Real Food Tips: 5 Easy Changes

Real Food Tips: 5 Easy Changes for 2013 by 100 Days of Real Food

I hear from readers quite frequently who would like to cut out processed food, but are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. The key thing to remember is that small changes can go a long way—cutting out processed food doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

So to help you get off on the right foot, below are 5 easy changes you can implement this month. In fact EVERYONE could start #1 today. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s all about awareness. Pick 1 or 2 items from this list and commit to starting them this week. Once you’ve got those items down move on to the others, and before you know it some of these changes will become your “new normal.”

5 Easy “Real Food” Changes

  1. Read ingredient labels.
    Everyone could easily start doing this today…or right now in fact (in your own pantry!). Before you eat or buy any packaged food read the list of ingredients on the back. You don’t even have to change what you are buying or eating quite yet, but just being aware of how processed your food selections are can be the first step in the right direction!
    Some things to think about: Can you pronounce all the ingredients? How many are on the list? Are they all items you would cook with in your own kitchen? Which ingredients are refined or some sort of sweetener (like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, brown rice syrup, aspartame, etc.)?
  2. Start buying 100% whole-grain products.
    Bread products tend to take up a big portion of the Standard American Diet so switching to 100% whole grain could potentially go a long way. Many common grocery products are made with refined grains – things like sandwich bread, pasta, crackers, rice, breadcrumbs, hamburger buns, croutons, etc. So there’s lots of room for improvement here! And being a former “white bread girl” myself I can tell you I used to avoid whole-wheat bread because I despised the taste. I now realize that’s because I was trying grocery store, factory-made whole-wheat bread that was made with a ton of additives and preservatives. We now buy 5 ingredient bread from a local bakery (or make our own) and it thankfully tastes MUCH better!
  3. Switch to organic dairy.
    I’ll never forget something I once heard Dr. Oz say. When it comes to buying dairy products you just cannot peel or wash off your milk like you can your produce…so it’s best to go organic. Just one of many great reasons to avoid conventional dairy products from animals that have been treated with antibiotics and hormones (not to mention their diet and living conditions—you are what you eat eats, too)!
  4. Eat more produce (preferably organic).
    If you aren’t eating a lot of fresh produce today…what’s the reason? Is it because you don’t like veggies, you think they’re too much work to prepare, or because you’d just rather have deep-fried potato chips instead? :) If you haven’t been a big fan of vegetables in the past I encourage you to try fresh/local veggies, some new recipes for your vegetables, and even some new vegetables all together. Fruits and vegetables are (obviously) whole foods and putting more of that goodness on your plate will automatically displace some of the processed stuff!
  5. Offer your kids more real food.
    The average 5-year-old can’t drive himself to McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A and pay for a meal. So let’s face it, in most cases it’s almost completely up to the parent to offer their young children the right choices. Yes, my daughters both like real food, but if I handed them a bag of Cheetos for a snack they would totally chow down (they are kids after all!). So, as a result, I don’t hand them a bag of Cheetos and instead offer them a banana with peanut butter or a box of raisins or some whole-grain pretzels or an organic cheese stick for a snack (Note: None of these real food snacks require much more work than opening a bag of Cheetos). These are all whole foods I know my kids will eat so that’s what I give them when they are hungry. I strongly encourage everyone to do their part by offering their own children more real food this year. You never know…their response might pleasantly surprise you! :)

What do you plan on doing to reduce your family’s consumption of highly processed foods?

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154 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 5 Easy Changes”

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  1. I don’t have children at home anymore but I changed #5 “To get my husband to stop eating fast food”. I make sure there is food in the freezer that he can reheat quickly so he doesn’t stop on the way home and can make a meal when he gets home.

  2. Going back to my roots (well, adopted roots). When I was in college I worked for a small local health food store and did a really good job of cutting out processed foods, and then moved away from that while in various relationships. I went back to it when my daughter was born and then drifted away again when I met my now husband. Two years ago we switched to whole food vegan, and it felt like coming home… Though after a few heart breaks this year we’ve gone to vegetarian at home. I’m bringing back the hippy and vegan dishes I loved and making sure to pre-cook and freeze to give myself a hand.

  3. Love your website! So appreciative of what you are doing. I have a question about the dairy though. I have had no luck finding organic dairy products that are not ultrapasteurized. Do you have any suggestions?

