Real Food and Children

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As I’ve mentioned many times before I love Earth Fare (both for their groceries and for their little café), but there is one thing I want to make clear…just because you are buying something from a “health food” or “all natural” type grocery store does not mean it is automatically good for you (or your children)! No matter how many great things they offer, all of those items are mixed in with a bunch of products that I would consider to be highly processed (just like any old grocery store).

It bothers me to no end when I see products like “organic cheddar bunnies,” boxed “organic macaroni and cheese,” and “organic chocolate truffles.” The only difference between these items and products like regular Goldfish and Kraft Mac & Cheese is the fact that they are organic (which is, sure, a slightly better alternative). The thing that all of these products have in common though is that they are all highly processed and made in factories with many more refined ingredients than you would ever use if you were making them from scratch at home.

This topic is top of mind after a recent visit to Earth Fare’s “free kids” dinner night. I love taking my girls to free kids night because they love it, it is good for us, and it is cheap. But, the important thing I want to clarify is that not just any meal they serve there is good for us. Just because you are eating at a place like Earth Fare does not mean you automatically get “brownie points” for feeding your kids a “healthy” dinner. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but the point is that you still have to use your brain no matter where you are buying food!

There are actually very few things I will even allow my kids to eat on the free kids night, but luckily there are just enough “real food” options that make it worthwhile for us to go. My girls usually get grilled cheese on whole-wheat bread, one of the fresh fruit side item options, carrots, applesauce, and white milk. And call me judgmental, but I can’t help but notice what the other moms are feeding their kids (that I imagine they think are decent choices as well). It’s anything from grilled cheese on white bread to organic cheddar bunnies to flavored yogurt (that is probably loaded with organic—albeit highly refined – sugar) to organic chocolate milk. I am sorry, but a meal like that doesn’t even come close to following our “real food” rules“. And at the same time I can’t help but wonder what the majority of these kids would do if their moms chose to serve them white milk instead of chocolate (which often times has as much sugar as a regular soda) or if they served them applesauce instead of organic cheddar bunnies.

My daughter recently had a friend over and I asked her if she liked white bread or whole-wheat bread (trying to gauge if she would eat what I was going to serve her). Her response was that she liked both, but her mom usually bought white. This brings me to an absolutely wonderful quote from a book called Lunch Lessons….

“Most of the parents we know complain that their children refuse to eat healthfully and come to us in search of magic recipes that will put an end to mealtime madness. The real problem most often lies with the parents, not the kids. Most of us are so accustomed to eating out and buying prepared foods in the grocery store that we don’t even know what good food is anymore. We can’t line our cabinets with packaged cereals and sodas and expect our kids to eat like they were raised on a commune in rural Vermont. In order to be good role models we must educate ourselves first and then practice what we preach.”

This book also shares two other very important points…

“Children take their time warming up to new things and if you keep giving them the old standbys they’re not going to branch out and explore new foods. Be patient. Most research says that it takes an average of ten to twelve attempts before a child will try a new food.”

“Remember that you are the boss.”

I couldn’t agree more with the authors of the book. Especially with the part about the real problem most often (but of course not always) lying with the parents because as they said…you are the boss! My 3-year-old can be very difficult when it comes to trying and liking new foods. So what this means is that it is up to me to come up with options that I think she will eat and that we would also consider to be “real food”. To constantly be offering her a decent variety of the right choices is a lot of hard work so I can completely see why some parents would want to take the easy route with foods like frozen chicken nuggets and fries. Although I have to argue that I believe your kids’ health is worth the extra effort. And the point is (especially when your kids are little) their diets are pretty much controlled by you…the parent!

For those of you who haven’t known me long…just less than a year ago I was just like any other ordinary parent when it came to feeding my kids (and my family). I am a little embarrassed to say, but I admit that before I read Michael Pollan’s book at the beginning of last year I don’t recall ever reading a single ingredient label in my life! It’s not that I didn’t care I was just clueless. And it was a huge and (at times) unpleasant transition for us to switch to a real food diet, but now it is our new normal. And one of my most favorite outcomes from our 100 Days of Real Food adventure is that I completely rid my house of all junk food. I actually put it away in the guest closet thinking we would just put it back in the pantry when the 100 days were over.

But about halfway through the pledge I surprised myself and got rid of all of it. Even though it took me 50 days to come to this conclusion I decided that I loved not having the junk around and never eating it at home. And now when my daughters are hungry for a snack they can have absolutely anything they want any time of day, and it is so nice. Nothing is off limits in our house (click for picture of our pantry), and it is so pleasurable that I can’t imagine going back to the way we were before all of this. I’ve also decided that between birthday parties, school functions, and playdates my daughters get more than enough junk food so there is absolutely no need for me to provide it to them at home as well.

One other thing I want to reiterate about the quotes from Lunch Lessons. They say based on research kids have to sometimes try a new food ten or twelve times before they warm up to it…and I believe it. Time and time again I keep serving our picky 3-year-old the same thing that the rest of us are eating for dinner only to have her turn her (cute) nose up to it. But just like the book suggests I never give up on her, although I do usually offer at least one thing on her plate that I know she likes.

One day after many failed previous attempts she all of a sudden decided she liked green bell peppers (not red or yellow), but the green ones. I of course thought this was just wonderful and eagerly helped her pick all of the green ones out of our fajitas, but it was very surprising because I had easily offered this same dish to her probably 30+ times (not just 10 or 12). And it finally worked!! This is only one small example from one family, but the point of this whole post is….it is up to you, the parent, to make the right food decisions for your kids (and also involve them in those decisions whenever you can) and to never give up!!

