50’s and 60’s) all of these uber-convenient foods were the newest thing, and they probably thought it was so great to have all these cheap and easy options. No wonder that’s what she kept buying for us! Now that I’m married and pretty much make all the food in our house, I’m trying to pay attention to everything we buy and start over with better habits. Maybe even more importantly, I’m trying to get my husband and I into better habits now so that when we have kids we won’t be tempted to give them processed, sugary foods just because it’s often easier. But this post reminds me that there will be many times when my [future] kids will be given food by others and I won’t have control! I just hope I can educate them enough while they’re young so that they won’t be too tempted by the treats they get away from home.

  25. Starts at birth! I love treats but we don’t do the extra treats at school etc so we when do treats it is truly a treat.

  26. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog! You mentioned that your daughter’s asthma improved when you cut out processed foods. I have a dear friend whose daughter is only in kindergarten and has asthma. I would love to show her some hard evidence of how their diet can help the asthma. Do you have any studies, articles from yourself or others, etc that you would recommend to share with her? No big deal if not, but I thought I’d check with you before I start doing some of my own research. Thanks!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      There have been some studies that show a link between diet and asthma…here is an article about one of them: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AsthmaNews/kids-eat-tied-asthma-risk-study-finds/story?id=10820041
      Also, I’ve had quite a few readers tell me they’ve stopped (or cut back on) inhalers and breathing treatments since cutting out processed food. I’ve heard this from both parents (about their kids) and adults who struggle with asthma themselves. Good luck!

  27. I just hate that “special treat” = garbage in most cases. What is so special about food that is bad for you? But *I* used that same language when my kids were little – and now I work very hard to reverse/correct my words!

  28. I could not agree more, there are so many “special treat” days in our children’s lives, I feel no need to keep junk at home for a “special treat”.
    Llama Momma, thanks for the encouragement. I am currently Pitching a Fit at my daughter’s preschool. They serve all kinds of processed food for lunch, “Steak nuggets, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, etc.. blech! All I can think of is pink slime and other non-food fillers that she is eating. The amount of paperwork and difficulty that I have had to be allowed to pack my daughters lunch for her to bring to school is unbelievable. I had to have a note signed by her pediatrician saying that I, her mother, could pack a nutritious lunch for my own child! They say the state requires all of the paperwork. The school administrator actually tried to discourage me from bringing my daughter’s lunch. I know I can always look to this blog for encouragement, thank you Lisa and everyone else for the support.

    1. Very curious as to what state you live in! I’m in Mississippi and both my kids take their own lunch almost every day. This is their choice because school lunches are “gross”! I have never been questioned about what I pack. This used to be one more thing added to my to do list that I dreaded but as I’m taking baby steps and educating myself on real food I find fulfillment fixing their lunches.

  29. I would venture to guess the processed food of today does not carry the same ingredients as the processed food when I grew up. Food companies come up with cheaper shortcuts all the time that do not benefit the consumer.

    By the way, health and beauty products are the same way. I cringe when I look at the ingredients on most of the bottles.

  30. Just today I was discussing with people at work trying to keep my kids eating healthy. Most of the people I was talking to agreed with me because they are fairly healthy eaters, but one person actually said “you should let kids be kids”. I couldn’t believe this. Especially since I openly admitted that I am still working on this and my kids get their fair share of treats.

  31. Food scares m! It scares me that I need to feed my toddlers, and that I try very hard to limit treats/sweets during their day and each day seems like another struggle to get through. Grandparents send junk “non-food” through the mail to the kids…I wish this would stop! The Easter Bunny did not bring sweets/food, the bunny brought toys and craft items and summer wear. Some of the grandparents and the kid’s friends gave them junk food treats. Going out to eat is always a nightmare. We pick places that have more real food than not, but I still cringe when I notice milk isn’t organic or my child wants chips instead of fruit. We try to bring our own food to the zoo, parks, etc…and have picnics. This is not what most other families do. My kids notice what other kids are eating, even though they are only toddlers. My kids rebel against against healthy foods/snacks and it’s hard for me to tell if it is just because of their age, maybe they aren’t that hungry, or is it because they have been exposed to junky food and they want that over the healthy choices I give them.