  4. I cannot believe you quoted Dr. Oz, he operates purely on shock value. I was interested until I read his name. Complete idiot, no credibility.

    1. While I agree that Dr. Oz is not very credible, the quote she uses is completely true and she was just mentioning where she heard it from… not necessarily saying Dr. Oz is some food genius or even credible by any means. The statement she quoted is true… you can’t wash the junk out of your non organic milk.

  5. For me, changing to non processed foods is not an issue of angering the family, or my belly or anything else, its an issue of cost. Its no secret eating healthier is simply more expensive. If the government could help subsidize the cost of eating healthier I’m all for it. Also, having healthier options readily available isn’t exactly easy when you live in climates that don’t promote year round growth. I’d have to goto a grocery 3 times a week to ensure my produce didn’t goto waste, and thanks to the shrinking economy, I simply don’t have time with working multiple jobs. Farmers markets and cost effective produce would go a long way. Alas where I live, we don’t have them except in the summer time.

    1. Jamie, I completely agree. There is absolutely nothing I can do – including buying in bulk which I already do – that would make eating fully organic and without preservatives an affordable option. Those of you out there who are such strong proponents of this eating lifestyle, please also help find a way not only to evangelize for the way of eating life you support, but think and work together to find ways to evangelize for how more socioeconomic groups can afford the diet you so correctly push.

      1. To both Cheryl and Jamie. I am a single person on long term disability and i can manage small changes. Lifestyle choices can be made, can i do organic veg fruit and meat? No i cannot afford it. Can i buy a bag of apples vs applesauce in a jar? Yes and it is cheaper too. The only reason i post is to say maybe you cannot do it all but we can all do something to eat healthier:) Changing even one thing can make you feel proud and successful!

      2. It took me almost 2 years to make the change so that it would not impact my pocket book all at once. Every time I ran out of something, I would replace with a healthier organic option. Now that the process is almost done, I spend 2/3 less on food and am able to buy organic and grass fed almost 100%. There are a ton of organic coupons out there and I shop specials at multiple stores. It’s easier than you would think it would be.

      3. In the off season where I live a bag of apples cost twice as much as a jar of applesauce. And I could get 3 jars of applesauce for the price of one bag of organic apples…

    2. There is nothing I hate more than throwing out veggies because I couldn’t use them fast enough. One thing I’m trying to do & get better at (because no I’m not going to the groc store multiple times per wk) is buy my groc, make my meals for the week & freeze them till the day I need them. I try to arrange so that the leafy veggies get used during the first part of the weeks meals because they don’t freeze well. Just an idea for you.

      1. When fresh vegetables start getting a little old but still perfectly good, make green smoothies for at least one meal a day. I do it for breakfast. I throw very little if any away by doing this and there are tremendous health benefits.

    3. I completely disagree with you. While I’m not trying to plug a different brand or service Fresh20 does a fantastic job at helping people meal plan, prep, shop responsibly for ingredients that don’t get used once and wasted and are very healthy.

  6. I mastered an easy Spanish brown rice side for our dinners instead of other carbs like pasta and rice aroni dishes. Making a big batch keeps well and we eat leftovers for several days. Keep sharing your easy recipes – so helpful.

  7. I cut all processed foods out of mine and my families diet about 2 years ago and it was all or nothing! I completely gutted our pantry out and got rid of all the processed junk. I was really overwhelmed at first but it seems so simple now as far as knowing what to avoid and knowing what is good and what is bad. I am so thankful for this blog educating me and helping me along the way. I don’t know that I would have made the change or even have known where to start without this blog. Thank you so much! Keep up the great work!!

  8. I am looking for a protein powder to make our morning smoothies with. My husband gets up and makes them every morning. But when I looked at the ingredients from our soy powder and it was full of “yucky” additives and sugars. Any suggestions?

    1. We actually buy organic, soy free protein on amazon. I will look and see what the name is as soon as I can. I’m not big on vanilla flavored but this stuff is soooo good!

    2. Garden of Life Raw protein powder is great. The Food Babe has a review of protein powders on her site, if you want more recommendations.

    3. Genny, first I would encourage you to ditch the soy even if it didn’t have all the “yucky” stuff. Unfermented soy is not healthy food and I know of only one protein powder that is made with fermented soy – Almased, which I could not gag down at all although based on the Amazon reviews some people like it very much.