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  1. Hi I have a bit of an issue with some of the choices you deemed safe and healthy. I live in Canada (thank goodness) and would really like you to research your healthy food choice for white milk. My uncle works for Canada Customs with Health Canada and warned us not to consume Milk from the states as they use Bovine Growth Hormones and it is impossible to keep the puss from the cows utters out of the milk. This milk is used to make your organic or whole food dairy products as well. Just some food for thought… Also while I believe it is extremely commendable for you and your family to eat Whole foods or “Real foods”(Our family has been doing it for 5 years now) I do not understand why all the discrimination about other peoples food choices. After all thats why they are called choices. I don’t usually comment on blog posts but did find some of your comments in the post to be highly discriminatory and a direct blow to others parenting. Even though we eat whole foods at home (we grow our own produce raise our own game etc) I would not begrudge my son from having a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread at a friends house lol I am so thankful to live in a country where I do not have to worry about hormones being pumped into my families meat and dairy products, but do agree with you that it is a choice that is easily made by a parents example… I was really into following this blog (as I just found it today and was quite excited) before I stumbled on this post. I just really wish that people weren’t so judgmental. Its because of the judgmental attitude that people who choose this lifestyle got the name “health nuts” and why people shy away from listening to others tell them about healthier food choices…

    1. Hi. I just wanted to chime in. Alot of the dairy farmers here in the states are NOT using the growth hormone anymore. They all used to. Thankfully most farmers will not anymore, although some have not jumped on that wagon, yet.. lol. We’re getting there :)

  2. I can’t quite believe some many people got their undies in bunch over your post. Anyways, that aside, I wanted to share a story that I saw on an ER show that was dramatizations of real cases that doctors have seen. They had this little boy–like 3–that came in with a strange set of symptoms. I can’t remember now quite what they were. But in the end, the doctor figured out that the child had SCURVY caused by a lack of vitamin C because “all he will eat is oatmeal” according to the parents. The doctor had to tell them basically the same thing you advocate–You are the parent… YOU make the choices. Very few children will starve themselves long term to avoid something they think they don’t like (or don’t like at first).

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I just wanted to say that I applaud you for your efforts to educate our culture about the harms of eating unhealthy foods and the importance of eating well. My husband and I have been on a real foods journey for over four years now, and have been trying very hard to protect our almost two year-old son from developing improper taste preferences. He loves real foods and good beverage choices despite the fact that he is offered highly processed and refined sugary options too frequently by other special people in his life. Eating well is not the easiest way to eat, but it is so incredibly vital and rewarding. I am also an internist practicing primary care, and I am on a mission to teach my patients this message too(even though it was unfortunately not a focus of my education which was more geared towards pharmacotherapy and secondary prevention).
    Please keep up the good work!


  4. I was looking for your stance on Annie’s snack products as I do use them to hold over my ravenous children until my from scratch meal is complete. I agree with you and do not take offense. I don’t think it is a great choice. I do think it is better than a lot of options. I am a stay-at-home Mom that makes every meal from scratch and sometimes I just honestly NEED convenience food! I pick Annie’s organic for this purpose. They don’t get it in most instances, so I feel ok with this decision. Keep up the good work. You do make a difference!

  5. I also was suprised at the judgment you pass.
    I take the same stand as you, my house is rid of junk food and we just plain don’t have it in the house, so on that note, I DO allow my kids to eat what they want when we are out of the house. Avoiding places that have bowls of junk food and processed foods as only choices. How dare you to parent judge.

  6. I came to this post because a friend posted about your cheddar crackers. I was interested in linking over to see your thoughts on the cheddar bunnies. I had no idea if you would say you love them so much you couldn’t stop eating them and therefor need a substitute, or that they were terrible in every way. I am surprised by your judgment on other parents and the feeling you give off that you are smarter and superior to them. I would think that as you start down a path of trying to feed your kids healthier you would realize how many different schools of thought there are and be open to the idea that other parents might be following a different one. There are movements preferring white bread over wheat. The are family situations that are different than your own, like the commenters mentioned above, or they may be that they are only on day 10 of 100 days and to the kids it’s huge to have a yogurt instead of a pudding. Be gentle, because everyone’s processing different info, and for their own family’s needs. Here’s the only link I can find right now about white being potentially better than brown, but one day I jumped from link to link and found a lot of interesting info, that to me says depending on what your body needs in a given day there’s benefits to eating whole wheat (or brown starches) and benefits to eating white.

  7. I love this site. I too have picky kids w/SPD -one is a seeker who likes crunchy and spicy can’t take anything mushy and/or sweet. Then the other is sensory averse and can’t take anything with texture or spice. Throw in a husband who can’t stand the smell of squash or anything cruciferous, etc. and won’t drink water, and won’t eat most vegetables (other than simple salad) and he won’t abide by the one bite rule (thus the kids feel they don’t have to either.

    I use a process called chaining. I have taken my pastafarian child to only eating Kraft mac and Cheese to eating a much healthier version

    a) Kraft Mac and Cheese but use real butter and whole milk (switch one at a time)
    b) Annie’s Mac and Cheese in Blue Box (not the organic but the box is similar color to Kraft)
    c) Switch out ¼- pasta and replace whole grain macaroni –keep the cheese mix
    d) Gradually increase amount of wheat pasta
    e) Do half the cheese mix and half real cheese and change until you get to real cheese only.
    *** you could also do cheese first and then pasta

    My averse child (Who is 13!!!!) is still picky but now she is eating whole grain pastas and breads (still working on getting her to eat a homemade tortilla instead of storebought), real cheese, whole milk, Stonyfield yogurt (Strawberry only –must be totally smooth), fruit cups in juice (won’t do the same fruits raw except melons , bananas and strawberries), will take natural peanut butter if mixed with half regular, homemade ranch dressing, and most of the softer raw veggies (tomatoes and carrots), Cheerios as a cereal (all the others don’t taste right to her so far). She recently added Chik-Fil-A nuggets so I’m trying to get different HM versions (so far only Shake and Bake is excepted –so next I will do a HM Shake and Bake). We also just got her to eat a chocolate muffin and hope to move to fruit muffins eventually. We just got her to eat plain sauce (no chunks) on her pasta in the past year and last week I got her to eat pizza sauce on her cheese quesadilla. Still struggling with a pizza crust she will eat that is whole grain (she won’t do English muffin or French bread pizzas –she likes the frozen bagel pizzas but won’t eat the WW bagels because the crusts have a seedy like texture)

  8. Just a thank you for all of this information and education! I have been passionate about real food for my one year old, and made all of his baby food from scratch but have been struggling for the last months since he’s been eating “big people” food. It is difficult to avoid those Goldfish and other junk crackers that seem to be staples in toddler-snack land… I am LOVING your recipes and I’m so inspired with all of these ideas for healthy, real food for my family.

