Kiran’s (Realistic) Quest to Cut Out Processed Foods

By blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page!


Before you read this, I’m asking you to do me a favor: Please don’t judge.

I started working with Lisa two years ago, but I actually have known her for years. I watched her start this blog, kept up with the original 100-Day pledge, and prior to working with her, took in little bits and pieces of her input. But to be honest, I thought that I was pretty healthy already, and I thought she may have been taking this a little further than I would (again, I’m being totally honest). Flash forward to 2012 when I started to work with her at 100 Days of Real Food.

Two Years Ago

As I mentioned, I thought my family was already eating healthy. I cooked many nights of the week, and by that I don’t mean I was just opening a bag of chicken nuggets. But like many, I was using some processed foods such as store bought white tortillas, and I certainly wasn’t shredding my own cheese. I even (gasp!) had a can or two of cream of mushroom soup in my pantry.

Kiran's (Realistic) Quest to Cut Out Processed Foods at 100 Days of #RealFood
Kiran and Her Family

After getting better acclimated to Lisa’s real food rules, I did decide to start making some changes. This didn’t happen overnight, however. Now, jump back to today, two years after not only being a solid follower but a member of the team.

Where We are Today

I have the most respect for Lisa and her family, and I try my darndest to eat and feed my family as best I can when it comes to following the rules. But we are not 100%. No, in all honesty, I’m going to say that we are probably 85-90%. But that’s just realistic for us. I almost said “unfortunately,” but really, it is what it is. I can’t make it to the farmer’s market each week, and honestly, feeding a family of six, we can’t afford to buy every single thing organic. Everyone’s situation is different and some changes were easier for us to make than others.

Our successes include the following:

  1. Switching over to whole wheat.
    I ditched the white tortillas, the so-called wheat bread (with 15+ processed ingredients), and swapped out my flour to whole-wheat (or white whole-wheat) flour. I went on a huge bread baking kick and honestly didn’t do too badly with it. But time and dishes got the best of me; so these days, I do occasionally bake our whole-wheat bread, but otherwise I get it from Great Harvest.
  2. Opting for organic.
    I got smarter about where I was buying our food (i.e. ditching one grocery store in favor of another) and aim to buy organic whenever possible, keeping the dirty dozen chart in mind. I also always choose organic milk now, which I was not doing before.
  3. Minimizing the meat.
    Especially since I am feeding a family of six, I don’t buy all organic/local meats. Instead, I opt to not offer as much meat as we were eating two years ago (which was a lot). This will forever be a challenge for my husband, but eating less meat means that I can fill our plates up with more veggies and/or fruit.
  4. Swapping out (and reducing) sugar.
    This was actually much easier than I thought, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t had one complaint from my kids on this one. They tend to favor maple syrup over honey, and I also use dates sometimes in baking.
  5. Purging the packaged goods.
    Personally speaking, this was the most difficult for us. I was a huge Wheat Thin addict. I loved them and had them multiple times each day. I thought I was doing well by switching over to Special K crackers (remember your promise to not judge?). No lie—it took me 12-18 months to get them out of our pantry. But I’m happy to report that I’m a recovering addict. My kids were the same with Goldfish. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for them, I just stopped buying them. And I’m also happy to report that if they are served Goldfish at Girl Scouts (don’t get me started) or elsewhere, they actually say they don’t really like them. Tastebuds do change!

The Other 15%

I mentioned that we eat about 85% real food. So where does that extra 15% lie? Well, remember that I don’t buy everything organic. I don’t make my own tortillas all the time, but I do opt for the ones with the least ingredients. I also have a sweet tooth, and I don’t always (ok, almost never) choose the better dark chocolate. We go out to eat maybe once a week, and I’m the only one in my family who would have any desire whatsoever to find a restaurant that serves local food (I’d love a vegetarian one, at that). No, my family prefers a favorite pizza place that we’ve been frequenting for 10+ years. And no matter how hard I try to convert my kids over to 1-ingredient peanut or almond butter, they just won’t leave their beloved Jif (albeit the “natural” version – though I’m not sure how much better that makes me feel!).

I have to pick my battles, though. And for me, settling for 85% is just the best that I’m going to be able to do at this point in time. Looking back, I realize all the positive changes that Lisa has helped my family make. And I know that there are so many more that we can make in the future.

Positive Changes in Our Health

A lot of times I read a story about someone or some family making changes, and I wonder, did this really change them? Or after hearing their story, even though it sounds like a success story, I wonder, should I try it? And why?

So here is my proof; here are some positive changes that I and/or we have experienced:

  • Change in tastebuds/cravings. I now crave raw, cut vegetables instead of my former beloved Wheat Thins.
  • Satisfaction. A feeling of satisfaction after meals instead of hunger that used to ensue 20-30 minutes after a meal.
  • Regularity. Not one of my kids has any issue with this, which I attribute to the natural fibers they consume on a daily basis.
  • Regularity of a different form. I had irregular menstrual periods for years. They are now like clockwork.
  • Decreased sickness.
  • Increased energy.

So now that I’ve shared my realistic journey, please share some of your successes and potential goals for the future with me. How has Lisa helped you change? Are you 100%? 90%? 50%? No matter where you are on this journey, let this serve as a reminder that when it comes to cutting out highly processed foods, any small changes are encouraging and far better than none!

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

329 thoughts on “Kiran’s (Realistic) Quest to Cut Out Processed Foods”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. The Leakes use a microwave on occasion. They are familiar with the varied opinions and research on doing so.

  1. Thanks so much for this, Kiran. I have always tried to eat in a relatively healthy way, and I try to pass those habits along to my family. My downfall is convenient snacks for the kids. I make whole wheat breads and muffins to freeze, and I try to always have some good veggie/fruit options for them, but they always go for the pantry snacks. Like an above poster, I guess I just need to stop buying them. (Kind of like I need to stop buying M&M’s for myself…if they exist in my home, I will eat them.) Big grocery day today…wish me luck!

  2. I just came across this site in search of an eating plan for my whole family. I’m a married mother of two. I have a 4 month old son and a 2.5 year old daughter. I’ve realized just how terrible our diets are. My husband is one of those that doesn’t gain weight no matter how unhealthy his diet is which is dangerous because his inside health could be terrible, but his outside doesn’t show it. Me, I’m overweight due to my diet. My eating habits have gotten worse over the years mainly because I’m a stress eater. And when I’m stressed I’m reaching for Oreos instead of apples. My kids are both healthy, but I’m handing down my terrible eating habits. Time for major change! Luckily my husband is on board and is so supportive in this. My other concern is being a bench mom instead of an involved mom. I want to be able to run and keep up with my kids! Making memories means I have to be a part of the memories. ;)

  3. Really like this idea. I love to buy local or only what is in season and we buy local meat only. My problem is the snack food. I have a 6 year old that is the worst eater EVER, I’m the total enabler to why he is like this. Guess what I’m scared is if I don’t have goldfish/ crackers snack.. How do I stop the addiction. Guess if it’s not there he will need to make better choices. Everyone tells me he won’t starve. Need to do this for me and my family.. One thing good thing WE NEVER eat fast food.. I love to cook

    1. Give it a shot, Kim. Just don’t buy them. I promise you that he will try something else if he is hungry. Keep us posted!

  4. Hey, I just wanted to add or give advice about 1 thing. Going Whole wheat is the worst decision. I suggest no wheat. Society is taught ‘Whole wheat is healthy’ But when you do the research it’s actually extremely processed. My advice is do more research.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s experience. I aspire to feed my family “real food” but sometimes it’s too easy to slip into old habits. Reading about what you’ve done really inspires me.

    Side note: we get “natural” JIF too, the husband won’t have it any other way. ;)

    1. LOL Chelsea … I actually went and bought two different types of PB after posting this. I am bound and determined to break the family from “natural” JIF! Anyhow, my youngest two switched. My older two are not loving it. But my husband just won’t do it. GRRR!!

  6. So many great ideas and inspiration here! With many strategies to stay on track, I find my husband and I have much better success. My husband really does his part in making sure we eat well, although left up to him, our diet would be pretty meat heavy, ha ha! We tend to divide and conquer, with him doing a big shop at the farmers market on Saturdays and me doing the run to the organic grocery store for the things not available at the market. Every time we prepare something for dinner that can be made in a large batch, ie; chili or spaghetti sauce or soups and stews, we will make enough to stow some away in the freezer. Then when schedules get hectic there is always something home made to eat. We don’t go out of our way to create these, they are just a byproduct of a meal we were already making. If I make lasagne I used to make a large pan, now I create two small pans from the same ingredients and freeze one. I will try some of the suggestions others have made here and see if we can’t bump up our success to a 95%! This is soooo much easier with no little ones in the house, kudos to parents up to the challenge of raising healthier kiddies!

  7. I just make easy wheat thins at home, wheat flour butter and salt and add cheese to make cheesy ones as a goldfish substitute

  8. Loved reading your journey, Kiran! Thank you so much for sharing it. It’s so amazing how taste preferences can change, right?
    Btw, your family is adorable!

