Original 100 Days of Real Food Blog Series

Welcome to the original “100 Days of Real Food” pledge page. The idea behind this series of posts is what inspired me to start this blog in the first place. From May through September 2010 our family of four—including our daughters who were ages 3 and 5 at the time—pledged to go 100 solid days without eating a single ounce of highly processed or refined food (that means no white flour or sugar!). You can find the exact guidelines we followed on our “real food” rules page.

We decided to take this pledge so we could draw attention to how much our society has become dependent on processed food. And even though it wasn’t easy at times we wanted to prove that a typical suburban family didn’t have to rely on packaged factory-made convenience foods on a daily basis. We also wanted to experience what it would be like to seek out the real food in our processed food world, and let me tell you what, it was definitely eye-opening! One of the things we quickly learned was that our “real food” desires made us the minority most of the time…especially here in North Carolina.

This series of blog posts has been combined here into one page for easy reading. Simply scroll down to read through our 100 day journey, or tap to expand the table of contents to jump to a specific day.

Table Of Contents
  1. Day 1: Starting Our 100 Days of Real Food Pledge
  2. Day 3: Backyard BBQ and Modified Crepes
  3. Day 5: Chocolate and Mocha Cravings!
  4. Day 7: A Break From the Kitchen
  5. Day 9: The Donut Incident
  6. Day 10: Birthday Party and Business Travel
  7. Day 12: Bad Dreams and Eating Too Much
  8. Day 14: Grocery Shopping and a Disastrous Dinner
  9. Day 16: Candy and Fajitas (not at the same time)
  10. Day 18: Strike Two and Cuban Inspiration
  11. Day 20: Social Plans and Ravioli
  12. Day 23: Out to Lunch
  13. Day 25: Finally, Some Appreciation
  14. Day 28: Birthday Celebration and Impromptu Breakfast
  15. Day 30: Hodgepodge Dinner and Amazing Dessert!
  16. Day 33: Summer Camp and Oh-So-Good Pizza
  17. Day 35: Our Biggest Challenge Yet
  18. Day 39: Eating Away from Home
  19. Day 41: Family Support (or Lack Thereof)
  20. Day 43: Attempting Restaurant Food
  21. Day 45: Airport Food and Travel Back Home
  22. Day 47: Health Benefits
  23. Day 49: An Appetizer Spread and Some Reflection
  24. Day 50: The Halfway Point!
  25. Day 56: A Brave Friend and Health Benefits Update
  26. Day 58: A Shocking Lunch and Substitute Cake
  27. Day 60: P.F. Chang’s and The Gum Controversy
  28. Day 62: Fried Rice (Take 2) and Snack Choices for Kids
  29. Day 64: My Husband Cooks and Another Big Trip!
  30. Day 67: A Broken Rule and Delicious NYC
  31. Day 70: Last Days of Trip and Our “Picky Eater” Traveling Companion
  32. Day 73: Mommy’s Weekend Away and Daddy Duty
  33. Day 75: A Makeshift Lunch and Surprise at the Grocery Store
  34. Day 78: Leftovers and a Vegan Lunch
  35. Day 81: Nineteen Days Left and Counting!
  36. Day 84: Breakfast and Kid Food
  37. Day 86: Dinner Club!
  38. Day 89: Eggplant and 10-Day Pledge Alternatives
  39. Day 92: Gumbo Flop and First School Lunch
  40. Day 94: Starbucks and Out to Lunch
  41. Day 98: An Amazing Dinner and the Final Countdown!
  42. Day 100: We Did It!!
  43. Post Pledge #1: The First Rule Breakers…
  44. Post Pledge 2: The Struggle
  45. Post Pledge 3: Some Decisions
  46. Post Pledge 4: The Truth and a Special Announcement
  47. Related Posts to Check Out

Day 1: Starting Our 100 Days of Real Food Pledge

May 27, 2010

We invite you to read along and hopefully join in by taking the 10-day pledge as our family of four begins our 100 Days of Real Food journey. Our hope is that if we—a family that does not live on a farm, has two young children, and a husband that travels frequently—can go 100 long days without eating a single ounce of processed food then you will consider taking our 10 Days of Real Food pledge. To make our boundaries clear we have set some ground rules. If we can do it for 100 days, then I am absolutely convinced that anyone can do it for only 10 days! And in case you need some more convincing, check out our list of 10 reasons to cut out processed food.

Family portrait of the Leake family.

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Even though we first began our personal mission to cut out processed foods a few months ago, I estimate that we only went about 85 or 90% of the way. This initial change was an extremely big transition for us, and I imagine that going the extra 10 to 15% of the way is not going to be easy either. The biggest challenge of all may very well be getting our 3 and 5-yr-old children (who will be faced with day camps, playdates, and birthday parties this summer) to go all the way without having any slip-ups! Hopefully, it will help that we plan to reward them with a fun day at Carowinds Amusement park when the 100-day pledge is over. But before we get started, I would like to reminisce for a moment about what each of us will miss the most…

  • Me: Let’s see, how many things am I allowed to list? First and foremost – chocolate! I have a big sweet tooth and during our initial transition I cut back a lot on my chocolate consumption, but I do slightly fear going without it completely. I also originally decided that anything in moderation is okay (and I still pretty much feel that way), therefore I kept my once-a-day highly processed white chocolate mocha, which I will miss too. In addition, I did switch to some much better, organic condiment alternatives, but due to the number of ingredients on the list we will all have to go 100 days without store-bought ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard! Agggghhhh!
  • My husband: Since he travels several times a month for work he says he will miss the convenience of easily eating out for meals while traveling.
  • My 5-year-old: She said she will miss the once-a-day treat she was allowed to eat after dinner. Both girls will still be allowed to eat a “treat” after dinner if it doesn’t break any of our rules. So this just means that mommy must get creative even beyond fruit juice popsicles.
  • My 3-year-old: I can’t say that my youngest fully understands what is about to happen, but when I asked her what she will miss she answered my multiple choice question by saying chocolate. She is a mommy’s girl after all.

Read on as I discuss the challenges and hurdles we face during our journey. And this is officially day 1…so let the games begin!

Day 3: Backyard BBQ and Modified Crepes

May 29, 2010

We made it through the first three days, but there is still a LONG way to go! The day after we kicked off our 100 Days of Real Food we were set to host a little party for the neighborhood kids (and their parents). Since it was a field day type event focused on the kids I also provided all of the “kid food”, too. I certainly didn’t want my children to have to eat anything special or different so this meant that all 16 kids (little did they know) would be eating by our new rules!

Three popcorn bags sitting in a white metal container.

I know I’ve said this before, but I must say it again…thank you popcorn for being a 100% whole-grain! Popcorn is tasty and fun—especially when served in individual little popcorn bags (which I found at World Market). In addition to the popcorn, we cut up a big watermelon, which disappeared quite fast. For the main course, I knew I wanted to serve hot dogs, but of course, they couldn’t be just any hot dogs. I managed to find a local farm that makes hot dogs out of decent cuts of pork and beef, which we picked up at the Charlotte Farmer’s Market. I also special ordered two dozen honey whole-wheat hot dog buns from Great Harvest Bread Company. This was definitely the first time I had ever special ordered anything food-related for a bunch of kids….but you gotta do what you gotta do!

The adults brought side dishes to share, so before the event began I told both of my girls that they were not to eat anything that I wasn’t serving. My 5-year-old got it, but my 3-year-old can’t quite grasp what we are trying to do here. So I must get it off my chest now and admit that my husband said on two occasions he saw our 3-year-old take a bite out of an ever-so-tempting corn chip from the table. He immediately took it away and told her not to eat it, but alas…she may have consumed a small bit!

For dessert, I served snow cones with juice concentrate instead of syrup. The kids loved the snow cones and had no idea they were simply eating bits of ice squirted with orange and grape juice—the cones were definitely the big hit! So I would say that we mostly survived the cookout, but the next time we attend a backyard party I won’t be the one hosting and controlling the kid food…so it should be interesting!

Two crepes on a plate with peach slices and blueberries.

On another note, we started off our morning today with my 5-year-old requesting my grandmother’s crepes for breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised that my grandma’s recipe worked out beautifully with me substituting the flour for whole-wheat flour and the tablespoon of sugar with honey. Both of my girls loved them and kept asking for more. Life is good when you can eat something this good and have it be guilt-free!!

Day 5: Chocolate and Mocha Cravings!

May 31, 2010

So far, everyone seems to be fine and not missing a thing, except for me. I have never been on much of a diet in my life so I am new at having to restrict myself from certain foods. I am managing, but often thinking of how I might be able to get my chocolate and mocha fix. My husband said that he’s heard of people trying to replace one addiction with another. That sounded a little familiar when the other day I actually contemplated a glass of red wine after LUNCH to fulfill my need for some chocolate! I think a mom drinking in the middle of the day is probably worse than eating processed food, so I had no other choice than just to push through.

Three honey nut cookies on a plate.

Do you think the cravings will go away after a while? I certainly hope so. In the meantime, I decided yesterday that I was going to make some cookies! Yay cookies! Maybe that would satisfy my growing craving for something sweet. So I tried making some modified “cookies” without using any sugar or chocolate.

Were they good? Considering the fact that I have probably gone the longest period of my life without eating sweets, yes they were pretty good. But, compared to the regular chocolate chip cookies I make? Not so much. My husband and daughters thought the honey nut cookies were wonderful, and the three of them seemed to be very satisfied. I, on the other hand, will just have to keep trying to find something that I consider to be a good substitute…I have 95 days left to figure it out!

Pulled pork bbq on a whole-wheat bun, broccoli, and potato skins on a plate.

On another note, we had a great dinner last night. When we first started cutting processed food out of our diet I just had this image of us starving…but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Yesterday we prepared a modified version of my pulled pork BBQ recipe served on honey whole-wheat buns (from Great Harvest) with broccoli and a very special treat of potato skins! We got these little potatoes from the farmer’s market last weekend and it suddenly dawned on me that potato skins would be so yummy. Jason and I both felt like we were cheating with the potato skins by eating junk food, but it was approved and oh-so-good! Although, we will of course only eat such starchy vegetables cooked in butter in moderation.  No matter the rules, we must also follow common sense and ensure a diet with lots of variety.

Day 7: A Break From the Kitchen

June 2, 2010

Last night a friend of mine asked me if I am having to cook a lot…and the answer to that is YES. I feel like I am running my dishwasher at least two times a day (it used to be only once a day), but some days I do manage to get more of a break from the kitchen than others. This is one of the harder things to deal with when you are not eating much of anything that is store-bought. There are unfortunately not very many choices other than just cooking yourself. I am trying to get better at making things that we can not only eat, but also freeze for later (or have leftover) so I will have some nights off, but that is about the only thing I found that helps so far.

So this brings me to why going out to lunch this week was oh so exciting (for me at least). I didn’t have to prepare or clean up anything! And I REALLY needed the break from our kitchen. We set out to buy some groceries from Earth Fare but decided to have lunch there first before we did our shopping. They do have a kids menu in their little cafe, but an approved 100-day meal basically would’ve been a fruit/cheese plate…which would have probably been fine, but since my children happen to like sushi (with brown rice of course) we opted for that instead. So my two daughters and I shared sushi along with what they call a “PB&J” smoothie, which turned out to be a very big hit! I’ve recreated that smoothie and will post the recipe soon so no worries if you want to try it…it was surprisingly good and my girls were digging it!

In addition to our very exciting lunch outing, we have been doing pretty well sticking to the rules. Here is a little recap of what we have been eating over the last couple of days…

  • Breakfast: We have mostly had granola cereal with milk and fruit (one morning I made fruit kabobs to go on the side).  One morning the kids had oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, a drop of honey, and some raisins.
  • Lunch: One day we just had a hodgepodge of leftovers, while today we had “roll-ups” each with our own filling variation rolled up into a homemade whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Dinner: One night we had Caprese salads (for the adults) as well as salmon with breaded zucchini and mashed potatoes (pictured), and another night we had a sausage/kale/chickpea soup with zucchini/cheese bread on the side (We made some homemade whole-wheat mac and cheese with frozen peas for the kids that night.  They eat pretty well for me sometimes, but I didn’t even attempt to give them something like kale/sausage soup!)
Salmon, breaded zucchini, and mashed potatoes on a plate.

I did also send my husband off on a business trip today with a small bag of “snacks” so he hopefully wouldn’t starve out there in the processed food world. Check back in a day or two to hear how successful his first trip away from home was while following our new eating rules!

Day 9: The Donut Incident

June 4, 2010

I have found that when we are at home in our own little non-processed food world my kids are absolutely fine. They both seem to be more than satisfied with the options we offer them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. I am pleased to say that I have barely gotten any complaints from them in the past week and a half. Then comes along the outside world…

This morning we had to stop at a brickyard with the kids and one of their little friends. As soon as we pulled up, the kids immediately noticed that people seemed to be coming in and out of the little trailer building in the middle of the brickyard with donuts. It was as if they spotted the delectable treat from a mile away. After fielding lots of questions about if they sell donuts there or not and if I have money to buy one I finally distracted all three of them with the little fish pond outside the building. Then the lovely man that works there walked out and said “hey, do you kids want a donut?” Just what I needed!

So my 5-year-old had a little breakdown when I said “no” she couldn’t have one. I started to feel really bad, but let’s just say I only said “no” because we were about to eat, and I didn’t want her to spoil her lunch (it was right before noon). I wouldn’t have given in to her fit by giving her the donut in that situation anyway. I was feeling lots of guilt though. I started second-guessing involving our kids in this whole 100 days thing. Later I asked my husband if he thought we were making a mistake and he flatly said “no, kids shouldn’t be eating donuts anyway.” (If you think I am hardcore about eating healthy you should meet him!)

Oh mommy guilt is strong though, we came home and I offered to make my 5-year-old whatever she wanted for lunch. She chose “fried eggs” and whole-wheat toast with butter & jelly, and I also made a very attractive fruit kabob with all of her favorite fruits. She seemed very happy and not only cleaned her plate, but also asked for seconds…and luckily she didn’t say another word about the “donut incident”. We are going to a birthday party with more tempting treats tomorrow. I was caught off-guard today and even though I plan to be prepared tomorrow by bringing our own pizza, and our own “cake”, and our own juice boxes, I have no idea what to expect. This is what moms of children with allergies do ALL OF THE TIME though so why should I feel bad about it?

Day 10: Birthday Party and Business Travel

June 5, 2010

Before I get into what happened at the party today, I can’t help but mention that if we were you on day 10…we would be done!!! If you haven’t signed up for your 10-day-pledge yet, I just want to say that now that the last 10 days are over it did go by fairly fast, and our entire family managed to make it through for the most part. BUT we still have the equivalent of nine 10-day pledges left. So in the most loving way – don’t even start with me and your excuses of why you don’t think you can do it!

I took my girls to a birthday party this morning and I am thrilled to say that having them eat separate food went off without a hitch! I was feeling very discouraged yesterday after the donut incident, and the party this morning was just what I needed to feel revived about getting through the rest of our 100 Days of Real Food pledge.

Chocolate pecan cookie with sugarless cream on top.

I had spoken to the birthday girl’s mom in advance and knew they would be serving pizza, snow cones, and cake. Bringing our own food was going to be way more work for me of course, but I still got up this morning and threw together a homemade whole-wheat pizza and whipped up some sugarless cream to put on top of the honey/chocolate/pecan cookies I had experimented with last week (pictured). I also had some organic all-natural juice boxes and frozen juice concentrate to use as a substitute for the snow cone syrups. All in all, my girls loved everything they ate and either didn’t notice or mind that their versions were slightly different. My 5-year-old even said that some of the kids might wonder what her cookie with whipped cream is and wish they had one too. Whew!

Last week, I mentioned that my husband would also be facing one of his first big challenges by going on an overnight business trip while having to stick to our rules. I did send him off with a bag of approved snacks (which again is more work for me!). On the first day he was short on time to get to his meeting so he ended up eating quite a few of the snacks with some bottled water as his lunch including; banana, apple, zucchini/cheddar bread, homemade granola bars, dried fruit, and some nuts. For dinner, he went to Ruby Tuesday’s and ordered grilled salmon (without the sauce), steamed sugar snap peas, brown rice topped with cheddar cheese & red bell pepper, and a side salad with olive oil. He felt satisfied with this meal, although, I have to wonder how much more variety he will find on future trips. We will see soon enough!

For breakfast the next morning he had a banana and some of the other snacks from the bag. At lunchtime he went to a sushi place that ended up not having brown rice available so he ordered grilled shrimp and zucchini (with no sauce) that he supplemented with a tomato and zucchini/cheddar bread from the snack bag. Overall he thought sticking to the rules was not a big deal, but at the same time it was pretty inconvenient. He was annoyed that the sushi place didn’t have brown rice and then when they brought out his food it was covered in a teriyaki sauce (that had sugar in it and who knows what other ingredients) so they had to redo his order. He also said that having the snacks in the car was key. They helped on the first day when he didn’t have very much time to find an approved place/meal for lunch and then again to help supplement his meal when whole grains were not available at the lunch restaurant. I hate that it wasn’t easy, but I am so glad he managed to stick to the rules!

Day 12: Bad Dreams and Eating Too Much

June 7, 2010

Within the last week, my husband and I both had dreams that we were eating forbidden junk food. Fritos were my weapon of choice…and Cheetos were his. I find that interesting because even though we both like Fritos and Cheetos, we rarely used to eat them. For the first few days of our pledge, we were both constantly feeling like we accidentally ate something we shouldn’t have because we forgot to double-check the ingredients. I am happy to say those unnecessary feelings of paranoia have started to dissipate now that we are getting the hang of playing by our new rules.

On another note, I was absolutely stuffed after dinner last night. I think I ate a little too much which is unfortunately easy to do when you are eating real food. I have been trying to scale back my portions from what I used to serve myself, and for some reason, I am still struggling with this. The thing is, you don’t have to eat nearly as much “real food” to fill up as you would processed food (like white breads and packaged items full of various sweeteners—both of which mainly provide you with empty calories). We have also found that the previous meal seems to hold us over for much longer. On many occasions by the time lunch or dinner rolls around, I am not even that hungry.

Kale chips, mashed potatoes, and whole-wheat biscuit on a plate.

Pictured is my daughter’s plate from dinner last night. We all had the same thing, and I probably should have fixed myself a kid-sized plate too. What you see is a whole-wheat buttermilk cheese biscuitkale chips, and mashed potatoes/turnips/cauliflower topped with bits of bacon. We have been receiving a weekly CSA box from Poplar Ridge Farm and this week we got both cauliflower and turnips. I had some potatoes from my last visit to the farmers market and decided I should just try to boil and mix all of these together with a little added butter and salt of course. And it worked!

After dinner, I continued working on my experiment of making good sugarless homemade ice cream, and last night I hit the jackpot. I cannot wait to post the recipe for the pecan/maple vanilla ice cream that we had because it was the bomb! It did not feel like we were eating a substitute version whatsoever and if given the choice I would absolutely choose this over any store-bought ice cream. Oh, how I love my ice cream maker!!

Day 14: Grocery Shopping and a Disastrous Dinner

June 9, 2010

I think I just broke a personal record. In a single 24-hour period I managed to buy food from Earth Fare, our local Farmer’s Market, Trader Joe’s, Great Harvest Bread CompanyPoplar Ridge Farm (where we pick up our CSA box), and Harris Teeter. This was unusual for me to go to so many places in such a short period of time, but it was definitely a reminder of how buying our food used to be so simple. In our old processed food life, I used to plan out our dinners for the week, order the necessary groceries online from Harris Teeter, and pick them up every Monday morning. I didn’t even have to get out of the car. There is no question that was convenient.

A lot of people have asked me lately if I am running around to different places to buy food, if I am spending more money on it, and if I am cooking more in the kitchen…and the answer to all of that is yes, yes, and yes! Think about this though. If you are going to buy a new car, computer, or even a new couch, do you shop around and do some research? Or do you just buy the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient option without really knowing much about it? I am sure you know the answer to this question, and we have just personally decided to follow this same thought process when it comes to something as important as the food that we put into our bodies. They happen to be the only bodies we will ever be lucky enough to have.