  9. I just recently stumbled across this blog on a sleepless night…I have a tween who is adjusting quite well to the changes that I am trying to make in our eating habits as a result of reading it. I am amazed at the things she is trying that I never thought she would eat! I made the banana pancakes this morning and she loved them. I am struggling with snacks. She said several times yesterday, “There are no snacks in this house.” After dinner, it was “There is nothing for dessert in this house.” I have been focusing on meals, but need to read through the snack suggestions and have things handy for her. I just wanted to let you know how wonderful this blog has been for me. I am excited to try so many of the recipes you have provided. I have a long, long way to go to 100% real food, but we won’t be eating frozen pizzas anymore:)! Thank you!

  10. Jennifer and Courtney, I have a box of cheddar bunnies in my pantry, nearly gone. Just started the 10 day pledge. Lighten up ladies. Really, you are offended? Can’t you see the heart in this post and the integrity in her research? Let’s face it. There are a lot of mom’s that don’t care and a lot that let their kids rule the menu! Then there is the clueless, and the ones like us…simply trying to raise healthy kids! Get angry and offended over our horrible food supply and how we’ve been lied to about it! I did and that is why I found this blog. Thanks Lisa! You do a great work!

  11. I really appreciate your post. A few months ago, I decided to begin eliminating processed foods from my family’s diet. As a stay-at-home Mom, I cook all of our meals from scratch but found myself constantly relying on boxed foods for snacks. After reading about how much corn is in dog food, it really got me thinking about how much corn-products/other additives must be in our own food. This is something I kind of knew in the back of my head but more-or-less chose to ignore because of convenience. We have afterschool activities almost everyday & it was so easy to throw a prepackaged snack into a bag to take on the road! My kids are 10, 7 & 6. It has been a big change for them to not be able to open the “snack cabinet” and find it full of stuff…even if the foods were crackers, goldfish, fruit gummie snacks, etc. I constantly talk to them about why we are changing our diets, which really seems to help them understand and be more open to change. I have also taken my kids on individual occasions to a “health food store.” When I first began this change over and went to this store, I was blown away by how many boxed foods that were organic. I was over-the-moon happy with myself, however, that I had found your blog before this journey and was able to look at the ingredients on the back and realize just how much sugar and other processed trash were in the ingredients. Because of you helping to open my eyes, I was able to make better choices. I’m definitely not perfect, I would like to do more (like make my own bread…which scares me!! :) ) but I figure I will accomplish my goals in due time. In the meantime, I know I am working very hard to move our diets in a more wholesome direction.

  12. As I’ve said before, I live far from “good” grocery stores. I’ve even called Walmart’s Corporate Office and spoke to our store’s assistant manager about making some items available (mostly organic dairy foods), which they have yet to do. I was SO excited to make a trip to Trader Joe’s and the STL Farmer’s Market. I thought that going somewhere like “Trader Joe’s” meant that I could relax and choose any and everything. We were able to buy cheese and grass-fed beef there, but Walmart has as many “whole foods” as they do. I appreciate that they don’t have HFCS or GMO’s (although I saw corn and soy products on their non-organic labels…so what does that mean?), but I was really let down that much of their food was so processed. I don’t always abide by the 5 ingredient rule, especially if I recognize the ingredients (i.e. beef stock that contains celery juice, onion juice, carrot juice, beet juice, etc.). However, I now realize that I will have to keep reading labels no matter where I shop. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. Oh, to be able to feed my kids canned soup without guilt again….lol.

  13. I SO want to try this real food thing, but I have a couple challenges. First off, my husband will only eat vegetables if they are 1)a potato or 2)chopped so small and cooked so thoroughly that they are unnoticable. Secondly, I have a child with sensory processing disorder (which is a BIG reason I want to try this) but her ability to eat certain things is limited. And unfortunately, some of the things she WILL eat are highly processed and it just kills me to feed her those things. (She will literally go without eating at all, rather than put some things in her mouth.) I think I’m going to try to do some of it, and see if we can change gradually. Thanks for your resources! I’m actually pretty excited to get started! (And I know it’s possible to do at least some changes. We eat mostly meals made from scratch now- and treats too- but 7 years ago, we ate almost only prepackaged/ frozen meals.)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      It sounds like you have your work cut out for you…I am wishing you the very best of luck!! And baby steps are the way to go :)

    2. I also have an SPD kiddo! My 6-year-old little girl is SPD. It is a process, but so worth it to get them to eat healthy, whole foods. We have been working on this for 4 years and she is doing so well now! Keep up the good work, Momma!

  14. I am so sad to see that you deleted my comment. I meant no harm and I really would feel sorry for you if your children ever see that you also have faults like the rest of us.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I always welcome the opposing view, but this is a food blog not a parenting blog. Your comment did not say a word about food and was instead solely about my parenting skills so it did not fit.

      1. Dana, I also notice that they don’t allow much opposition to hang around long. I recently posted something negative about the website (technical, not even philosophical at all) and it was gone by the end of the day. They seem good at passing judgement, but not great at taking it.

      2. Sara – I apologize, but have no idea what you are talking about. I just found this comment of yours in the pending area for some reason (wordpress automatically filed it there)…we occasionally do have comments that accidentally end up in the spam folder or the wrong place. We rarely delete the opposing viewpoint unless it is just downright ugly.

