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.
  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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255 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 10 Items I Never Purchased Before Cutting Processed Food”

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  1. In our quest to eat better, I have been so happy to see all the organic foods at our local Aldi, and Walmart. And the Kettle brand chips are great! Not to be confused with kettle cooked chips. There is a brand called Kettle, and they are Non-GMO verified, and oh so crunchy, and not near as greasy as the ‘regular’ chips. Anyway — I know you had mentioned you probably wouldn’t drink raw milk even if it WAS legal in your state … I can tell you that raw milk is the best ever! You just have to know your dairy farmer and how he/she takes care of their cows. Since the milk isn’t pasteurized yet, it doesn’t destroy all the extra goodies that does a body good. The only downside to raw milk is you have to shake it before you pour a glass, because the fat will separate from the milk, and you have to mix it back up again =) So believe me, if I could get my hands on raw milk again, oh yeah! <3

  2. Real Food Tips: 10 Items I Stopped Purchasing Since Cutting Processed Food

    1. Vegetable/Canola Oil
    2. Canned Anything
    3. Boxed Cereals
    4. Hot dogs
    5. Pre-packaged sliced meats-turkey, beef, chicken, ham.
    6. Frozen meals
    7. Frozen Pizza
    8. Packaged cookies
    9. Microwave Popcorn
    10. Fat Free anything

  3. Seaweed. Fresh ginger and garlic. Leeks. Fennel. We ate plenty of beans, growing up (folks from southern Missouri), especially pintos, my favorite.

  4. I love the fact that you are so honest about what you ate before 100 days of real food. I too, ate what I thought was best for me, according to government standards and gained so much weight and felt so awful for 20 years or so! Now I do everything the total opposite of standards and research everything I am interested in eating, cleaning with, and sleeping on! (Organic sheets rule!) Thank you, Lisa.

  5. Funny about the oats! They are kind of a “go to” when I need to make something sweet to fulfill a craving. So versatile too – from flour to energy bites! I am realizing how much of a “go to” they are – now that we are trying to cut grains from our diet to see if that helps with some health issues.

  6. I buy all of these, except the first one. I buy the wheat berries and grind my own. They are not strange things to buy. Is that why people call me a health food fanatic?

  7. Hi!! I love your bog, read it all the time for inspiration. Just laughed aloud at the last point, I’m Canadian and married to a New Zealander, and the first time I said, I love eating kiwis, in Nz, I was laughed out if the room!! Over there it’s callled kiwi fruit as just kiwi can refer to the cut little birds and also to people native to New Zealand :)

  8. I hated all nuts and had never tried kale or leeks. I think the biggest change for me was that
    Growing up I had a hard time eating chicken off a bone.
    Eventually it got easier and now I make whole chickens for my
    Family. I just have to tell myself that I am doing it for our health and saving money.
    I even make bone broth. Love your website and I tell friends and family about it.

  9. All of the above. YES!!! Tracy, I did the same with my husband and the milk. If he runs out of skim he won’t even consider the stinkin 1% we have for the kids. Now have to work the kids up to whole milk. They haven’t had it since babies. Lara bars are a must. I grab one at 5 a.m. on my way out the door to the gym.

  10. Back when all the rage about low-fat,non-fat came about I pleaded with my husband to just try it, it’s better for you. Well he finally did, now I can’t get him to go back the other way for anything!!! :(

  11. I too, was a skim-milk girl for 20 years. Once you drink raw milk, you will NEVER go back to ultra-pasturized milk. Get to know your farmers and trust them. The health benefits are tremendous and the taste is incredible. One gallon costs less than 1/2 gallon of Oberweis whole milk, plus Oberweis adds $3.50 bottle deposit to each purchase! I love my local farmers!!!

  12. Definitely local non homogenized whole milk and whole grain flours such as spelt, oat, quinoa, etc. we go through a lot of healthy flours with all the breads and muffins I make!