    -Gillian

  9. I love the honesty in this post! I’d say we’re at about 70% real food. I still buy white flour tortillas (until I find a whole wheat tortilla recipe my husband likes) and conventional meats (that’s what my budget allows for) and usually have a frozen pizza in the freezer for the (fairly rare) days when I’m just not up to cooking dinner for some reason.

    On the plus side, though, we avoid most processed foods because I make our meals from scratch. I bake almost all of the bread we eat (100% whole wheat, soaked grains), make homemade ketchup and most other condiments and recently started making kefir and kombucha.

    And honestly, I’m happy with where we are in our food choices. There are a few changes I’d make if I had a larger food budget, and I’m always on the look out for new and interesting healthy recipes, but I’m coming to the conclusion that a mostly healthy diet with a relaxed attitude is better for your overall health than constant stress about keeping your food choices 100% healthy.

  10. Thanks so much for sharing Kiran! Love your honesty and tips! I have been working to cut out processed food and eat cleaner at my house too. It is a process…. I have a Tower Garden and encourage anyone else to try growing some of their own food- whether in a traditional garden, pots or a Tower Garden. Kids love it and it is amazing how good fresh produce tastes! 😊

  11. I love this post! I’ve been mentally beating myself up for the last year because my family just can’t get to 100% real food. Some weeks are better than others though. This made me feel so much butter about the progress we’ve made. I’m no longer going to stress about us not eating real food 100% of the time. I’m going to be happy about the great progress we’ve made. Thank you for your honesty!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Elizabeth,
      Do not beat yourself up. You have to be realistic about it and do as much as you really can.
      With that being said, I will say that the one thing that always helps me is planning ahead.
      This week is a particularly busy one for me, with work, mom-tasks, field trips, etc. (We all have them for one reason or another!) I was super happy to find a loaf of whole wheat banana bread that I had put in the freezer about 3-4 weeks ago. It came in handy today since I didn’t have time to bake anything this past weekend.

      Sometimes making double recipes and freezing/using extras for lunches/etc. can help in a pickle – like busy weeks. But otherwise, do the best that you can do. As you mentioned, you should definitely celebrate your successes. Keep it up! :)

      1. Thanks for the encouragement! I have started doing a lot of food prep on the weekend and it’s made a huge difference in how much more unprocessed we eat. I’ll have to start doubling recipes and freezing things as well.

  12. I appreciate the honesty of Kiran. I have tried to change my diet. At first my husband was very reluctant and I found that I don’t do well changing a lot of things at once and had to back up and do small changes until I was used to them and then try some more. My husband is now more on board and encourages me to eat the way I want and he tries some of it, but not all.
    I am wondering if you have any ideas I can use with my daughter. She was always my worst eater and recently admitted that she ate her veggies, just because she knew we wouldn’t let her leave the table until she did. Now she has grown up and has two little ones of her own and wants to try and eat healthier. She is a working mom and needs baby steps like I did. Do any of you have suggestions for recipes to try with her or resources? I’ve retired and moved closer to her and am finding when I take dishes over if I have chopped up the vegetables into small pieces I have a better chance of her leaving them in now, she used to pick them out. She is asking me to help her find easy to fix, easy to eat dishes. I am making them first for her to try and then if she likes them I break them down into what I hope are easy steps for her. I would appreciate any help anyone can offer.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi Kathy,
      Hmmm … this may sound silly, but why don’t you try various ways of serving vegetables (raw/baked/steamed/roasted/sauteed). Perhaps she will find that she prepares one way over another, which would help direct you to some simple recipes. I always tout roasting since it brings out such great flavors and also makes them crunchy, yet not as “raw” as raw. Or maybe she will prefer steamed if they are softer. Just a few thoughts. If nothing else, it’s great that she is trying to find a way to like them. Don’t give up!

  13. I’m glad you posted this, and I think you should take out the first part about not judging b/c it helps to let others off the hook. We as women think we have to do everything 100% and that’s simply impossible. It leads to burn out & unrealistic expectations. I love the idea of doing what you can for your family because it’s not a one size fits all world we are in. And my kids love their jif natural peanut butter too. While we are prob closer to 70% it’s a journey & I’m learning a lot. Thx for blogging & sHaring your story.

  14. It seems that everyone can get to know what things are best for you to eat. however when it comes to fish among other things is finding easy and simple recipes. My wife and I bought cod because everywhere that we have eaten cod we loved it but when she made it herself it came out dry flaky rough and it tasted bad. She is a great cook. When it comes to eating healthy finding tasty recipes is a challenge for us.

  15. I am allergic to soy, sunflower, and tree nuts. Eliminating sunflower and tree nuts, no problem. Soy on the other hand has been incredibly had. Part of the problem is my body craves what I am allergic to. And when I do give in, it doesn’t even taste good. I’m trying hard to find recipes and foods with 5 or fewer ingredients. The problem is, time. I work full time and I am completely exhausted when I get home. I am also a caregiver for my dad who is bedridden. I know that I just need to do it so I’m taking baby steps for now. I don’t eat red meat (and haven’t for 18 years and I was a complete vegetarian for 9 years) and can go for days without chicken or turkey for protein. I need other options for protein. I just want to find a solution to save time in food preparation so it will be easier to maintain. There are some other foods I have to stay away from because they are genetically modified with soy such as corn. I wish there was a good, central place on how to live with a soy allergy or somewhere I can gain an education about food allergies. Thanks for all your posts and recipes. I’ve tried several and like what I tried so far.

    1. Hi Marni! I developed an anaphylactic soy allergy on June 8, 2009 (seriously, I was fine on June 7, then went into anaphylactic shock at brunch the next day, go figure). I spent a lot of time on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network when I was first diagnosed. I eliminated ALL soy initially, then discovered I could tolerate soy lecithin and soybean oil, as long as it’s heat processed. I still try to avoid both, but it’s nice to know I can eat a cracker or a piece of chocolate and not end up in the ER. I was a vegetarian for years, married a carnivore and now eat everything except beef (which makes me violently ill). It prompted a switch to our diets since there were whole aisles of the grocery store where there was nothing I could eat; I tend to stick to the perimeter of grocery stores now. My go-to protein source is spicy lentils (Indian food rocks). I use split lentils so I don’t have to soak them, although I usually do. As an aside about stopping soy protein cold turkey – I didn’t eat a lot of processed food to begin with, but was apparently getting a decent amount of “hidden” soy protein. My endocrine system wigged for about six months and I had hot flashes, night sweats, etc for about six months. Hang in there!!

  16. Hi Kiran~ I enjoyed reading your blog, my family is about 75% of the time. We started changing about 5 months ago. My struggle is with our school and the endless amount of snacks they give to my kids. I have emailed and met with the Principal, but I don’t see change in their future. We send lunch and snack from home, but my son was told to not eat his veggies and to take 100 pieces of candy (loaded with artificial colors) to “celebrate” their 100th day of school. They even had so much candy they did it the next day too. It is so upsetting to hear all the treats and candy given at school. Any tips you have are appreciated! Thanks to you and Lisa for always giving great information, this site is my favorite!

    1. Whoa, your post caught my eye. I just retired from teaching and I had the opposite problem. I taught a nutrition unit in 3rd grade and I had parents on my tail because I requested healthy only snacks. I am really concerned that a school is telling your child to put their vegetables away. Our district had our curriculum posted online. Maybe you can check the district curriculum or the state issued one and see if there are any standards for health they are supposed to be meeting and politely tell them you are hoping they will encourage and support this curriculum. I know we didn’t have health as part of science it was part of P.E., but they didn’t have time for it so it got shifted to classroom. Let me know how it goes and good luck.

  17. By the way, regarding the meat…we are a family of 4 adults (well three and a bottomless pit teenage boy), so I feel your pain. What really helped me go organic and completely grass-fed was finding a farmer from whom we buy half a cow from now. It’s an initial investment (and a freezer too if you don’t have one) AND it means I have to learn how to cook different cuts of meat (which has actually been fun) but we all love it and it works out being the same price as buying supermarket meat.

  18. Hmmmm. What is 100%? I think 100% is achieving the optimum balance between home-made food, lots of fruits and vegetables, organics, our budget, humane treatment of the animals we eat, socializing with other over food (whether that means as a guest or eating out where it makes other happy), treats that make you smile, treats that make your kids smile, going to a coffee shop that makes your mom smile, energy, needing to sleep in, conserving time and health. Yep….and who can balance all that perfectly without something suffering? Therefore the percentage of how “perfectly” I am eating in someone else’s eyes is probably always fluctuating….but as long as I’m happy with the above balancing act and I continue to progress in eating functional foods than I feel I am doing 100%. I just don’t think it’s about being perfect but rather getting to that point when it just comes naturally to want to put good things in our body, whether we make them from scratch or they come out of a package, and for the rest you just gotta roll with the punches.