  15. I have 4 kids. I buy whole grain breads bc we do not eat a lot of bread. We buy white pasta and some other things too…however the majority of our diet is whole foods such as veggies, fruits, yogurts, cottage cheese etc. Moderation is key. With four kids and the oldest almost 16…I have found that how you feed them to start is key. Get rid of the jarred baby foods and feed real foods. All the baby cereals are nothing more than rice or oat FLOURS with added vitamins. I recently started following Dr. Greene’ s whiteout. I always did real food with our kids and they have always been good eaters. Variety and moderation are important. Cooking from scratch is better handsdown any day. You control the ingredients even if it is white flour. I believe that the obesity is how we start our kids off and the boxed food, juices and excessive, hidden calories they eat more than whether they eat white or wheat.

  16. Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama}

    I respectfully disagree with you that the only difference between certain natural brands of organic macaroni and cheese and Kraft are one is organic and one is not. Kraft has ingredients like yellow 5 and yellow 6 (dangerous artificial dyes). Annie’s Organic Macaroni and Cheese has no artificial ingredients or dangerous preservatives. And that the cheese is organic IS important.

    I do appreciate your position on processed foods. Fresh foods will always beat out processed and I definitely limit our processed food consumption. But when I’m in a pinch, I don’t feel bad feeding my daughter Annie’s organic mac and cheese.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Maryea – You are right! I think the artificial coloring is pretty bad…so that is another difference other than the organic aspect. Thanks for point that out!

  17. I thought I posted earlier but I don’t see it. Anyhow what I basically said was…. I have 3 kiddos (all girls which makes food and eating a very touchy and hard subject to navigate) and I let them have a “special treat” and I do not call it a special treat. I do this because I feel as a mother it is my role to encourage them to make decisions and learn their own boundaries and balance. We do not keep a lot of processed sweets or treats in our home but when when there is candy from parties and things of that sort they may eat a couple of pieces a day for a couple of days straight and in my experience they have grown tired of it by that point and I can throw it out without an issue. To me those special treats are just a part of life and I think making it an issue everyday could be putting out the wrong message and stress them out when it really isn’t necessary. I try to lead by example and hope that is enough but I also want them to be confident in themselves and the decisions they make and I think that starts now.

    O and I love your blog! I am so glad I stumbled upon your little corner of the world. I am so appreciative to be able to have this as a resource. Please do not let negative comments take away from the good going on here and please continue. I also love that you turn negatives into positives… you new mini pledges seem to have come from the negative comments. Keep on trucking and I will right with you.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I agree raising girls can be touchy in the food dept! I am trying to be careful myself with two girls, and I like your idea about not making treats a big deal although still offering them on occasion. Thanks so much for the nice comment…hope you’ll join us for the mini-pledges!

  18. Thank you so, so, so much for your blog.

    I at first was slightly offended by this post. But I figured out why…it’s called GUILT. I know I feed my kid’s Annie’s Chedder Bunnies (and mac and cheese) because it is easy. My 3 year old is so picky that I’m afraid to cut out all processed foods! He doesn’t like meat or cheese (unless it is Tyson Chicken Nuggets or on a pizza!! :( :( ) I can’t believe I’m afraid of a preschooler! He does great with fruits and veggies and loves yogurt. He doesn’t like beans.

    Anyway your blog consistently inspires me to keep trying. I just made your granola, it was great! And so are your tortillas. I wish I could just get my kid to eat the homemade chicken nuggets!! Keep up the great work.

  19. I also watch what other perents and people are feeding themselves and their families and most times I am apalled! (Is it coincidence that the worst offenders can barely walk if at all?) I don’t make comments to them but its my guilty pleasure to think that I am making better choices. Maybe its payback for the numerous people I know that call me crazy (to my face) for baking my own bread and making sweet and sour sauce from scratch (among many other things)! I applaud you for putting yourself out here for everyone to see!

  20. When our now 8-year-old son was a toddler, my husband used to be very proud of himself when he gave him Shreak fruit snacks for a treat. Don’t get me wrong – I gave them to him, too, so I’m not pointing at my husband. But my husband would be really proud of himself and say, “But the label says they have 100% of his Vitamin C for the day.” Which is true. But it was obvious (I thought) that they contained artificial everything and weren’t really that healthy.

    We eat healthily, and I understand that when I let my kids occasionally have chocolate milk (I always serve white at home) or cheddar bunnies, there are probably healthier options. But I don’t feel guilty. We’re still way better off than lots of families, certainly better off than when I was a kid. I love the part in this post about how parents are in charge of what their kids eat. I couldn’t agree more! This applies to lots of things besides food, but I know we’re talking about food here ;-). Still, parents are in charge!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with junk food in moderation…especially if you know it is “junk” food!! Thanks for the comment!

  21. I wanted to voice my support and agreement with this post. I took no offense at all, and am sorry others have. Your efforts are inspiring.
    I have actually talked with a few family members over the past two years about this “healthy junk food” myth/trap. It is easy to believe the packaging! Unless you read the ingredients…
    Treats are special at our house, and the desire to make real food from scratch has inspired me to make treats from scratch – cookies, crackers, etc.

  22. I just found your blog a few days ago and have really enjoyed reading through your posts and recipe. I have also been trying to focus more on WHOLE food than on the things I used to think defined health food – i.e. low fat low cal. I have been utilizing my local farmers market as much as possible and loving all of the fresh produce.
    I was wondering, though, what you thought about all the sugar content in great harvest bread? I have one near my house also, and I think their bread is delicious. However, each slice on average contains 5 or 6 grams of sugar (and a lot of sodium!). Each slice is more dense than your average store-bought loaf, and at least the sugar is coming from honey, but still lots of sugar overall.
    Just wanted to know your thoughts. I am told all the sugar is supposed to help extend the shelf-life by a few days since there are no preservatives, and all of the salt is to balance out all of the honey. Interesting how it all works!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Thanks for the comment! In regards to the Great Harvest bread what they offer is light-years above anything else that I can find around here. The fact that it is made with 100% freshly ground whole wheat (and only has 4 other ingredients) is so wonderful that it kind of makes me overlook the other stuff. Plus their bread is so dense and filling that we usually only eat 1 slice at a time (as opposed to 2 slices of grocery store bread) so it does balance things out a little. I just recently got my own breadmaker though and will (attempt) to start making my bread at home now. One of the best things about making something yourself is that you can control exactly what goes in it. I made my first loaf which was cinnamon-raisin bread and it only had 2 tablespoons of honey in the whole recipe. And it was delicious! So unless you want to make it yourself (which many people do even w/o a bread maker) I think Great Harvest is the next best option out there!