So, lately I have felt a little scatterbrained about what groceries I need and what recipes I am making for the upcoming week, but I am hoping to get better at this new routine over time. The days of making one trip to pick up our weekly groceries are certainly over, but I do think that with lots of practice I can be more efficient at this new normal. We certainly think it will be worth it.

Slice of watermelon, grapes, blackberries, hard boiled egg, and a cheese biscuit on a plate.

In each of these posts I like to also try to mention at least something about what we have been eating (not just how it got from the store to our house!). So I will say that yesterday we had a nice and easy lunch, which included a hard-boiled egg (that I had boiled the day before), blackberries from the farmer’s market, watermelon and grapes from Earth Fare, and a leftover buttermilk cheese biscuit from dinner the other night. It took me a while to get to this point, but I have finally retrained my brain to not always think that lunch needs to include a sandwich and two side items. My daughters and I enjoyed this little fruit/bread/egg plate yesterday.

On the other hand, dinner last night was a bit of a disaster. We do cook a lot around here so I have to admit that disasters are far and few between, but it does happen. I bought some cod from Earth Fare on Tuesday, and expected it to still be fresh enough to eat on Wednesday. We normally love the seafood from Earth Fare but as soon as my husband opened the package, he said the fish did not smell very fresh. He still tried to batter and sauté it to make some “fish and chips” without the chips, but nobody ended up liking it! I was also determined to make some homemade mayo to dip the fish in (before I knew it wasn’t any good), but the finished product did not at all resemble the store-bought mayonnaise we know and love.  I am still struggling to find a good mayo recipe that doesn’t use raw eggs.  Maybe I need to first stop expecting it to come out all fluffy and white like the stuff from the store. Oh well, I have 86 more days to figure it out!

Day 16: Candy and Fajitas (not at the same time)

June 11, 2010

Part of me is absolutely amazed that we have gone more than two weeks without giving either of our children a single piece of candy. I have just always thought that kids and candy kind of go hand in hand. And I assure you that a few months ago I would’ve been unable to fathom the idea of not handing out a sucker to calm one of my fussy kids, not packing a convenience store selection of sugar-filled snacks for an airplane ride, or even completely doing away with our treat basket. Luckily, “out of sight, out of mind” does help with the little ones. And somehow we have managed to make it this far, and we have honestly been perfectly fine with our selection of homemade and sugarless “treats.” Again, I am just amazed.

At the tail end of this two-week success with our kids, I suddenly felt extremely worried and fearful about what might happen at my 5-year-old’s dance rehearsal and recital this weekend. She would be backstage for 2 hours with CANDY! And without ME! I tried to speak to the dance studio about this “special dietary need” and they could not guarantee me anything since so many different people would be helping out with the hundreds of kids backstage. So that left me with only one person that I could rely on…my 5-year-old. Realize this is the very same 5-year-old that recently spawned the “donut incident.”

What the dance studio did offer was a good suggestion that I should give my daughter some sort of “reward” if she does not eat any candy while backstage. We do already have a reward system in place where our girls earn pennies for listening and good behavior. They can then “buy” little toys and gadgets out of a treasure box with their pennies (which they love to do). So I told my daughter that she would earn 2 pennies for not eating any candy at the rehearsal and 2 more pennies for doing the same at the recital—4 pennies is a lot around here!

So last night, after praising her for doing such an amazing job on stage, I asked the dreaded question. Did she eat any candy? No! She also said that she wished she could have eaten it and mentioned that a lady helping with her tap shoes actually said “eat this candy, it will give you energy for your dance” (which I find very interesting—maybe she needs to read this blog too!). And even after that, my daughter said she still didn’t eat it. I am so very proud and was happy to dish out the promised reward as soon as we got home. I will still be holding my breath on Sunday evening though hoping for similar results at the recital.

On another note, I absolutely love it when you eat a meal that is so good you are still thinking about it hours later. That happened to me last night when I did not care one bit that I had a fridge full of fresh CSA veggies and instead of trying to use any of them I just made exactly what I was craving. You see, ever since my green bell peppers started growing in my garden I felt like I was waiting for the day to harvest them and make some fajitas. And oh were they good. In addition to the bell peppers, I threw in some mushrooms and caramelized onions. Anytime you put your fajita ingredients inside a homemade whole-wheat tortilla and top it with some fresh avocado, cilantro, and lime there is just no question that it will taste fabulous. And oh did it. Can you tell how passionate I am about this dish?

Day 18: Strike Two and Cuban Inspiration

June 13, 2010

We had one busy weekend that included a late arrival home from a business trip, a dance rehearsal, dance recital, overnight house guests, and a dinner party with friends. And of course—in one way or another—all of these events somehow involved my favorite topic, food.

First of all, my husband managed to be a little more creative finding meals on his business trip last week. His bag of snacks (a.k.a. backup food) was barely touched by the time he got home. From catfish and beans (at Cracker Barrel) to shrimp, potatoes, broccoli, and even locally raised roast chicken (at local restaurants) I would say he was far from starving while he was away!

While my husband was off feasting on the company bill, as previously mentioned, I was here hoping my 5-year-old would not succumb to the candy backstage at her dance rehearsal. She not only impressed me at the rehearsal but also did so again last night at the recital. She came home with 3 unopened pieces of candy in her bag. I am truly shocked she managed to do this for me! But, my 3-year-old is a whole different story (for obvious reasons). Both of my girls were playing at a friend’s house today and despite me sending “approved” snacks for them and their friends, my 5-year-old (Sydney) quickly reported that her little sister (Sienna) was sharing crackers with her 3-year-old friend. That is now “strike two” for Sienna and she remains the only one in our family that (unbeknownst to her) has broken any rules…not sure what I am going to do about that!

We also had our very first overnight house guests since starting the 100 Days of Real Food. Luckily these friends fully understand what we are doing and already eat fairly healthy themselves. Although, I did have to jokingly ask if their kids were ready for “24 hours of real food” because we have gotten rid of everything that we can no longer eat! As it turns out, they survived just fine. The adults were going out to a dinner party, so I fixed the kids cheese quesadillas on whole-wheat tortillas, applesauce, and peaches. All of the kids except for one (I am not naming names) cleared their plate, but all four of them had no problem scarfing down frozen smoothie pops like it was their job. And for breakfast, I made all of us whole-wheat crepes topped with 100% pure maple syrup and fresh fruit. All in all, I think they enjoyed the food provided at our house!

Last, but not least, we attended a potluck Cuban-themed adult dinner party at a friend’s house. By now, I have mentioned several times how much harder it is for my girls to be in a social setting on this diet, but us adults have feelings and desires too! So, I have to say it wasn’t easy watching everyone munch on deep-fried plantain chips, sip on freshly made mojitos, mix white fluffy rice into their black beans, and top off their dinner with homemade rum cake. But, my husband and I were determined to keep our pledge so we pushed through and did not give in. What helped us tremendously (aside from lots of wine!) was the fact that I knew what was being served in advance and came prepared with some of our own comparable and “approved” food.

Black beans and rice on a plate.

We were in charge of bringing black beans for everyone so of course, we could eat that dish, and we also brought ourselves some whole-wheat buns along with locally raised pork that I slow-cooked earlier in the day. I was disappointed I didn’t think to bring some brown rice, but other than that, it actually turned out to be a very tasty dinner! For dessert, the hostess was gracious enough to let me provide homemade “approved” ice cream to go with everyone’s cake. So I made our new favorite pecan/maple vanilla ice cream recipe and we dug right in along with everyone else. I think they were a little surprised at how good ice cream could be without sugar! I now have Cuban food on my mind so tonight I made this little bean/brown rice/avocado/cilantro mixture (pictured) with some of our leftovers…yum.

Day 20: Social Plans and Ravioli

June 15, 2010

I have to admit that when faced with social plans my first thought is (from a food perspective) it would be easier just to stay home. But, I always talk myself out of taking the easy road and we end up going along with our bags packed full of our “approved” food. I was especially worried about what would happen at a get-together yesterday with our playgroup friends.

After some sprinkler and backyard time, all of the kids were being fed chicken nuggets, chips, and fruit as part of a little picnic lunch. I knew I had to pack something just as appealing for my children if I didn’t want any problems. I ended up bringing hot dogs (from a local farm), popcorn, and zucchini bread, and I also served them some of the same watermelon as the rest of the group. I was shocked that I had zero issues with feeding my children this separate meal, and I have to wonder … were they just starving or are they starting to get used to this? Every time I feel funny about having to bring our own food I remind myself that this is exactly what parents of kids with allergies do all of the time so I should stop feeling like it is so unusual. (Although I do of course admit that our “allergy” of choice is just a tad uncommon!)

Today, my girls and I were unexpectedly out running errands longer than I planned. I panicked a little when I realized they probably needed a snack and I had not brought anything with me. What is one to do when you can only eat whole foods? Luckily, there was a grocery store nearby and I picked up some bottled waters and Lara Bars for them. We just recently tried Lara Bars (similar to granola bars), and I almost fell over in the store when I saw that their Cashew flavor only has two ingredients! After all of the label reading that I do I just find it shocking (and wonderful!) that such a simple store-bought item could exist.

Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli on a plate.

Tonight I ignored everything I know about the importance of eating “what’s in season” and decided to make some homemade butternut squash ravioli. Sometimes I just want what I want…not to mention that my girls love this dish! In addition to a big salad and some green beans, my husband and I each had three raviolis. My 3-year-old ate five of them if that tells you anything. I also conned her into eating some of the green beans by sprinkling them with soy sauce and sliced almonds. Most kids love to “dip” their food into something and the soy sauce ended up being the perfect bribery to get her to try some. Even though she was very much opposed to eating them at first (she threw the first one off her plate onto the table) I think she secretly ended up liking them. After tonight, I vow to cook more in-season dishes for the rest of the week!

Day 23: Out to Lunch

June 18 2010

Today was the first time I have eaten in a restaurant (other than Earth Fare’s café) since starting our 100 Days of Real Food. My husband has of course eaten out quite a few times on business trips, but I was obviously not there. Once again today, we were out running errands longer than expected and realized we needed to feed our girls some lunch. I normally like to research these types of things in advance and have a plan, but today I did not. I tried not to look when we passed by Chic-Fil-A (knowing how easy that would be), but we just had to continue on hoping that some sort of solution would magically appear!

We spotted the first contender, and I ran in to scope out the menu. A restaurant that is mostly serving sandwiches, burgers, and salads unfortunately has nothing to offer us … especially our kids. We can’t eat the bread (the chances of it truly being 100% whole-wheat is slim), we can’t eat the meat (since it probably isn’t local), and like most kids, mine just won’t sit down and munch on a salad! Luckily, we didn’t have to go too far though, because right across the parking lot was Pewter Rose (a local place) and they were offering a brunch menu. Right off the bat, I knew my kids would chow down on some scrambled eggs or an omelet, and eggs are definitely approved. So we decided to eat there.

Once we sat down and started figuring out the details it didn’t exactly start off as a pleasant process. The server eventually had to send out someone from the kitchen to answer “all of my questions”, and based on the answers we ended up crossing more and more things off the list of what we could eat. The hash browns were deep-fried, the biscuits were not whole-wheat, the bread may have been 100% whole-wheat but they don’t know the exact ingredients, the bacon was not local, bla bla bla.

Despite having to narrow down the entire menu to only a few choices, we did luck out and end up with a delicious meal. I ordered the girls an adult size egg breakfast to share with grits and fruit (instead of non-local bacon or questionable whole-wheat toast). My husband and I shared the shrimp and grits, which was flavored with a cream-based sausage gravy using sausage from a local farm that we actually buy from at our Farmer’s Market. As it turns out I love sausage and I love shrimp and I love grits and it was just so good!  I was actually a little embarrassed at how fast I cleaned my plate…what can I say. And not having to do any dishes or clean up was a wonderful bonus and worth the trouble of having to figure out what we could possibly eat at a restaurant.

Homemade whole-wheat tortillas with cucumber salad and baked french fries with ketchup on a plate.

We have been eating pretty well here at home too … although with the mess of course. The other night I had to replenish our supply of chicken stock so I had to think of something to do with the cooked chicken I would have as a result. I also had two big ripe cucumbers from my garden so I combined the two (along with some other ingredients) to make chicken souvlakis with tzatziki sauce. We had them on homemade whole-wheat tortillas instead of pitas with cucumber salad (for the adults) and baked fries with homemade ketchup. It actually turned out to be a delicious meal and the baked fries really were a great substitute for their deep-fried counterpart. The ketchup on the other hand was lacking and only served as a reminder of how much I miss store-bought condiments! I guess it must be all that sugar that makes regular ketchup taste so good.

Day 25: Finally, Some Appreciation

June 20, 2010

As much as I like to complain about how difficult it has been to eat real food out in social situations and restaurants, how much I miss store-bought condiments and my white chocolate mochas, and how I have occasionally wondered if it was the right thing to involve (and restrict) our childrens’ diets … I have to admit that I am glad we are doing this. I guess it took me a little while, but I am finally starting to see a clear picture of what we have gained from our experience thus far …

Homemade Chocolate Powerballs in decorative muffin wrappers.
  • Adjusted taste buds – I finally found a way to get my post-meal “chocolate fix” by combining the (sugarless) chocolate powerballs recipe with the pecans from the homemade maple pecan ice cream recipe … and let me tell you, I think they are so good. I have to restrict myself from not eating too many. I wanted to get some opinions from my friends’ taste buds since I haven’t had an ounce of sugar in weeks. A few of them said they were good, but they usually like their treats to be a little sweeter. One friend in particular said “well, it’s not a Snickers bar” and I found this to be very interesting because my honest opinion is that they are as good as a Snickers bar. She said, well when you eat a snickers bar again you might think it is overly sweet. Hmmm … maybe that’s not such a bad way to feel when that time comes? It sure would be easy to avoid overly sweetened foods if I don’t even like how they taste.
  • Adjusted expectations – I was preparing dinner last night when my 3-year-old started circling the kitchen, hungry for a snack. It seems like no matter how early I start dinner it always gives at least one of my children the idea that it is time for a snack. Since I was busy cooking she was limited to items within her reach. It honestly felt so nice to have my child willingly pull out one very healthy snack after another and ask to eat them. Why in the world would I have to say “no” to anything she selected when it included all-natural applesauce, dried apple rings, freeze-dried bananas, peanuts, and then cheese? This child of mine could not have been any happier with being able to pick out food herself. And since we literally got rid of (or hid) every last item that doesn’t follow our rules a few weeks ago, she only expects to find those healthy foods in our house. I am so thankful it has become the new and very much accepted normal around here.
  • Apprehension about going back to “the way things were” – My husband and I have often wondered … what will we do on day 101? Aside from going to get donuts from Krispy Kreme (which my 5-year-old has a passion for and requested long ago) what will I stock my kitchen with? Will I go back to (what I imagine will taste like super sweet) white chocolate mochas? Or will they not even taste good anymore? Will I buy and stock my purse with suckers to calm fussy children in public? Why would I do that when we have managed to go so long without it? I do think that I will let up on always having to bring our own food to social events mainly because it is so much work, but other than that I can’t foresee any reason to stop doing most of what we are doing.

I cannot imagine coming to these same conclusions by just trying to eat “healthy” versus following the 100 Days rules that we have made for ourselves. I feel at peace today with our decision to do this, although I do recognize (as any moody female could understand) that I have 75 more days to have 75 more different attitudes about all of this…but as far as today goes it is a good day!

Day 28: Birthday Celebration and Impromptu Breakfast

June 23, 2010

We’ve had a busy couple of days around here. Last night my husband and I had the pleasure of celebrating his 34th birthday at a Farm to Table Dinner at the gorgeous Poplar Ridge Farm (pictured). Let me tell you that this is the first time we have eaten outside of our home and been able to eat EVERYTHING served…in 28 days! What a nice treat. Not to mention that it was incredibly delicious.

Pool view at the Poplar Ridge Farm in North Carolina.

The guest chef, Hollace Stephenson of TasteMakers of Charlotte, actually lives a lifestyle of eating vegan and mostly raw foods. In case you don’t know, vegetarian is when you don’t eat meat, but vegan is when you also don’t eat animal products (like eggs, milk, and cheese). So she of course made all 30 or so guests an entire vegan meal. I can count how many vegan meals I have eaten in my life on one hand…okay, maybe just on one finger. And while I have absolutely no desire to become vegan or even a vegetarian, it was a very eye-opening and tasty experience for me (as I am hoping a 10 Days of Real Food experience might be for you).

Cold cucumber soup in a bowl.

We both truly enjoyed and savored every dish from the cold cucumber soup to the raviolis and chickpea cakes to the divine chocolate and ice cream dessert. The most shocking part of the evening was that instead of using traditional pasta to make the ravioli she actually enclosed the filling in extremely thin slices of raw turnips (never boiling it). I would have never thought to do that … and it was delicious!

And since I am a big dessert lover that course was probably the best treat of all for me. She made little chocolate tortes that were naturally sweetened with dates (very similar to my chocolate powerball recipe), but took things a step further by making a chocolate sauce out of olive oil, cacao powder, and maple syrup. It was served with naturally sweetened ice cream that was made with coconut instead of dairy and fresh-picked blueberries. It tasted just like (and was just as good) as a more traditional chocolate and ice cream dessert. What a special birthday treat for us!

Raviolis made with raw turnips and chickpea cakes plated with pesto, parsley, and lemons.

So after our busy couple of days and enjoyable dinner experience, I woke up this morning to a house that was completely out of both eggs and homemade granola cereal. Since we normally eat cereal or something like pancakes/waffles/scrambled eggs I was very worried about what I would feed my children and myself for breakfast. So after staring at the pantry for a while I remembered that the girls love oatmeal, and it only requires oats and milk (or water). They quickly scarfed down the oatmeal that I topped with a little honey, cinnamon, and raisins, and also both asked for seconds. I am not an oatmeal fan, so I lucked out by finding some leftover banana pancakes in the back of the fridge from earlier this week. I was happy to have an afternoon today with no plans so I could catch up on some much-needed fridge restocking and cooking!

Day 30: Hodgepodge Dinner and Amazing Dessert!

June 25, 2010

Crackers and hummus, baked potatoes, green beans, and a bowl of gazpacho plated on the dinner table.

We enjoyed a late afternoon at the pool yesterday, which meant getting home close to dinnertime … with nothing ready to eat. So while my husband bathed my hungry water babies, I had to come up with something edible … and fast. While trying to push the idea of dinner being “a meat and two side items” out of my head I thought I would make an experimental little spread with ingredients that we had on hand. And I might add that it felt like a scene from the movie “Friday” when I realized we had hummus and no crackers, baked potatoes and no cheese, and leftover gazpacho soup with no sour cream to top it with.

So as you can see, it turned out to be quite the hodgepodge, but my girls do love when dinner is “family style” so they can serve their own food themselves. I was curious to see what they would choose from this spread, and it was no surprise that neither child went for the chopped-up Caprese salad or cucumber/tomato cold gazpacho soup. What they did select was “ants on a log” (celery/peanut butter/raisins—although my 3-year-old mostly ate the toppings), hummus with toasted tortillas (emulating crackers), potatoes, and a few green beans. I thought for sure this wouldn’t be enough food for all of us, but once again this meal proved that real food can fill you up fast! I actually had to force myself to stop at one point so I wouldn’t overeat. Shocking, I know.

A chocolate dessert with whipped cream and chocolate sauce on a plate.

Afterward, I decided it would be fun to make everyone a nice little dessert inspired by our farm-to-table dinner the other night. So I whipped up a modified version of the chocolate powerball recipe while my husband helped the girls literally whip up some heavy cream with a touch of maple syrup. I also mixed together some cocoa powder, maple syrup, and a small amount of olive oil to make a little chocolate sauce. I have to say the outcome was surprisingly delicious, and after it was quickly devoured by all, I wish I had taken a picture of my smiling girls with chocolate sauce all over their faces. This dessert certainly did not make any of us feel like we were on some “special diet” … it hit the spot!