  19. I’ve followed Lisa’s blog for quite awhile now but this is my first posting. Like you, I don’t do 100% real food. I am divorced without kids and cooking for one can be challenging. After first reading up on Lisa and her 100 day real food pledge I went to my local library and got Michael Pollan’s book. I was quite surprised by some of what I read and enjoyed the book. Both the book and Lisa have prompted me to pay closer attention to the food I eat. I’ve never been much of a meat eater but when I do, I try to pick local and organic. I’ve cut out the majority of processed foods and have been switching to whole grains as well. Baby steps. I live near Cleveland, OH and am able to frequent our public market (the Westside Market). It’s a wonderful 101 year old market that has all sorts of produce (organic and non organic), meats, dairy, pastries, coffees and numerous other goodies. It’s wonderful to be able to speak with the owners of each stand and find out just where their products come from and if they are processed at all. While I feel a 100% real food diet is a great goal, I do not think I’ll be able to completely achieve it…but I definitely feel that any improvement I can make to my diet (regardless of how small) will make me a healthier and happier person.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Well I am so glad that you posted! I am actually from Cleveland also, but I moved to Charlotte in 2000. Would you believe that last summer was the first time I visited the West Side Market? And now I hate that I am not there to shop there – it is fantastic!!

      Small changes DO add up. Stick with it! :)

  20. I work full-time, so I’d love to hear from other working moms on how they find the time to pursue the REAL FOOD lifestyle. I think I do a pretty good job, but I’d say I’m maybe at 50% because while I try to cook wholesome, healthy meals every evening, getting home with my toddler in tow at 5:30/6pm doesn’t leave much time. I try to bake homemade “chips” with real, organic potatoes from time to time. I steam vegetables, buy organic meats, grass-fed, antibiotic free beef, etc. But there are those days that a bag of tortellini in a pot of boiling water has to suffice.

    I’ve tried to do meal prep on the weekends, but life with toddler is non-stop, and honestly mama needs some downtime occasionally. And as a working mom, that isn’t always possible. Help please!

    1. Try to come up with some default quick and easy menu items. For us, this used to be pasta or tacos. We don’t do pasta near as often, and if we do we use whole wheat. Tacos are now usually replaced with taco salads–much more of the “green” part, and organic blue corn tortilla chips are easier to find than non-GMO taco shells. Frozen fish fillets (salmon or tilapia, for example) can be cooked in less than 10 minutes in the microwave in a covered glass dish. Broccoli only takes 4 minutes in the microwave. We nearly always have canned salmon or beans for even quicker taco salads. Fried cabbage is also a favorite (and replaces pasta). So try to find some almost-as-easy-as-hot-dogs-but-much-healthier quick meals and keep them on hand. You’ll probably surprise yourself with what you can whip up in short order once you get the hang of it.

      I’ve also heard that it helps to plan ahead. Even if you don’t prepare food on the weekend, if you make a plan then you aren’t confronted with the “what are we going to have for dinner tonight” 10 minutes before dinner time. We’re still working on that one though. Good luck!

    2. two words. slow cooker. i work full time although I don’t have kids which makes a huge difference. Are you a single mom or can your spouse help out with either food prep or toddler control? Or can you pay a neighborhood kid to play with him for a ocuple hours a week? I do a lot of prep work on the weekends and then use my slow cooker A LOT. Often I can prep the meal the night before (in your case maybe after baby’s in bed?) put everything in a big bowl, then in the morning all I have to do is dump it into the slow cooker and turn it on. Mine has a built in timer so once it’s done cooking it switches to ‘warm’, then all I have to do when I get home is maybe make a salad or something.

      1. Sharon & casey – thank you for the suggestions. We do have a slow cooker, and I just don’t use it enough. I’m lucky in that I usually work from home two days a week, which is when I often deploy the slow cooker. Though I am in need of new recipes – I have a chicken go-to and a beef stew go-to, but could use some variety. I love the suggestion of prepping items the night before and just dropping in the cooker in the morning. I’ll give that a try!

        My husband typically gets home from work about 1.5 hours after I do, and while he is great about helping with the cooking at least once a week, his go to is often a dried pasta mix and beef, so while I appreciate the help, that’s often the more processed food meal of the week…lol, he tries.

        The nice thing is that hubby is on board with the organics, fresh fruit and vegetables, so we do usually have those items in the house. It is just a matter of having the time to prepare in the evenings. Many nights I serve my son a healthy meals of steamed vegetables or a veggie packed quesadilla (his fave with pimiento cheese), lots of fresh fruit and whole wheat toast, but my husband and I end up eating a french bread pizza closer to 8pm after our son is settled in bed for the night. So, I’m happy to say my son rarely has processed food…but hubby and I have our days when we resort to a frozen lasagna or otherwise. It’ll probably get easier as our son gets older. :)

      2. Lisa has several good slow cooker recipes on this site. I subscribe to All Recipes Slow Cooker blog. I have several slow cooker cookbooks however I only use a couple recipes from each so I would save your pennies and search online first. I’ve heard that ‘crock on’ which is an ebook available on Amazon is a really good resource although I haven’t tried it. You can pretty much make anything that you would bake in an oven in a slow cooker. A really easy recipe is to take corned beef, drop it in the slow cooker and pour a bottle of Guinness over it (or whatever dark beer you like) and cook on low for 8 hours. The alcohol evaportaes just leaving behind the taste so even the toddler can eat it. If you go to the grocery store and look at the ‘slow cooker sauces’ section, a lot of those can be easily replicated at home and then it’s usually just dump the meat in, mix w/ sauce and you’re done.

    3. Crock pot recipes are always a go-to for us, as others have mentioned.

      Another option is to plan on making a couple of big meals a week, like a casserole or lasagna, double the recipe and then freeze half. You’ll stock up your freezer over time, and then dinner can be as easy as putting it in the fridge to thaw before you leave in the morning, and warming it up when you get home.

      I try to make dinners that require more work earlier in the week because by Thursday I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking. We always keep left overs from meals made earlier in the week, and then Thursdays and Fridays are what I call “smorgasbord nights” – heat up whatever you can find in the fridge and supplement with a salad.

    4. Dana – I am in the same boat with two infants and have found that prepping ahead does not necessarily mean cooking. We prepare all the veges for fajitas (mixed peppers onions mushrooms tomatoes) a
      And have them in one container ready to put in a pan .. They last a long time in the fridge… You can also do the same with a stirfry (kind of the same veges too!)

  21. Does anybody have a good replacement for Goldfish? I manageed ti cure my wheat thin addiction with Crunchmaster crackers but I haven’t found something to replace the wheat thins. I’ve heard that Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies are ok but I don’t like the cheddar flavoring, only the original.

    1. We buy Annie’s Organic Cheddar bunnies – my two year old loves them. He actually refuses the Goldfish now (guess I can toss the half bag that is left), requesting “bunnies” instead.

    2. I started making my own…it really isn’t hard! 4 ingredients. The hardest part? Finding a fishy cookie cutter. I settled on cookie cutters from Pampered Chef. The apples and hearts are a big favorite with my daughters. I found the recipe on Pinterest and make a double batch. Working with the dough took some practice but has been well worth it!! Best of luck!!

      1. Do you have any tips for getting the homemade crackers to crunch rather than crumble when you bite into them? I have tried multiple times and can never quite get a “crunch” texture, rather only a “crumbly” texture.

  22. I’m 45, overweight like most of America and married with no kids – this is all still a complete struggle for me but a journey I feel worth taking. We’re probably at 30% (realistically) but I am very conscious now as I buy things to replace what we have used up. It has been completely enlightening reading this blog! I don’t know that we will ever get to 100% but I’m concerned enough about what we are doing to our food supply that we are changing what we can and within our means. Thank you to all of you who contribute to this!

  23. Thanks for sharing your REAL story about switching to REAL food. I also have 4 kids and it is expensive to feed a family of 6. My solution has been to create what I call “m’organic eating” — mostly organic, 100% real. I’m sharing ideas for m’organic eating on my blog, http://www.junkfreejourney.com and have commented before about what a huge inspiration Lisa has been in changing the way we eat. We would not have started this if it wasn’t for her! Thanks for a great blog!

  24. Kiran,

    Thank you for sharing your journey! I feel so much better about my families journey after reading your post! We did the 100 days, but 100% all of the time seems impossible! I’d say we are now about 70%. We’ve REALLY cut back on the pre-made foods we buy and we quit buying low fat and non fat items. We do organic as much as possible and while it’s still processed we buy cheese crackers at our local co-op instead of goldfish. 100% is hard to do all of the time! I hope I’m teaching my kids healthy eating habits that will help them throughout their lives and that’s the best I can hope for.

  25. Even baby steps are steps forward! I think many people are intimidated to make changes because they think they need to begin with a total overhaul which is overwhelming. Just make a few manageable changes and make others when you are ready. It takes time to transition your lifestyle and eating habits.

