Real Food Tips: 10 Items I Never Purchased Before Cutting Processed Food

I used to think we were fairly adventurous eaters and cooks. And even though I didn’t actually learn to cook until after college, once I did I quickly dabbled in everything from homemade egg rolls to pasta from scratch to my grandmother’s crepes. Nothing could have prepared me though for all the “new foods” that I had to learn about – and now can’t live without – once we made the switch to “real food.” I am constantly amazed at all the items on my regular shopping list that I had never purchased before we decided to cut out processed food…

  1. Whole-wheat flour
    Other real food newbies likely “flirted” with whole-wheat flour on occasion, but no no…not me. I promise you that I had never before purchased or cooked with whole-wheat flour (because I hated anything made with it!) until the start of all this 2 years ago.

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  2. Oats
    We used to eat boxed granola cereal, but it never occurred to me that you could actually make it yourself (and that it would be soooo much better)! The main ingredient in homemade granola is oats and the first time I made it I found myself saying… “Are plain ‘oats’ just oatmeal?” I’ve never been an oatmeal fan myself (and I’m still not, although I’ve since learned that my kids love it) therefore I never bought oats for any reason, but now I buy pounds of it every week and get worried if our supply is low!
  3. Honey
    Somebody must have bought at least one bottle of honey before our switch to real food because I remember a tiny bear shaped container of it in our pantry that was all crusted over and crystallized from lack of use (LOL). Now I buy this stuff in big jars and use it in everything from the granola we love so much to our sandwich bread. I’ll be the first to admit that “sugar is sugar” (even if it contains trace nutrients like honey) so we still aim to use it in moderation, but it’s quite a change from my white sugar days. And trust me I used to use A LOT of sugar…brown, white, and powdered. :)
  4. Kale / Collards
    I could not have picked Kale or Collards out of a line-up to save my life. And even a year into our real food journey I still couldn’t say that I had truly adopted these as part of our regular menu. But, today I finally feel like I am figuring out how to not only incorporate, but also enjoy these nutrient-rich leafy greens (and occasionally even get my kids to eat them, too)!
  5. “Raw” nuts and seeds
    To me nuts were greasy, salty and packaged in a blue “Planters” container. I admit I didn’t even know what it meant for them to be “raw” so I can completely relate when readers ask me where in the world to find such a product. (Answer: The bulk bins at health food stores!)
  6. Pinto Beans
    I wouldn’t have been caught dead buying – much less eating – pinto beans and now my homemade slow cooker refried bean recipe (made from dried pinto beans) is one of my most favorite lunches! This might just be the strangest transition of them all…because it’s so ingrained in my brain that I don’t “like” beans.
  7. Whole Milk
    Okay, I shouldn’t say that I NEVER bought whole milk because my kids actually drank it for a short period of time when they were babies, but it is most certainly a beverage I didn’t drink myself (probably since I was a baby). I was a skim milk girl all the way, and I admit that I was a little “scared” to make the switch, but I am so glad I did! Now I know what “real” milk tastes like, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Note to the raw milk advocates…it’s illegal here in N.C., although I am not sure I’d drink it anyway.)
  8. Coconut Oil and Ghee (a.k.a. Clarified Butter)
    These are both unrefined “cooking fats” that I didn’t even purchase until long after completing our 100-day pledge, and to be honest I had no idea what to do with either one! I am finding that ghee is nice to have around because you can use it like butter, but it has a much higher smoke point so it doesn’t burn as easily. Also, there’s apparently not much you CANNOT do with coconut oil…just check out the reader comments in my post about it!
  9. Lara Bars
    I still call these “granola bars” out of habit even though I know there’s no granola in there, but that’s because they replaced my very regular consumption of “Quaker Chewy Granola Bars” (in the old days of course). My favorite Quaker bars were the peanut butter chocolate chip, but sometimes I would go for the variety pack to switch it up. J Now I instead have a stash of Lara Bars (the cashew cookie only has 2 ingredients!!) as the “just in case” snacks in my purse.
  10. Kiwi
    This might be a little random, but the point here is that it is never too late to try and “like” new foods. I am not sure why, but I never ate kiwi before last year (that I can recall) and one day my 4-year-old asked if we could buy one. I certainly wanted to embrace her little adventurous food streak (and set a good example about trying new stuff) so I said “yes.” And I am so glad I did because now that I’ve figured out that soft = ripe…I absolutely love kiwis! Who knew?!?