  23. Thank you so much for this post. It has inspired me to tighten up in some areas that I have been slacking off!

    I also want to say that I appreciate your blog very much. Reading new and re-reading old posts is a big help in keeping me on track.

    I noticed that some moms mentioned working full time. I work full time, have a 9-year-old, a 2-year- old, a dog, a rabbit, a husband, a house and all the time consuming things that come with the territory. What helps me is to spend about an hour prepping food on Sunday and getting up 15 mins early (4:45!) one or two times a week to start meals. I don’t do this because of what we eat; “junk meals” take just as much time. I do this because I’m a busy mom. Cooking real food takes no extra time unless I’m doing something like baking bread. Then I get my kids involved. For full disclosure, our meals and snacks are very simple and I buy produce based on the “dirty dozen” when my local farmer’s market is closed for winter.

    1. I’m so glad you posted this. The being a busy mom should not mean sacraficing the health of your CHILDREN and your family. Getting up early and working a little harder is part of being a mom and like you said, an easy way to balance spending time in the kitchen with spending time with your kids is to get them involved in the cooking!

  24. I have read your blog quite a bit and we are trying to get more ‘real foods’ into our diets–I’m really, really trying to get as close to 100% as I can, but I have kids that flat-out refuse to eat some of the things I have tried to make them from your online recipes. Which is a bummer because I think a lot of the recipes are really great!
    However, I don’t think you can expect everyone to eat like you do and I certainly don’t think it’s fair to judge those people–I have a lot of friends that serve their kids crap food all the time. Do I think I’m better than them because I try to serve my kids healthier, real food? No.
    Again, I think that your website/blog has a ton of great advice for people and I think that if people read it and make even a few changes based on what you advise, then that’s a step in the right direction.
    I’ve always been a label reader–mostly because of my 7 year old with a severe peanut allergy–but I read labels in a whole new way now because of you (don’t know if I should thank you or hate you for that, haha!) We have made a lot of changes here and I’m proud of that! But I am not planning on withholding certain treats from my kids because, honestly, what fun is childhood without a little candy!! :)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Thanks for your comment, and I hate that people came to the conclusion that I only think this can be done 100% of the way. The way we eat real food is not for everyone, and I am truly thrilled if I can convince people to make even the smallest changes. We are all voting with our dollars and every little bit counts.
      Also, for the record…I let my girls have candy/cupcakes/junk on occasion as well. Moderation is key!

  25. Lisa,

    Your blog is AWESOME. You have spent so much time educating so many people. I truly look forward to your blog and the next post. I have learned so much and to be honest I want to hear all sides.
    I must say I learn a tremendous amount from reading the responses. That is what makes this site so great. What you are doing for others is fantastic. I have made so many changes this year based on your information. Living in CLT is a bonus for me too!
    Thank you!

  26. I am also annoyed by some of the negative reaction to this blog post. Lisa has been nothing but helpful and honest in this blog, changing lives for the better. She has a right to an opinion, and frankly, her opinion is a correct observation. To those parents that got offended by this post probably did so because it struck a guilty cord in that you are not providing the best option to your children sometimes, for any reason. Every parent has the right to do what they think is best for their children, but we must admit she has a valid point.

    1. No guilt here. I happily feed my kids “Goldfish” for a snack. I wouldn’t even spend the money on “Cheddar Bunnies” just because they are organic.

      I think the point was that she did not know anything about the parents and what they feed their children outside that one instance she was observing. I agree that there are plenty of parents who are not as vigilant ( or don’t care )about what goes into their children’s bodies.

      I find most of what Lisa writes in her blog interesting.You can still enjoy reading what she has to say without agreeing with everything. I CHOSE not to eat or feed my family 100% real food ( maybe 80 -90% ). I am very educated about my choice. Have fun with food and enjoy every bite!

      So keep writing this blog Lisa! Whether we embrace real food totally or just partially, we can all learn something.

      1. 100 Days of Real Food

        You are right Jennifer…people don’t have to do this “all” or “nothing” to still get something out of the blog! This is obviously just my opinion from one extreme end of the spectrum.

  27. Lisa, you have been a huge inspiration in our household. I only found this 100 days of real food about a month ago. But, because of this blog and your recipes I have been reading labels and cooking from scratch. I even made homemade canned salsa. So, just wanted to let you know that you are doing a great job and having a major healthy influence on us. I am sure there are many more just like me out there who are gaining so much knowledge from your blog and your recipes. I too thought that we were eating healthy and now because of the information that you offer, realize we can do way better.
    Thank you for doing what you do!! Please keep the posts coming and know that you are encouraging especially to us newbies.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I am touched by your comment…thank you!!! And don’t you worry because I am not going anywhere! :)

  28. I’m guilty! LOL I just gave my girls Cheddar bunnies for a snack LOL But they wanted chocolate doughnuts at the grocery store so I felt like it was a “slightly better” choice. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog-Keep up the amazing posts. :)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Well it is certainly better than chocolate donuts LOL. Thanks so much for the comment and for reading!!

  29. I am slightly annoyed at the people attacking this post. This entire blog has been about NOT being tricked by labels and makes the BEST (not the perfect) choices for your family. She very clearly stated that these products may be SLIGHTLY better alternatives. But I believe her main point was that a lot of parents just give into their children because their kids “don’t like that”. Well of course they don’t when they KNOW you’ll make them mac n cheese or frozen chicken nuggets instead! I TRULY appreciate EVERY SINGLE POST Lisa makes because she’s honest about short comings! She mentioned in this very blog that her kids still get junk food other places and she’s not snatching them up and not allowing them around those people because of it is she? She is simply CHOOSING to make better choices for her family and trying to insist that the parents who ARE fooled by advertising pay closer attention to the food they are buying.