  26. I love this post! I say AMEN Kiran! My family is probably around 75-80%. I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old so much of the time I feel like we’re in survival mode. I cook a lot and am able to feed my family many whole foods but sometimes it is just not realistic for us. And I am in the South and my husband and I love our sweet tea. Doesn’t taste right with anything but sugar unfortunately. Not to mention it’d be too expensive to use honey. Thank you for the great honest post. Very encouraging. And I also thank Lisa for having some recipes posted that do call for sugar on special occasions. :)

  27. I’m struggling mostly with the cost of everything. I buy frozen veggies, some organic, others not. I buy no-hormone-added meats. About 50% of the kids snacks are boxed, but the non-GMO or organic versions. My kids love cereals and lunch meats and yogurts. So we buy those in the non-GMO or no-hormone-added or organic versions too. I simply cannot get my kids to love veggies. They eat some, but not a lot. They do LOVE fruit! My husband and I are not great cooks, but I’m learning. Mostly, in order for us to eat real food more often, I need more time and more money. I struggle all the time thinking what I’m doing isn’t enough….:-/

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Sarah – don’t struggle with it. What you are doing is a GREAT change. I know I’m sounding like a broken record – but it doesn’t happen over night. Baby steps will get you there, or as far as you want to go with it. Keep doing what you’re doing and do not beat yourself up.

  28. I’d say I’m 80%; my husband less. I’ve gotten rid of most process food in our house, but chips and crackers are still a problem. My husband also has to have meat with every meal but he is enjoying eating more veggies. Summer is the easiest since I joined a CSA and feel “obligated” to eat it all.
    My struggle is I’m overweight so I’m trying to eat healthy all the time and am running out of ideas. I know Lisa believes in whole fats, but I just can’t get myself to do it. So I’m always trying to find a healthy substitute which, in turn might be more processed (2% milk for example.)

  29. I know you said not to judge but I’m going to anyway. Ready? You, Kiran, are doing a FANTASTIC job! A family with young children eating 85% non-processed food in the USA?! That is amazing – my hat’s off to you, truly.

  30. It’s a lot of work to be on top of an all real food diet for 6 people (I have 4 young boys ages 8 to 1 years). It takes time and intentional effort to raise healthy eaters. However, I find it well worth the effort. I know the benefits of it and I’m thankful for blogs like 100 Days that help me along the way. We’re about at 85% and stalled. Once the kids are older and have a better understanding about the benefits of real food, maybe we will be closer to 100%?

  31. I agree with what you’ve said. I don’t even strive for 100% honestly. I think there is room for “realism” in the world, and I want my children to understand that although we make healthy choices MOST of the time, we don’t have to be dogmatic or absolutely fanatical about what we eat all the time. I think there is room for some occasional cupcakes or a pizza every once in a while, as long as it isn’t something that we do every single day. I even give my child *GASP* M&Ms when he poops on the potty (he is potty training!)

    1. My child is potty training too, and chocolate has been the only thing that gets him to poop on the potty, so I completely relate to your comment! :) He loves to choose the color, and whether it has a peanut or not. Lauren, have you seen the Unreal brand of candies? They have M&M style candies that have natural vegetable based dyes instead of the artificial stuff. I get mine at Target.

  32. Wow. Thanks for the honesty! I’m such a Type A personality that if I can’t do it all, then I feel like a failure.
    That being said, I have switched my kids (about 90% of the time) to completely natural lunches. We still have the sugar in the house that I use for baking, but I’m trying to learn to incorporate honey/dates/maple syrup into my desserts. I haven’t been successful yet…but I just started. Our town just got a farmers market started up and so I’m excited to have access to some local area veggies/produce. I even found out there is an all-natural butchers shop opening up! I’m pretty psyched about that b/c my husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.
    Thanks for sharing and thanks to the other posters for sharing their successes. It is a real help to me.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Stacy – I can so relate with you. I also was feeling like such a failure since I was striving to be 100% and it just was not working. Then I realized that I could relax; it’s not worth it to beat yourself up over the little things. You have to do what works for you. Keep it up – but don’t put pressure on yourself. Even the changes that you’ve made thus far are worth it.

  33. Great encouragement here! Our family is probably at 75-80%, which was shocking after I sat and thought about it…we only recently starting reforming our diet, so the changes came a lot quicker than I expected. I eat a vegan diet, so I’m a little more extreme than a lot of folks posting here, but that’s okay. :) Most of my kids (there are 5 of them!) eat the same diet I do, smoothies are a big fave around here! My hubby is definitely the meat fiend here, but he’s learned also that some of our veggie meals are just as yummy! I try to buy a lot from local health food co-ops and through friends who grow gardens better than I can currently. We’re working on growing our veggies here so we cut out the cost and the middle man! Feeding a family of 7 (with my parents sometimes thrown in to make it 9!) is definitely not cheap, but we do what we can. I have found too that sometimes (especially on the overwhelming days) the kids just don’t eat as much as they used to. I’ve taught them to drink water between meals to help with hydration and the false hunger pangs that come with them, and we usually end our meals with nuts of some sort to help keep us full too! I’ve learned so much from Barbara O’neill, who really set me on the journey of awareness of what we eat being SO important! Between her videos online and this blog, I’m getting my family towards greater health more than I ever thought when I first had children 12 years ago!

  34. Kiran, Have you tried Fuel Pizza with your family in Charlotte? It is my husband’s restaurant and everything is homemade with real food, including whole wheat or gluten-free dough options as well as tons of vegetable toppings. We also run a huge school gardening program with the Mecklenberg school system.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      We HAVE tried Fuel and love it – but we are in the South Clt area and there is not one near us … hint hint? :)

  35. I’ve been on a personal journey to cut out processed foods and I too have four kids so I totally get how it’s difficult to buy all organic! My kids go through a lot of fruits! I can also emphasize with your husband’s challenge. Mine felt that dinner wasn’t dinner unless chicken was part of the menu!
    We have cut down our meat consumption by half over the last year and he now actually admits that he enjoys some of the vegetarian meals in our rota. Given a choice though, he would still pick meat over veggies any day!

  36. I love Great Harvest bread…however, after looking at the ingredient list for some of my favorite breads, my local bakery uses high fructose corn syrup. Not cool in my book. I’ve asked about it, and was told that the vegans don’t like it when they use honey. I would much rather they just use regular sugar in place of the honey instead of HFCS. Just goes to show that even when a place says wholesome and all natural, you still have to double check.

  37. I’m no longer positive the place you’re getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or
    working out more. Thanks for magnificent info I
    was looking for this information for my mission.

  38. I think we are probably about 85%. I doubt we ever get to more than that, but I am pleased with where we are. I’m a full-time working mom, so I pick and choose what I make from scratch also feeling pressed for time I use two grocery stores, but don’t go to local bakeries for bread etc. Free-time with my family is more important than anything, but generally every Saturday morning I wake up and do a little baking and freeze things for my toddlers menu during the week. I do homemade smoothies and make big batches of certain things to freeze and pull for my lunches during the day. We cook most nights using mostly made-from-scratch ingredients.

    I don’t worry when we are in the homes of others and I definitely enjoy eating out (although we are blessed to live in a town with lots of independent restaurants that use locally sourced foods). I keep it to the things that I can control (my home) and relax and roll with the punches when we are out. I figure if we are doing that well most of the time the “look the other way” moments aren’t that bad. :)

  39. It is hard with a limited income. I’ve read some blogs/cookbooks that assume everyone can afford to always buy everything organic, local, etc. It’s not realistic for us. We started on this journey 3 years ago, and our lives have dramatically changed! While we are on a budget, I’m still able to pretty much be at about 95%. I can’t afford our option for non-homogenized, local milk anymore at over $4 a half gallon, but I do always get organic whole milk. I can’t always get all organic produce, plus it’s just not available to us, but our farmers’ markets will be opening soon! We have our staples, and some of them are budget friendly, like tuna, potatoes, beans and rice. I go for the best meat I can afford (always all natural, always grass fed beef) but I try to always get what’s on manager special (clearance) in that category. I utilize everything I have, e.g. always make stock with the chicken carcass, use leftovers for quesadillas, etc. Unfortunately, my son’s preschool doesn’t get the real food movement and all their snacks are packed with sugar, and while I do provide his snacks so that I can at least get the better quality brand, it’s still processed stuff (I also drastically cut the serving size…like instead of a whole poptart, which I get the Nature’s Path brand, I send a half of one with some pretzels, bc no nuts allowed). I still hate the amount of sugar he’s getting three days a week, but I also don’t want him to be singled out more than he is for his snacks being different. The preschool snacks are a whole other story, but it does effect his real food percentage. And, I work there as an aide, so I have to stay on everyone’s good side! People tend to get offended when you question their food habits… Anyway, the real food lifestyle has changed us in many ways, and only for the better. We never want to go back to boxed and bagged dinners! Yuck! :) Oh, btw, we do still go out to eat sometimes, and let’s be real…there aren’t a lot of affordable real food choices when it comes to that with a family, so I guess that cuts us down to about 90% It is possible on a budget! Ms. Lisa’s budget challenge is a huge inspiration for that! Read it if you haven’t!

    1. I like the way LIsa’s recipes always say, ‘we recommend organic ingredients when possible’ so you don’t feel so bad if you can’t afford/ don’t have access to them.