      What I like the best and have been using for about 1 1/2 years now are Sunwarrior’s protein powders, both the original sprouted brown rice and the Warrior Blend. Both of them are reasonably non-gritty, a little chalky but really not badly so, and pretty good tasting – the only sweetener in the vanilla and chocolate flavors is stevia and it doesn’t have much stevia aftertaste at all (I really hate stevia LOL). I sub a couple of scoops for an equivalent amount of flour in many baked goods and hide the plain flavor in a lot of foods. Always goes in my faux Larabars! I get it by mail from The Vitamin Shoppe when it goes on sale, where it costs half as much as at my local health-food store.

      I have also used and liked Plantfusion, although it does contain a small amount of fructose (4g per 30g serving) there are no “yucky additives”. I asked what the “natural vanilla flavor” was a couple of years ago and the customer service person said it was a purified form of vanilla extract but there’s a legal definition for “vanilla extract” in the US which made labelling difficult, but they did say it wasn’t the wood-derived vanillin that goes into the bottled imitation vanilla flavor at the grocery store. I think it has the best texture of the vegan protein powders I have tried, it’s like talcum powder. Most places that carry it do have the single-serving packets so you can try it without buying a whole jug. Vanilla bean and chocolate were acceptable, I did not like the chocolate raspberry at all.

      SAN RawFusion is another veg-based protein blend that I liked very much for its thick, milkshakelike texture, but it does have more additives (fructose, natural flavorings depending on the flavor you choose, guar gum – thus the thickness – stevia and additional glycine which is an amino acid). I had quite a bit of gassiness when I tried it which was a bummer because it really did taste good (I have only had the vanilla). The company was very generous with samples when I wrote to them.

      I’ve really bombed out with a whole bunch of protein powders, too… thankfully Vitamin Shoppe was very polite about returns! A lot of people swear by Garden of Life Raw Protein; I found it very gritty, too earthy-tasting, and the bloating/gas was terrible (thankfully I had only purchased a couple of sample packets, chocolate and vanilla). Hemp protein sure does have a big following but for me “earthy” does not begin to describe its flavor! I don’t notice it in the Sunwarrior Warrior Blend though. Rainbow Light’s “energizing herbal blend” made me very jittery, and it has a weird fake-vanilla flavor, like it was trying to be vanilla ice cream and failing miserably. Nutribiotic brown rice protein and Vitamin Shoppe’s soy-free house blend veggie protein are both like a mouthful of sand – truly horrible and the absolute worst veg-based proteins I tried. (Spirutein is a close third, but what with it being a soy product I didn’t use it much.) I never tried Vega just due to the incredibly high price. I have also not tried any of the protein/greens blends because so far every greens powder I have tried has made me vomit.

      If you can do dairy, there are several grass-fed organic whey protein powders on the market. Tera’s Whey is probably easiest to find; it does contain soy lecithin (the plain is only whey protein and lecithin, no sweeteners) but I contacted them and asked why they didn’t switch to sunflower lecithin, it seemed silly to go to all the fuss of grass-fed whey and then put soy in it, and they said that was a very good point and they would look into it. Reserveage Organics’ Grass-Fed Whey only comes in chocolate or vanilla; ingredients for the vanilla are whey protein, vanilla, stevia, and sunflower lecithin. Raw Organic Whey is just that, nothing added – probably why it is so horrifyingly expensive. Source Organic whey plain is whey and sunflower lecithin. Swanson Ultra gets some good reviews, containing whey, vanilla, xanthan gum and sunflower lecithin – completely unsweetened. I can’t remember if The Organic Whey is grass-fed, I think it is but I’m not sure; whey protein is the only ingredient. The only one I have tried is the Tera’s Whey and it tasted all right, no major reactions.

      There are a couple of organic egg white protein powders, although I do not know of any that are pastured. Gifted Earth Originals is certified humane, however their flavored egg-based protein shakes contain sugar as well as natural flavors, arabic gum, stevia, and in the case of the chocolate, cocoa powder. It is VERY expensive. There is one big problem with egg white protein powder though – what happens when you beat egg whites? You get meringue. (The “meringue powder” used in commercial bakeries is the *exact same thing* as egg white protein powder, just with different flavorings!) The same thing happened to my smoothies. Not only did it give my smoothie a very peculiar foamy, spongy texture, but I ended up swallowing an enormous amount of air which led to severe bloating and a very upset stomach. I think the most sensible way to use it would be to make the smoothie in the blender as usual and whisk egg-white powder with just enough water to dissolve it, then stir that into the finished smoothie.