  32. Thank you for this! My husband and I have had some arguments about this very topic recently. I HATE that both my boys’ baseball teams have mandatory snack schedules and although parents are supposed to bring “healthy” snacks, 100% juice and granola bars still have tonnes of sugar; these are things they hardly ever get at home. My husband thinks it won’t hurt them, but they’ll be getting this junk three or four extra times per week during the season! It also completely baffles me that some parents seem to think that cookies and chips are healthy. My kids get enough crap from other sources and don’t need more during an activity that is supposed to be contributing to their health! I read recently that studies are showing cancer cells actually feed on sugar – a great reason to limit sugar intake!I will definitely be getting my husband to read this article!

  33. I also just read what Carol said and have to agree with her point of being balanced and helping the kids learn limits for themselves. I think it is ingrained because of a friend in Junior High. Her mother was this tiny, highly energetic woman that was ultra-healthy and didn’t allow sweets in the home. As such, her daughter (my friend) would use her lunch money to buy a king size snickers bar and a bag of chips (usually cool ranch) and a drink. And that was her lunch. Frankly, I don’t think I would say it was just the lack of sweets that led to this behavior. It is something, however, I think of often as I have made changes to our diet and try to make things be truly “once in a while”. I think another person who commented had it right with baby steps.

    Today, my boys at brussel sprouts with pancetta and shallots with me for lunch- and even asked for seconds! I am excited by that progress- though I know we have a ways to go yet.

  34. All very well said! Have you read mindless eating? It’s a fascinating book and basically helped me project “one time” things over the period of 1, 2 or 5 years and what that can add to your weight (example: it’s been a couple of years but I think he said an M&M a day is equal to 10 lbs by the end of the year, or something similar to that). So it might be just for christmas, but really, there is a holiday to celebrate in every month. So right there that is x12. It is interesting to actually do the math and see what it adds up to calorie wise.

    Anyways, I am fairly new to your blog and enjoying it. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  35. I would agree that this is the norm for most who say it’s just a special occasion treat. But for some, it’s true. I do give candy ( and yes, it’s sugar, but no artificial colors or additives) to my kids at Easter, Christmas and something small around Halloween. But that’s it. Oh, once in awhile they will buy their own chocolate bar. But no, my kids don’t eat it at school (we homeschool) or get it anywhere else because our friends know better. And while what I give still contains sugar, don’t you think they need to indulge once in awhile. I’m afraid, based on my own reading, observations and experiences, that if I don’t allow them those small special treats on special occasions, they’ll go out on their own one day and really OVERindulge when they are not taught limits. I think you are talking about the general public though and it’s true. Most people don’t realize or really look at how much processed ‘foods’ and sweets their kids really are eating and that’s a shame.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Carol – I agree with you, which is why I stated in the article that my kids get one special treat a week…if it’s truly “occasional” then it’s okay!

  36. I would seriously pitch a major fit if our public school gave my kids junk. In this day and age, with food allergies and childhood obesity/diabetes on the rise, you can make a strong case to remove all food rewards/treats from the classroom environment.

    I know I’ve chimed in before, but I just want to encourage other parents to PITCH A FIT about this. It’s time schools cleaned up their act and made school safe and healthy for ALL!!!

  37. Great article. Our journey to real food has been similar. We all feel so much better! Sugar has probably been the toughest hurdle to overcome. It’s everywhere and to keep my kids on board we’ve been moving in baby steps. After all the other changes we’ve made I know it will be worth the work!

  38. Why would you settle for you or your children being “just fine”? Excellent article based on research and facts. As such it can’t touch on my biggest concern but consider this. Nutrition plays a vital role in brain development and you can not know if you or your children could have gained 10 points on an IQ scale with a healthier diet! You could have had greater balance, a better memory, heightened organizational skills. The “10 points smarter” you would not want to be “just fine”.