  40. I love this. It reminds me that all small changes are worthwhile and sometimes that means reevaluating and starting over. It is never too late to make strong, healthy choices.

  41. I’ve definitely made a lot of positive changes, but I’d say I’m probably only 50%. I have the same meat challenge with my hubby — that, and I have a lack of ideas when it comes to meatless meals.

    My biggest accomplishment thus far has been getting rid of soda. Now I don’t even crave it at all. I also gave up sweets for Lent and haven’t yet gotten hooked on them again, which is huge for me. I buy 75% of my produce organic, and I always buy organic meat if it is available.

    Thanks for the post — great to hear that every little change counts!

  42. I would say I am firming planted in the 75% range, which to me is a great accomplishment. Summer is easy as I try to buy as much as I can local and fresh, replacing the grocery store with the Farmers Market.

  43. Thanks for such an honest post! We are mostly there, I buy humanely raised, pastured meat and eggs, I buy mostly organic dairy(have to settle for BGH free cheese), bake with white whole wheat flour, cook/serve lots of veggies and fruits, limit our consumption of added sugars, and cook most things from scratch. However, I feel constrained by my budget and time. I can’t afford to buy all organic produce. I spend $50-$60 a week on produce alone. Some of it is organic, but I can’t imagine the increased cost if all of it was organic, not to mention availability. Also, while I strive to have half of our dinner plate be veggies, I don’t always get there. I feed my kids healthy food when they are home, sadly there are communal snacks at school, extra curricular activities and playdates that I have no control over. My girls inhale goldfish crackers and the like when served outside our home (I never buy them), but they find Go-Gurt revolting, so there is hope.

  44. Our journey sounds very much like your family’s! Perhaps it has a little to do with family size as we have 4 kids under the age of 8 and some days it’s all I can do to get a half decent meal out in time for dinner. I know I need to plan better and just stop buying some things. I too have a sweet tooth that needs to be reigned in, I think our kids would complain about cutting more of the carbs and sugars out but with the things they get from other sources it would really be ok :). Making time to make our favorite snacks from scratch so we had faster healthier alternatives and just eating more veggies and drinking more water are some of our current goals. We’re in a semi rural place without as easy to access local and organic but we try our best and use our dollars to help vote for more. Thanks for this realistic post to inspire us to make goals from where we are and not get discouraged with the baby steps.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Nicole, I was you just two years ago. My youngest was born one month after my eldest turned 7. It’s not easy, I know. But I will tell you this – it does get easier as they get older. My youngest just turned 3, is potty trained, and VERY independent (he has to be – I can’t do everything for everyone!):) Now I CAN chop vegetables, I can prepare meals; I can have my kids help me bake, clean up dishes, etc. without another kid on my hip. It’s amazing what each year does. Enjoy the time while they are young; striving to make change is half the battle. And it sounds like you’re doing a fab job with that.

  45. I love this! I am at probably 10% right now. I am new on the journey. Mostly I have started eating more veggies and fruits and trying to eat less box/can foods and I have also stopped eating as much meat (none this month). So I am encouraged by your post. Thanks! You are a rock star!

  46. thanks for this reminder… it is very overwhelming to feel like we have to do 100% change, this is a great reminder that all the little baby steps add up and are worth the effort… thank you!

  47. This was a great read! I’m finding it hard to cut certain things out (I have a 4 month old and a 2 yr old and I LOVE chocolate). But I feel better knowing that I’m not the only one who just keeps trying to make better choices where we can!
    The thing Ii’m struggling with the most is carbs and sugar. We LOVE bread and crackers and my son loves snacking on cereal. Hoping to get a bread maker in the near future so at least I can have control over some of our carbs :)

    1. Check out your local Goodwill Store. I was able to purchase a back-up bread machine (Yes, I have two.) there for $5. Just make sure it has the little dough mixing piece in the bottom of the mixing bowl or it will not work! You knew there had to be a place all those bread machines went to that no one is using!

    2. I placed a wanted ad in our little local paper for a bread maker. I got 8 calls the first day! I ended up with a brand new, in-the-box one (that retails for $140) for $15. It seems this is something lots of people buy, or receive as a gift, then never use.

  48. I would say I’m about 75-80% There are some things I dont have affordable access to, and some things I (or my family) just don’t like. We do use regular sugar (mostly organic), but we don’t have a lot of sweets. I also need to figure out some meatless/low meat dishes that aren’t so pasta-heavy that my 4 y/o will eat.

  49. Kiran,

    Thank you so much for your real and honest guest blog. I probably eat the worst out of any of the readers (maybe 10% real food). I leave for work at 6:45AM and don’t get home in the evening until almost 7PM. We used to get a lot of take out or deli food or processed food since i have about 10 minutes to get food on the table before homework needs to get started. I’ve been trying to buy more organic(milk, eggs, bread) and make crock pot food once a week (freeze the left overs for a later dare). I do make my own organic yogurt once a week and i have really been enjoying that. I figure I”m making progress one day at a time!

  50. This post has been so helpful for me! Over the course of the past year and a half, I have developed an anaylphalactic allergy to both gluten and milk….since then, I’ve begun to have problems with other grains bothering me; causing bloating and upset stomach. I want to badly to find a way to feed my family more whole, unprocessed foods, yet, I have a hard time finding a way to eat that way while staying under our grocery budget! I need recipes or ideas for meals that are whole foods and don’t require a lot of meat…meat is so expensive, and I can’t afford to buy grass-fed.

  51. Thank you! I would say my family is about 90%. There are a few things that I have struggled to get out of our house, the biggest offender being cereal. Although it’s not the sugared cereals, but I know it is still awful for you. I don’t eat it often, but the hubby and kids still love it and some mornings it’s just the easy option. :) It was good to read your post and know that other families adapt the lifestyle to fit their own needs. I figure 90% is better than 0%!
    Carrie

  52. Good for you and thank you for being honest and letting us all know what I’m sure we have all struggled with at one time or another. Even before discovering the 100 days website I was about 80%. It’s gotten a bit better with more time management and finances. My daughter is away at college but the influence of healthy eating has her making pretty good choices in the cafeteria for her meal planning. Great job! Appreciate you Kiran!

  53. Good for you and thank you for being honest and letting us all know what I’m sure we have all struggled with at one time or another. Even before discovering the 100 days website I was about 80%. It’s gotten a bit better withmore time management and finances. My daughter is away at college but the influence of healthy Great job! Appreciate you Kiran!

  54. We are barely starting. We liked our junk food alot. But here are some of the changes we made:

    + replaced chips by air pop kernels

    + for my sweet tooth: I eat muesli (vanilla greek yogourt, heart hemp seeds, fruits and a bit of maple syrup). It takes away my craving for chocolate.

    + replaced store bought juice by water

    + replaced white sugar by maple syrup in recipes and by stevia in herbal teas

    + my husband makes the bread and if not, we buy the one without preservatives and other junk. We ground our own wheat so we know it is 100% whole wheat grains.

    + in recipes where ground beef is asked for, we cut the quantity in half and add lentils.

    + I changed my food diet for the mediterranean diet which is better for my high cholesterol level. As for my husband and my two toddlers: we have a no meat day on Saturday.

    + I started having breakfast with a green smoothie and my four years old daughter is starting to like some of it.

    Slowly but surely, I am changing my family’s eating habits. Thanks for being such an inspiration. Eventually, we want to buy our meat from the locals here and all our fruits and vegies organic.

  55. I love this post! To me it is real and relatable. Don’t get me wrong I love Lisa’s blog. She has been a wealth of information. But she is what I strive for. I know I will never be able to eat to her extreme. It is just nice to read about someone that I can relate more to. But Lisa, kudos to you for recognizing “real.”

  56. Thank you for the info. I have a large family ( 8 kids, 5 still at home) and have been trying like you to eat better and cook better. I have done most of the things you have suggested but not sure how to substitute the crackers. I really thought the gold fish were pretty good for you? What do you suggest?

    1. Unless you’re striving for perfection, I’d suggest not worrying too much about the goldfish. Buy smaller quantities and offer them less frequently. Make them more of a treat.

  57. My goal has never been to completely eliminate processed foods, but to do the opposite of what Sandra Lee promoted on Semi-Homemade. Her philosophy was 70% ready-made products and 30% fresh ingredients. I turned that around so that I use 70% (or more) fresh ingredients and 30% (or less) ready-made products. I’d guess I’m about 80/20 most of the time and I’m happy with that.

    I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if anyone else has posted this, but Smitten Kitchen has a recipe for homemade Wheat Thins.

    I’ve also noticed that some things I used to like just don’t taste good anymore. Making homemade versions of those things is partly responsible for starting me on my “mostly homemade” way of eating.