Please share any new-found “real food” that you now love in the comments below!

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  1. Raw milk is not illegal in NC. It must be labeled for pet consumption. I buy certified organic raw (pet) milk weekly from a farm in NC. The key to buying raw milk is to make friends with your farmer. Visit the farm and do your homework. You have access to amazing raw milk at the regional farmer’s market in your area. If you’re buying milk in the grocery store, you’re consuming a processed food.

  2. Laughed when I read the Kiwi story. I had same experience one year when I decided to make Southern Living recipe (roasted root vegetables) for Thanksgiving dinner. Recipe called for rutabaga. I bought it and tried it for the first time in my life at the ripe old age of 50. Now I know I like rutabaga. :-) You’re right…it’s never too late to find and try something new.

  3. It’s crazy to me to realize that it has now been almost 5 years since I started following your blog and eating real food. So much has changed since then! My family still thinks I’m crazy and that I am depriving my daughter (who is now two and eats like a champ!) I eat so many foods I used t9 be intimidated by and it is awesome!

  4. I read one of your posts about the milk delivery service had local, grass fed milk cows. I called them up, but they don’t deliver to Huntersville. BUMMER! I see the illustration in this post is the Homestead Creamery brand. I picked some up recently as an trial alternative, but I haven’t done research on the brand yet. Do you use HC brand whole milk? I noticed their buttermilk was labeled grass fed, but I didn’t see that in the whole milk, so it had me wondering about it. So far I love it.
    Also, thank you so much for the granola recipe and idea. Cereal has always been my comfort food. If I came home stressed from work, my husband would get the cereal out and ready for me knowing I would want that over any dinner food. So, when I read your cookbook/ blog about how processed cereal was, I was so scared to give it up to start on the unprocessed journey. I am beyond thankful to find that the granola has satisfied my cereal addiction and I haven’t had a box of cereal in my home for over 6 months! Step by step, we’re cutting more out. Thank you!!

    1. I gotta admit that when I read “not sure if try it anyhow” in regards to the raw milk, I had to double check the website. I never knew that crunchy,real food eating people were still ignorant about the benefits of raw milk. I mean that in the nicest way possible of course! Sorry!
      It’s just that pasteurized milk is known to be garbage to us real food peeps lol!
      Anyhow, Love the recipes of the website here (gluten free ones at least) thanks! Great ideas on this page!

      And Good to see another raw milk advocate on here! Go Tracey!!

  5. Beets and Radishes. I have been getting produce baskets from a local farm every week and they give you whatever is growing right now. It has forced me to try beets (baked/roasted, served with other veggies) and radishes (in my salads), both of which I barely ate before but now love.
    Also chard is great mixed in with scrambled eggs!

  6. I’ve been making a majority of our dinners from scratch including sauces and flavor mixes that you would normally get from a packet. I’d like to rid our house of sugar in our tea and occasional desserts but not sure how. I tried raw stevia but I don’t think it agreed with me. What are my options?

    1. If you are drinking black tea hot or iced, honey is great. Just put it in the hot iced tea brew to blend. I was a sugar fiend in tea, and now after slowly reducing and replacing, I drink iced tea straight and only use honey at home…

  7. I love that you added that you had not tried kiwi before last year. Around a year ago I had decided I was going to make a strawberry kiwi smoothie but I had never tried kiwi before so I decided to eat a bite to see if I liked it so I knew whether to put it in my smoothie or not. Well, I ended up in the emergency room because I had an allergic reaction to it. The point of my post is that anytime I would tell someone about my allergy they would be shocked that I was 40 years old and had never eaten kiwi before.

    1. The funny thing about allergies is that you can get them at any time of your life, to any thing. I was never allergic to beestings or wasp stings, for the 40+ years of my life, and one day, I was stung and had a severe allergic reaction. Now I carry benadryl with me wherever I go in the summer months, and avoid wasps!!

  8. Love this! These are all things I started buying in the last two years when I started being more aware of processed foods too. I also use raw honey. Just got it for the first time. Love it! Great for smoothies, oatmeal etc. Also something i read in your blog about pop-corn yes my home made white corn popped on the stove taste way better and healthier then bagged microwave. Love it! Kale is new thing for me within the last year or two also but now I love it. Especially homemade Kale chips. Avocado is another good fat I like.