  39. Wonderful. I have grown to loathe the words “special treat” because it always comes in response to my concerns about school junk. And if it comes up every couple of weeks, it isn’t a special thing at all anymore. We recently took a day trip to the zoo, and all you have to do is walk around with your eyes open to see we are NOT ok. Every other child was obese, and drinking soda, or a slurpee. the little five year olds who are already 80 pounds, what will their quality of life be?
    I was also sad to see in a tour of our zoned school the parade of parents coming in with happy meals and sodas for their elementary age kids. During the middle of the day? Any time the parents feel like it? Peanut butter is banned but not soda and candy? Not fast food? Not candy in the classroom? It shouldn’t be so hard to have basic standards, a start somewhere.

  40. We weren’t just fine. . . We began reading labels when our oldest son received a diagnosis with his own label – ADHD. The doctor immediately wanted to write a prescription. We cut out artificial food coloring instead. When we did that and started reading labels, we realized we eat JUNK! We are now a real food only family. And guess what, no ADHD as well as other health problems disappeared for all of us. The schools do make it hard and we are labeled “weird.” But, we are okay with that, we do eat different than most.

    Thank you for your blog. I love it!

  41. I’m NOT crazy afterall!!! Now if only everyone posting in agreement could back me up next time I get unsolicited advice or I have to hold back from freaking out when my son is given awful “treats” at family/ DURING???!!/and after school activities!??;)

  42. Awesome awesome post today Lisa and great replies from everyone else. I was just thinking the other day that I grew up on Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, ice cream almost every night, candy in my lunch every day, etc., and I seem “fine”. I’ve always been a healthy weight and don’t have any health problems, perhaps I am the lucky one. These days I run marathons and race in triathlons on a regular basis. I started following your blog this year and have made a conscious effort to further improve my (our) health and eating habits. Since this change I have noticed an improvement in my workouts and look forward to improved race results this summer. I am slowly getting my wife on board and hope to improve her ailments; poor sleep, high cholesterol, anxieties. Also our son just turned one yesterday and look forward to raising him on whole healthy foods from the beginning. Thanks for all your time and effort on this much needed topic Lisa, it is greatly appreciated.

  43. I work full time and used to get take out or go out to dinner with my family. Mainly because of the economy, I am trying to cook dinner in the evening. My family is all very thin and athletic. We don’t eat a lot of sweets but they are in our house.

    My warning to other families: I grew up in a house that pushed fruit and vegetables in our face (cookies and candy were bad! bad! Bad!) As a result, all of us kids would pig out on sweets and chips when at our friends houses etc. Let your children make the decision, don’t force the “no sweets” thing on them.

    Love your blog. I read it for inspiration.

  44. Great post, I couldn’t agree more with all of what you said. I’m so tired of people telling me “oh, it’s okay to eat that just today….everything in moderation!” Because if you do “this” in moderation, and “that” in moderation, and only eat candy in moderation, etc it all ends up being one big unhealthy diet because of all the compromises. I will continue to strive for the most healthy and “real” diet for my kids and myself!

  45. Great post! It can’t be stressed enough that the industrialization of our food system is the root of so many of America’s health issues. People need to understand!

  46. LOVE this article.

    We have made HUGE strides in our household with trying to eat more of a variety of healthy, fresh and homemade foods. I wish I would have made these changes many, many years earlier, though. ):

    One thing I did do right when my children were young, as you talk about in this article, is that I very rarely bought them any processed foods or and I never bought them candy ~ because I thought the same way you did, “My personal philosophy is that if I almost never give my children highly processed junk food they’ll somehow manage to still get plenty of it”.

  47. Your post today is almost identical to what I had been wanting to write about it my blog, also. While not a food blog in general, it is something I wanted to write about. May I link yours up to my post today?

  48. Thanks for this post. I think it’s great. I confess I let my kids have an occasional piece of candy for “special occasions”, but you’re right. “Special Occasions” come along all the time. I do think it’s okay to give a piece of candy every once in a while, as long as it’s truly once in a while. I’m going to have to do better.