  58. We started following the Real Food rules the 1st of January after eating, what I considered, pretty healthy already. I would say over all we are about 85-90% also with the same rules being followed(and broken) Some weeks, better some worse. We eat pizza out once a week usually. That’s our biggest downfall. I have also realized I can only control the food here at home. When my kids go to their grandparents(2x a week), I have to let go. I just discovered that we are expecting our 6th child so all of the Real Food rules have gone out the window unfortunately. I can’t help what my body craves and if I don’t go with it I will be sick. I figure I can get back on track in my 2nd and 3rd trimester. And when I am sick, it means I am not cooking much ro doing a lot of shopping so meals are not very healthy around here. I got to just deal with that for now.

  59. I really liked this! We are working on improving our meals and have been for about 2 years. Some changes, like not buying boxed Mac n cheese, has stuck. Others like making my own tortillas hasn’t. We live in Texas and tex-mex is our favorite! I do stick to organic milk and chicken, reducing items with food dyes (we still have candy and icing on our cakes), and buying organic produce in season while it’s cheaper and freezing it for later. But we have more and more we want to change. I have gained weight and it’s so hard for me to not want to reach for some low calories prepared things to easily count my calories and lose weight, about 10 pounds I gained. My body just doesn’t release those pounds easily at all and I have to stick with a calorie count in order to lose, which I find hard to do at the busy dinner hour when I am cooking. I felt encouraged by this and it spurs me on to keep trying and working on changes until they stick!

  60. Yes! Everyone has a different set of priorities and even small changes can add up. I would say we’re 65-70% real food. We drink raw milk. Eat little processed food. Don’t eat out much. I used to bake ww bread, but ran out of wheat berries and couldn’t find a good source when my old one went away. My 15 yod likes to bake, which is our downfall. We can’t do organic meat, but don’t eat beef. Gluten free would be nice for me, but it’s so hard without everyone else on board. Very little pasta. With a big family (5 kids), it’s a dance back and forth, rather than a hard line in the sand. Again, little steps forward are better than nothing.

  61. Thanks for your post. We have been over this journey over the past 3 years and probably at 85% to help my son who has been diagnosed with ADHD. It’s the sauces I have trouble with. Ketchup is a staple in our house and the one homemade one I did was more like BBQ sauce. I have tried the gluten free route but my family doesn’t go for it. I do try new gluten free recipes. I try to use Spelt Flour whenever I can but my daughter is not a big fan. I am thankful for LIsa’s whole wheat bread recipe though and I should try it again rather than adding in the white flour. As for milk, we did buy organic for a while but have switched to goat’s milk. It’s not organic but from what I have read it’s similar to human milk. My husband is the one with the have to have milk problem. I have read many studies though that milk is not required for humans after they are young kids but he believes all the “Got milk” commercials (we are in Canada). We buy organic cheese and I get GMO free meat direct from farmers. I too have the problem with grandparents who just don’t understand the reasoning. They are grew in a different time with different thoughts on what is healthy.

    1. I forgot to add. We have had next to no sickness. We have had the stomach flu., the odd fever but no colds, especially those ones that stick around for weeks. My asthma is much better and I’ve lost at least 10 pounds (there is still the emotional eating to deal with but I take it one step at a time).

  62. This is great. I’m going to start my clean diet soon as I’ve had so many respitory issues and am hoping that a clean diet will help. I’ve luckily switched many things prior to my decision to go clean, I buy rice or quinoa pasta, switched to stevia from sugar and eat way more fruits and veggies than I ever used to. Its the small things that I never think about that have the processed ingredients in them that I’m going to process out and have been able to find some grocery lists for specific stores I shop at which is great. The only thing that has hindered me is the prep work for cooking! I’ve got to get motivated to get it all done. I dont have kids and my boyfriend is 6000 miles away (for now) so its just me to cook for and its often easier to just eat whats fast.

  63. Thank you for being so transparent. Learning & adhering to healthy eating rules can be tough. I recently almost started crying at Target when I was so exhausted from trying to feed my family with the lack of choices available there. I try to control what we eat at home & have more reasonable expectations about eating out & at other peoples homes. I bet we are more like 70% but getting better everyday! Love this blog! Thanks!

  64. Thank you for your honesty! I love your approach to the cutting out processed foods and my family has taken similar measures to eliminate processed items from our diet. My desire to eliminate the processed foods started as a move to lessen the chemicals in our house and resulted in a need when my youngest of two boys was diagnosed with a nut allergy. So many processed foods are made with nuts or even processed in the same facility that he can never be completely safe and free from nuts if the food comes in a package. I would rather take the time to make the meals and snacks from scratch than to open a box of chemicals and wonder what it is doing to your body. When my house started the process of eliminating chemicals from our foods my oldest son had a hard time leaving the brightly colored yogurts on the shelf until I read the ingredients to him and asked him if he ever say a Red #40 plant growing in the ground. Since then the yogurt companies have changed to “natural colorings” but it hasn’t changed my opinion. I truly enjoy all the inspiration and information that the site provides.

  65. Hi I am new to your website and to eating “clean”. I felt that I craved sugar too much and had to do something about it. So after a Spring Break trip (I am a teacher) to Hot Springs I went cold turkey. I think I surprised myself because I was able to do it. My kids are grown and my husband eats what I make plus his other “stuff”, but he does support me. I keep a log of what I eat every day and need to see if I am eating enough protein. My taste buds have changed and those who say this are so right. Oh, I still do dairy as I need the calories. But I have totally cut out all processed foods, gluten (after reading Dr. Peamlutters’ book) and the cookies I used to love. I now bake all of my own things with honey (or dates) and make real food for dinner. I also make my lunch every night from leftovers and it is good. It just takes more time. I think for me it was a “head thing” that I was just going to do it, and I did. Anyway, I love to read all of your blogs and comments as I learn things daily from them. Are there things I still would like to eat? Yes, ice cream and pizza!! So I found recipes for these and am going to try to make them too. I am just beginning to notice a difference in my health as it has only been since March 12th. I would like to ask for advice on keeping on weight (please don’t be mad at this -I have always been thin and now I have lost the pouchy stomach I had and a few other things), I exercise regularly so I know that I am burning calories. If anyone has help I would love to hear it. Meanwhile I am positive and hope to be able to continue this as my lifestyle (as much as possible) I just turned 60 and want to feel fabulous in my 80’s. Thank you for your encouraging words to all of us. I know I really appreciate you.

  66. I LOVE Lisa’s blog and it was all because of 100 Days that my eyes were opened and i began feeding my family and myself differently! Its definitely a journey and you learn something new almost every day! Sometimes i feel like there is so much “real food” info to keep up on it gets a little overwhelming and it starts to feel a little impossible, especially cost wise. But i really appreciate the honesty of this post, it is very encouraging!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Nina,
      This is a true story – my neighbor and very good friend literally had a panic attack one morning and had to call 911 because she was stressing about making homemade pancakes. Reality check: it can get overwhelming … but you have to be realistic and do what works for your family.

      I appreciate your feelings and have been there also. Do the best that you can – my opinion, of course.

  67. I have tried several times to cut out the process foods… each time there are a few more items that we are able to get ride of, but my biggest problem is the availability of fresh food. My husband and I move to Puerto Rico (the west, rural side) a year and a half ago. Although there are a few things that you can pick up at farm stands it has been difficult to find fresh REAL food down here. When a friend of our flew down last week I requested that he bring fresh green beans and zucchini since I had not seen them in stores in weeks (and when they are available they are twice as much as back in the states). There are advantages to living down here, it is a BEAUTIFUL island, but I can wait to get back home to Florida and continue moving towards more real food. The journey continues :)

    1. I have friends that live in Hawaii that have the same problem. Anything that can’t be grown locally has to be shipped in so it is incredibly expensive. I’m surprised you can bring vegetables back and forth from the mainland although I guess since there is no customs since you are still in the US it’s ok. If I remember correctly when I went to Hawaii and I couldn’t bring fruits & veggies in or out but that was like 10 years ago so I could be wrong or it could have chagned.

  68. THANK YOU!!! I have tried so hard to get our family healthy and I just get so overwhelmed – especially since hubby isn’t on board with me all the way. It’s nice to hear from someone who seems closer to my situation.

  69. I am so thankful for your website and all of the information and awesome recipes. We are also around 85%. Some days it is just hard to do it all. We are more aware though for sure when we do need to eat out and look for local restaurants that serve healthy options. I have also recently found a local coffee shop that will make my latte with organic milk should I run out of what I need at home to make my own. My kids and hubby are noticing huge differences in the taste of the food we are eating and prefer it to much of the processed stuff. My greatest victory is getting rid of all salad dressing…all of us…10 year-old and 5-year-old included…only use balsamic vinegar on our salads. The kids rave over it. They also love their veggies. I love it when we go out and my kids ask for balsamic vinegar and Lima beans or broccoli instead of fries. The looks they get from waitstaff are amazing and I always have to chuckle. I am so proud of them. The greatest outcome we have seen and how I know this is all working is that over the long, cold, awful winter NONE of us got sick (Knocking on wood right now). That is proof positive!! Thank you for all the ways you have changed our lives for the better!