  13. I think switching to whole fat dairy products has been the hardest, but best change for me. I’ve spent years dieting. The low or non-fat dairy is one of the things that are pushed by almost any plan. It was hard for me to switch my mind set. However, the taste and texture is so much better I can’t imagine ever going back and my kids didn’t even blink an eye when I switched to whole milk.

  14. It is SO easy to make your own Lara bars and so much affordable. I can make up 3 or 4 batches and have them packaged up in less than an hour. After making my own and then buying them again from the store I prefer the homemade ones. I am able to use organic dried fruits and adjust everything to what I prefer. I was surprised to find that they consist mostly of dried dates. I feel about dates how you felt about beans. I thought I hated them…but I discovered I don’t! I found my recipes on Pinterest. Check it out.

  15. we can’t get raw milk here in NC, unless you own you own a cow. It is illegal to buy it, or share it. Trust me, we have looked Into it. So no raw milk…. I NEVER used to buy whole milk, because for years doctors had told me there was too much fat in it. But we switched, and guess what? No one blew up like a balloon! ;)
    We buy a lot more quinoa than we used to, and hot cereal. We do use less red meat and eat more meatless dishes, but that is personal choice. Red meats tend to give me heartburn, so once a month is normally it for us, since I do all the shopping! Lol!
    We buy a lot of kale. Why? Because my 8 year old LOVES baby kale, raw. Weird, yes, but awesome, all at the same time. Because I love kale, and because I donate blood 3-4 times a year, I need those dark leafy veggies to keep my levels up!

  16. Drinking whole milk and using raw local honey are two I didn’t think I’d be doing. I’ve been drinking skim or at most 2% for most of my life. I had heard that eating a tbs of raw local honey a day starting in about Feb would reduce your upcoming allergies and it has! I like the taste better as well. Kids were a hard sell on it but now like it too. Rarely a day goes by we don’t have some honey in some form.

    I need to be a bit more adventurous in the fruits and veggies dept as well but am working on that.I grew up on standard American fast food with french fries or onion rings as the primary veggie. I have texture issues with food so it’s a slow process.

  17. I’m with you on raw milk. Not for a million dollars would I go near that stuff, especially after knowing kids who were super sick from cows living in the perfect setting. Not worth the risk and my kid (also illegal here for good reason) and I reap plenty of benefits from organic grass fed whole milk. Also a fan of coconut aminos if avoiding soy — so delicious! My husband puts coconut aminos on everything. We also roast a ton of sweet potatoes, which I never did before switching to less processed food. And farm eggs. Whoa. Yummy.

  18. Quinoa, avocados, maple syrup, and real lemons and limes (instead of lemon/lime juice that comes in those plastic squeezable containers that LOOK like actual fruit).

  19. Where do you buy your oats from? I’m new to this whole journey and just have the old Quaker oats in the cabinet now, but I’m guessing there is something better out there I should be buying. Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kelly. Just plain Quaker Oats are fine but not the flavored packets. You can also find organic oats at larger conventional groceries as well as stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. ~Amy

      1. I’d recommend staying away from the quick-cooking kinds, though – “old-fashioned” or steel-cut are the best tasting and best for you!

  20. April said, There’s really not much benefit to drinking milk unless it’s raw.” I was told that so often during the past year, that I just gave up milk. (I only drank skim milk with chocolate or coffee added, or on dry cereal. I no longer eat dry cereal.) I drank raw milk (our family had its own milk cow) until I was taken off the bottle at age 3. I think I just don’t like the taste of cream, plus the fact that I was forced to drink milk at school in those cute little bottles where the cream could be seen at the top and it was the first thing I tasted despite shaking the bottle in which case the cream was all mixed in the milk so each sip had a cream taste. I didn’t even use butter until a few years ago when we got off margarine. I’m 68. I don’t plan on changing this part of my diet anytime soon. :)

  21. Mushrooms (I used to have a dislike of their texture), quinoa and flaxseed! I have been adding flaxseed to everything I can, including green smoothies in the am and to a quinoa meal in the pm. So good for you!

  22. I switched from soy sauce to Bragg’s Liquid Aminos! What a great alternative that has nutrition and is not made with wheat. You can purchase it in the bulk section at Whole Foods.