Day 33: Summer Camp and Oh-So-Good Pizza

June 28, 2010

Yesterday was my girls’ first day of summer camp. I was so busy packing their food and explaining to them that they can only eat what I am making that I totally forgot to pack anything for my husband’s day-long business trip. After he left, I surveyed the kitchen and noticed that all of the granola bars were gone as well as the bananas and some leftover popcorn. So while that is probably not an ideal day’s worth of food he at least took care of it himself before he rushed out the door. I also didn’t eat as heartily as I normally would have liked yesterday with my kids gone at camp, so needless to say, we were both ready to chow down last night.

Homemade pizza with mushrooms and sausage on a plate.

So I decided to make some pizza for dinner, and boy did it hit the spot. It was actually my 5-year-old’s idea to make little “individual” pizzas, and I have to admit it was a pretty good idea. I gave each of them their own dough and let them go to town. They absolutely loved making it and especially enjoyed putting on their own sauce and cheese. Instead of using sauce on the adult pizza, I sliced some homegrown tomatoes, which turned out to be delicious baked under a pile of cheese, sautéed local sausage, and organic mushrooms. We also had some steamed green beans. Aside from the burnt roof of my mouth from digging in too fast, it turned out to be a fabulous, hearty meal that was enjoyed by all.

Back to the first day of camp … I was told to pack my kids’ lunches and that the teachers would provide a snack. When I dropped them off I explained that my girls were on a “special diet” and could only eat what I was providing (which included their own snack). I was thankful that my 5-year-old seems to get what we are doing by now, and I felt like I could somewhat count on her to make sure nothing went wrong.

When it was time for me to pick them up, a teacher said that at the last minute one of the other teachers saved the day! Unsure what she meant she went on to explain that at the end of the day they gave each kid a sucker. With everything they had going on they momentarily forgot my kids should not get one and passed them out anyway. The teacher that saved the day suddenly remembered and swooped the suckers back up (from my 2 kids only) and instead gave them “special” star stickers. I was SHOCKED and relieved to learn that there were no tantrums over the removed sucker. I will definitely be giving the teachers an alternate “approved” treat to hand out at sucker time for the rest of the week. I also later learned that my 5-year-old was offered Nilla Wafers and she told me that she said “no I can’t have any because we are doing the 100 Days of Real Food.” That’s my girl.

Speaking of my girl, we were waiting to get some water at a concession stand the other day. This kind of place is my worst nightmare right now with display cases full of candy bars and chips and serving hot items like chicken nuggets, fries, and hot dogs. I was hoping for a pleasant escape with our free cup of water when I heard the dreaded “I am hungry for a snack”. Wow, I wonder where she got that idea?

So of course I said “we can’t have any of this right now, and I promise I will give you something as soon as we get home.” A few moments later my 5-year-old proudly spotted a basket of bananas on the counter that I hadn’t even noticed. How could I have ever thought it was so bad to involve my children in this little project of ours when it has taught my daughter to find (and want) the one and only healthy whole food out of a sea of junk??? One thing I have learned is that after a few bumps in the road kids can be unbelievably adaptable.

Day 35: Our Biggest Challenge Yet

June 30 2010

Despite being in the midst of a very busy week with our kids at summer camp and my husband in New Mexico on business, I’ve hardly had the energy to worry about any of that since our biggest challenge yet is right around the corner. I have been overcome with concern about how we are going to continue on our diet of real food on our first week-long vacation away from home for Independence Day. We leave on Saturday!

As I have mentioned many times, being away from home (whether at a restaurant, playdate, or birthday party) has been the hardest part of our pledge so far. Up until now, we have eaten an occasional meal out only to immediately return back home to our little haven of real food. But now we are about to embark upon a week-long journey where we will be surrounded by rule-breaking foods 24-7. And the last thing I want is for our “special diet” to make our trip any less enjoyable!

Our trip will include several nights at my parents’ house as well as a couple of nights on a boat trip. Now I have done a lot of pre-planning for trips before, but never have I focused so much on what we are going to eat! It all started at least a month ago when I had the wonderful idea that my parents should just take the 10 Days of Real Food pledge when we are there—how perfect! Let’s not forget though that I was raised with Kraft macaroni & cheese and Doritos as staple parts of my diet.

After enthusiastically stating my proposal, I got the feeling that my parents might be a little too set in their ways to even think about following such real food rules. I can’t say I understand (that could be a whole other blog!), but for some reason, they just can’t imagine going ten days out of their whole life without eating white rolls, among other things. My dad still maintains that he is going to do the pledge with us, but if bets were placed I would definitely say he won’t last. I can only hope I am pleasantly surprised.

So back to what we are going to eat and how we will shield our children from every forbidden food my parents and others feel the need to eat! I really have no idea what I can do about the latter issue, but I did finally make some progress on the first issue. We will need to go out to dinner at least once on the boat trip, so I called 8 or 10 restaurants to finally come up with some options where we can order at least 1 or 2 things off of the menu. I will most likely need to bring some stuff in my purse to supplement the kids’ meals. We may also go out to dinner one other night, but I have yet to find time to come up with an option for that.

After repeated questions about what meals we will (in her words CAN) eat and what groceries need to be purchased, I finally sent my mom a detailed list of meal choices. One of the biggest challenges is that there aren’t many available local meat options (that I could find), so most of our meals will have to be vegetarian or seafood. There is a Whole Foods store near the airport, so we will stop there upon our arrival to buy the items we’ll need for this list I emailed my mom…



  • roll-ups (I am bringing 15 homemade whole-wheat tortillas) and you can buy store-bought hummus and cheese, plus Jason and I like spinach, cucumbers, or tomatoes on them too
  • pb&j’s
  • we can make whole-wheat pizza one day … the girls love that
  • I can make a quiche one day
  • fruit, Triscuits, and/or popcorn as side items
  • smoothies

Dinners (out to dinner on 2 nights so here are meals for the other 5 nights)

  1. Whole-wheat ravioli (maybe with a butternut squash filling—the girls LOVE this and we can make a double recipe so there are leftovers for lunch too or to bring out to dinner for them if necessary)
  2. A fish or lobster entree with baked potatoes and green beans (both girls like green beans)
  3. Scallop or shrimp dish (I photocopied and will bring two recipe options)
  4. Meatballs (with Whole Foods local ground beef) and whole-wheat pasta
  5. Mushroom/bell pepper fajitas with the flour tortillas I am bringing and cheese/avocado/sour cream on the side

Day 39: Eating Away from Home

July 4, 2010

I have to admit that so far I am not a fan of having to follow rules while on vacation. Maybe it is just me, but there seem to be ice cream shops, candy stores, coffee shops (presumably selling white chocolate mochas), and fried fish places everywhere. The people eating and drinking items from these places look like they are having loads of fun and really enjoying every bite … not that I was paying any attention. At this point, I can only be thankful that my daughters have not seemed to notice (at least enough to say anything) when passing by their nemesis, which would include hot dog places and the same ice cream and candy shops that are bothering me. I suppose if I could have traveled on the plane and boat armed with my ice cream maker and espresso maker (in addition to my small suitcase that was completely dedicated to food) things would be a little bit easier.

Baked sweet potato chips, sautéed fish, and a salad on a plate.

On a lighter note, we have managed to get by so far without breaking any rules. The plane ride was fairly easy because I started a habit of packing our lunches for midday flights months ago … so that was nothing new. After we first arrived I felt like I could not relax until I assessed my parents’ fridge/pantry, made some granola cereal, and went to the grocery store. My mom did already buy some things we could eat which helped, but I wanted even more ammunition for the first time a child of mine said they were hungry for a snack. We stayed in on our first night and I attempted to make some baked sweet potato chips (they were not as good as the fried version) to go with some freshly caught sautéed fish and a salad. My younger and pickier daughter shocked the you-know-what out of me by actually eating some fish for the first time! I have no idea what got into her … maybe the planets were aligned just right or our eating habits are just starting to rub off on her by now.

Hamburger, ear of corn, and a slice of watermelon on a plate.

Our second day here started off with an uneventful breakfast of whole-wheat pancakes. Then came our first attempt to eat a meal out of the house. Thanks to some research we knew that a local farm’s Fourth of July BBQ would include hamburgers made from locally raised meat. We can almost never find truly 100% whole-wheat bread when we are out so one of the things I brought in my food suitcase was a pack of hamburger buns (special ordered from Great Harvest Bread Company before we left). After whipping up some mediocre tasting ketchup we were on our way. Pictured is one of my kid’s plates that I fixed from the buffet.

It was actually a pretty good meal despite not being able to eat quite a few of their offerings due to other meat being from unknown sources and hidden sugars/sweeteners in some of the dishes.  This just goes to show how important it is to ask questions in order to truly know what is in your food. Who would have thought that the vegetarian chili was made with molasses and the raw cucumber salad contained sugar (at a local farm of all places)? Doing this little pledge of ours certainly is an eye-opening experience!

Day 41: Family Support (or Lack Thereof)

July 6, 2010

Prior to arriving at my parents’ house, I’d mentioned that I had little faith in my dad making it through his 10 Days of Real Food pledge during our visit. Well, that was just too easy to predict. Not only did I doubt he had even read the rules prior to starting, but I never once saw him read the ingredients or ask questions before eating something. So on day 3 of his “attempt” to play along with us, he announces “I am going to have to stop my 10 days because they have short ribs on the menu at the restaurant tonight and I really want them.” I don’t know if it bothers me more that my mom can’t even imagine trying to do the pledge with us or that my dad doesn’t at all take his attempt seriously.

Regardless, we are continuing on day 41 of our journey with or without the support of my parents even while we are staying at their house.  It is unfortunate that they didn’t want to gain anything from a first-hand and eye-opening experience of what it is like to seek out real food in our processed food world.

Peaches and toasted pine nuts, green beans, asparagus, and potato gratin on a plate.

On a lighter note, our children thankfully seem to be doing just fine with what I have been feeding them on our trip. I honestly don’t know if it is because I’ve been doing a good job of shielding them from the forbidden foods or if they are starting to not care about those foods as much. Two nights ago we went out to dinner at Ocean Club on our boat trip and I attempted to simply order off the menu without bringing anything in my purse to supplement the kids’ meals. One thing I have learned since starting our pledge is that I can never order off the kid’s menu anymore …it almost always contains highly processed foods or foods made with highly processed ingredients! I was pleased that this particular restaurant was flexible and allowed me to create a plate of the adult side items for my girls to share. Pictured is what we ended up with … some peaches and toasted pine nuts that I saw offered on a salad and side items of both potato gratin and green beans (they just threw the asparagus on there without me asking for it). I am not going to lie and say they scarfed it down, although they did like some things more than others. What they didn’t eat us adults finished for them, and we thought it was pretty good!

Homemade spaghetti sauce in a pot on the oven.

Yesterday we had a very late lunch of PB&J so my girls weren’t too hungry by the time dinner rolled around. Regardless, I decided to boil some whole-wheat pasta and make some spaghetti sauce for them. I recently tried making homemade spaghetti sauce (from fresh tomatoes) for the first time and it is surprisingly easy and delicious. When I say “easy” please note it does require some of your time, but not much skill.  The adults supplemented their spaghetti with some fresh-caught seafood that we bought on the island, and it actually turned out to be a delicious combination. Just a few more days up north before we head back home!

Day 43: Attempting Restaurant Food

July 8, 2010

Trying to eat out at restaurants has become somewhat of a joke. It is no longer about what menu items sound appetizing or might be in my price range … it is all about narrowing things down to the 1 or 2 items that we can eat. Last night my husband and I went on a little “date night”, and we chose a fairly nice French restaurant for dinner. It always seems that at first glance there appear to be quite a few things we can order off the menu, but once we sit down and take a closer look we have to keep narrowing things down further and further. This is some of our conversation at dinner last night…

  • The lobster cake sounds good … oh, but those usually have breadcrumbs in them
  • We could get the cucumber/tomato soup, but oh the French Onion soup would be a nice treat … wait that is usually served with bread in it
  • Mmmm, warm brie salad … oh wait that is on a fig chutney baguette (that is surely not a whole-wheat baguette) and there is probably sugar in the chutney
  • The seared sea scallops with maple grapefruit glaze sound delicious … but that comes with white jasmine rice and a shrimp crispy wrap neither of which we can have

This doesn’t even include all of the questions we had to ask in order to come to the conclusion that we did which was to share the Orange Tomato and Cucumber Soup, Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Walnut Dressing, and Potato Crusted Halibut with Miso Hollandaise Sauce, Mushroom Duxelle & Haricot Vert …

  • Does the soup have any sugar in it?
  • Is the goat cheese on the salad just plain goat cheese? It doesn’t have any breading and isn’t deep-fried or anything?
  • What is in the walnut dressing on the salad … just walnut oil?
  • Is there anything in the potato crust other than potatoes, which comes on the fish? No breadcrumbs?
  • What is in the miso hollandaise sauce exactly?
  • And the mushroom duxelle?
  • Just to confirm, nothing is added to the haricot vert (green beans) like a sauce or anything?
  • Also, in the sparkling wine/pomegranate juice drink does the juice have any added sugar or is it just plain juice?

As you may have gathered, eating out has become a very pleasant and relaxing experience (ha ha ha). I will say that despite not being able to order exactly what I’m in the mood for, what we did end up eating last night turned out to be delicious. This experience has forced me (in a good way) to branch out a little from items that I would typically order at restaurants. I said to my husband last night that between the cucumber soup and the beet salad I was certainly eating a lot more vegetables than I would normally be eating. This is of course very much a good thing and part of our desired outcome with cutting out the bad stuff!

Day 45: Airport Food and Travel Back Home

July 10, 2010

Cooked shrimp on top of a bed of lettuce.

Yesterday our trip was over and we flew back home to North Carolina. Before leaving for the airport I fed the girls an early lunch of PB&J (on bread I had brought from home), with grapes, and popcorn. Jason and I didn’t have time to eat so I packed the same lunch for us to bring along. Once we got to the Boston airport I couldn’t help but notice that the hot food coming from the “Legal Sea Foods” Restaurant smelled much better to me than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So I ventured over to see if I could get a cup of chowder to-go instead. After quizzing the manager who got out their notebook of food ingredients we ruled out the chowder (which had non-local pork salt in it), and the lobster bisque (which had sugar in it), and finally settled on the pictured shrimp salad with goat cheese, red bell pepper and avocado (with no sugary dressing of course).  It was pretty good, especially for airport food.

Ready made sushi with brown rice.

On the plane ride when the girls got hungry for a snack, I gave them some all-natural fruit leathers, a nut/dried fruit mix I had put in baggies, and peanuts in the shell (to keep them busy too!). They seemed satisfied and washed it all down with water I had brought along in their little sippy cups. On our way home from the airport, we stopped at Earthfare as planned and got some groceries as well as ready-made sushi with brown rice for our dinner. The girls also got one of their PB&J smoothies (I have learned that I have to ask them to make ours with PB that doesn’t have sugar in it). It was nice not having to worry about making some extravagant healthy dinner when we had been traveling all day and still had lots of unpacking to do.

Fresh tomatoes, zucchini, squash, chili peppers, and corn from the garden in a basket.

Once we got home the first order of business was to check on my growing garden! This is my second year with a garden and my first year of having a garden that actually grows anything. As it turns out, the experience is much more exciting than I ever thought it would be! If I knew it would be this much fun I would have started years ago. What a nice homecoming to be greeted by all the ripe vegetables that you see in the picture. My husband jokingly said next time we could set up a webcam so I wouldn’t have to go 8 days without being able to check on my garden’s progress … I actually thought it wasn’t a bad idea!

Teriyaki salmon, squash, zucchini, tomatoes topped with Parmesan, and a side of wild rice on a plate.

The second order of business once we got home was for me to start cooking to fill up our empty fridge again. I was jonesing for some chocolate powerballs (as usual), and today I made zucchini bread, banana bread (both of which I froze some of), pesto, and the start of some hummus. I also made some teriyaki sauce for the salmon I grilled for our dinner tonight, which I served with squash/zucchini/tomato (topped with Parmesan) and wild rice side items. It actually turned out to be delicious if I do say so myself, but I was most pleased that the kids ate enough of the dinner where I didn’t have to supplement their meal with anything else. I guess I missed cooking in my kitchen a little, so I didn’t mind being in there a lot today. And being in there lots meant running the dishwasher THREE times just today. I am sure I will feel the need for another break again very soon.

Day 47: Health Benefits

July 12, 2010

The other night I had a dream that my hair was suddenly thicker and longer than it has ever been before. And of course, according to my subconscious, it was all thanks to my healthy eating. I woke up disappointed to see that the reality of my hair was still the same, but I will say that we have noticed some other positive physical changes since starting our new diet.

Before I dive into our list, note that we began to experience the majority of these changes back in March when we first cut out 80 – 90% of processed foods. We do not believe that we (or anyone) has to be hard-core about the rules 100% of the time to experience health benefits. We are only following these strict rules at the moment to draw attention to our little project in the hopes that we can convince people to take the 10-day pledge. The pledge provides others with the perspective they need to make at least a few positive changes for life. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the changes we have personally experienced so far…

Real Food Health Benefits

  • My husband, Jason, has lost two inches off his waist and about 10 pounds since March. He was not overweight by any means, and now wears pants/shorts with a size 32 waist. I don’t think I have personally experienced any weight loss, although I do not weigh myself regularly and have always consistently been in my target weight zone (check out the update on day 55). I will say though, that if you have a few extra pounds you want to lose all you have to do is be in close proximity to us to do it! When we were at my parent’s house for a week my mom didn’t even do a 10 Days of Real Food pledge, but just from eating with us she had a great deal of “real food” in place of processed stuff and lost 5 pounds in the one week we were there!
  • Not to embarrass our 3-year-old or anything, but for as long as I can remember she used to experience some fairly unpleasant constipation issues. On average, she would go about once every other day, and that was after I gave her a huge cup of prune juice every morning. Only about a week after we initially changed our diets I stopped the prune juice because all on her own she started having bowel movements, on average, twice a day, every day! Read more on this little “constipation cure.”
  • This isn’t exactly my favorite topic, but while we are on the subject I will say that all four of us have actually been very regular these last few months!
  • I personally have experienced a need for much less sleep. I used to only feel rested if I got at least 8 – 9 hours of sleep, and I was very grumpy at night if I felt it was “past my bedtime”, if you know what I mean. Now I am much less tired in the evenings and feel completely fine getting somewhere between 7 and 8 hours of sleep. And if I have some bad nights of sleep in a row (with a sick child or the like) then I am somehow able to function the next day without a problem. When I got really bad sleep in the old days I used to feel like I was so tired I just had to survive “getting through the day”.
  • Based simply on our own personal observation, our 3-year-old (who has a mild case of asthma) coincidentally has not had a single case of wheezing since we initially changed our diets. She was tested for seasonal allergies a while back (and is not allergic to anything), and would experience wheezing solely triggered by respiratory colds. It seemed as though every time she had a cold with a cough she would wheeze. Since March she has had several colds with a cough (including one last week) and never once experienced any wheezing. We wondered if there could be a cause and effect here and then we saw a recent study that showed diet can have an effect on the severity of a child’s asthma/wheezing.

Other Changes

  • We need to eat less to fill up, and even while regularly exercising our food holds us off nicely until the next meal. I remember often experiencing spikes in hunger in-between meals in the old days, but that feeling is far and few between now. Many times we have waited until 1:30 or 2:00 to eat lunch simply because no one is hungry yet. And we have also reduced our portion size as well. Real food is filling!
  • Our palates have changed…and in our opinion for the better. We seem to be much more sensitive to salty things and need less sweetener added for something to taste “sweet” to us. We have also developed a greater appreciation for the natural flavors of real food as opposed to anything highly processed (and therefore full of added oil, salt, and sugars).
  • I may never be 100% sure if it is due to the diet specifically or just the time that has passed, but our children seem to care less and less about getting (or not getting) highly processed treats. There was recently an instance when they were mistakenly offered a sucker and then it had to be taken away; it didn’t phase either of them. I cannot imagine that happening a few months ago since this whole 100 days experience of ours started off with the donut incident.
  • In addition to these obvious changes, we’d like to think we are experiencing other, less quantifiable and long term health benefits like prevention of diseases (such as certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease).