    As far as being “just fine”, that is so true! I’m amazed at how many people don’t realize their health problems are related to the junk they eat!

    This is long, but I think this is a great thought-provoking article and I’m going to re-evaluate how often a special occasion comes along. Thanks!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I agree special occasions are totally okay for a treat…as long as “special” isn’t every other day! :)

  49. Fantastic article! I am so tired of hearing those same words… “I turned out fine” or “you turned out fine.” Really, then why did I always feel terrible and not have energy? Why did I gain so much weight and have heart palpitations? I don’t want my children to feel that way or have the mental fog I so often walked around in. there are as many opinions as there are people and they aren’t afraid to push them on you but I will stick to my guns and feed my family real food.

  50. You are absolutely correct: WE ARE NOT JUST FINE. all the disease we have in this country is directly linked with what we are putting in our bodies. We are in an epidemic- CLEARLY. Most of our population doesnt even know how to help ourselves- we rely on our health professionals to make us better but they are lying to us and completly denying the facts regarding the state of our nutrition as a nation.

  51. Lisa, Thank you so much for your blog. I have been reading it now for a couple of weeks and have tried some of your recipes and they are great. My husband and I are gradually cutting out processed foods and we are almost to a 100% feel food diet. I really appreciate this post in particular and can relate. Even as adults, my inlaws give us junk food and candy for holidays. My father-in-law recently had bypass surgery and was diagnosed with diabetes. They have changed their diet (to low fat and sugar substitutes, not real food) but they still give us junk food! It is actually really insulting to me. Thanks for being an inspiration!

  52. Love this post! Most of the people who tell me they are fine are also on medication for diabetes, blood pressure, etc. Or suffer from high cholesterol, low energy, excess weight and the like. To me, that’s not FINE. It might be “normal” for Americans today, but it’s not “fine.”

    Change is hard, but as you’ve seen for yourself, the benefits are so worth the effort!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Pam – I couldn’t agree more…dealing with chronic illnesses and loads of medications is not definitely not “fine” and not the way it has to be..

  53. Oh what a GREAT post! Thank you! I struggle with this ALL the time. In my daughters kindergarten each child gets assigned a snack day. Last week one mother sent in Nacho Flavored Cheese Its for snack. Ugh!!! I also struggle with my own family. I get a lot of teasing and “you know they are going to go crazy when they grow up?” Well- I ate like crap and my brother and I are both Obese adults as are my parents. With any luck my kids will be smarter and healthier!! It is a tough journey but sooo worth it!!

  54. Great summation of the whole issue.
    If there is one thing that I would add, it’s when people say that organic produce isn’t necessary because no link has been proven between chemical herbicides/pesticides and health. My response to that is usually that those chemicals have only been around for 80 or so years which is almost nothing compared to how long humans have been farming. Plus, even if no link has been proven, I don’t want myself and my kids to be the guinea pigs in the real-world experiment that proves the link.

  55. What about all the children with food allergies, autism, asthma, and so on? Are they “just fine?” I can’t stand it when people say “My kid is just fine” but they have chronic health issues. I know it’s a guilt thing, but your kid is NOT just fine. When it was my kid (and it was, 4 years ago), I didn’t sit back and take it. I changed our life and now my kids really, truly are “just fine.”

    For Easter, much to my husband’s dismay (lol), the kids got coloring books, chalk, water bottles, etc. He thinks they have too much junk (i.e. “toys”) that they already don’t play with. But, eh…some crappy TOYS won’t kill them. :)

  56. Amen. Since my wife started reading your blog 5-6 months back, we also have been working hard to get on the real food diet. Things are going great. I am a 2 time cancer survivor and I believe it all stemmed from the crap I put in my body. I mean, its FDA approved it has to be ok to eat right? obviously a joke. NO MORE MAN MADE CRAP!