  70. Hi there
    Thanks for a great site that has been such an encouragement to me.although I have been following this blog for some time now, Kiran’s post really prompted me to post. I am a South African working mom and although I am extremely conscious of whole foods, ethical and sustainable food production, and would probably easily turn vegetarian in a heartbeat, I face ongoing challenges in the quest to do so. My husband, a former elite athlete, threw up his rigorous healthy eating habits when he retired from professional running, and both sets of grandparents consider me extreme and over the top, and take every opportunity to quite vocally criticize and undermine what I am trying to teach our little 4 year old boy about clean eating. Living in South Africa also means that many products freely available in American and Canadian grocery stores, or online, are not available here or are exorbitantly expensive.

    But the sincerity and realness of Kiran’s post reminded me to keep going and to work with what I have, all the time aiming for a better position towards the 100%.

    Lisa has helped me in that I do not feel alone, and as crazy as my family like to make me out to be. I am ever grateful fr finding a community of moms who consider NOT giving your child processed junk as depriving them of a happy childhood. (I.e. they are not being deprived of a happy childhood when you ‘deprive’ them of junk).

    I think if you are cognizant of the fact that you will always have room for improvement, you can go a long way to making those improvements rather than throwing it all up in a state of being overwhelmed and feeling like a failure. The post has encouraged me to keep ‘making a plan’ ( as we like to say in SA) to overcome any challenges, and to work with what you have to get it done.

    Thanks Lisa for providing the encouragement, the ideas and general excitement about challenging an ingrained status quo. And thanks to Kiran for bringing perspective, for those of us who may experience more difficulty (in whichever way shape or form) in achieving the 100% goal.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      I love reading all of these responses; especially yours, Mel. You ARE doing the right thing. Every little change counts, no matter who tries to cut you down. Thank you for your comment and keep up the good work.

  71. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this. It is the affirmation I need to keep this up. It’s almost like ‘permission’ to not be 100% all of the time with this. It’s so encouraging – keep at it wherever you are on this journey!

    My family is FAR from 100%. We are maybe 50%. Lots of work left to do. My toddler is TOTALLY on board – my husband is a different story. I’m not giving up – I will persevere.

    There will come a point in my journey (probably not 100%) and I too, will know that ‘it is what it is’ and this is what my family can do for now!

    Thank you Kiran and Thank you Lisa!

  72. I used to be a huge couponer…lots of packaged processed “food” in my pantry and freezer.

    For me, the changes started a year ago…it started small and then grew when my husband jumped on board. We aren’t perfect but we’re opened minded to trying new things that are organic, grass fed, and chemical free.

    I have noticed that my cravings are so much different…and we do save a lot of money by not stopping at convenience stores for convenient bottles of water or soda.

    We both look forward to trying new recipes and having dinners with no meat isn’t such a crime anymore and that would have never happened a few years ago.

    Good for you for the changes you have made.

  73. Thank you for sharing this. We were doing so well cutting out processed foods and buying organic, but in recent months we’ve hit a few hard financial strains, and quite honestly, the farm-raised fish is a lot cheaper. We are slowly getting back on the real food bandwagon, but it’s going to take some honest budgeting and pushing. When you work full-time and have side jobs and three kids, it’s exhausting. So thank you again.

  74. Thank you for posting your family’s experience with this! I, too, am probably about 85%. It’s just my husband and me so we don’t have kiddos to factor into our meals, which I presume makes it a lot easier! I hope that our 85% will only increase once we do have kids, though!! My downfalls are bread and really just the white flour in general. I do buy white or corn tortillas, bread (local, but not always wheat), white pasta and my husband loves cereal, though I choose what I think would be the best option. Otherwise, I think we do pretty darn well. We eat organic dairy and local, organic meat and I follow the dirty dozen list with produce. Neither of us really eat crackers or snacky food much at all. I always try to have a bowl of grapes or other easy-to-grab food available when we need a pick-me-up.

  75. I love your story! You sound JUST like me! While I am trying so, so hard to cut out processed foods, there are some things we do give in on–tortillas being one of them–though, just like you we buy them with the fewest ingredients I can find that still allows for the texture my family demands.;-) We bake our own bread but DO NOT have a Great Harvest close to home (darn it!), so when I need to I buy organic whole wheat bread from whole foods. We have switched so MANY things due to LISA’s amazing, wonderful blog,so I am thankful for all of the changes. I thought we were eating so healthy before, but now I am more confident. I logged into Lisa’s blog 18 months ago and my kids are eating more veggies, more fruits, more organically and more “adult” dinners than ever before. Thank you, Thank you 100 days of real food!

  76. Every journey begins with one single step. If all you can afford is one or two changes at this time, then do those. If all your family will tolerate is one change, begin there. It is not an easy lifestyle change but everyone starts somewhere.

  77. I love this story and I appreciate Lisa for letting you share this. I take so many of Lisa’s tips, recipes, etc. and try to incorporate them into my family and some stick and some do not. We are almost completely off candy now because the taste does change and that is awesome. I am trying to move us into even more whole/real food by doing a 5 day challenge; that way my family can see that they still be eating good tasting food. So thanks again for giving us a different perspective. I think any changed you can make are changes for the better!! #nojudgement

  78. I appreciate the candor! I too am at about 85% and I am OK with that. Most of what we eat in the home is real food but we dine out and my kids get snacks at school. I am a busy working mom and I am ok with 85% life is about balance :)

  79. shannon,
    some snacks i like:
    apples with almond butter,
    air popped popcorn with coconut oil and sea salt (swear it tastes just like butter, and you can use a brown paper bag in the microwave if you don’t have a popper)

    Right now in my work drawer I have apple cinnamon chips and a box of lara bars

  80. I agree with this. My biggest battle as a working mom is the junk that people give my kids in their care. Either they’re being “fun” (ie.grandparents) or have good intentions THINKING they’re offering healthy food. I can’t tell you how often my son says he ate a roll, and pretzels when i ask him what he ate at school. I send additional food and cross my fingers he eats it.
    Bread is the toughest. Traveling a distance to specialty bakeries or stores is not realistic, and baking myself, well, i barely have time to pull together a meal with the food that we have!

  81. I read this blog daily, and I’d say we are at about 60%, which seems like a huge effort. An area I really struggle is at lunch. I’m a new mom that has just returned to work. Pre-baby I somehow managed to pack my lunch every day for work (maybe we had more leftovers because I cooked more dinners?), but post-baby I struggle to get my lunch packed and end up eating at the work cafeteria more than I’d like to. A lot of resources for lunch ideas seem to assume that I have a kitchen at my disposal at lunch time or that I am going to cook a separate lunch at night in addition to my dinner (and, let’s be honest, dinner isn’t happening as much as it used to either). With all of the craziness that a new baby adds to the day, I have about five minutes tops to throw together a lunch in the morning. I would LOVE if you guys did a blog post about lunch options. What are people bringing to work to eat these days? Also, work snacks. What are people snacking on? I can’t eat carrots every day, and my five minute lunch prep incluedes packing any snacks.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Shannon,
      Congrats on the new baby. One thing I’d definitely recommend is leftovers – if you are ok with them. Packaging up leftovers would be a simple solution to throwing something together the night before. As for snacks, can you do nuts? Change up your fruit/veggies; add in some nuts. Add in some popcorn (pop it in the micro the night before). Or how about some cheese with some veggies? Just some initial thoughts. Keep it up; 60% is great, esp. post-baby!

    2. I don’t know if It’s still available but, I bought the school lunch meal plan 100 days offered earlier this year and it has been great. A huge factor is planning ahead and using weekends to pre-make/freeze things. Another thing some of my working friends do is team up with other like minded moms and do an exchange. For example, one week you might make a double batch of granola to use in breakfasts/lunches and another friend might make a double batch of soup or lunch box mac n cheese and you share. Sticking with it really pays off. My kids used to love buying school lunch and now they groan if I tell them they have to buy it.

      1. I should add that the school lunch meals work for adults too. My husband takes them to work.

      2. Kiran Dodeja Smith

        Awesome to hear, Stephanie! Planning ahead is key. And I love your exchange idea. So glad you are enjoying the school lunch meal plan!