      Some of the real-foodie crowd has really gone crazy over Great Lakes collagen hydrolysate as a protein supplement. Yes, it’s made from grass-fed cows, but it’s a _very heavily_ processed substance so I find it very ironic. Gelatins are not very protein-dense so I don’t think they make a good protein powder per se, although they have other uses; I prefer Bernard Jensen gelatin to Great Lakes as I think it has a “cleaner” flavor. Great Lakes gelatin (kosher) has a slight musty aftertaste. Regular gelatin makes smoothies wiggly, too, which can be either entertaining or disgusting depending on your point of view.

      Hope that helps some. Good luck!

    4. I am a beach body coach and started using shakeology every day last March and now my entire family (husband, kids, sister, and parents) LOVES it! Email me if you want more information!! I’d love to chat and tell you about it :) shakeology is a powder to use for complete daily nutrition in a shake once a day. My email address is HSUchick2000@yahoo.com I’d be more than happy to tell you more about it and how to buy it!

  9. I used Fresh 20 this time last year and it was okay. Some of the recipes seemed a bit bland and I felt like I was eating nearly the same thing every day. I try to watch labels and organic dairy is a must in this home, along with most meats. Our local farmers market can be too much on our budget so sometimes I have to cheat and buy frozen veggies and if non organic fresh, then I try to rinse well. It is a lifestyle change, no doubt and Fresh 20 does have some good ideas. If you have the time and creativity, you can alter the recipes a bit to better suit you, while still staying healthy.

  10. I totally agree with all of these but #2…..Whole wheat is causing so many problems….It’s not the same wheat our great grandmothers ate…..It’s not good for us. I say skip whole wheat and eat brown rice pasta and gluten free bread choices….or better yet….stay away from it all together.

  11. I started using Fresh 20 at the beginning of this month and I love it. LOVE it. I use the classic meals and am learning a lot of new ways to prepare meats. And I’m cooking a lot of meals I never would have picked out and we like them!! Such a great deal. So much less waste, simple grocery list, and I can skip the HOURS I used to spend on my weekly meal plan (via Pinterest, ha).

  12. I love the fresh 20 menus. I use the vegetarian ones and can easily make them vegan& gluten free.
    I love that you don’t need tons if ingredients to make really good meals.

  13. Organic dairy is better than conventional, but cutting out dairy is much better for you. Even organic dairy is filled with naturally occurring hormones because the cows are almost always pregnant or recently pregnant to be continuous sources of milk. This has many implications but the big one for me is the increased risk of future hormone related cancers due the the earlier and earlier sexual development of girls. Eat more plants!

  14. Hello I love that everyone is trying to cut out preservative because two on years ago I was told I hasve allergies to milk and sulfites witch sulfites is a preservative and its in everything prepackaged foods so I had to learn how to eat over again, because of the dairy part it’s a little bit harder but I do feel better it is possible to do little more expensive because I have to go organic two.

  15. Lisa, Amy & Gang, I just wanted to say THANK YOU! The information you share here, especially what you post on Facebook has made a huge difference for me. I feel like I’ve completely changed my eating-shopping-cooking patterns in the last few months, and I feel so healthy! Most of all this is a practical way to eat. Now that I have learned how to cook more from scratch I have literally slashed my food bill down to a 1/4 of what it was. What?! Buying in bulk (instead of processed) helps me be able to afford organic milk and farmer’s market produce. That was an amazing revelation to me. Also, your recipes are definitely and consistently better than other whole food sites out there, that is why I have YOURS bookmarked ;)

  16. Quick question for wives and moms – how do you work towards healthy, whole foods when your husband doesn’t want to change? Mine stills buys chips and pop regularly and will buy processed food on his own at the store because it’s cheap and easy. (I’ve got an 11mo old who doesn’t always give me the chance to cook and hubby prefers to just pop something in the oven and wait for the ding.)

    I can’t force him to want to change and talking about it isn’t doing enough. I’ve made small changes here and there, but I’m running out of ways to do more. And admittedly, we can’t afford two different grocery lists and I get tempted by the pop and chips when they’re in the house.

    If anyone has advice, it would be appreciated!