  57. This is so powerful! Your passion for everyone’s health and wellness is so vibrant and abundant – It’s like I hear your voice through my computer screen. I’d like to see someone try to make those excuses and argue with you now. Ha!

  58. For the first time in almost 41 years of marriage, I did not give my dh a Chocolate Bunny. Gave the grandchildren sand pails (thanks for your suggestion) and Drawing Pads. I homeschool my grandchildren, so we miss most of the school “related treats” but I have no control over what they eat at home. Ugh! Our Violin Group had started “Cupcake Parties” and I think I have convinced them to use small toys as cupcakes make such mess! Whatever works!

  59. I agree! Love this post!
    I am fairly new to your blog and I want to say thank you! Thank you for posting such great articles, sharing such awesome and “real” recipes, and thank you for helping to spread the word about how bad processed foods are.
    I’ve been cutting processed foods from my family’s diet for the last year more seriously now and it feels so so good. I too hate that every holiday seems to revolve around candy, and now that we’ve cut a lot of those processed foods, I totally notice the horrific sugar high and behavior changes in my two girls when they do get to indulge in those sorts of so called treats.
    I love that our dollars are our votes just like you said. I think of that every time I spend money on food for my family.

    Thanks again! Love your blog.

  60. Thanks for this info. It is soooo difficult to break the cycle after so many years of eating garbage. I am trying to do a little at a time go get us in the right direction. It’s especially hard when you have a spouse who is not on board and continues to make terrible choices and feed them to your kids. And it’s just out of habit and ignorance.
    I was glad that you listed all of the “special occasions” and they really do add up. I grew up with my parents owning a small grocery store and we helped ourselves to candy whenever we felt like it. And I am seeing how much my kids get and it’s alarming. Both my husband and I are overweight and on statins and sometimes I just feel like it’s a losing battle.
    I have given up Diet Coke and it did make a difference in my headaches and overall achy body, so that’s a plus.
    I keep reading for inspiration to make changes!

    1. Another reason to know your farmer…I’m lucky, someone at my workplace raises eggs and sells them from the fridge in our office. $3/dozen–totally worth it.

  61. I am pregnant and I will say that my real food journey has slumped a bit due to nausea and exhaustion, but I still try to limit processed food. That being said, while most of my two year old’s easter basket was filled with little toys, there was a chocolate bunny and Reese’s pieces. I sent a bit of the bunny to school as a rare treat (normally he gets fruit or fruit puree in plain yogurt as his treat for lunch) and when my hubby picked him up, the teacher remarked how he had been obsessed with chocolate lately because most parents send a chocolately treat for lunch EVERYDAY. I felt guilty for the small shards of chocolate I sent…not realizing that my child was seeing his peers eat that way everyday. Made me a bit sad…even when I was growing up with processed food, my mom never sent a sweet treat to school everyday. Crazy!

  62. I think about all the chemicals the Baby Boomer generation has eaten, it is no surprise that we are fatter than our parents, have more cancer and diabetes than our parents and our children are doomed to more of the same.

  63. THANK YOU for the list of outside sources of JUNK! I have been so frustrated by this for sooooo long! (My mother in law is the worst!)
    It truly is an epidemic that we can take into our own hands one person at a time. While non-food is incredibly available, there are so many more nutrient rich foods available now too! Learning how to use things like Quinoa and coconut oil can be really fun and rewarding for those learning how to change their ways! =)

  64. I’ve been eating only “real” foods since the New Year. Your blog has helped so much, thank you. About two or three weeks into it, one morning when I woke up, I realized I not had one headache in that time, sleeping well and generally feeling great! Again, thanks for being a great resource.

  65. You and I could be sisters separated at birth! Love this post – it’s everything I share with anyone who will listen. I’m sure all my FB friends are sick of my nutrition posts. But it kills me to see what people are feeding their children without even considering the ingredients. I sat in church Sunday and watched well meaning, loving moms give their small children “fruit” gummies made with nothing but corn syrup and artificial food coloring, M&Ms,and baggies full of mini marshmallows. I couldn’t decide whether to cry or scream. Please keep doing what you’re doing and, hopefully, the word on real food and nutrition will continue to spread.