Day 49: An Appetizer Spread and Some Reflection

July 14, 2010

Yesterday morning started off with my husband once again running out the door to go up to Winston-Salem for the day (for work). I don’t know why I am always so last minute about packing food for him, but his race suddenly became mine too. And in a moment like that, I am incredibly thankful that my peanut butter and jelly-making 5-year-old is finally big enough to help me out when it comes to making sandwiches! Pictured is one of the many PB&Js she has made for me recently, and as you can see, she takes her garnish cues from “Fancy Nancy”. I told her only 1 toothpick next time. In addition to the sandwiches, we also packed him a sliced apple, Lara bars, a banana, raisins, water, and some nuts.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by a toddler with toothpicks in the center.

On another note, I ended up hosting a very spontaneous “GNI” (girls night in) with some dear friends last night. We normally do the potluck thing, but I insisted that they instead let me treat them to a spread of real food appetizers. I thought it would be a fun challenge to see what sort of app type dishes I could come up with (we have of course been doing a lot of real food lately … but it has mostly been full meals) plus, I also secretly wanted to use this opportunity to prove to them that real food can be both good and plenty! Not so much with this group of friends, but really with all of our friends in general (and our family—don’t let me forget them!) we do oftentimes feel like we are the minority with our new—and very strict—eating habits. We also often become the target for many jokes (that are of course delivered in the most loving manner) … let’s just say though that it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

My husband and I have discussed this observation, and we decided long ago though that just because the majority of people (even our friends) are doing something does not mean it is the “right” thing to do. This could almost be considered an illusion in and of itself. I would venture to say that most people think what the majority decides is the best choice. But when it comes to the majority of people’s highly processed food choices we disagree with this assumption wholeheartedly.

I have heard of the tobacco industry being compared to the food industry, and I think it is actually the perfect analogy. I am too young to remember first-hand, but I believe that smoking was very much the IN thing to do and LOTS of people did it. I know in old movies they are practically smoking in doctor’s offices. Now, look at what has happened. The cat got out of the bag that smoking actually might kill you, and slowly but surely people caught on and started making better decisions for themselves. I think (and hope) that one day something similar will happen with today’s food industry and slowly, but surely we will all get back on track to eating real food that is more a product of nature than a product of industry simply because that is the way things are meant to be!

So anyway, enough on that little tangent of mine! Back to the appetizer spread from last night which took the better part of my afternoon to prepare and included …

Pimento cheese and cucumber dill tea sandwiches on a plate.
  • Pimento cheese and cucumber dill tea sandwiches
  • Shrimp scampi
Tomato, corn, and black bean salad in a bowl.
Caprese salad with pesto sauce on a plate.
Quesadillas with a small bowl of sour cream on a plate.
  • Quesadillas (the filling included caramelized onions, sautéed corn and bell peppers from my garden, spices similar to the fajita recipe, cheese of course and a secret ingredient – some leftover pulled BBQ pork that I had saved in the freezer)
  • Some olives, crackers, cheese, golden honey dew melon (that I found at the Farmer’s Market) and a nut/seed snack mix I made with a little butter/honey/ginger
An individual chocolate torte topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and blueberries.
  • Individual chocolate tortes topped with maple whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and blueberries (inspired by the dessert from our recent farm-to-table dinner at Poplar Ridge Farm)

Based on the feedback, I think the food was enjoyed by all. My personal favorite was the quesadillas … man those were good especially with the homemade tortillas and secret ingredient. One friend, who is most concerned about not having enough to eat (if she were to solely rely on real food), said she felt plenty full afterward. Another friend, who is interested in signing up for the 10-day pledge, wanted to take some of the leftovers home so her husband (who is not as enthusiastic about the idea) could try everything. Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice that all of the dessert plates came back empty from what I could tell. So, all in all, I think it was a successful evening and worth the effort!

Day 50: The Halfway Point!

July 15, 2010

Well, here we are on day 50 of our real food pledge—a milestone! I feel similar to when I was halfway through each of my pregnancies, which goes something like this … wow, we are already halfway done! And at the same time … wow, we are only halfway done? I would like to take this opportunity to remind those that don’t know me personally that only a little over six months ago not only was I clueless about what eating healthy truly meant, but I didn’t know the first thing about how to tell the difference between a processed and non-processed food. I was eating white bread from the grocery store, feeding my kids Kraft macaroni and cheese when we were short on time, stopping at fast-food restaurants on road trips, and had never bought a single organic item in my life (well, at least not on purpose). That was all before I got the biggest wake-up call ever from Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food.

It is funny to think back to what the “old me” thought of people who are the way I am about food now. I have to say that I did not understand one bit, and I know for a fact that if I had to stay at (and eat at) someone’s house whose pantry and fridge resemble mine now I would’ve been worried. I did not like whole-wheat bread and would have rather gone hungry than eat it. I truly had no idea why whole grain was even better for you.

I had never stepped foot in Earth Fare and thought it was just a place that sold weird ingredients like tofu and barley (which they do of course sell, but they are also so much more). I had never even shopped at our Farmer’s Market before and had no clue what it meant to eat produce that was in season. I also knew of someone that had their own chickens so they could eat their eggs, and I remember thinking that they must either be really weird or maybe even a little crazy. Now I must admit that I am slightly envious that I don’t have my own fresh egg source in my backyard. Wow, I have come a long way in a short amount of time.

Just to take you back with me for a moment, here is my Facebook status update from January 29 of this year “[I] can easily consider cutting out overly processed foods like prepared meals, etc. but this business of cutting out basic things like plain cereal, bread, and white flour (used to make something from ‘scratch’) sounds way over the top for me…” Oh my, I don’t even want to get into what the new me thinks about the old me!  Regardless of what that may be, I can at least say I understand and can relate to anyone in that same state of confusion.

My whole point of telling you this is that if I can go from where I used to be with my food choices to where I am today then absolutely anyone can get on this bandwagon and make similar changes as well. I know going 100% of the way for 10 days is not for everyone, but what would happen if you just tried to follow the rules for one or even two meals a day? Challenge yourself and consider doing something really great for your health and the health of your family! I know I am so glad I did.

Now here’s to another 50 days of eye opening experiences as we continue to seek out the real food and real food only in our processed food world!

Day 56: A Brave Friend and Health Benefits Update

July 21, 2010

One of my brave girlfriends not only signed her family of four up for the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge, but she also invited me over to talk food and help her raid her pantry. The first thing I noticed when I got there was that she did not try to alter reality by clearing anything out prior to my arrival. Her pantry was pretty much “what you see is what you get” in their household. And to be honest, I think they are going to have a lot more cleaning out to do than I expected! Since a picture speaks a thousand words, my dear friend was also kind enough to let me snap this photo that you see here—you can click on the photo to enlarge it. (In case you are curious to see what a pantry with whole foods might look like check out a picture of mine.)

The inside of a kitchen pantry that is full of highly processed food.

We ended up talking for hours about food and in the end decided that she could keep her rolled oats, dried pinto beans (which were originally purchased to make bean bags for her kids!), some other canned beans, and whole-wheat pasta. That was about it. We also looked through her fridge (pictured) and the biggest problem there that I noticed immediately was all of the condiments. Most condiments including salad dressings, marinades, and ketchup are commonly full of sweeteners such as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. It is best to make your own salad dressings and marinades and use the other stuff in moderation.

The inside of a refrigerator door that has tons of highly processed condiments and salad dressings.

So needless to say, I am so proud of my friend and her family for signing up for a 10-day pledge. Once they start next month she will have to juggle their new diets with their oldest child’s nut allergy and pickiness as well as her husband’s less than enthusiastic feelings about even doing this in the first place. I am so pleased they are going to do it though, and also anxious to see how it all goes once they get started!

On another note, I have a brief update to share in regards to my recent “health benefits” post, which highlighted all of the physical changes we have noticed since switching to real food. On day 47, I said that I did not think I had lost any weight, but that I had not weighed myself either. A few days later I took my daughter to the doctor where they of course weighed her. I asked if I could step on the scale too. As it turns out, I did lose 5 pounds. I have no idea where the 5 pounds came from because my clothes still fit the same, but apparently, it came from somewhere! This really isn’t too surprising though since I had (and still have) an overwhelmingly large sweet tooth.

For the last couple of days, my husband has been out-of-town on business (again). This time he packed his own food for his trip, so we will see how he did once he gets home. I also have tried harder this time to not cook elaborate dinners every night when my kid/bath helper is gone. But the first night I somehow already forgot this thought process and made a double recipe of homemade spaghetti sauce as well as whole-wheat pasta noodles from scratch. Neither dish is overly difficult to make, but they do take time and can also create quite a mess.

Homemade spaghetti with tomato sauce in a bowl.

The second night I was happy I had gone through all of the trouble to make so much pasta sauce because I had not frozen any of it yet and knew it would be perfect leftover. To switch it up a bit, I added some heavy cream when I heated the sauce on the stove, which made it more of an orange/pink sauce (pictured). My older daughter loved it even more than the night before and cleaned her plate.

Potato pancakes made with sweet potato and shredded zucchini on a plate.

Then last night, I made breakfast for dinner, which couldn’t have been easier. I actually poached some eggs (my girls have never had them that way before and they luckily finished every last bit) and served them with some fruit, bacon, and potato pancakes. And instead of making traditional white potato pancakes, I actually used a sweet potato and mixed in some shredded zucchini (pictured). I feel like dealing with my picky 3-year-old eater is an everyday battle, but last night I finally enjoyed some of the payoffs because she ended up having 4 or 5 helpings of the potato/zucchini pancake! I watched with both surprise and delight, as you can imagine.

Day 58: A Shocking Lunch and Substitute Cake

July 23, 2010

Yesterday I had a very shocking food experience. I took my girls downtown to the newly renovated Discovery Place Museum. I could have taken the easy route and packed a lunch for us, but I decided it would be more fun to go out for lunch (if we could in fact find some real food).

I had heard about this place called “Blynk” which is all organic and local and bla bla bla. I called them to inquire about their menu and as it turns out none of their bread or wraps are 100% whole-wheat, they couldn’t serve my girls oatmeal (which I know they would eat) past the breakfast hour, and if we ordered one of the egg dishes it might not be as good without the bread that we couldn’t eat. Despite all of this, I thought we could hopefully find something on their menu and make it work. I packed some crackers, nuts, and raisins just in case I needed to supplement.

As we entered the museum to buy our tickets, my 3-year-old pointed to the museum cafeteria and said, “They have food here so we don’t need to go to a restaurant.” I replied, “Well, I doubt we can eat anything in a museum cafeteria.” Then I suddenly spotted the tagline under their “Community Café” sign that read, “healthy – local – green.” Hmmm … I added, “Well, maybe we can eat something here after all.” We went in to check out the menu and I got the shock of my life. In the past 2 months, we have struggled beyond belief to order real food at restaurants and here at a little museum cafeteria, we could actually choose from 2 of the ready-made items off a menu that was so small it only had 5 things to offer in the first place. It was absolutely unbelievable.

Day 58: A Shocking Lunch and Substitute Cake 2

I thought for sure my girls would want to share the whole-wheat cheese pizza, but for some reason, they said they would rather have the burger. I didn’t really want a burger myself, but I felt like I should order one just because I could. Their burger was prepared with meat from Baucom’s Best 100% grass-fed meat (a local farm I’ve seen at our farmer’s market) and served on a whole-wheat bun. We asked for it to be topped with cheese, but of course, had to hold off on the ketchup and sweet potato fries (although they did also offer eggplant fries which were of course deep fried and therefore still against the rules). I divided the burger into thirds and supplemented our meal with some of their other fare, which included fresh fruit, organic applesauce, and organic cheese. All in all, it was an incredibly convenient and tasty meal. I never knew convenience and taste could coexist in a real food world. Thank you Discovery Place for making my day!!

Two rows of chocolate and carrot cupcakes with no frosting.

Today I had a very exciting moment when I suddenly decided to make chocolate cupcakes! I had a good excuse because I needed something as a substitute for the birthday cake that was being served at a party this evening.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an extremely big sweet tooth.  While the chocolate tortes (shaped into balls) have kept me very happy for the last few weeks, this does happen to be the longest period of time that I’ve ever gone without eating chocolate cake (or any kind of cake for that matter!). So just the thought of making something like this sort of felt like Christmas to me … what can I say. And in case the chocolate cupcakes didn’t turn out that great, I also made some carrot cupcakes as a backup (both pictured without frosting).

Once the first set of cupcakes were done, they looked and smelled just like regular chocolate cupcakes. If I said they tasted like them too I would be lying, but for someone that has gone so long without this sort of thing, I have to admit that they totally did the trick for me. And let’s not just focus on what they did for me; my daughters were so excited about having these chocolate cupcakes that I honestly don’t think they even noticed the birthday cake at the party (that we were of course not able to eat). Their response couldn’t have made me more pleased.

Prepared homemade food including ketchup, fruit, popcorn, and hot dogs.

I do wonder though, once the 100 days are over if I will continue to go through this much effort when we leave the house to eat somewhere else. It was so nice that they were happy with my “healthier” cupcakes, but aside from the dessert, there was all of the other food I had to bring too. Here you can see a snapshot of everything I had to pack (including the cupcakes, popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers, whole-wheat buns, fruit, milk drinks, and homemade ketchup) just to ensure we stuck to real food at a party that lasted all of 3 hours! It was definitely a lot of effort and once all of this is over I will have to decide if it will continue to be worth it.

Day 60: P.F. Chang’s and The Gum Controversy

July 25, 2010

Last night we were out running errands near the mall when all of a sudden 6:00 hit. We could have gone all the way home and started making something for dinner, but how much easier would it be to just go out to eat at that point? Not to mention we were right by P.F. Chang’s and it smelled good. As it turns out, it was probably the scent of one of their sauces (85 – 90% of which contain sugar) that lured us in!

Child eating brown rice with mushrooms and green beans on a plate.

The biggest challenge about taking our children out to eat is finding something that doesn’t break the rules, and that they will actually eat. Jason and I are obviously a little more flexible and understanding of our limited food choices in restaurants. My first thought was that I could order the girls a bowl of fried rice to share (with brown rice instead of white, no meat, and the addition of two veggies that I thought they may eat green beans and mushrooms). Come to find out, we could do the rice dish for them, but couldn’t have any of the sauce since there was sugar in it. We couldn’t even season it with soy sauce because the brand they buy also has sugar in it.

I was caught a little off-guard when they brought out their dinner because it was just plain steamed brown rice mixed with mushrooms and green beans. I immediately knew there was no way my kids would eat that. I even tried a bite just to make sure (and confirmed it had no flavor!).  So we had to send their meal back and ask for it to still be made like regular fried rice (cooked in oil with bits of egg, onion, etc.), but just leaving off the sauce. I would have to say, the restaurant was accommodating, but the revised dish was only slightly better than the first go-round. Luckily I had some cashews and pistachios in my purse to supplement their meal.

My husband and I decided to have the Mahi Mahi which I was told by one of the sous chefs was the only seafood dish we could order as-is (due to the sugar in all of the other sauces). The only substitution we made was for it to be served over brown rice instead of white. The fish itself tasted great, but instead of serving it over the brown rice it came on a bed of white rice (which was mixed with cilantro and sitting in all of the lemongrass butter sauce—the only thing at our entire table that had any flavor!) and accompanied by two plain bowls of brown rice on the side.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think plain brown rice without any seasoning or sauce tastes very good! So we had to send our meal back too and ask for the fish to actually be over the brown rice, which would hopefully be soaking up some of the good sauce this time. So after all of that our spontaneous dinner out took almost an hour and forty-five minutes!

With all of the seafood, vegetables, and brown rice available on the menu at P.F. Chang’s, we thought for sure that ordering would be easy.  This was just yet another one of our experiences that shows how hidden processed foods and refined ingredients can be when you are eating away from home. I would say that I don’t plan to attempt Chinese food again until the 100 days are over.

In other news, with all that I am doing to bend over backwards and make sure I only feed our children the healthiest and most natural foods on earth can you believe that my husband got his “panties in a wad” because I gave the girls some gum (sugar-free gum nonetheless)?? You don’t actually EAT gum … you just chew it, right? So, here we enter some gray areas when it comes to the rules. Since we started all of this I have already given them the sugar-free gum on several occasions and he politely suggested that I don’t “do that again” until the 100 days are over. Is this a little over the top or is it just me?

My husband insists I post his side of the story: The serving size on the sugar-free gum has 5 calories.  You extract the sweetener and flavorings during chewing (in this case chemicals and artificial sweetener), leaving the mostly flavorless gum base after chewing.  This is why gum tastes better at first … you are eating the sugar or sweetener. He doesn’t think chewing gum is a big deal, but says rules are rules.

I suppose it was a little easier to ignore this gray area before I read all of that.

Day 62: Fried Rice (Take 2) and Snack Choices for Kids

July 27, 2010

Homemade fried rice and a side of grapes on a plate.

Thanks to the inspiration from the (not so good) fried rice at P.F. Chang’s the other night, I decided to quickly throw together a homemade version the next day. It took (what felt like) all of five minutes to make and turned out really tasty. It made me feel once again disappointed that we sat around for almost two hours waiting for a similar, more expensive, yet tasteless dish the other night.

I just sautéed some leftover (cooked) brown rice with a little onion, carrot, frozen peas, egg, soy sauce, a dash of toasted sesame oil, and a sprinkle of dried ginger. It was so easy and good … although I can’t speak for my 3-year-old because some days she just seems to be getting pickier and pickier! She ate a few of the grapes on the side and then just sort of picked at the rice. I think I scared her off with the carrots, but what can I say … I was not in the mood to offer her any other alternatives that day so what she got is what she got!

This week my girls have been at their second (and final) week of summer camp. I was relieved that all of the kids were supposed to bring their own snacks and that the day would end before lunchtime. This just meant that there would be less requesting, coordinating, and preparing of special meals on my part. I would have done it anyway, but every now and then I like a break!

One thing they were doing at camp though was giving all of the kids popsicles on the second day. So I brought along some of our homemade popsicles for my girls on that day, which was easy enough. Afterward, the teachers said there were no issues with my kids having something different, and one of the little 3-year-olds actually asked if she could have a popsicle like my daughter’s instead of hers. It made me feel a little bad that I couldn’t manage to bring homemade popsicles for all 20 or so of the little ballerina girls. Some things just aren’t realistic though!

Speaking of kids and what they will eat … I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I observe my children and other people’s children during snack/mealtime. I truly believe that most children will eat the food choice that you give them (unless of course you already know it is something they don’t like). This simply means that it is up to the parent (and trust me I agree it is not an easy job) to make sure we are making the right choices in what we buy and offer our children. And we shouldn’t be giving them choices (like Pirates Booty vs. Triscuits or Goldfish vs. Grapes) instead, we should only be offering them the best and most natural options if they are even given an option at all. I have two examples to back up my little theory here.

Day 62: Fried Rice (Take 2) and Snack Choices for Kids

First of all, the other night after dinner, I let one of my daughters have a homemade freezie pop (that had frozen applesauce in it similar to the green one at the top of the picture). It was the perfect messy treat to eat outside on a hot day. Not one, not two, but three of the little friends on our street were out and saw what she was eating. They each separately indicated that they wanted “one” too (even though I am sure they didn’t know what it was). So, fortunately, I happened to have exactly three extras in the freezer and was happy to divvy them up. All of the kids sucked them down with pleasure. And the only thing they were eating was all-natural applesauce! Yes, it was work to order the freezie pop molds and make them, but once all of that was out of the way these kids were thrilled to eat what was offered to them even when I can vouch that the very same kids usually eat pops from the grocery store.