    I just want to restate how much I appreciate this blog. It really has opened my eyes and given me simple delicious whole food recipes to get me started on a path to healthier living. Thank you so much for spending so much of your FREE TIME writing this blog, Lisa. You truly are an inspiration!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I love you Laurin for saying that. It really means a lot. I only have good intentions putting myself out there with this blog and even though criticism comes with the territory it doesn’t make it easy!! Thank you so much for your comment :)

  30. Lisa – You know I love your blog, and I am so thrilled that you are doing this.

    But, I have to offer a word of defense for the parents. As an almost-full-time working lawyer mom, I can only do so much…or, if I choose to provide only 100% real, made-from-scratch meals for my family, I will miss out on actually spending TIME with them in an effort to make sure they eat only 100% all-natural, non-processed foods. So, while I agree that many parents are probably un- or under-educated about what is in the “organic” mac-n-cheese they purchase at the store, in my case, it’s sometimes a situation of making a BETTER choice instead of a PERFECT choice – in an effort to actually hang out with my kids for an hour or so after I get off work.

    Every family has their own story, and just because they pick up the organic boxed mac-n-cheese or flavored organic yogurt doesn’t mean they are bad or clueless parents. Though, education is important, and I’m glad that parents are starting to pay attention, but we can’t all be perfect in everything all the time!! I think my kids benefit more from my focused time spent with them than that made-from-scratch mac-n-cheese!

    But, keep blogging, I love it and am learning so much! (Made your whole chicken in a crock pot today, we’ll see how it goes).

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Meg – I truly understand that working parents have far less time to be spending in the kitchen (especially since I worked full time up until Sydney was 4), and I couldn’t agree more that spending valuable time with your children is critical. As you said some parents know what they are doing when they choose organic mac and cheese or flavored organic yogurt (which as I said on the post are slightly better alternatives), but I was speaking more of the parents who don’t fully understand their choices. Part of the point I was trying to make is that for some things (whether you are a working mom or not) it is honestly the same effort to order or buy whole-wheat bread (vs. white), plain milk (vs. chocolate), applesauce (vs. cheddar bunnies), or plain yogurt that you flavor with a little honey yourself (vs. pre-flavored yogurt). Those are a few examples that require no extra effort, but would most of the time be up to the parents to make those choices. I am by no means trying to suggest everyone cook from scratch 100% of the time b/c even though some of us have the time it is not always pleasurable to spend that many hours in the kitchen. I am more speaking of parents who don’t understand (and think they are making the best choices thanks to all of the confusing health claims from the food industry) or could make better choices with no additional effort…but for some reason choose not to.
      As you know I am extremely passionate about this topic…I hate that some took this post the wrong way! I obviously mean no harm and use my spare time to write this blog solely to provide resources and support for others. And I definitely plan to keep on blogging! :) Let me know how the chicken turns out!

      1. Thanks, Lisa. You are right, parents could easily put a little honey in the plain yogurt or give applesauce instead of cheddar bunnies. I LOVE to cook from scratch, and if I were a stay-at-home-mom, or worked less than I do, I would cook most meals from scratch…I love it! And, as you know, I make most of my bread from scratch because it is fun for me.

        My older son does LOVE chocolate milk, though…so, I allow him to have it every so often as a treat. Sometimes, even at Earth Fare! ;)

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        Treats are a good thing! As long as they are truly “treats” and not something they have all the time of course. Also, for a less processed chocolate milk alternative try making chocolate milk at home using this chocolate sauce: My girls love chocolate milk too, and I even use this sauce to make them “hot” chocolate on those cold winter days.

    2. Meg I totally agree! And I am a stay at home mom and I still don’t have time to make everything from scratch all the time. Although I love to cook as well. Sometimes the park is calling and the bread does not get made. But I don’t feel guilty at all. I make well educated decisions on what I feed all of us. And I would hate for someone to judge me based on the one time they see her eating junk and assume that I don’t know that organic does not mean healthy.

  31. I have the same issues in my house. And I had a similar experience at a museum last week. Every kid was drinking apple juice and eating white pasta. No wonder there are so many behavioral problems in the 2-5 set.

    Many many people have given me the advice to keep at it, that kids must try stuff DOZENS of times. But that doesn’t seem to work with my kids. My kids might like something 2 or 3 times and then suddenly have a phobia. Or vice versa. Or like my oldest who has a fear of leafy greens that is unmatched in the world, yet he will pick kale out of the grocery bags and eat it raw on occasion. Huh? My yougest is more classic, when he gets older and more open I think he will try things after seeing them a dozen times. He currently is in total food phobia mode. If it is not meat or fish, he won’t eat it unless there is considerable negotiation, which usualy means me smearing a little on his lips so he can taste it.

    Every kid is different. And there are foods that my kids simply don’t like. There are foods I don’t like. I still can’t stomach scrambled eggs. So I try to respect that. I always felt deficient as a parent when I heard that you just had to stick with it and offer offer offer, because it just wasn’t working for me. I bet other folks feel the same. In the mean time I keep offering broccoli knowing that my big guy likes in, yet someday my little guy will at least try it. I don’t have any other tricks.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Thank you Christa for not making me be the only one who admits to looking at what other people are eating/drinking! :)
      And I agree that not all kids can easily be converted (or would welcome a whole food substitute)…there are always exceptions to the rule. It is such a tricky topic too b/c you want to be gentle about it and hopefully convince them to eat something that is good for them w/o having to force it down their throats! You know your own kids better than anyone else though so you know when it would be taking things too far. I know you are already very educated about all of this real food stuff, and it sounds like you are doing the right thing with them by not giving up despite any setbacks!!