  23. One thing I’ve done is switch from soy sauce to Bragg’s Liquid Amminos. You can get it in the bulk section at whole foods. You can’t tell the difference from soy sauce but it has so many more nutrients and it isn’t made with wheat like cheap soy sauce.

  24. Since I hate any type of cooked greens (cabbage, spinach, bok choy, kale, swiss chard, etc.), my quest was to find ways to eat it raw. Only kale had stumped me until now. My local farmer’s market has both the kale with the curly leaves and the dinosaur kale with the dark blueish green long leaves that look pebbly. The secret to eating it raw without it tasting bitter is massage! I add equal parts lemon juice and olive oil and add a pinch of sea or kosher salt along with some red pepper flakes and massage the kale. It ends up being half the size after about 10 minutes. This thoroughly breaks down the bitterness and brings on fresh, green tasting goodness that is great either alone or mixed with your regular salad greens. I found the recipe in various forms on the internet. If you haven’t taken a chance on kale, try it this way!

  25. For those new to brown rice, check out Alton Brown’s recipe. It bakes in the oven, freeing up your stovetop for the rest of your dinner prep.
    Since we started the transition to real food, we have joined a csa and tried lots of new veggies. We also buy meat from a local farmer and are buying much less processed food. After several months of stepping down, we made the switch to plain Greek yogurt. Never thought I’d be eating that!

  26. I’m with Annmarie about the raw milk. I seriously am done drinking milk unless it’s raw. I’m curious as to why you would not drink it. Do you mind sharing? As long as the cow is very well taken care of there’s nothing dangerous about it. Actually, the milk you can buy in stores would make you extremely ill (because the cows are not carefully taken care of) if it weren’t heated to such high temps(also kills all the good stuff in the milk). There’s really not much benefit to drinking milk unless it’s raw. We just made the switch and know many people who have been drinking it for a long time with no ill effects.

  27. It’s a shame you don’t have access to raw milk. It’s incredibly good for you and safe though the media leads people to believe otherwise. I wouldn’t even bother drinking pasteurized milk…very few if any health benefits. All the good pre and probiotics are killed off.

  28. I love these fun little posts you make from time to time! Although many of these items are already regulars I’ve been recently considering making the switch to whole wheat flour (haven’t yet because of concerns about nut contact). Thanks for your continual inspiration!

  29. Your list is great with the exception of one item: milk. Besides being loaded with sugar (that’s what lactose is), unless milk is certified organic, it may be contaminated with growth hormones and anitbiotics. If you’re looking for a healthy dairy choice, plain yogurt and kefir are products which are actually good for you. And you can mix in your honey if you want to sweeten them! Enjoy your adventure with real food!

  30. Thanks for posting this – it’s a good feeling to know that we all started somewhere and not all are born health nuts :) I actually never even tasted spinach, kale or even sweet potatoes until I was about 24 years old, so it’s definitely never too late :)

  31. Great list :-) I’m a lover of full fat anything as fat keeps me full. Something I never thought I’d buy every week is a kilo of full fat organic plain yoghurt. It’s great! Can go in baking, be used instead of sour cream plus we all have it at breakfast or even a few spoons as a snack. Spelt flour is the other one. Easier to digest :-)

  32. I have been making an effort to eat whole foods but haven’t been able to find a decent whole grain bread without a bunch of unnatural ingredients so I decided to get out my bread maker and try it out. It is amazing how easy it is and how much more satisfying the bread is and the best part is my family loves it!

  33. Our family has tried pear melon since moving to England and LOVE it! Another favorite is Dragon fruit. Both are fabulous tasting and can be served in the shell for added fun. :)

  34. Loving the site but I’m gonna say is nay on the larabar. I can’t support a company who rubs elbows with Monsanto! Great information though!

  35. Hi there! I’ve just been introduced to this blog, and I absolutely love it! I was wondering- have you seen any physical changes in your body since cutting out processed foods? I’ve been considering that as one option to healthier eating along with becoming vegan, so I’m very curious to hear about the changes your body has undergone. Thank you!