On the other hand (not that I am judging—ha ha ha), I often see people giving their kids what I consider to be “highly processed snacks” (little bags of something crunchy … you know the usual suspect). At the beginning of this year, I was guilty of doing the exact same thing. But whether it is these kids or my kids (or your kids if you have them) how do you think they would respond if you instead just handed them a different crunchy alternative like some whole-wheat pretzels, a Lara Bar (or homemade granola bar), some nuts, popcorn, or Triscuits? Just a thought.

Day 64: My Husband Cooks and Another Big Trip!

July 29, 2010

I have a new skill. I can glance at the amount of dishes piled up in the sink and know if they will fill the dishwasher (or be slightly too many or too few to fit). This is a ridiculous skill to have, but goes to show that nothing has changed with how much I am doing dishes as I continue to feed everyone real food several times a day around here. I almost always still running the dishwasher at least twice a day and just do what I can to try to keep it clean in kitchen. One thing that has made things a little easier lately is that out of nowhere my husband cooked dinner three times in the last week! My husband is a great cook and enjoys it too, but since he is so busy at work (and travels frequently) he rarely ever does it anymore.

So as a tribute to being treated to someone else’s real food cooking, I thought I would do a little feature on his creations which will hopefully encourage him to do more of this! From top to bottom this is some of what he made… white gazpacho soup, shrimp & vegetable kabobs over brown rice, and oven-roasted potatoes. It was all delicious and I hope he does more of this in the future!

Homemade white gazpacho soup in a bowl.
Shrimp & vegetable kabobs over brown rice on a plate.
Oven-roasted potatoes sprinkled with thyme on a plate.

Well, I have another HUGE challenge coming up tomorrow. I thought our first trip away from home (on day 41) was hard, but this is going to be even more difficult. I am taking my girls out-of-town again, but without my husband this time. Instead, we are going with a dear friend and her 6-year-old daughter (who let’s just say is not at all on a real food diet). This trip will take us north again to see my parents and then I will also just be taking my oldest daughter to New York City (with our friends) where we will stay in a hotel. Not only does the hotel part concern me, but I am also leaving my 3-year-old in the care of my (only partially real food eating) parents for two nights on their boat while we are in the Big Apple. Yikes! I am excited about the trip, but mainly worried about the following:

  • Can my daughters handle being around a friend for 5 full days that may very well be eating some (or maybe even lots of) things that they cannot have? Their friend can of course eat whatever her little heart desires so this will solely be our problem to deal with.
  • Can my parents handle sticking to our rules in my absence?? They will be staying on a boat that does not have all of the same conveniences as a full size kitchen (e.g. no oven, blender, or food processor). My mom said she has already lost sleep over this, which I do not find encouraging.
  • Last, but not least … how in the world do my 5-year-old and I manage to eat real food and real food only when we are staying in a hotel room for 2 nights that does not have a kitchen/fridge?
  • I could pretend that I am also concerned about my husband being home alone and having to fend for himself … but that is the least of my worries!

I just finished sending my mom an email with this list of meals that they can feed my youngest (and pickiest) daughter when I am gone. Since she is so darn picky it didn’t take me long to make this rather short list of almost every single real food item that she has ever eaten and somewhat enjoyed (without having a blender, popsicle molds, and other handy items around of course!):

What Sienna will eat…


  • Spaghetti with whole-wheat noodles
  • “Roll up” (whole-wheat tortilla with hummus and cheese)*
  • Peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat bread*
  • Scrambled or fried eggs
  • Cheese/corn quesadilla on whole-wheat tortillas*
  • Sushi with brown rice and cooked shrimp or veggies*
  • Oatmeal with a little honey and cinnamon*
  • Whole-wheat pancakes with pure maple syrup
  • Granola cereal with milk*


  • Fruit: grapes, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, banana, watermelon, pear, apple
  • Veggies: frozen peas (served frozen), green beans, carrots (sort of), broccoli (sort of)
  • Raisins*
  • Tree Nuts and Peanuts*
  • Cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Avocado with a little soy sauce*
  • Sweet or white potatoes
  • Applesauce*
  • Whole-wheat pretzels*
  • Lara bars*


  • Fruit leathers*
  • Chocolate balls*

*To help make these meals happen I am bringing the following in my suitcase: whole-wheat tortillas, hummus, whole-wheat sandwich bread, soy sauce (without sugar), rolled oats, cinnamon, granola cereal, raisins, nuts, applesauce squeeze pouches, whole-wheat pretzels, Lara bars, fruit leathers, chocolate balls

Please wish us luck and stay tuned because I will post an update during our trip!

Day 67: A Broken Rule and Delicious NYC

August 1, 2010

Things are so far so good on our trip … well, for the most part. In some cases we are having even better luck than I expected finding real food in The Big Apple, but we did have one little incident before we even got all the way to NYC. On our first night up north we stayed with my parents and they were in charge of dinner. You would think that after months of discussion with them about our little food project and even getting them to read Michael Pollan’s book themselves they would get the hang of it by now … but apparently not.

My dad was preparing spaghetti with whole-wheat pasta, red sauce, and locally raised ground beef for the kids. I was thrilled to get a much-needed break from cooking and also a break from having to ask a hundred questions about what was being served (since it was my own parents after all). As soon as the spaghetti was served I took a bite to try it and served one bite to my 3-year-old. Then I looked a little more closely and said, “Dad, are you sure this is whole-wheat pasta because the noodles don’t look as brown as usual???” He said it was what my mother gave him and they looked brown to him.

So in order to further research my suspicion I had to resort to digging through the trash to find and inspect the empty box of pasta. Sure enough, my mom fell prey to the food claim on the front of the box that read “whole wheat blend”. The last word (which was overlooked) is pretty darn important. I would like to use this opportunity to remind everyone to never make a decision based on health claims or pictures of nature advertised on the front of a package. ONLY trust the list of ingredients.

Fortunately my youngest daughter and I only had one bite and as soon as my 5-year-old heard me say it was against the rules she didn’t want to eat any of it (that’s my girl). So needless to say I had to have an unpleasant discussion with my parents about the rule-breaking food and then go fix my kids something else to eat. Not exactly an ideal start to our trip.

Scrambled eggs and a side of fruit.
Shrimp cocktail over a bed of shredded veggies and a plate of potato skins.

On the other hand, we are now in NYC enjoying lots of fabulous “real food” food. What a relief. We have been eating at some places spontaneously (breakfast and lunch) and others that I had researched in advance (for dinner) and having lots of luck with both. We arrived in New York just before lunchtime yesterday and easily found a casual little place that was still serving breakfast. Scrambled eggs is always the perfect go-to dish for both of my daughters … they like it every time and it is obviously not against the rules. So I ordered that with some fruit (for my 5-year-old) and potato skins without bacon and shrimp cocktail without the cocktail sauce for me. It hit the spot.

A small plate of arugula, sliced fruit pieces, blue cheese crumbles and dressing.

Last night we went to a fabulous seafood place called Esca for dinner and enjoyed every last bite of our meal. It was well worth my hours of research. Before we left home I wasn’t sure where I should even start my search for “real food” restaurants, and I ended up working off a list of chefs/restaurants that buy products from the local farmers market (the NYC Greenmarket). I ran through the list of restaurants with the hotel concierge and at end of our 45-minute phone conversation I finally narrowed it down to a short list of those that were close-by, tasty, and had something for all of us to order.

Well plated corn and arugula topped with a sprinkle of cheese.

The biggest challenge on this trip has been finding places where both a “real food” child will eat something and that a very picky “non-real food” child will also eat something (our friend’s child that is with us). After enjoying a delicious meal of side items for my daughter and salads (both pictured), sole, and kale for the adults to share at dinner last night I felt it was well worth the effort!

Today we had breakfast at the hotel. I’d brought along some homemade granola cereal and had the hotel’s milk and fruit along with it. My 5-year-old had a hard-boiled egg, fruit, and some bread that they claimed was whole-grain (toasted with butter).

An open faced sandwich with black bean spread and avocado on whole-wheat bread.

Then we really lucked out at lunchtime and came across a place called Le Pain. They bake their own breads and had a whole-wheat sourdough loaf on the menu with only 4 ingredients (yea!). The food at this place was so natural and good that I had my first sandwich at a restaurant (an open faced sandwich with black bean spread and avocado on whole-wheat bread—pictured) and my first cup of lemonade (sweetened with agave nectar) in months. It was such a treat!! I ordered steel cut oatmeal for my daughter and unfortunately she wasn’t as big of a fan as I was of the restaurant … but what can I say, I thought it was fabulous!

Day 70: Last Days of Trip and Our “Picky Eater” Traveling Companion

August 4, 2010

We had a whirlwind of a trip and while NYC was very much enjoyed by all, we were looking forward to returning home to the slower pace of North Carolina. On the last evening in The Big Apple, my hours of research (prior to the trip) for real food restaurants led us to a rather high-end restaurant called Gotham Bar & Grill. Looking back, I think in the midst of figuring out their location, finding out if they were recommended by the concierge, and analyzing their food options, I must have forgotten to consider their pricing. Ooops. By the time we realized just how upscale it was, we were seated and hungry so we just decided to go with it and enjoy the special occasion.

Moroccan Chicken with roasted potatoes and green beans  on a plate served at Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC.
Pork chop on a bed of greens on a plate served at Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC.

At a restaurant this nice it was very easy to find things that we could eat without breaking the rules. With the exception of one or two dishes with white rice and a couple more that had some sort of refined flour, we had a lot to choose from. Almost all of their meat was locally raised so we decided to seize the opportunity while we could.

For my daughter, I ordered a smaller portion of the Moroccan Chicken with roasted potatoes and green beans while I went for the Pork Chop. She really liked the potatoes and ate some of the chicken and green beans. I happened to favor her chicken over my pork so I sort of finished her plate and wished we’d just shared that entrée. All in all, though we had a wonderful time being pampered at such a fine restaurant, and we were sure to enjoy every moment of it while it lasted! I just wish that our society didn’t sometimes portray locally grown/raised food as being such a high-end luxury and hope that one day it will be much more commonplace for everyone.

Our last meal in NYC was quite a different story. We were out on 5th Avenue when suddenly everyone was hungry for lunch. We only had so much time to pass up non-real food places before settling down at the most acceptable choice. We ended up going to a deli called Toasties, and I felt a little stressed as I surveyed the options. It was a very busy place and the people working there were moving the customers through quickly. No one had time for (nor did they know) the answers to my questions. So I had to analyze the soup, sandwich, and salad counters and make some decisions based on what I knew for sure would be acceptable.

A hearty salad, cantaloupe, and roasted potatoes topped with grated cheese packed in containers from Toasties deli in NYC.

I ended up getting something from the salad bar for myself that was a mix of spinach leaves, almonds, chickpeas, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, a little olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. At first, I really didn’t know what to do for my daughter and ended up getting her roasted potatoes (for like the 5th time on the trip!) topped with some grated cheese and cantaloupe on the side. I had some Triscuits in my purse and gave those to her with the meal. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a fan of the potatoes but ate enough of the other stuff to where she said she was full.

One of the biggest challenges in NYC was the fact that we had one real food child (my daughter), as well as her little friend who is very much a non-real food child. So we had to make sure each restaurant had real food that would appeal to my daughter (and me) as well as the typical kid food offerings like pasta and chicken fingers. Unfortunately, my friend’s 6-year-old daughter is an extremely picky eater, and her mother and I were hoping that spending this time together might influence her eating habits in a good way.

So per my friend’s request, each time I fed my kids something we always offered to share it with her daughter. But after more than a half-dozen “no’s” in a row I didn’t want to annoy the child. So I laid off, but then out of nowhere on the last day of the trip I felt we had a very small breakthrough. After being part of a few discussions about eating healthy and why it is important (it could make you and your mommy live longer!), our picky little eater of the group said she wanted to try a smoothie, just like my daughters.

So the girl who basically doesn’t even eat fruit (or vegetables for that matter) requested a banana/blueberry/strawberry smoothie! I was thrilled at her request and then very intrigued by her reaction after trying it. She got a little upset and said, “It’s not fair because I don’t like it like they do!” I really felt for her because even though she rarely tries new things, I realized that she truly doesn’t like a lot of this “healthy” stuff. Maybe she isn’t just making it up after all. Either way, I am not going to give up trying to think of ways to make healthy food for her that she would enjoy eating.

Homemade food and snacks packed in ziplock bags and plastic containers.

I have one last note … about my parents. They kept my 3-year-old while we were in NYC and overall I have to say they did a good job feeding her real food. Despite the fact that I did give them a list of more than enough meal options, and also brought in my suitcase every food item they could possibly need for her (pictured), I am sure it wasn’t easy for them to take over this daunting task in my absence. As far as I know, they stuck to the rules with one small exception.

As I was putting my 3-year-old to bed on my first night back, out of absolutely nowhere she announced that she had eaten a bite of grandma’s hamburger. A hamburger that I could guarantee was not made with locally raised meat. I am not quite sure why my parents would want to mess up such a good streak of real food with one unnecessary bite of a hamburger, but I suppose it could’ve been a lot worse … and at this point what’s done is done! I guess it’s only natural that grandparents want to spoil their grandkids.

Day 73: Mommy’s Weekend Away and Daddy Duty

August 7, 2010

We are normally only around rule-breaking foods for brief periods of time, and distracting my children from those foods usually serves as a pretty big distraction for me as well. This weekend was a totally different story though. For the first time in over a year I went away with my girlfriends for the weekend … no kids and no husbands. I felt that packing my food for the trip was fairly easy (compared to preparing something for my whole family), but roaming around the beach house with forbidden foods out for display all weekend proved to be a little harder than I thought.

Each and every time I walked through the kitchen I had to remind myself to not reach into one of the many bags of chips or pretzels, not to sample one of the dips that were sitting out next to them, and especially not to dig into the little dish of chocolates (or tray of brownies for that matter). I also had to turn down the margaritas that my girlfriends were making. Wow, what a weekend to really test my own personal limits!

Veggies for fajitas cooking on the stove.

Luckily, I brought some of my favorite foods to munch on (and to share) to help curb any unwanted cravings. And since I do love to share real food with others, I even offered to make dinner for the group of 8 girlfriends the first night we arrived. Not to mention that would guarantee at least one meal where I could eat the same thing as everyone else. So prior to leaving for the weekend I chopped away preparing a big batch of veggies/mushrooms (for fajitas) as well as some accompaniments like pico de gallo and guacamole. I also made a couple dozen homemade flour tortillas to wrap everything up in.

Veggies on a homemade tortilla.

I am fairly confident that most of my girlfriends don’t regularly eat vegetarian dishes for dinner, and one friend even admitted that she brought some cheerios to munch on later (certain that she would still be hungry). Once we sat down to eat I was thrilled to hear that everyone was enjoying the meal, and about halfway through her first fajita, my cheerios friend couldn’t believe she was already feeling full. I know I have said it a thousand times, but real food is filling!

Sparkling wine and strawberry wine in a glass.

Later on in the weekend, I was lucky enough to enjoy a little something special that I have wanted all summer long … a fruity cocktail drink! I occasionally get tired of wine and unfortunately, most of the fun cocktails that I like are made with sweetened juices and other stuff in them that I can’t have (not to mention liquor is not on our list of approved items either). One of my girlfriends was nice enough to make me a modified version of a sparkling wine & strawberry wine drink (sans the chocolate coated rim). The chocolate did look like it made for an awfully tasty combination on everyone else’s glass, but I was just happy enough to finally enjoy at least one fruity cocktail this summer!

Meanwhile, at home, Jason was on daddy duty. It is always nice when us moms can occasionally get away, but I was especially happy to get a break from having to bend over backwards to feed everyone approved foods. And while my husband is extremely supportive of our new whole food diet I am not so sure that he realizes how much time I really spend in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. So I purposely did not buy or plan any of their meals for my weekend away because I wanted to be sure he got the full experience :).

All in all, he survived, and unfortunately he also got a good dose of what I experience regularly … the never-ending dish duty! He of course couldn’t escape and take the kids to Chick-fil-A in mommy’s absence. Instead, my husband prepared burritos (including making his first batch of tortillas!), scrambled eggs with brown rice and zucchini, a picnic lunch with grilled cheese and fresh fruit, and a special treat to top off the weekend. He experimented with making a caramelized banana dessert that he said the girls loved!

I am glad I didn’t plan anything for them and left them to their own devices. As I suspected they did just fine on their own, and they just might have a tiny bit of renewed appreciation for all of the menu planning, cooking, and cleaning I do when I am home!

Day 75: A Makeshift Lunch and Surprise at the Grocery Store

August 9 2010

Matzo crackers with peanut butter and jelly on top with a side of peaches and grapes.

What does one do when everyone is hungry for lunch and you are completely out of sandwich bread and tortillas/wraps? After being away with my girlfriends for the weekend I wasn’t surprised to find a somewhat empty fridge and pantry upon my return. So after putting a little thought into it … we came up with peanut butter and jelly on crackers!

I have raved about Triscuits over and over again, but there is another box of crackers that we also love to buy: 100% Whole-Wheat Matzos (be careful because they sell Matzos made from white flour, too). They are in the International section of my regular (non-health food) grocery store and only contain two ingredients: unbleached whole-wheat flour and water. So as far as the health of the cracker goes, these are probably even one step above Triscuits since they don’t contain any oil or salt. I love to make a little breakfast dish for my girls with Matzos crackers too … more on that later though!

So anyway, everyone survived our bread-less lunch. I actually ended up eating some whole-wheat pretzels (that I recently found at Earthfare) and cucumbers dipped in hummus along with some leftover homemade cabbage/beef soup and rice that my husband had defrosted from our freezer while I was gone. It ended up being more than enough food for everyone.

On a completely different note, I experienced a little bit of a surprising incident at the grocery store the other day. We were just minding our own business while shopping at our regular local store. Both of my girls were pushing their own little kid-sized carts, and I was leading the way through the aisles with my list in hand. Along came another little girl (who must have been the same age as my 5-year-old) with her own little shopping cart. It almost felt like it happened in slow motion when I saw my kids look right at her cart full of processed foods as she pushed it right by them (at their eye level of course). Then the dreaded words started to come out of my 5-year-old’s mouth…”Mom, her cart reminded me that…” I seriously held my breath, but then she said “…I wanted to get one of those cups that she had.”

I was in shock, and after getting her to clarify her request (since it was so hard for me to believe), I said “I will absolutely buy you one of those $3 plastic cups” … let’s go pick one out! I explained to her later that I bought her the cup because I was so proud of her for not asking me for (or even wanting) any of the items that were in the girl’s cart. I honestly didn’t even notice the cup and instead only saw two different kinds of Fruit Roll Ups, two packages of Lunchables, and a box of white croissants from the bakery.

(I need to take a moment here to stress to the readers that don’t know us personally … things were not always like this with my daughter!). Not too long ago, both of our daughters ate just like any other child including the very same Lunchables and plenty of candy and other highly processed treats after meals. My point is that even though it hasn’t been easy at times, we have managed to change their mindsets, and sometimes I still can’t believe how well my children are handling our new food choices.

Open-faced sandwich with black bean hummus, bell  peppers, and avocado with a side of roasted potatoes and mango.

So I must follow up this story about how good my daughter was at the store with one about how much both of our daughters hated what we made for dinner tonight. Even though you know it is inevitable, it is always such a bummer when everyone can’t just sit down and eat the same darn thing. I was incredibly inspired by all of the fabulous food we ate in New York City and decided to try to emulate a lunch dish that I had at Le Pain.

So my husband and I worked away to make black bean hummus (I have added this to my list of Food Illusion recipes to post soon!), roasted red bell peppers, and a spicy tahini sauce. We served it with avocado on an open-faced sandwich (a.k.a. tartine) along with some roasted potatoes and mango. Our daughters absolutely HATED the sandwich and made gagging faces while they ate the few required bites. Then I had to give them something else. Don’t you just love it when that happens? On the contrary, my husband and I thought the sandwiches were quite delicious!