  32. WOW! This really opens my eyes up to places like Earth Fare! I went to Earth Fare for the first time a few weeks ago and I just assumed that everything in there was “healthy”. Thanks for reminding me that I still have to keep my “guard” up and make sure I read labels!

  33. Agreed with it being the parents that are mainly the problem with a kid’s picky eating habits. My children have always eaten the dinner that we have made – and even if they tell me that they *hate* an item – they still have to eat what is on their plate (only a Tablespoonish). My son used to always gag (literally!) when he had to eat broccoli – but last night – when asked what was for dinner – he actually cheered when I told him that I was serving broccoli with broiled salmon!! I don’t eat clean by any means – but at least try to be aware that if I don’t introduce good food to my kids – how are they going to know any better?!?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I love hearing about your experience with your son and the broccoli. My picky 3-year-old has that gagging reflex down pat, and it is amazing how making them try stuff can really work (sometimes)!

  34. Okay. I am on the real food diet, and I LOVE cheddar bunnies, and I feed them to my 15 month old and I refuse to feel bad about this decision. I have a child with 6 teeth who often needs a portable snack. And sure, I could probably make cheddar crackers myself at home but I spend enough time in the kitchen cooking breakfast lunch and dinner from scratch. And no, I dont pretend it’s a health food. But it does have far less ingredients than say, goldfish crackers (if you look st the back to nature whole wheat crackers, there are four ingredients. Four.) And I’m far from uneducated about healthy foods. We have whole grains, fruits, and veggies at every single meal. So what is so wrong with treating your kid or yourself to some cheesy crackers? Nothing. It’s a snack, not her meal, and it’s not like I’m giving her a bag of snickers to munch on. And I’m personally offended that you admit to jusging other moms based on what they feed their kids. Maybe chocolate milk is their once a week treat. You dont know those moms, or their kids, or their eating habits at home.
    I have to say I’m honestly offended a little by this post and you may have lost a reader. I am a real foodie but I feel we should be encouraging others to eat healthier, not judging them on their shortcomings, especially if we are recent converts ourselves. It’s so easy to use healthy eating and organic foods as another way to make ourselves feel better than others as a parent, but parents need support, not enemies or judgement.

    1. I agree with Courtney. I am very upset by this post. You are being very judgemental and condescending! You worry about your family and what they eat and I will worry about mine. I am very educated about food and make good choices for myself and my children. I will more than likely never go to 100% Real Food. Eating real food is the preferable way to eat but it is more about balance and moderation for my family.

      It is wonderful that your family has embraced this style of living but it is not for everybody. You should be more encouraging to people making small healthy food changes in their lives.

      1. 100 Days of Real Food

        Jennifer – I couldn’t agree with you more that balance and moderation are very important, and as I said in my response to Courtney the whole reason I write this blog (for free in my spare time) is to hopefully encourage people and provide resources for them. I live and breathe this real food stuff, and I am extremely interested in other people’s food choices (good or bad). I realize that I by no means know the whole story when I see what people are eating, but the whole point of my post was about people who are being fooled by health food claims and products from health food stores. And also about parents who don’t even try. And even if you or I are not one of these parents we must admit there are thousands of them out there. I certainly did not mean to offend anyone and was just freely speaking my mind about this topic.

      2. She is worrying about her family and letting others worry about theirs. She didn’t go up to someone and tell them off for what they were buying did she? She admitted to THINKING judgemental things, which absolutely everyone is guilty of, yourself included. She volunteers her free time to write this as a way of educating and supporting others trying to eat healthy. No one is forcing you to read it. I have to wonder, if you’re offended by something like that then maybe it’s a sign of guilt?

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Courtney – I am always appreciative to hear the opposing argument, but it sounds like even though you eat the cheddar bunnies you understand what it is made of and when it would be appropriate to eat them. As I said in a comment above I am …all for a special treat. What I was speaking of in my post are the thousands of other moms out there who are fooled by the tricky buzz words on packaging (like multigrain and organic), and automatically think something like that is “healthy” when it is not. Or the moms who don’t even try at all and give their kids chocolate milk and other types of junk food every day (when their kids might very well eat a healthier alternative…but they of course just eat what is given to them).
      I knew some might think my words were harsh, but I by no means meant to offend anyone. I agree that my “judgmental” quality is not a great one…we certainly all have our flaws. But please understand the whole reason I volunteer my free time to even write this blog is because I am extremely passionate about this topic, and want to provide support (and resources) to people so they can make changes as well. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours of my free time writing posts/recipes and sharing the intimate details of what we eat solely to draw attention to this important topic and to also (hopefully) provide to support to people so they feel they can make positive changes as well. I assure you that I mean no harm in what I am trying to do here.

  35. Excellent post! Thank you very much. You have inspired me. So many parents I know just don’t take the time to learn about healthy eating and planning family meals that are healthy. It is so uplifting when I see parents who do genuinely care. Food habits begin so early and they are hard to break so it is so important to start good habits as early as possible. “Lunch Lessons” sounds like a great book. Thanks again for the article.

    Thai Cooking

  36. Thanks for the post. It is so confusing to go into these stores and know the difference. Some are obvious but some can be real sneaky about it.
    Here’s my latest struggle. Sometimes I see an ingred. label with 5 ingred. or less but then it also has items listed in parentheses after certain ingredient names. What does that mean?
    I also went in to a gluten free store the other day. The lady who was working said most all gluten free food is whole food. However, some of them have an ingredient list longer than 5. I asked the lady about it and she rattled off what each item was and stated they were all natural things. Does this make sense? What are your thoughts? Should I trust that?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Mary – You are not alone…navigating food products and understanding their lists of ingredients is VERY difficult! There are many ingredients out there that are certainly “natural”, but also highly refined. Two perfect examples of this are wheat refined into white flour and sugar cane refined into white granulated sugar. So being “natural” is not the only thing that you want to look for, although I would rather my daughters have a treat made of “natural” ingredients like white flour and sugar as opposed artificial ingredients/coloring. The parentheses just shows what’s in some of those ingredients…sometimes those lists are okay and sometimes not (just depends on what it says). But it doesn’t count as part of the five. We just had to draw the line somewhere when it came to how many ingredients foods could have during the pledge. I did a post on understanding grains that might help you a little. It gives some insight on how to tell if grains other than wheat (which might help with gluten-free shopping) are whole grain. With any kind of grain the most important thing is for it to be the “whole” grain…and of course organic.