  82. Like others I want to thank Kiran for her blog post. We are all here to learn, get ideas, support, but in reality of daily lives not everyone can commit, has attained, or chooses 100% clean eating/living. The honesty of her story reminds us it’s okay, just where we are. This is not a contest and the decisions we make for ourselves, our family, are very personal ones. We all go through this journey from different perspectives, from different starting points, with different goals even. When I first started two years ago I only ate whole foods, organic if possible, the end. It was an abrupt and drastic change. I did not include my family however. With a husband and three young adult sons who supported me but were not going to change I had to go it alone. After one year I had such extreme weight loss my Drs begged me to reintroduce small amounts of sugar, some more dairy, etc. Things had been too difficult to do two ways for just one person so entire food groups had been completely eliminated. For a short time I reintroduced some conventional foods to stabilize my weight. Boy did it taste bad and I felt awful. Something had to give. My family was going on this ride, like it or not. I was positive I could make whole food taste good and filling. I started cooking meals that were organic, whole foods, found a local farm that had grain finished beef, and found ways to replace favorites with clean versions (salsa, p’nut butter, hummus, etc). I was finally eating with my family again, they realized whole food eating could taste good, and I feel we are moving in the right direction. When I see my husband grab hummus and carrots for a snack voluntarily instead of his normal chippy/dippy I just beam! When my 19yo says “I didn’t have much hope for this squash soup but it’s awesome!” as he heads for seconds I feel so good! It’s a challenge to find healthy replacements, but I’m working hard. When I finally got it through my head that it wasn’t an all or nothing proposition, that just because my family wasn’t going 100% whole foods was no reason not to make changes I could, it all came together much more cohesively, I found resources, and they made changes I never thought they would. As a result they, and I, am much healthier!!
    My last point, if anyone is still reading, lol, is how important respect for the individual journey and choices are. Rarely, but every once in a while I come across ‘clean living elitism’. This is where people feel their version of clean living is superior to someone else’s and they pass judgement. I’ve seen it IRL and online in forums. It’s very sad because any choice to live a cleaner life is a good one. Passing judgement on others for not ascribing to your personal version just drives people away, feeling if I can’t do this 100% any effort is not worthwhile. This is not true at all, and in fact is very damaging. Posts such as these, and the supportive replies, are the kind of attitudes that I wish were seen 100% of the time. Peace.

    1. Chelle, Kiran, Lisa, and everyone else –THANK YOU!!! I am such a newbie to better health (diet, exercise, spirituality, socialization, etc.) It is so ENCOURAGING to have online friends and “real” people who are doing their best. I am doing my best. I can’t even give you a % but I have started and I am making progress. The family is not on board and food is a constant “challenge” as I have changed my diet but they have not. BUT I have high hopes for a better life for all of us as we make lifestyle changes. I read when I can, shop where I can, buy what I can, eat the best I can and keep it in perspective, meaning, every day do my best, make the best choices, and try to keep improving. Thank you again to everyone for sharing real, honest stories and re-assuring me that all my efforts are enough for now.

  83. I love this blog and the whole concept of real food. However, as I’ve begun incorporating real food principles, the amount of time I spend planning meals, grocery shopping and preparing foods has increased a great deal (and it was a lot to begin with!). For me, it’s something I enjoy and, as a stay at home mom, I have the time to do it but I often catch myself wondering how my working friends would be able to do it. The meal plans you offer help with that. I would love to see more time saving tips geared toward the working crowd. I tell everyone about this site but I almost feel guilty telling my working friends because I worry it could make them feel totally overwhelmed. And honestly, our food budget has increased quite a bit too. I know Lisa did 100 days on a budget but, from what I recall, that involved shopping at several different locations for the lowest prices and near starvation by the end. Who can deal with that? lol

  84. This post is great! I think there is something very wrong if we feel the need to apologize for the way we feed our family. (Or if we look down at someone else for not feeding their kids the way we feed our own…I’ve seen a lot of those kinds of comments here in the past and it always saddens me.)
    Who, really, is 100% all the time? It’s an unrealistic expectation. In our home we eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies. We eat lots of whole grains. We also eat frozen waffles in the mornings. And sometimes we eat popsicles from the store full of crazy colors. I have 4 kids. I live within a budget. I don’t have time to cook everything from scratch. I don’t buy locally grown or organic all the time. And that works perfectly well for us. We are all healthy and happy, and rarely, if ever, sick. So what if you don’t perfectly follow 100% whole food all the time? If you are healthy and happy, then you are doing an awesome job!

  85. Thanks so much for sharing in honesty! My family is kind of in a backwards situation with going 100%. When my husband and I were single — and even when our son was small, we were financially able to be in the higher range of eating clean and organic. However, with a picky toddler, another baby to arrive soon, and plans for me to leave the workforce and stay at home, I’m just not able to buy all organic like I used to. I’ve spent the last few months strictly trying to budget and meal plan, but just can’t seem to get our grocery bill where it needs to be. I’ve finally accepted (reluctantly) that we’ll need to make some substitutions (like using the clean 15 list), but I’m so appreciative of blogs like this that offer tips for ways to do things as clean and budget-friendly as possible. It’s always helpful to know there are other moms out there with similar challenges. :)

  86. I agree, I’m not 100% (more like 80%) and my family well they do try to be as good as I am. But like you slightly mentioned above there is preschool, soccer snacks, friends houses, etc. I have only been doing this for a little over a month but my grocery bill has more than doubled. Plus because the food doesn’t last as long I’m at the grocery store at least once a week. And I hate the grocery store and there is no way to fix that. But with all that said it has made a difference in my asthma and my running. I breath better, I’m better hydrated, and I think my body uses my food more wisely.
    As for my family they are doing well with mommies new way because honestly I’m not cooking 2 meals. But there are times where I ask them to try what mommy is eating and then I’ll make then something else. Especially if it’s the first time I’ve made it.
    I look forward to the day when good foods are cheaper or at least they offer a coupon. But I’m not holding my breath.
    Thanks for sharing your story, I’m sure there are a lot of people you just let out of the “feeling guilty” corner for not being perfect.

  87. Kiran, thank you so much for your honest post. I am just about where you are and I’ve always felt great about that. I’ve never held myself to Lisa’s standards because I know that she has to be at 100%. I respect her so much for what she’s doing and have always thought about the fact that she can’t be at 80-90% because this is her blog. She’s got to set the bar, and we all need to respect her for that…and appreciate the fact that’s not realistic for everyone. You ALL do such a great job over at 100Days, the world is lucky to have all of you and your efforts toward making our globe a better place!

  88. This is great! We are not at 100% and likely will not be in the near future and I’ve come to accept that is ok. As a full-time working mom with 2 sons in sports and a husband that travels, sometimes convenience wins. However, I will say that it is now less often and that I am more mindful of the choices we make. As we have been on this journey for about a year, I am amazed how much I didn’t know. We now do more organic, more homemade “convenience” foods, and cook more at home, although, like Kieran I still can’t win the “peanut butter battle.” Thank you for reminding us that some progress is better than none.

  89. I love this to no end – you are focusing on the fact that you are doing your best and that is all that matters.

  90. I agree with what others have shared. Baby steps are better than no steps, and having someone show you the way is very helpful.

    For me it was a wake up call to really look at what I was eating, but I knew from the beginning it was not going to be 100%. I felt any change in the right direction was a win. We have made changes and have seen how much better we feel from the choices we have made.

    I say, Karin, 75 – 85% is better than than what, 5% two years ago!

  91. Thank you for this post! Sometimes it is hard to read all the “you must cut out x and y and z” posts when some days it feels like it’s all we can do to put something together for dinner instead of just eating cereal! We do the best we can as well and it is important to tell these types of stories so that more families feel like eating better is possible for them too.

  92. Thanks for this post… I think all moms want to provide the best for their families but in this world today you “don’t know, what you don’t know”. My kids are 15, 13 and 10 and I so wish I would have searched out this type of blog years ago. But in fairness that was not and interest to me and I thought I was doing good eating a healthily low fat, low meat, high veggie diet. Because that’s what “they” said to do. I’ve really been at the whole food thing for maybe 3-4 months. Why did I start this??? The little things like son #1 always has a headache and gets sick often. Son #2 has asthma and I hate to see him take drugs and suffer and cuz I want to be the rebel and live to 100 plus and still be a productive member of society and not spend all my money on any drugs to rid me of my ailments. So the scientist in me wants to see if by next school year I can stop the headaches and the asthma meds. I believe we are what we eat. And my kids are no longer a fruit loop or Reecies puff covered with processed white fluid called milk.

  93. I like how real your post is because there are times where some just can’t commit.

    At our house we are about 75% there. We deal with multiple food allergies and GI issues that make going 100% impossible or it would adversely effect my kid’s health (like needing a Rx formula to get certain nutrients) and my husband’s inability to convert fully. Since I started reading Lisa’s blog 3 years ago, we have made huge changes that have all been positive and every year my husband becomes more comfortable with the change.

  94. I figure I’m doing around 85% as well. It IS hard when our kids are exposed to highly processed junk all. the. time. And sometimes you really just want an oreo (GASP!). But my kids are 9 and 12 and I think they’re starting to get it. We talk about food and nutrition and smart food choices on a regular basis. I want to give them the knowledge and let THEM make the choice. I was really impressed this weekend when my youngest would not let her cousin buy a Sprite Zero because it had Aspartame in it. I must be doing something right. :)

    I have learned A LOT on this website and I’ve tried many of the recipes! One of my standby’s now is the whole wheat tortilla recipe. I make those often and use them for lunches, mexican night, or just for snacking. My family loves them! Even if I cook them a little too long and they become more of a tortilla chip! HA! 100daysofrealfood is bookmarked in my browser and I refer to it often for information and recipes. Thank you, Lisa, for starting this whole thing and getting so many families moving in the right direction to better health!

  95. Thank you for this post. I do the best I can with the resources I have – and dealing with a husband who’s not totally on board. Instead of feeling like a failure because I can not afford organic milk, I feel like doing the best I can is better then nothing.