Day 78: Leftovers and a Vegan Lunch

August 12, 2010

I absolutely love leftovers. I know some people are not fans, and all I have to say about that is I do not understand! Why wouldn’t one want a delicious homemade meal that they don’t have to cook? Maybe the non-loving leftover person doesn’t do the cooking in the first place? Well, I do an obscene amount of cooking around here and if having leftovers means I am off the hook then I am all over it.

Homemade chili in a bowl topped with cheese.

Today was the perfect day to have leftovers. We were very busy with a playdate, errands, and an out-of-town guest. It would have sent me over the edge if I also had to prepare a delicious homemade meal for dinner. So I was in luck that I made a huge batch of chili and whole-grain cornbread last night. I agree it is a little random to eat chili when the heat index is approaching 100 degrees, but when I brought that point up to my husband he said, “Well, what do they do in Texas?”

So we decided our cravings didn’t have to match the weather, and we chowed down on some (mostly bean with a little bit of ground pork) chili. My picky daughter (who probably likes 1 out of 10 new things I give her) actually liked this dish too, which made me like it even more. I guess if you mix together equal parts chili, cornbread, and cheese what’s not to love?

We have actually been eating all sorts of quick and easy meals this week. Here are some of the highlights and photos…

Scrambled eggs, toast with jelly, and fruit on a plate.
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, toast with jelly, and fruit
Peanut butter and banana (instead of jelly) sandwich, whole-wheat pretzels, and fruit.
  • Lunch: Peanut butter and banana (instead of jelly) sandwich, whole-wheat pretzels, and fruit
Zucchini noodles with sliced almonds and cheese.
  • Dinner: Leftover roasted potatoes (that were turned into mashed potatoes), a very quick cooking zucchini/sliced almond recipe, and some other leftovers

I guess we must have subconsciously been on some sort of kick to make it easy on me in the kitchen this week (which I love) because we also went out to lunch one day. A local blog reader recently recommended that we try Luna’s Living Kitchen, which is actually a vegan restaurant close to Uptown Charlotte. We were in the area and decided to check it out. Prior to the 100 days, I have to admit that I probably would have turned my nose up to Vegan food. While I have no desire to become a Vegan (or even a Vegetarian for that matter) I do recognize that they are extremely conscious of what they put in their bodies and often favor local fare over the processed/refined stuff. So I figured it was worth a shot to see what this place was all about.

Veggie burger on whole-grain bread with a side salad from Luna's Living Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.
Vegan lasagne served with cucumbers and a side salad at Luna's Living Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.

We ordered three different dishes (and dessert!) between the four of us so my husband and I could sample more than one thing. Our favorite dish was the veggie burger on whole-grain bread—yum! It was the type of meal that makes you feel sad when it is over. My 5-year-old had the lasagne, which was served slightly chilled and had no sign of a noodle. They instead used thinly sliced pieces of zucchini in place of noodles (which I thought was creative and different) and then topped the dish with cucumber slices. While she didn’t chow down or anything, she did eat it slowly which leads me to believe she liked it. She did suck down her coconut milk though … because of course, they don’t serve dairy!

Vegan "banana ice cream" topped with fresh fruit served at Luna's Living Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.

On the other hand, my younger daughter was unfortunately not a very big fan of their version of oatmeal, which was made with buckwheat instead of oats. She is incredibly picky though, and I suppose since she ate chili for the first time this week she must have already maxed out on her limit of new foods or something. She did eat the bananas off the top though, and I also had some nuts in my purse I gave her too. But luckily both of our children loved the “banana ice cream” for dessert (pictured), which was simply pureed frozen bananas! We certainly don’t have to limit them when it comes to a treat like that. So all in all, we really enjoyed our outing at Luna’s and will definitely eat there again (although I hope I have a little better luck selecting a dish for my 3-year-old next time!).

Also check out the latest post on my other blog, The Food Illusion, entitled Milk – good or bad?

Day 81: Nineteen Days Left and Counting!

August 15, 2010

There is no question that this has been an incredibly enlightening experience for us so far, but at the same time who wouldn’t be ready for it to end? The reality is that we will still eat very much the same as we do now, but on day 101 we will have the ability to make exceptions as we see fit. For example, just tonight, right after we ripped open a package of prosciutto from the farmer’s market I noticed the label said it was cured with brown sugar. I guess once I got the locally raised meat part checked off my list I forgot to double-check the ingredients … what a bummer! Now I have to find a lucky recipient for our $8.50 package of meat.

Lots of people have been asking us what we will do when this is over, so I thought I would make a list of other exceptions that we plan to dive into after the 100 days …

  • Some store-bought items with either six or seven ingredients or with forbidden ingredients including …
    • Mayonnaise (my girls love egg salad and I have not been happy with homemade mayo recipes)
    • Apple pie flavored Lara Bars (several friends have told me this is their favorite flavor and I have not been able to try it yet!)
    • Some good ol’ organic Heinz ketchup (although we don’t really use that much of this condiment it will be incredibly convenient to use again)
    • Worcestershire sauce happens to be an ingredient in a lot of good recipes and no matter how natural it is it has been strictly against the rules for us
    • Something deep-fried, although it will be homemade of course … I am thinking sweet potato fries will be first on the list.
  • Maybe one batch of my (old) signature chocolate chip cookie recipe with real chocolate chips instead of the unsweetened bitter ones. I will also probably use the sugar that the recipe calls for but may stick with whole-wheat flour.
  • Lastly, we are all looking forward to the ability to be more flexible when we are out of the house. Aside from the items I have listed so far, things will probably pretty much stay the same at home. But, since it is always so much more difficult to stick to the rules when we are out (at a restaurant, friends’ house, or birthday party), that is where I expect to see the most change. I really don’t know for sure though if I could stomach my girls digging into high-fructose corn syrup-filled, grocery store cake at a party or not … I will just have to wait and see on that one.

Once we truly hit day 100 I will be sure to also make a list of what we will do differently (in a positive way) as a result of this experience. As we close in on the final stretch of our pledge it is too easy to think of what we miss, but of course, we have also learned so much and will make many more changes for the better going forward.

Okay, enough of that sappiness. So today my 3-year-old had her first day of ballet/tap class, and the instructors hand out a piece of candy to each child as a reward at the end. I don’t see why they can’t just give out a sticker or a stamp instead (kids love that stuff too!), but apparently, they weren’t too fond of the idea when I suggested it last year when my older daughter was a student. I have learned that I can now pretty much trust my 5-year-old to stick to our rules in my absence, but I am not so sure how much of this my 3-year-old really “gets”.

Luckily there is a glass window on the door of the classroom so I could peek through as they were handing out the candy. I held my breath as they got to Sienna feeling worried that either they would forget or she would freak out that she got something different. But, to my surprise, all went as planned, and I was honestly perplexed that she didn’t seem to mind that she got a sticker instead of the candy she saw every other child receive.

In the car I couldn’t help but ask her about her special little sticker and if she saw what the other kids were given. She told me candy of course and I said, “Did you wish you had gotten the candy too?” I hate to even ask her that, but while I am of course committed to our rules it would break my heart to think of my girls feeling left out for any reason. Out of nowhere my 3-year-old responds with “No, because I can’t have candy”.

Wow, okay, so maybe she HAS been paying at least a little bit of attention over the last 81 days. I honestly think most parents (my “old” self included) would have never said, “Don’t give my child the candy” because we would just assume there would be some sort of major meltdown as a result … and parents always want to avoid meltdowns! Well, I guess you never know what will really happen until you try. And maybe it took us 81 days to get to a good place with our younger (and pickier) child, but I would of course have to say it was worth the effort (especially now that the hardest part is over!)

Day 84: Breakfast and Kid Food

August 18, 2010

It feels like we have been on a rotation of breakfast meals around here lately. We even had breakfast for dinner, which I think is one of the easiest meals to throw together at the end of the day. You have to admit it takes virtually no time at all (and not much skill either) to fry up some eggs.

Bowl of homemade granola cereal topped with fresh blueberries.

We normally have granola cereal in the morning (and my husband and I both agree we love it so much that it’s hard to imagine ever getting tired of it). Not to mention that a big hearty bowl of oats, nuts, and seeds will hold me over beautifully until lunchtime. I pretty much don’t eat an ounce of food from breakfast until lunch, and most of the time I am not even hungry until at least 1 or 2 o’clock. So you might understand why it was such a sad moment for me when two mornings this week we were completely out of granola. It’s all my own fault of course since I am the one who makes it, but that still didn’t prevent me from being disappointed (and feeling a little off my normal fullness schedule).

Homemade french toast cooking on the stove.
Homemade oatmeal topped with raisins.

So one morning I made French toast (pictured above) along with some fresh fruit for the girls and me to share. It was good and simple, and they had second and third helpings, which is always nice. Another morning it was oatmeal. I actually don’t even like to eat oatmeal, but what I do love about it is that it’s so easy and quick to make (I just microwave it for a couple of minutes) and both of my girls scarf it down every time. Since I don’t eat oatmeal myself, I had to figure out another alternative. After some brief thought, I decided it was worth it to finally make more granola and wait an hour and 15 minutes to eat it. Now that is dedication! And boy was it good.

My husband is away on business this week, and it’s been a while since he’s gone anywhere, so I almost forgot to prepare some snacks for his trip. I threw together some Lara bars, dried fruit, and granola cereal (which is why we didn’t have any left!) mixed with some shredded wheat. I also gave him a banana and an apple. The first night he was gone he said he went to the Outback and very much enjoyed a piece of grilled salmon with veggies and a salad. So I think he is making out just fine.

Plates of homemade macaroni and cheese and greenbeans.

Since my husband is gone I decided to have a girlfriend and her two kids over for dinner one evening. It seems that I am always making family dinner meals these days instead of making “kid” meals anymore. So after my friend confirmed that her children would eat a macaroni and cheese dish (that looked nothing like it came out of a blue box) I decided to go with it. I just boiled some whole-wheat macaroni noodles and whipped up a white cheddar cheese sauce with a little roasted butternut squash added for color (and nutrition of course!). I gave them green beans topped with almonds and soy sauce on the side. Just about every kid cleaned their plate and my girls even asked for seconds! That always makes my day.

So for dessert (if you even want to call it a dessert!) I decided to try making some of the banana ice cream I posted about the other day (day 78). Thanks to a few readers who left comments, I learned that it really is as easy as freezing some bananas, putting them in the blender with a few splashes of milk, and going to town. I cannot believe how creamy and good it was! I just wish I had made more so the adults could’ve had their own bowls, too.

Four colorful bowls of homemade banana ice cream with pecans on top.

Then today, I prepared some more “kid” food, except this meal carried even more restrictions than we are used to. My 5-year-old’s little friend who was over has always been allergic to nuts/tree nuts but recently learned that he also has to avoid gluten. So what does one get when real food meets nut and gluten-free? Fruit smoothies, apple slices, and cheese quesadillas on corn tortillas! I’ve never made corn tortillas before (but had been wanting to try) so it was the perfect excuse for me to give it a shot.

Homemade cheese quesadilla on corn tortilla.

One thing I learned today is that it is A LOT harder to make these than the flour ones! I am sure there are more tricks I haven’t learned yet, but quite a few had to be thrown out, and the ones that made it through were very misshapen. The dough would either just crumble in your hands or stick to everything so it made things very challenging. But, the kids did enjoy them (after patiently waiting forever for me to produce at least a few crazy looking edible ones), and the best part was that our little guest with all the allergies especially loved them! He said how much he liked them numerous times (which again makes my day), and asked that I teach his mom how to make them. I hate to put that on anyone after what I went through today, but I certainly wish her the best of luck in figuring it out!

Day 86: Dinner Club!

August 20, 2010

Years ago (before we had children), we were in a monthly dinner club with friends, and it was an absolute blast. Everyone involved enjoyed cooking and entertaining (which is somewhat of a requirement), and I especially liked having an excuse to go all out on a dinner party for friends. After all, you don’t mind going through an extreme amount of effort to entertain guests when you know it is going to be reciprocated!

So, since our kids are very much out of the baby stage now (at ages 3 and 5), we decided that we felt ready to take on something like our old dinner club again. This time it is with a different group of friends that all live in our neighborhood, and we settled for getting together every other month to make it more manageable for all our busy families. We were the first to host last night, and I am happy to report that it was a success!

Table setting for guest with a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers in the center.

When we planned our dinner club menus in the old days it was all very themed (Asian, Northwest, Mardi Gras, etc.), and I am ashamed to admit that I barely put any thought into using ingredients that were in season. And I certainly didn’t buy anything from the farmer’s market, either. Well, things are obviously a little different now, so last night our dinner club spread was not only all real food (of course), but the menu was also planned around using as many local ingredients as possible. Even the flowers that decorated our table were grown locally as well!

Here’s what we served along with the wine pairings and some photos (click to enlarge)….

Homemade parmesan cheese crisps topped with pesto and sun gold tomatoes.
Goat cheese stuffed figs on a serving tray.
Candied pecans and ostatu rioja blanco in a serving tray.
  • Hors d’oeuvres: Homemade Parmesan Cheese Crisps topped with Pesto and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes, Goat Cheese stuffed Figs, Olives, and Candied Pecans served with Ostatu Rioja Blanco
White Gazpacho from 100 Days of Real Food
  • First course: Heirloom Cucumber Gazpacho served with Renaud Macon Villages Chardonnay
Seared scallops, squash fritters, and lime yogurt sauce topped with some greens.
  • Main course: Seared Scallops, Summer Squash Fritters, and Lime Yogurt Sauce served with Annabella Carneros Pinot Noir
Homemade South Carolina peach sorbet topped with honey vanilla cookie crumble and whipped cream in mugs.
  • Dessert: Homemade South Carolina Peach Sorbet topped with Honey Vanilla Cookie Crumble and Whipped Cream served with Saracco Moscato d Asti

When I was first working on the menu for this event, I thought that we might need some chicken skewers on the appetizer spread so we were at least serving some sort of meat dish. Nixed due to their lack of elegance, we actually ended up having more than enough food without them. My husband and I were both very pleased with the way things turned out as well as the combination of flavors. His favorite dish was the scallop entrée and mine was the dessert. What can I say…I still have quite the sweet tooth!

Even though it was a lot of work to orchestrate the food, décor, and wine, we truly enjoyed every minute of it. Entertaining is just in my blood! I was of course very focused on preparing for this event for the better part of the week so now that it is over I have not a clue as to what my family will eat over the next few days (or even tonight). I used to always have our weekly menus planned out to a “T” (remember day 14), and I do wish I could get my act together in that department again. In the meantime though, I made a list of all the fresh produce that we have on hand (thanks to our garden, CSA box from Poplar Ridge Farm, and Farmer’s Market) …

  • Eggplant
  • Butternut Squash
  • Summer Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes (a ton of tomatoes)
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers
  • Okra

Now I just need to muster up the energy to whip up some sort of meal plan to utilize this random assortment of veggies. Off the top of my head, I am thinking we will see some butternut squash raviolihomemade spaghetti sauce, and zucchini bread in our future. But other than that, I am clueless, so I better get to work!

Day 89: Eggplant and 10-Day Pledge Alternatives

August 23, 2010

Large eggplant received from a CSA box from Poplar Ridge Farm.

See this beauty of a vegetable that we got in our Poplar Ridge Farm CSA box? I didn’t even know what the heck it was at first. Once I figured out that it was an eggplant, a little bit of excitement was lost because I don’t recall ever cooking (and probably barely ever eating) an eggplant in my life. So I settled on the idea of making some lasagna with it. It was the day after our fun dinner club evening (day 86), and I was still feeling a little out of it (okay, hungover), so I decided to wait until the very last minute to act on this plan. With our childrens’ hunger growing by the minute I finally moseyed on over to the grocery store at 5:45 P.M. to obtain mozzarella, Parmesan, and ricotta cheeses for the dish. This is when things suddenly came to a halt because I learned that all brands of ricotta cheese (at our grocery store) contain at least SIX ingredients!

If it weren’t for 3 of the 6 ingredients being random (like guar gum and xantham gum) I probably would have broken that damn 5-ingredient rule. It was frustrating to have to change gears so late in the evening, but I just left the ricotta at the store and went home. I knew my girls were hungry so I ignored all of our fresh and perishable produce (that would require creativity and time to prepare) and instead boiled some frozen butternut squash ravioli that I’d made weeks ago. The following day my husband and I ended up grilling the eggplant and following a recipe for Baba Ganouj. Our girls at least tried it, but both of them thought it was “disgusting” to say the least. And while we thought the flavors were quite opinionated, we enjoyed this variation to the typical hummus spread.

Later in the weekend, I started feeling more like myself and once again got motivated in the kitchen. Here’s some of what we’ve been eating over the last couple of days and a few pics as well (click to enlarge) …


Homemade egg soufflé in a bakign dish.
  • Egg soufflé (pictured) with a side of biscuits and fruit
  • Lots of granola cereal topped with berries, of course!


  • 90-second brown rice (Uncle Ben’s bag) mixed with avocado and a little soy sauce
Homemade toast pizza with a side of grapes and apples on a plate.
  • “Toast pizza” which was whole-wheat sandwich bread toasted after being topped with plain tomato sauce, a little oregano, a dash of salt, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses (which my children devoured and asked for seconds and thirds of) served with grapes and apples


  • Vegetarian tacos (which my 3-year-old hated so I gave her granola cereal for dinner instead)
  • Spaghetti sauce with homemade whole-wheat noodles (which everyone loved!)
Fish, squash fritters topped with goat cheese, and potato gratin on a plate.
  • Fish, squash fritters topped with goat cheese, and potato gratin (both of my girls despised everything except the potatoes…my 3-year-old was even showing off her gagging skills)

I had to get my last few “hot lunches” out of the way this week since my 5-year-old will be starting (…gulp) kindergarten on Friday! I cannot believe my baby is going off to the big school, and at the same time, I can’t help but wonder … what in the world am I going to pack in her lunch box every day?! And to further complicate things, she is going to a peanut/tree nut-free school. So stay tuned, because once I figure things out myself I will definitely be posting updates in regards to her lunches.

On a completely different note, my dad has been bugging me to offer some sort of 10-day pledge alternative for those readers that aren’t quite up for our “boot camp” style pledge. Let’s not forget that he didn’t even come close to finishing his own so-called pledge (mentioned on day 41), but I suppose he’s just thinking in the best interest of those that may feel equally challenged. While I am taking him up on his suggestion, I do want to put one last plug out there for the pledge (which close to 400 people have signed up for by the way). My husband and I both maintain our belief that the 10 Days of Real Food pledge is the absolute best and most eye-opening experience out there. And we do think it should be a realistic goal for most … it is temporary after all.

Plus, did I mention that we are doing our pledge for 100 days just to make a pledge for only 10 days sound even more attainable? Don’t get me wrong, we understand that people have different challenges such as busy jobs, picky kids, limited budgets, no interest in cooking, and maybe even not as many real food resources as we have here in Charlotte. So I would like to invite you to check out our new list of alternatives, but at the same time, can you please leave me a comment as to what’s holding you back if you happen to be one of those people? Just curious…

Day 92: Gumbo Flop and First School Lunch

August 26, 2010

Wow …. only eight days left! I almost can’t believe it. Although we don’t plan to change the way we eat very much (especially at home) it will be nice to have a little less pressure on me to carry this out perfectly. This is on my mind after the second time in a week that a recipe I planned to make had to come to a screeching halt due to rule-breaking ingredients. I guess that’s what happens when I pull from my “pre-100 day” catalog of recipes. I have really been craving some flavors from New Orleans (my in-laws live in The Big Easy so we’ve been spoiled with their yummy cuisine on many occasions). So with a few substitutions in mind, I thought I would be able to pull together my husband’s aunt’s gumbo recipe.

Originally, I was thinking that I would just sub whole-wheat flour for white flour when I made the roux. And even though I love to have sausage in our gumbo, I would just have to settle with leaving it out since we recently discovered our source for local sausage uses sugar. Then I went searching at Earth Fare for a can of “stewed tomatoes,” which as it turns out definitely has more than five ingredients.