  66. I LOVE this! Love love love it! I have been thinking/saying these same things for a while now and it’s nice to hear it from someone else and have the refrences too to back it up. I love to 2 quotes abut food and health care. I have thought for a long time that we wouldn’t even need all health insurance and all the craziness surrounding it if the food industry was focused on and fixed…or all that money was spent in educating people on what real health is.

  67. I think the disconnect is that people don’t realize that evolution takes time. Our life span didn’t decrease and chronic disease increase overnight because we drank a few sodas. We are de-volving because we’ve been eating poorly for several generations. So to say ‘you are fine’ means you simply don’t understand the history of our foods, and how even the same packaged food from a generation ago may be more ‘toxic’ now as you give it to your kids then it was when you ate it 1-2 decades ago.

  68. Amen, sister! When I first had my boys (now 3 and 5), grandparents seemed to think baby = candy / ice cream. Everyone thought I was weird for making a healthy version of pumpkin pie for my son’s November birthday rather than getting the store-bought, food colored, over-frosted birthday cake that is the “norm.” I certainly heard multiple times the “just fine” phrase from relatives. People were taken aback when I would refuse to let them feed ice cream to the baby or limit the amount of candy they could have as they grew. I’m usually not so adamant about things, but this is one area that I feel strongly about. That said, I do find it difficult to stick to my guns as they get older and encounter more opportunities for sugar. I found myself filling their Easter baskets with the candy I remember from childhood. It is challenging to maintain the healthy lifestyle when life gets stressful and exhausting (of course, that’s when we need it most). So, I thank you for your post…it encourages me to get back to the Mom I was when they were first born!

  69. I was really worried about Easter. My daughter ended up going on three Easter egg hunts between Friday and Sunday. The one at school had eggs filled with candy (we let her have a couple pieces, then tossed the rest.) The second one, the eggs were empty and they were able to trade eggs for prizes (bubbles, animals, books, etc) and we loved that! The third one, we hid actual hard-boiled eggs. My daughter loved that she was able to peel the eggs and eat them after the hunt. Why hide fake eggs anyway?
    We are still working our way to a non-processed life, but it’s getting better everyday. Last night we went grocery shopping and I was amazed at all the things we used to buy that I now refuse to put in my cart.

  70. All I can say is AMEN. I’d like to add one to your list of “events” that when my children go to their doctor appointments she gives them one of those two tone powder sugar lollipops and the end! Um a sticker? Bouncy ball? Anything else please!

    Have you seen the documentaries Food Matters and Hungry for Change? If not…I think you’d enjoy them. One of them even talks about how milk hasn’t escaped sugar.

  71. I completely agree with everything you’ve said, Lisa. This is what is handed out regularly at my children’s school and after school activities: gatorade (orange), cheez-it’s, quaker granola bars, cupcakes, candy as a reward for bringing in homework, donuts at Easter party at school, the list goes on and on. Even though, I preach about this to my kids @ home about all of the dangers of eating food from a processing plant vs. a plant that grew in the ground, they both have a hard time not accepting something that was given to them. We agreed after soccer the other night that the Cheez-it’s and granola bars would go in the trash and they could drink half of an orange gatorade. I feel like I am always trying to educate them about the dangers of all this packaged food and candy. Even though, they know all of this it is hard for them to go against what their peers are doing. At home, we eat a 90% organic, whole-foods diet and they agree that this food tastes better and they always prefer what I cook them. I won’t stop trying to educate them, though, about the dangers of these foods. Thanks for sticking up for us moms who care!

    1. The Gatorade has high fructose corn syrup as sweetener since Pepsi-Co bought them out :-( I’d eat the granola bar before the Gatorade.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Lisa – I agree it is really tough when “everyone else is doing it” but I think more and more people are catching on…although we still do have a long way to go!