  37. I absolutely agree! And I think it needs to be said more and more. I know my inlaws buy organic things just for the sake of it being organic and I know I’ve said over and over “organic doesn’t make it good for you”. I even struggle with the idea that not everything homemade is good for you. Of course it’s better than store bought, but a cookie filled with butter and sugar is still not good for you whether it’s homemade or not(not that we don’t get treats occasionally – but that’s just what they are). Those are great quotes you posted, I love them! Thank you for sharing :)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Heidi – What you said about even homemade foods not being good for you is what I struggled with the most when we first started making changes. Sweets and cookies aside I used to make homemade pasta from scratch…with white flour! I was floored at the thought of something like that being “bad” for us to eat. Unfortunately our society is inundated with refined grains (among other highly processed foods) so it didn’t even seem out of the ordinary for me at the time. I can understand why it is hard for people to “get” all of this though (like your in-laws). It’s like having to relearn what we’ve been told for so long is “good” for us b/c we’ve been tricked by the food industry!

  38. You mean organic oreos aren’t health food? Just kidding! I feel the same way as you. Calling a food organic does not make it healthy – it just makes it expensive (organic snack/junk foods are pricy!).

    I have a question for you about the junk your girls do get other places. How often and is there any junk that is a no-no for you? My husband and I are currently “fighting” about this in regards to our (not quite 2 year old) son. While we eat real food at home, I realize that compromises must be made elsewhere and I am fine with that to a degree. I am “fine” with letting him eat white flour/sugar and other things like that but do not like him having ingredients like hfcs, hydrogenated oils, and artificial food colorings. My husband’s argument is that a little bit here and there is not going to give him food issues or make him obese. Any ideas of articles/studies I could point him to to show him the effects of “just a little bit” on such young and developing children? Or should I just surrender the battle…

    1. Mari,

      For the record, my parents withheld all “junk food” and other unhealthy food from me starting at 1 year old because my doctor was concerned about my height/weight balance. Without going into too much detail, I have struggled with my weight my entire life, and I am now convinced it has to do, in part, with my parents making food such a big issue all the time. So I’m with your husband. A little junk food on rare special occasions will not give him food issues or make him obese, but totally withholding and forcing him to sit there and watch his friends eat the cupcakes just might!

      1. 100 Days of Real Food

        Glad to hear your point of view about this Meg because I am trying very hard to not make junk food a big deal/issue in our house. It was a very difficult transition for us to figure out where to fit in the junk after going 100 days without a drop of it, but the last thing I want is for my girls to go binge on oreos at their friend’s house. It is all about maintaining a balance, but finding the balance can sometimes be the hard part! We have settled in with letting the girls have whatever treat they want (donut, cookie, cupcake, etc.) once a week, but sometimes it happens twice due to birthday parties and we try not to make a big deal about it. I also offer them quarters if they want to “turn in” their candy to me, but I try not to make it mandatory. I hope I am making the right decisions with them b/c food can become such a weird and difficult issue (especially for girls)!

      2. I just wanted to ring in on this as well. My mom raised us on real food and we were not allowed junk or treats – ever. I remember going to my dad’s every other weekend and the first place he would stop was the grocery store where we could pick out any cereal we wanted, which of course was usually Fruit Loops or something sugary. I moved in with my dad at age 16 and started gaining weight immediately b/c we were allowed to eat whatever we wanted and I had no idea how to stop. I’ve only now, at age 34, learned how to balance real food and treats, and I’ve been struggling to lose weight for years. I absolutely advocate allowing treats on regular occasions so children learn how to balance their diets and don’t overindulge.

        Even though it sort of backfired, my mom had the best intentions raising us on real food. To this day I haven’t met a fruit or vegetable I don’t like, and we regularly have over 35 different types of produce in the house. I’m also one of the only girls I know who can actually cook from scratch! :)

      3. 100 Days of Real Food

        So glad to hear your perspective as well…really helps me figure out how to move forward with my kids. Bring on the junk food (in moderation of course!!).

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Mari – I know I already answered this on facebook, but reposting here for others…
      We do treats once a week, but it is not the end of the world if it happens twice or something like that. So if my girls didn’t have any treats at school and there are no birthday parties on the weekend we will take them to get something special. The majority of the time they get their treat elsewhere though. Also, I saw your question about what kind of treat to “allow”. I am trying very hard not to give my girls any weird vibes about the treats they do/can have, although it totally makes my skin crawl when it is something like a colorful cupcake from Bi-Lo or twizzlers. I am truly okay with a homemade cookie from scratch, but I just have to suck it up and look the other way when it is something worse. Your son sounds a little young, but I am trying my best to “teach” my older daughter that something like a piece of chocolate would be a much better choice than let’s say gummy bears. In the end (and in a completely ideal world) I want my kids to make good choices because they know how and want to…not because I said so! This is proving to be difficult with my older daughter though and it might take a long time for me to establish this with her. She got to pick one piece of Valentine candy to eat (she chose fruit roll up). I gave her quarters for the rest, and I acted like it was totally fine with me for her to eat it. But I said to her why don’t we read the (unpronounceable) ingredients first…just so you know what is in it. I am trying to be so gentle with her because I don’t want to end up having a child eating sweets in the closet!

      1. Thanks you guys for your perspectives! I certainly do not (or want to for that matter) withhold all junk from him (because then that means I can’t ever have any junk :P), I guess the problem lies in determining what that amount is without being too much.