And Earth Fare said they didn’t have any fresh crabmeat on hand, and they don’t carry crabmeat in a can because it doesn’t meet their requirements (and if an entire grocery store chain deems something is “bad” would I want to eat it anyway?). I’d already bought some of the other ingredients by this point so I thought maybe I could make my own stewed tomatoes. But, then what about the crab? And at what point do I stop jumping through hoops just to make one damn recipe?!

Homemade quesadillas and fruit kabobs on a plate.
Homemade quiche with a whole-wheat crust.

So, since we were gumbo-less we settled for our go-to meal of quesadillas. I feel like we have quesadillas (with homemade tortillas) all of the time, but all four of us just love them. I made some fruit kabobs for the girls to go with it. Another dish that is a sure thing around here is quiche. Every time I make it the entire dish just gets devoured. This time we decided to grate some yellow squash (that I never know what to do with) to mix with the eggs. You could barely taste a difference, and it made me so happy to know that my girls were getting some veggies with their dinner. I of course told them about it afterward so they were aware that they ate yellow squash and liked it!

Speaking of our homemade tortillas (that we all just love), that is what I packed for my daughter’s “sandwich” for her first day of kindergarten today! I added a little hummus like I usually do, but I also included some grated carrot (which she said she especially liked … she is not my picky one though). I also included a hard-boiled egg, mango (her favorite fruit), whole-wheat pretzels, and a little fruit leather for a treat. Her teacher said she only lets the kids get treats from the lunch line on Fridays, so I am glad to have a little routine I can follow as well for when to send something extra special. I have a feeling that I could easily get into a lunch box rut … but with only one day behind us it’s been fairly easy so far!

Banana pancakes with pecans in them cooking on the stove.
Homemade banana pancakes with sliced peaches around it in the shape of a sunshine.

I’ve been trying to be a little more creative with breakfast lately (that is before we had to start waking up at 6 A.M. for school!). The other day my 5-year-old pulled out this kid cookbook and saw a pancake breakfast arranged in the shape of a sunshine. I’ve had this cookbook forever of course and never used it … guilty! They used blueberry pancakes and oranges, and we didn’t have any of that so banana pancakes with peaches as the sun’s rays made for the perfect substitution. My 3-year-old won’t eat peaches (no matter how hard I try) so her rays were made out of pears. The best idea though was to throw some of the glazed nuts from the maple pecan ice cream recipe into the pancakes while they were cooking. That was an incredibly yuuuuuummy combination if I do say so myself!

Whole-wheat toast with egg fried in the middle with a side of strawberries and cantaloupe.

I also tried making “eggs in a basket” for the first time. It was again something only slightly different than we are used to (like the pancakes before they met the sunshine), but enough of a difference to make it exciting for the kids. My 3-year-old who is normally the picky eater scarfed her entire breakfast down before I could even ask her if she liked it. It was a hit, to say the least! So now that the weekend is upon us, I am going to start my mission to sort through our New Orleans cookbooks to find something I can make without having to tweak things too much. I have also been craving some meat lately so I think BBQ ribs might be in our future as well. I hope my cravings work out for us this time!

Day 94: Starbucks and Out to Lunch

August 28, 2010

Starbucks coffee cup on a table.

For the first time in 3 months, I had a drink from Starbucks today! I must thank a friend who, during her 10-day pledge, learned Starbucks offers honey as an alternate sweetener. Without knowing that I would have never stepped foot in there. The thing is, I am not a regular old coffee drinker. I (used to) like their highly sweetened white chocolate mocha, and I knew I couldn’t go anywhere near that during our pledge.

So armed with this new information, I wanted to try to order a drink sweetened with honey that would hopefully still taste good. I ended up getting a latté (which is simply espresso and milk … a mocha is also made with espresso and milk, but has the sweet chocolaty syrups added too) and asked them to add two little packets of their honey. It was surprisingly delicious! I do wonder though if I would have liked it this much before our 100-day pledge? You see … over the last 90 something days, our palates have changed!

I can honestly say that the change in our palettes has been one of my favorite outcomes of doing this pledge. Not only do I now think a little bit of honey in my mocha is just as satisfying as 2 to 3 times as much of the flavored sugary syrup I used to love, but my kids will actually eat PLAIN yogurt now too! I do add a very small amount of honey to their plain Greek yogurt, but it is nowhere near the sweetened (and sometimes artificially) flavored yogurt that I used to buy them. I do think it helped us to go so long without having yogurt at all before introducing this new and improved version.

At the beginning of our pledge, I tried some plain yogurt and thought it tasted awful! So we resorted to only using yogurt in our smoothies. Then someone recently told me that the Greek plain yogurt is a little more palatable than regular yogurt (for some reason) so I thought we should give it a shot. With a teaspoon or two of honey mixed in my 5-year-old liked it so much she was calling it the “cream cheese yogurt!” I guess that’s what happens when you deprive her of something she loves for so long!

Another funny thing I discovered over the last week is how to get my picky 3-year-old daughter to eat a banana. I thought bananas were one of the few fruits she liked, but lately, she takes one bite and then she’s done with it. Frustrating! So I started putting some peanut butter on her banana (which I’ve done in the past … but, I guess it’s been a while), and every time I’ve done this she’s eaten the whole thing! Yet another reminder to never stop trying with her.

Homemade jambalaya with shrimp in a bowl.

On a completely different note, I was finally able to satisfy my cravings for some New Orleans cuisine. I gave up on gumbo and instead made some jambalaya (which I suppose is similar). It totally hit the spot and as a bonus, our daughters even ate a little bit of it too! But, after making this dish and lots of other good stuff over the weekend, my husband and I both decided that we were tired of doing dishes (finally—he understands!). So we went out to lunch today. We weren’t really in the mood for a formal sit-down meal and lucked out by going to Dean and Deluca, which is both informal and nutritious (but, not cheap!). I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they actually have 100% whole-wheat bread. My husband verified by checking out the ingredients himself because most restaurants that offer “whole-wheat” don’t even realize that it is made with a mix of both whole-grain and white flours.

A variety of food ordered from a restaurant that includes a Mediterranean grilled vegetable and mozzarella sandwich, fresh fruit, grilled cheese sandwich, Greek chicken salad, and corn/black bean/tomato salad.

So even though we had quite a few “approved” options to chose from we still had to go through the usual line of questioning … yes, the mandarin oranges in the shrimp/fennel salad come in a can full of sugary syrup. Yes, the dried cranberries in the spinach salad have sugar on them too, and yes, the egg salad is made with regular store-bought mayo. At least we know exactly what questions to ask by now! So my husband and I finally settled on sharing the Mediterranean grilled vegetable and mozzarella sandwich, and the girls shared a grilled cheese sandwich … all on their 100% whole-wheat bread of course. We also shared some fruit, corn/black bean/tomato salad, and Greek chicken salad on the side (they cook with local chicken … yay!). I thought our sandwich was really good and actually think it could easily be replicated at home. All in all though, the best part was of course not having to cook or clean up!

P.S. – Only 6 days to go!

Day 98: An Amazing Dinner and the Final Countdown!

September 1, 2010

What a way to cap off our more than 3-month journey of eating real food and real food only! At the very last minute, my husband’s boss said he would be in town and wanted to take the two of us out to dinner (our choice!). After scrambling to find a babysitter, we decided that we’d love to be treated to a meal at one of our favorite local restaurants … Upstream. Since we hadn’t been there since well before starting our real food journey, I decided to call in advance to inquire about their menu (and to also spare my husband any embarrassment in front of his boss!).

Whenever we are out and armed with all of our food questions we seem to always end up speaking with someone from the kitchen (rightfully so). And things were no different with Upstream because they knew right away where to send me. I was lucky enough to speak to a chef named Charlie that totally made my day! Not only was he incredibly knowledgeable and eager to help me (which I so appreciate since we are a tad bit difficult these days), but once he saw the challenge in trying to avoid white flour and sugar he made a fabulous proposal. He suggested that my husband and I choose whatever we wanted off the menu and he would make it real food approved for us. What a treat!

Sea scallops with sweet corn and wild mushrooms from Upstream in North Carolina.
Leek and crab stuffed Idaho trout from Upstream in North Carolina.

Now, I love some good food, and after months of almost never choosing a menu item that I am in the mood for, but rather always choosing what is “approved,” I was absolutely delighted with this offer. I decided on the Sea Scallops with Sweet Corn and Wild Mushrooms and my husband chose the Leek and Crab Stuffed Idaho Trout. Let me tell you … our food was AMAZING!

Plate of different cheeses, fruit, honeycomb, and Parmesan crisps from Upstream in North Carolina.

I promise that if no one would have been looking I would have totally licked my plate. And before we dove into this divine meal, it was served complete with a visit from Charlie and his explanation of what he did to make sure our dinner did not break our rules. And as if that wasn’t enough for an over-the-top wonderful dinner, he even brought us some complimentary dessert plates and drinks! Now we’ve never once had “dessert” away from home so this was a welcome sight. They had prepared a dish of some amazing cheeses, fruit, honeycomb, and even a Parmesan crisp. What a way to celebrate at almost the end of our journey … thank you Upstream!

I promise that if no one would have been looking I would have totally licked my plate. And before we dove into this divine meal, it was served complete with a visit from Charlie and his explanation of what he did to make sure our dinner did not break our rules. And as if that wasn’t enough for an over-the-top wonderful dinner, he even brought us some complimentary dessert plates and drinks! Now we’ve never once had “dessert” away from home so this was a welcome sight. They had prepared a dish of some amazing cheeses, fruit, honeycomb, and even a Parmesan crisp. What a way to celebrate at almost the end of our journey … thank you Upstream!

Homemade cheese and corn quesadillas with a side of fruit and frozen peas on a plate.

Well, it is kind of hard to compete with that as far as what I have been cooking at home, but I guess I will share anyway. While we were out being treated like royalty, our children were home eating a dinner that I threw together very quickly. I already had some whole-wheat tortillas in the fridge so I just whipped up some cheese and corn quesadillas for them and paired it with some fruit and frozen peas (yes, they like their peas frozen). They loved this dinner.

Homemade butternut squash ravioli in a bowl.

I have also been busy making things for all of us to enjoy. We made a big batch of butternut squash ravioli (to eat and store in the freezer) and it was just delicious. I don’t think we could ever get tired of ravioli. And at the end of making them, I had a little leftover whole-wheat pasta dough so I used little flower and star cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the sheets of dough. I then boiled them (although they can be frozen at that point too) and mixed them with a little butter and Parmesan cheese to send to school in my daughter’s lunch box. She loved it!

Lastly, I am excited to introduce one of our very first blog sponsors, and what I like to call a hidden gem in Charlotte … Hillbilly Produce! I only recently discovered this place, and I am so glad I did. No longer do I have to set my alarm and race to the farmer’s market every single Saturday because Hillbilly Produce not only carries a wide variety of local produce and meats, but they are also open every single day of the week. Now, how about that for convenience?

Only 2 days left of our pledge!

Day 100: We Did It!!

September 3, 2010

I cannot believe day 100 is here! And at the same time, I am so glad it is finally here. It’s not that I plan to do things much differently going forward, but I very much welcome the ability to make exceptions as I see fit. This new ability comes with a small price though … lots of difficult decision-making! Rather than all the processed stuff just being “against the rules,” we will now have to weigh the pros and cons for every situation, like …

  • Letting our daughters have the same cupcake as everyone else during birthday celebrations at school (I am thinking we will let them)
  • Deciding what to do with all of the candy we get trick or treating this Halloween (we are thinking we might keep a few coveted pieces and give away the rest)
  • Telling the dance studio that they can stop giving my 3-year-old a sticker while all the other kids get candy at the end of class (I am actually thinking I will not make this change … she hasn’t complained about only getting a sticker so what is the point in switching?)
  • Ordering directly off the menu the next time we go out to eat (I think we can only make this decision on a case by case basis)
  • Allowing any of us to eat white bread or anything made with refined flour the next time it presents itself (I don’t know what will happen with this one)
  • Continuing to let our old “treat basket” remain empty rather than allowing it to fill up with the same junk again (At the beginning of our pledge I saved everything that came out of the basket, but had a change of heart a few weeks ago and actually got rid of all the sweets!)
  • Deciding what food we should travel with the next time we go out of town (I am to the point where I can’t imagine not bringing any of our wholesome goodies along)

In addition to thinking about all of the difficult decisions that we have ahead of us, we are also looking back at the things we ate during our pledge that broke the rules (by accident of course)…

  • Grits – we only had it once, but now understand that grits are not considered to be “whole grain”
  • Locally raised sausage and prosciutto – both contained sugar which we overlooked since we were so focused on actually finding local meat products
  • Peanut butter with sugar in it that was added to a PB&J smoothie at Earth Fare – we had one smoothie this way before we figured out that we had to ask for them to use different peanut butter for us
  • Sushi with brown rice from Earth Fare that had sugar mixed into the rice! – I just learned about this the other day only because I asked (it is not listed on the label) and I plan to discuss this with the store
  • Baking powder that contains corn starch (which is refined) – when we discovered this we searched for an alternative to no avail so we had to keep using it (in very small quantities of course)
  • Our 3-year who didn’t exactly get what we were doing ate some bites of cracker at a friend’s house, a few chips at a party, and a bite of her grandmother’s non-locally raised hamburger
  • Oh, and let’s not forget about the whole-wheat “blend” pasta (which contained some refined flour) that we had a couple of bites of at my parents’ house

All together though these items probably wouldn’t even fill a plate … not bad for a family of four over 100 days! We will of course finish out the rest of our final day by continuing to follow the rules, but once tomorrow gets here this is what’s on our minds to do first …

  • Me: I want to buy some store-bought mayonnaise and ketchup! I have mentioned this many times before so it should be no surprise. I especially want to make egg salad again with the mayo because it is something both of my girls love (and I do consider it to be pretty healthy!). I also want to deep-fry some homemade sweet potato fries and eat some locally raised sausage, even though it has some sugar in it!
  • Jason: He struggled at first to give me an answer, but once he thought of something he kept giving me more and more items to add to the list. At the top is dark chocolate, corn chips (for guacamole or salsa), store-bought ketchup as well, and most of all, he is looking forward to the ability to eat in a more convenient manner when out or at a friend’s house.
  • Sydney: It didn’t take her long to come up with her answer…a donut (remember day 9’s donut incident?)! I guess she still has some love for what used to be one of her most favorite treats. I asked her if she wanted to make homemade donuts, and she said no she wants to buy one from the store with frosting and sprinkles on top. I admit it may be hard for me to watch her eat that after what we’ve accomplished over the last few months!
  • Sienna: My innocent little 3-year-old who may only partially “get” all of this said the first thing she wants is candy. I was impressed that she had a somewhat intelligent answer, but then I asked her what kind of candy and she said “whole-wheat” candy! Too funny.
The Leake family at the Charlotte Today show.

No matter how we decide to move forward, I truly am proud of us, and especially proud of our kids for sticking to our 100 Days of Real Food! Here we are right before our “Charlotte Today” show segment the other day. We had lots of fun being able to further spread the word about what we are doing, and all in all our pledge was just such an invaluable learning experience for all of us. I am especially thankful for the new perspective we’ve gained and for the change in palate we’ve experienced (read about more of our health benefits from day 47). I am a little anxious to see what something as sugary as a donut with sprinkles would even taste like after the adjustments our taste buds have made.

Even though we are done with our pledge, we are still very passionate about this important topic and plan to continue to spread the word (and recruit pledges)! I will continue to update this blog so subscribe (at the top right) if you haven’t already!

Post Pledge #1: The First Rule Breakers…

September 10, 2010

Hard shell turkey taco topped with cheese, bell peppers, tomatoes avocado, and sour cream.

I had this vision that after completing our 100-day pledge it would be difficult for us to indulge in any former rule-breaking foods. As it turns out … we didn’t have any trouble with it at all! And one of our first meals ended up breaking even more rules than we originally anticipated. Pictured is one of the delicious (if I do say so myself) tacos that we had the other night. My first thought was that we would be breaking the local meat rule with an all-natural ground turkey option from Earth Fare. I personally prefer the flavor of ground turkey over ground beef, and unfortunately, I cannot find any local sources for ground turkey around here.

As you can see, our turkey taco mixture (which included bits of carrot and mushroom), as well as some other goodies (like cheese, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, and sour cream), were all wrapped up in a nice little crunchy taco shell. I was so focused on finding these shells that are made with masa flour (which is a whole grain corn flour) that it didn’t even occur to me to consider how the taco shells were made. So a few bites into our meal, I couldn’t help but notice the yummy crunchiness and said to my husband … are these deep-fried? The moral of our little dinner story is that if it looks like a chip, tastes like a chip, and crunches like a chip, then it is definitely a deep-fried chip!!

So not only did we eat non-local meat, but we (sort of accidentally) ended up wrapping our meal in a big deep-fried chip! And I learned that if you deprive a child of eating chips for 3-months they might get really excited when you finally give them one. My 5-year-old just couldn’t stop telling us how much she loved the taco dinner and she even said “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten!” We told her to enjoy it while she could because this was a special occasion, and we won’t be having these taco shells again for a long time. All of us actually enjoyed and savored every last bite, but my husband and I definitely felt like that was enough rule-breaking food to last us at least a week …moderation is key!

A vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and colorful sprinkles.

And if that wasn’t enough for one evening, we were then faced with a decision to let (or not let) our children eat a cupcake that was sent home from school with my 5-year-old. I was actually a little confused about the origin of the cupcake and how it ended up in her backpack in the first place. All I could figure is that it was from a birthday celebration a few days earlier, and I suppose since I wrote the teacher a note explaining that our pledge was over she thought she would send it home. So what a way to dive right into some more rule-breaking foods … a 4-day-old cupcake made with unknown ingredients from an unknown source that my daughter already saw and WANTED! So after a lot of contemplation, we let them each have one bite and then I threw the rest away. And oh did they want more, but that was all we could stand. Like I said earlier … the decision making part of all of this might turn out to be even harder than the 100-day pledge itself!

Post Pledge 2: The Struggle

September 16, 2010

This post was going to be all about how we’ve barely even broken the rules (other than on 2 or 3 occasions) since ending our pledge … and then today my husband went to Subway for lunch. Yep Subway, as in the fast-food restaurant that specializes in deli meat from who knows where? I have to admit, I cringed when he told me this because I can’t say I was ever a big fan even before our real food pledge. He is out-of-town on business of course and was both hungry and short on time (what else is new with his biz trips?). I guess since our pledge was over I thought I was off the hook for having to pack him food to bring along, but today I very much regretted that I didn’t do it anyway.

Homemade whole-wheat tortillas with hummus, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes on a plate.

While he was off chowing down on a fast-food sandwich I was at home relishing every last bite of a super yummy “roll-up”. I have come to be a little bit obsessed with these homemade whole-wheat tortillas and wrapping up everything I can in them (pictured is homemade hummus, cheddar cheese, and some local tomatoes). See the thing is … our real food pledge actually kind of spoiled us. When you eat wholesome, nutritious, flavorful, real food day in and day out you come to love it and want it (and expect it) for just about every meal. And eating real food all of the time can often make the other stuff taste pretty bad. My husband, of course, survived his little lunch escapade today, but to quote him he said “It was not good, but it was not disgusting”. I think I’ll pass on that.

So as it is turning out, at times, I am finding this post pledge transition to be even harder than the pledge itself. I feel like I am somewhere in “no man’s land” between following a definitive set of rules and now not knowing what we should do for each and every situation. For example, prior to our pledge, I was a HUGE chocolate lover so I naturally bought a bar of dark chocolate the other day. It is still sitting in my pantry … UNopened. I promise you that this is an incredibly strange sight in our house. That bar wouldn’t have lasted more than 2 days in my “prior life”. I also tried buying some marshmallows that I thought our daughters could roast over our new fire pit… and I couldn’t even do it! I put them back on the shelf before leaving the store. Trust me when I tell you that this is very odd behavior for the “me” that I have known for 33 years prior to the last 3 months.