  72. I do use some sugar in baking and such, but most of what we make at home is pretty benign (and I can pronounce all the ingredients *chuckle*). We did get the kids some crap for Easter (the edible grass was the one that will never EVER be repeated) but we don’t go insane on most other holidays. We had a very healthy home-made Easter pie (savory) for lunch, and tacos for dinner (homemade). We went mostly for bubbles, small toys that would last, and a pogo stick each (we have 6 yr old boy-girl twins). Our kids have hardly stopped moving except to sleep, and it isn’t from sugar high, either. *smile*

    I *love* stevia, especially when I grow it myself. I love the plant – it’s beautiful! Very lush looking. And it’s so easy to use. I pop one fresh leaf into my tea while it’s brewing, and that’s enough. Dry the leaves and add a pinch to your coffee or tea, and you get the sweetness of sugar without the aftertaste or the calories. Love it. ;)

  73. I was at a fitness convention taking a nutrition class and one girl asked the R.D. about Stevia and I loved her response. She said, “Why does everything have to be sweet? We can train out bodies and taste buds not to have it sweet.” What a great point and reminder!

  74. I totally agree. I’m tired of getting dirty looks from people because I won’t let my daughter have the candy at the grocery store, bank, you name it. To me it is obvious that the food we eat directly affects our health, and it is hard to deny that when we are seeing the rise in all of these health problems. Your blog inspired us to do our own 100 day challenge that we just finished, cutting out most all of the processed foods we were eating, with some exceptions. We didn’t give up sugar but really tried to limit it. We feel much better than we ever have, and my 8 year old survived without candy!

  75. Jamie Oliver as a source? Aside from that, I agree, we aren’t “just fine”, overall. My grandmother used to say she’d rather pay the grocer than the doctor. She understood that a good diet was important to health, although she was probably considering nutrient deficiencies as opposed to over-consumption of empty calories or overly processed foods.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Wendy – Yes, Jamie Oliver is a very passionate – and effective – real food advocate who is helping to make some much needed changes. And sounds like your grandmother knew what she was talking about!

  76. Well said! After taking my own no-sugar pledge for Lent, I realized just how much hidden sugar I was consuming! Yes, it was annoying (at times) to forgo the flavored pita chips and dip that were available at work. Yes, it took more planning to have sweetened coffee at work if I was running short on time (I make my own creamer using half & half and real maple syrup :) ) Yes, it was amazing to lose 6.5 pounds WITHOUT TRYING! I had sugar on Easter and – BAM! – major headache! It’s just not worth it. SO many people suggested using splenda, agave or stevia…I’ve never loved any of those and, honestly, splenda scares me a little. Small amounts of honey and real maple syrup are good enough for me.

    I’m an adoptive momma-to-be and am excited to know that I will raise my little one to eat healthy, wholesome foods. I know that friends and grandparents will give my little one treats so I don’t feel bad about not having those things at home.

  77. I am not a mom, but your story describes me. I found myself not caring what food I put into my body. I ended up sick, very sick, in pain, and without any energy. I cut out gluten, most sugar, and more processed food, and suddenly, I am well again.

    That is proof enough for me.

    It is still hard though, because I came from a family where eating like that is a mindset and way of life. I still struggle daily, but it helps to keep my health in mind.

  78. Thank you so much for the time and effort, that you put into this blog. Everyone needs to read this post. I am slowly trying to choose better foods for our family and my hubby is fully on board. The problem is my inlaws (we are living with them until we find a house), who both have diabetes and high blood pressure, but refuse to change their eating habits. The house is fully loaded with processed everything. I can’t wait to move into our new home, so that I can prepare healthy meals and snacks for us.

  79. While we may think we are “fine,” I think we are seeing a huge epidemic that is being passed down to our children. What we think is “fine” is showing up in our children as not fine, eg. autism, higher allergy/intolerance to foods, cancer, etc!