I went from having clear direction, goals, purpose (during our food pledge), to now not even having a clue as to what I am doing. My daughters will ask me if “they can have …” and I hate that I honestly don’t know if I should say yes or no. I truly had no idea that this part would be so hard. Maybe we should work on some “new rules” to use as family guidelines going forward or something. Just so we can be consistent on how often (and if and when) we eat the junk.

And since this is (as always) an honest account of our journey, I should also mention the other side of me in all of this. I must admit that I am sometimes slightly envious of all the people standing eating the junk so carefree. Oh, how I love to feel carefree … about anything really. It may sound a little strange, but I occasionally miss the “old me” who, with no conscience whatsoever, would have truly enjoyed a piece of cake at a party, or a few bites of chocolate, or a white chocolate mocha, or some homemade chocolate chip cookies. This really is a difficult world we live in to constantly (and I mean constantly) be around all of this stuff. And I know that it would absolutely still be okay for us to indulge in these types of things again on occasion … I just never knew it would be so hard for me to take the initial plunge back in!

If any other real food eaters have any advice for me out here in “no man’s land” I am all ears!

Post Pledge 3: Some Decisions

September 23, 2010

Okay, so last week I was struggling with how to move forward after finishing our 100-day pledge. Should I still bring our own food to birthday parties and other social outings? Is it okay to just sit down and eat a piece of dark chocolate? What about making cookies for no reason? Should I say yes or no when my kids ask me for something that was previously off-limits? I know that anything in moderation is okay, but (to quote my husband) the slippery slope was probably what was scaring me the most. Not to mention we worked incredibly hard to master the art of eating real food and experienced improved palates as a result.

On the flip side, one of my other concerns was that I would end up spending more time worrying about the food we were eating than actually enjoying it. I definitely don’t want that to happen either, and I certainly don’t want my kids to have a negative association when it comes to food. So when seeking the happy middle, where does one end up? I do have to say that all of the comments from blog readers on my “struggle“ post (Post Pledge #2) were very helpful in all of this. Thanks to those words of wisdom and some other deep thoughts, here are some very general guidelines to help us move forward:

  • When we are at home we are pretty much going to stick to our 100-day pledge rules except for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations.
  • When we are at a friend’s house or other social outings with friends/family we will eat whatever is available and not let ourselves worry about it.
  • When we are out to eat at restaurants we will try to order as much real food as possible, but we will no longer be talking to anyone kitchen staff or turning away the basket of bread!
  • I will let my girls eat treats at school for birthdays and other holiday celebrations. Other than that, I will try to keep things to a minimum if possible (for example, they already give my 3-year-old a sticker instead of candy at the end of ballet class every week).

I am not saying these are hard and fast “rules” that we will follow 100% of the time because again, moderation is key (three birthday celebrations in one day? I don’t think so). We also reserve the right to break some extra rules especially when we are out-of-town or having an unusually busy week. After our strict 100-day pledge we are very much warming up to the idea (and even beginning to embrace) the new freedom of flexibility!

So we dove right into our new “guidelines” by letting our 5-year-old eat what was served at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party last weekend. I will say that I did give her some options before she went, though. I asked if she wanted to eat the pizza at the party or have me pack her a healthier pizza instead. She made it clear that she wanted to eat the pizza AND the cupcake at the party. I said okay!

I wasn’t there to see it, but from what I heard, she scarfed down the pizza and cupcake (topped with neon pink icing) in record time. Although I can’t say I would have agreed, my daughter told me it tasted even better than she thought it would. I managed to be at peace with her happiness, but the weird thing is … (sorry for being a little graphic) about 24-hours later her poop was pink. Yep, pink. I couldn’t help but notice this very unexpected and unusual tint. What is up with that? Has anyone else ever seen an outcome (literally) such as this after lots of food coloring? Or did our recent “cleanse” have something to do with it?  I was perplexed.

There is one last non-real food event that I must mention. This one hasn’t actually happened yet. It all started last week when my 5-year-old’s teacher called from school to let me know that Sydney had accidentally dropped her lunch all over the floor … before eating any of it of course. The teacher offered to take her through the lunch line to get something else and my daughter refused wholeheartedly. I suddenly felt the guilt. Have I scared her away from making her own food choices or is the lunch line just a daunting task for a newbie kindergartner?

I always assumed my child would never buy lunch, and that instead, I would always pack some sort of healthy real food ensemble for her. But never did it occur to me that some sort of accident like this could happen! I rushed some back-up food over to the school, but as hard-core as I am about eating real food I will be the first to tell you I’m not running food over there every time something like this happens. So I put some money in her lunch account, and this Friday my daughter will be buying and eating lunch from the school cafeteria (yikes). 

This practice run will hopefully help her feel more prepared and more confident to handle things on her own if there is ever another incident. I am a little concerned she might like buying her lunch a little too much and possibly ask me if she can do it more often, or even worse, start purposely dropping her lunch on the floor. Please wish us luck with that one!

There will be some more exciting things coming up soon so stay tuned!

Post Pledge 4: The Truth and a Special Announcement

September 30, 2010

Okay, so in my last post I said we’d figured out some new guidelines to follow (now that our official real food rules are over), and that we were embracing our new freedom of flexibility. Well, as it turns out, all of that is easier said than done … for me at least. My children seem to have no problem whatsoever scarfing down something that I consider downright nasty (pizza from the school cafeteria anyone?), but my husband and I, on the other hand, feel that we are just going through the motions of pretending it’s okay to occasionally eat “junk” food when we are out. Now that we know the hidden truth behind all the junk out there it’s just turning out to be harder than expected for us to truly feel carefree about eating something with an unknown origin.

So the truth is … most of the time I am just putting on an act that I have no problem scooping some dip (that contains mystery ingredients) with store-bought tortilla chips when in my head I am really thinking I wish I had brought some Triscuits in my purse. Now, I am the first to admit this is unusual behavior for me because I used to eat absolutely whatever I wanted and not care. For example, I used to order ice cream even when it was only supposed to be for the kids, and I promise I would have almost never ordered a salad for my lunch. So in summary, I still can’t say I’ve found my optimal place between the processed and real food worlds, but I am working on it. I guess it is a longer process than expected so I am slowly but surely learning the instances where “rule-breaking” truly is okay vs. not (and I’ve had the stomach aches to prove it).

Plate of pulled pork on a bun, potato salad, corn bread muffin, coleslaw, and mashed sweet potatoes.

Pictured above is one of the few examples so far where we truly had no problem breaking our previous “100 Days of Real Food” rules. I know the sweet potatoes and BBQ sauce most definitely contained sugar and the bun was obviously made from white flour (here I go again breaking down the ingredients in my head!), but what you see here was a plate from a recent Farmer’s Market sponsored BBQ. The pork was raised locally and smoked all day. The side items were provided through a partnership with local farms and restaurants. The event, which ended up being on an evening with absolutely perfect fall weather, was just lovely, and as it turns out, it’s been one of the few situations (so far) where I truly felt at peace with my “rule-breaking” meal. So clearly I still have a long way to go before I find that “new normal” that will work for me, but in a weird way, I consider all of this newfound knowledge progress!!

On a completely different note, I would like to announce that I’ve decided to take on another real food project (why not?). I truly appreciate all of the people who take the time to read this blog and as a tribute to those readers, I am going to do something with your feedback top of mind. I am going to take on another 100 Days of Real Food pledge, but this time on a strict budget! And I need your vote (through the comment section below) to help me decide what my new budget should be.

We are a family of four eaters, and I will be tracking our food budget weekly. Things like household products, alcohol, entertaining, food while traveling, and eating out (which doesn’t happen often and will be tracked separately) will not be included, but just about everything else will be coming out of this weekly budget. I will also add that we will mostly be following our original real food rules, but since a strict budget is the focus, this time around some “rule-breaking” in moderation will be allowed. I have been doing some “research” on Facebook and am personally landing somewhere between $125 – $150 a week. I want it to be challenging, but reasonable … and I would love to get your input on the final number!

Before you cast your vote though, let me share that this whole budget thing is going to be a real challenge for me. I know there are a lot of meal budget and couponing blogs/websites out there, and most of those people are clearly experts. I will be the first to tell you I am not one of those experts. I have shopped on a strict budget before, but never while also focusing on real food. Our first pledge was the best way for me to learn about shopping for real food, but now it could get scary when I have to do it all on a strict budget. I admit that I haven’t been paying enough attention to my spending and can easily drop 200 dollars at Earth Fare … and then another hundred at Harris Teeter (…and then another $60 at the Farmers Market—don’t tell my husband!) So I obviously have a lot to learn and plan to blog about my trials and tribulations along the way. Stay tuned and don’t forget to leave your weekly budget vote below … I will be getting started very soon!

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822 thoughts on “Original 100 Days of Real Food Blog Series”

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  1. Hi I found your book in the library and I am hooked!! I have started a 100day real food challenge at work. We start on July 1st. I have been trying really hard the last week and have done really good. Last night was a crazy day and went to Arby’s…BAD CHOICE!!! I felt horrible and very burpy (the pretend food tasted alot better going down than haunting me for 3 hours after)

    1. Hi Terri! So glad you stumbled upon the cookbook and found your way to the site :) Let us know if you need any tips, advice, or help. Good luck with the challenge. Sorry to hear about Arby’s :-( – Nicole

  2. I am just offering my experience. My mother cooked all of our food. We were fed vegetables, meat, and sometimes homemade bread or sweets. We were offered choices but never offered an opportunity to “overeat”. Growing up I had very little interest in food. Fast forward to college, in my 4 years I gained 20 lbs…probably not a big deal because I was 5’6 and went in weighing about 115. But fast forward again to making and eating my own foods. Suddenly I realized…not only could I eat a cake, I could buy one at a bakery with that yummy gritty sugary frosting. I am now 55, and have spent my entire adulthood fighting an addiction to sugar as powerful as people describe nicotine. My older brother is the same. My two younger brothers – 6 years below me and with a more relaxed mom and dad – have always maintained good weight and health. I’m not blaming, just reporting my story. If I blame anyone, it’s ME. ME for sure! But what do you think about this?

    1. Carolyn, thank you for sharing your story. There are many others out there who go through the same thing. Once we become adults, we are in control of what we eat. It’s never too late to start changing some habits, even if done in small steps. :) – Nicole

  3. I read your blog from time to time. I find your recipes great and I completely understand the struggle as a parent and as an individual, to reduce the amount of junk food consumed. It is difficult to find a balance, especially when we are bombarded with unhealthy food choices on a daily basis and quite often can be ridiculed for our personal choices and how we chose to raise our families (as per some comments posted). Thank you for being a strong voice out there, living in a way that promotes healthy living and (most importantly) a way that you like to live. Furthermore, thank you for taking the time to share it with all of us, whether everyone agrees with your opinions or not doesn’t matter. You have made changes in my family’s life (and I can only imagine many others) and I thank you for that. My kids love many of the recipes on your website, as do I.

    1. Valerie, we truly appreciate your words! Thank you for following and we’re so glad to help make a difference :) – Nicole

  4. I’m going to try to do this starting at the beginning of the year. It makes me so happy to see that when Lisa started her girls were 3 & 5. I currently have 2 & 4 year old little boys who can be very stubborn and opinionated when it comes to food. I hope to get them to eat healthier. And the rest of the family!
    On another note. I saw the email about the Olive Oil and how most of it in the grocery stores might not be real Olive Oil. I was wondering if you guys believe the Chosen Foods brands are? Thanks!

  5. What do you think about Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 bread? It’s what I’ve been eating in my quest for less highly processed food, but not sure if it is truly a good choice. I would appreciate your opinion!

  6. Really? Your kid can’t have birthday cake at a birthday party unless you bring it. Sorry, that’s a bit much.

      1. Being obese increases your risk of several conditions, hfcs is the “sugar” used in most sweets and it also promotes obesity… It tricks your liver into storing more fat, basically. I do think every once in a while wouldn’t hurt but it probably depends how often you get invited to parties lol. Also… Sugar is highly addictive and if they are doing some kind of cleanse, even one cheat csn throw things off.

  7. How do you make your version of ‘fried eggs’?
    Love your book, btw! I use it daily and have learned so much!

  8. Hello! This is the first time I have heard of your 100 day challenge from eating processed foods. I saw your story on Good Morning America last week, I think. My husband and I want to eat healthier, so I try to do that daily, but it is hard when you enjoy baking goodies for others. I lIke to experiment, so I will see!

  9. Lissa Jorgensen

    I’m one of those people who, if I ever have a treat to offer to a child, I’ll discretely ask the PARENT first in hopes that the kid doesn’t notice. That way, if the parent decides that s/he doesn’t want his/her child having the cookie or donut, I’m not going to offer it. It’s not up to the kids to decide whether they can have treats like that.

  10. Hi. I’m new to your blog and spent last night and this morning reading your “100 Days” entries and the comments. I’m absorbing lots of great info here, thank you! I wonder about bread, even whole wheat or whole grain bread made with yeast. I was under the impression yeast is activated with sugar and therefore most bread, even the whole grain varieties, do contain some amount of sugar. Perhaps not all bread is made with yeast but I think this is worth being aware of while cutting out all processed ingredients.

  11. We are just about finished our 100 Day Challenge, In the beginning Lisa’s book was our bible, and while we still do reference it, we are now doing pretty good on our own. Before the challenge we did eat quite healthy, but the 100 DC helped kick a few lazy contenders out of our cupboard and freezer (i.e. Costco Chicken Pot Pie anyone? :) ). I found the hardest part was sometime defending our food choices to some family members, but now we just don’t defend them, we just carry on.

    We plan to just continue with the meals and snack choices we have developed over the last few months , Perhaps now we will challenge ourselves to try and stick to a more modest budget for the weekly menu and increase growing some of our own foods over the summer (we live in Newfoundland… accessing food much less growing it all year has its challenges!).

    All in all is has been a great experience, and I (we) have thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Your blog and website have been great tools for encouragement and new menu ideas – so thanks for that!!

    As we come to the end (April 17th, 2016) the only thing my family is very set on having is Doritos, and I must admit I do miss a lovely baked cheezie. I have yet to find wholesome and comparable recipes for either !

  12. Hi Lisa-
    I appreciate your site and have followed your posts for a long time. I’ve even tried many of your tasty recipes!
    But as an RN who works daily with those who suffer from eating disorders, I think you should rethink your word usage of “rule-breaking” foods and to rethink depriving your family of foods that you feel belong to that category. I see women and men struggle mentally and physically after years of abusing their bodies by having a distorted relationship with food. I’m a mother to a young daughter as well and although I try to show her what a healthful diet looks like, I do not deprive her of foods she wants to try at friends’ houses or school cafeteria. As long as we as a society can show how to balance foodand exercise with self-acceptance and love of our bodies, there will be no need to have “bad” food lists and hopefully spare those we love from these horrific diseases.
    Thank you,

  13. Are there any places that exist today (I see this is an old post) where you can go out for food and have a guarantee that there’s no added sugar, refined or processed ingredients? Sit down or take out? It’s really exhausting to try to find something that isn’t loaded with those “undesirable” ingredients in some way!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hello Michelle. It is very difficult but farm to table and organic restaurants are popping up more and more.

  14. My children are thin, muscular, very active and eat like horses also. Both girls. My 3 older children are ate like adults by the time they reached 5 or 6 also. Some ppl are just BLESSED with small eaters. They don’t get how expensive it is to feed children really. Most children I have known over my decades as a mom, eat ALOT but theyre all active.
    When I read about a budget for a family of four I know I have to add 25% more for us and we don’t even have a second adult, just the 3 of us lol

  15. Why cant you eat mac & cheese on a real food regimen? Cheese, milk, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat flour, salt & pepper, peas, maybe some diced onions…all real food. And it’s got fat in it so it’s filling, compared to kale and apples which are not. If you ate the kale with bacon grease drizzled over it or ate it with cheese or in a meat soup or put some nut butter on the apple or had some fullfat yogurt or cheese with it—you would stay full longer.
    It’s not about calories, it’s about satiety. And that comes from fat.

  16. Is it possible to gain weight on this? I am starting week 3 of challenge and the first week dropped 3 lbs but I seem to have gained those back?! I am following the meal plans as suggestions but not following each day exactly as planned out. I am eating all “real” food though and following all other guidelines. I know this is not focused on “weight loss” but I read where others are losing.

  17. Regarding sushi:
    Sushi including sugar is the norm. Sushi (or zushi) is seasoned vinegared rice. The seasoned vinegar (which includes both salt and sugar) is what makes it sushi.

    This was an excellent series of posts — thanks for the good read!

  18. I really like your blog. I can’t believe that people are lashing out about PF Changs! You asked for your food to be served a certain way, they said ok and then did not deliver. If some of these people ordered a steak medium and it was served well done would they not complain or even send it back. You even spoke with the chef. If he did not want to accommodate he should have told you. With the cost of food when we go out to eat, we should be able to ask for special accommodations. If they don’t want to help you then you can go elsewhere. I love your blog!

  19. Thank you for this tip! I do make coffee at home, but I also love a stop at Starbucks. We’re on day 3 of the 10-day challenge and hubby (not doing the challenge) invited me to Starbucks this morning. I really wanted to go, but I can’t stand plain lattes. I googled “real food drinks at starbucks” and who came up but my favorite food blogger. I usually dislike honey but decided to give it a try. I ordered a tall latte with 2 honeys. Delicious!!!!! I’m so happy I tried it. Now I can enjoy Starbucks and still stay on track.

  20. @Beedoo…. Haha I totally agree with you! You absolutely need the tortilla press to make the tortillas. There’s no other way that I know of

  21. I know you were pressed for time in this particular story but for future reference it is super simple to make your own ricotta. Bring 2 cups whole milk and 1 cup cream to a boil. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Wait 5 minutes for it to curdle and pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve (i.e. Strainer, colander etc lol) In 15 minutes you have fresh homemade ricotta!! :)

  22. My husband was also wondering about a scenario: what about if you start the pledge and your child melts down about wanting a cookie or another junk at a party? Or if an elderly lady offers your chid a cookie and wonders why your child just can’t have one cookie? Mine are ages 12,10 and 6. We don’t eat much junk,but still have it. We eat mostly organic. But I KNOW if they are offered junk they would soooo want it. My oldest knows what’s in a dunkin donuts but doesn’t care. She likes it anyway.

    Another scenario: you are at a BBQ send something’s look unprocessed but you are not sure. Do you just not at and how do you explain it to people without sounding weird. My hubby does not want to take our kids out and gave them melt down or put udon the spot.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Karen. Obviously the Leakes were very committed to seeing this thing through. You would have to address individual situations in terms of your own family. Take some time to go through the page I gave you above. You can pick and choose what posts you are most interested in. Those are all great questions and really REAL scenarios that might just come up. :) ~Amy

  23. I was talking to my husband about this. He is very skeptical about this. He believes it is impossible to follow. He wondered how you handled bday parties and other dinners.

  24. My family has been eating very healthy for about 5 years now, but I really want to do the pledge and do even better! I spent e last few days reading all posts of your 100 days – what an inspiration! I have to comment on your “poop” comment. We took our kids for ice cream at a local shop, not because of good ingredients, but to support a local business. My husband and I were completely grossed out when our then 3year old chose neon blue ice cream. What could possibly be in it to make that color? Obviously nothing remotely natural. Anyway, he loved it. The next day his very regular little body had the biggest neon blue poop. It actually scared us! Although we had free coupons to go back, we never did. Just gross.

  25. Hi Lisa,

    I came across your website after I listened to the interview you did for Pat Flynn. I just started my weight loss plan one week ago and I am going to try some of your recipes.


  26. My husband travels frequently and uses that as an excuse for eating poorly. Do you have some tips that you can share? I’d really like my husband to be able to still eat healthy while traveling.

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  28. Can you do a recap or have you? I would like to see if the items you said you thought you would change you did or didn’t and how you moderate the things you knew you wanted back, ie mayo and ketchup, etc.