  80. Thanks for this post. I am constantly fighting this battle with outside sources and have been labled the “mean mom” for not letting my kids have every piece of candy, chip and so on offered to them. Having spent the Easter holiday with extended family has led to the daily whine “I want a treat” and the response of “on Sunday we will make ice cream and you can have one then.” My husband hasn’t needed statins for 4 years now so it’s worth it.

  81. For easter this year, i bought my kids organic candy, and other fun toys. My father-in-law had bought them candy, but before easter, i told him they weren’t allowed to eat peeps and the other stuff…I tell my 7 year old about the bad food and what it does, so he asks a lot if things are healthy or bad for him. I am thankful he cares and that he understands not to eat the junk when it is offered to him…I was actually mad when I read his toothpaste ingredients and it said it had dyes and artificial sweeteners in them- we bought all natural toothpaste. The funny thing is, is that people don’t realize that the healthy food tastes good as well, they are just set in their ways.

  82. Great piece! As a 50+ female who spent almost 30 years on BP meds, I am now medication free due to a healthy, real food diet. We always ate a relatively healthy diet (almost everything from scratch and using wholesome, real food ingredients). It’s definitely the “almost”/”sometimes”/”occasionally” that gets you. For me it was soda. My husband underwent TWO unnecessary heart catheterization procedures for “chest pain”. His arteries were whistle clean both times. The cardiologist said he was “mystified” and “can’t explain it”. Nutrition! The pain turned out to be caused by one of the meds he takes for his apnea (which is also, BTW, now getting better because of weight loss due to a healthy, nutritious, real food diet). How I wish EVERYONE would truly “get” this message! The only way it will change is if people really do “vote” with their hard-earned dollars! Thank you for posting it!!!

  83. Excellent post Lisa! I actually hate when people say, “I have been eating this way my whole life and I turned out fine.” People also need to realize that GMO foods, growth hormones, antibiotics, animal feedlots are at an all time high. These were not nearly as much of a concern 10 or 15 years ago. As for the candy, I don’t understand why stickers or bubbles can’t be more of the norm. And instead of “granola bars” after soccer practice, whats wrong with some fresh fruit? I completely agree with everything you have said. I also hate that my family always want to feed my daughter junk. They think that we “deprive” her at home, so they take whatever chance they can get to feed her junk. It’s very frustrating.

    1. When I played soccer from age 6-8 (so 24-26 years ago) I remember parents taking turns bringing the snack, and I remember it always being cut up oranges and a big jug of water! I can’t remember what we used for cups, but I vaguely remember washable cups. And I hear you about family……my inlaws are always trying to feed cake and ice cream and chocolate……when it’s a regular visit, like every 2 weeks, it’s no longer special, and it becomes commonplace and expected! I don’t get it.

  84. I don’t know where your kids are in school, but my schools (starting with preschool and 2 kids, there have been 5 of them, and only the preschools were private) have never allowed sugary/processed treats for kids’ birthdays OR 100 days of school OR fundraisers. I thought no one did LOL!

    My mother is not dealing well with having 40+ years of eating crap catching up to her–it’s not the sugar, it’s the sodium that she can’t stop eating.

    1. Unfortunately, most schools are not like that. My daughter went to 2 elementary schools in the same district and one was a no sugar/ no treats schools, the other could care less.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      My kids go to public school…and yes there’s lots of junk food to celebrate just about everything!

  85. I agree! We were and are very healthy, but I feel more confident knowing that I’m not feeding my family a “mystery” menu. :) My kids are actually beginning to chose NOT to eat the junky “exception” foods that are offered to them. Wow! It has also been nice to learn that healthy eating isn’t necessarily expensive or inconvenient once you figure it out. All this thanks to YOU!

  86. I agree. I’m totally sick of every holiday being about candy (or sugar filled baked goods, etc). I tried so hard to fill my three year olds egss with stickers and other fun things and I was not alone in my school. It’s sickening when I think about how much junk we ate as a kid. Mom had type two, aunt and cousin have type two, sister has type two, and I had GD with both babes.
    I love this blog and am working toward a processed food free home. Thank you for making it easier.