    1. I made a whole bunch of “microwavable” whole food meals for my hubby (burritos, chicken salsa pockets, etc) and stocked my freezer. It seemed to work (meaning he didn’t go buy processed stuff) so I keep repeating it. He seems stuck on TV dinner type foods, probably because that is how he ate growing up. It takes a while for people’s habits to change & I don’t expect him to be 100% on board with me, but we’ll see? Maybe after a year of all this yummy new cooking he will like it too? I keep telling him, “babe, I’ve started a new diet- but it includes butter & sour cream so don’t worry” ha! (even though this is not a diet to me, it is a lifestyle change, I just say it for humor). Good luck!

    2. While you cannot change your husband’s diet you can change your child’s. Perhaps you could have some foods available to tide your child over while you cook, such as grapes (cut in pieces) or a banana. I try to have “approved” snacks on hand all the time because my kids tend to raid the kitchen in between meals. Good luck to you!!

  17. Hi and thanks for all the good advice. We started by giving up fast food and soda pop. (Hubby and I at least have given up pop. Now for the child.) Next, so as not to waste the food we have in the freezer and pantry, we’re going to little by little replace things with organics. I’ve done research and found some co-ops. Your website and recipes have been very very very helpful. thanks for all you do.
    Aimee in Northwest Indiana.

  18. The easiest way to tell if the food is processed and find out what kind of poisons are in it is to get the App called Fooducate. I’ve been using it for 3 months and I’ve lost 28 pounds.

      1. Hi, that’s weird. What country are you from? I’m from the US. I know they have it for iPhones and a different version for android. Let me know if you are still having problems. I couldn’t live without mine.

  19. I am always SO amazed that my children 6 and 18 will always choose real food to processed or take out. They like chips and processed snacks but after a bite or two will throw them out or complain that it gives them a headache then ask for apples carrots or grapes. I always have these available but truly they just choose what makes their bodies feel good

  20. I think Rule 1 is what will set some people up for failure in trying something like this – which I wholeheartedly support. A lot of people cannot read labels, cannot pronounce the words that are listed, or even know what they mean. Ingredients are listed according to their chemical names, for example Citric Acid is Vitamin C, but a label won’t read Vitamin C. If I can make a suggestion, if you don’t have one already make a list of “benign” or safe ingredients that people might not recognize or realize are common items in foods or even in their kitchen that will help others identify them.

  21. I am a subscriber to the Fresh 20 and it is a god-send. Has transformed my life as a busy working mom committed to providing healthy home-cooked meals for my family. Easy, delicious recipes and efficient shopping lists make it well, well worth the very reasonable subscription fee. Highly recommend!

  22. There are so many reasons not to eat grains…you have a great platform here and could help a ton of people by recommending against it. Grains cause inflammation in the body even if you aren’t allergic to gluten.

    See the work by Robb Wolf, Drs. Eades, Dr. Cordain, among others.

  23. Is there a recipe for the Honey Whole Wheat bread for traditional baking? I use my stand mixer and bake in a bread pan but I have yet to find a good sandwich bread that slices well. I’d love to try this recipe.

    1. Hi Janna! I had to reply because I have been trying different whole wheat breads for 6+ weeks now and nothing seemed to work (also I am newbie at making bread). Then I found this one http://penniesandpancakes.blogspot.com/2012/07/best-wheat-bread-089-per-loaf.html#.UpOz9sSTjpU It has very simple ingredients and it works best in a mixer (I use my hand though since I don’t have one!) see the tutorial. I know Lisa would recommend using more whole wheat flour (than the half white, half whole wheat this calls for). Maybe you could sub white whole wheat flour? Anyways, this is a VERY easy recipe, and VERY do-able ;) Been making it every week, and plan to make some for Christmas gifts (along with homemade jam). I hope that helps!

    2. Hi Janna, I have been baking my own bread for 2 years now. I went almost a year and almost gave up because my kids just wouldn’t eat it. They loved it fresh from the oven with butter, but they did not like it as sandwich bread- too “crumby” or something. Anyway, a friend came to visit and asked to borrow my electric knife to slice her homemade bread… my kids ate the whole thing! And it was the same recipe I had been using (100% fresh ground whole wheat, no white flour at all) The KNIFE made all the difference for us. Now, my kids think store-bought bread is weird, they are so used to homemade. Try using an electric knife to slice with, it makes all the difference!! :)

  24. I wanted to add that when it comes to organic produce, a great place to start is purchasing those that are part of the “dirty dozen”. If you are not ready to commit to spending extra money on all organic produce, just begin with this list, as they are the ones with the most pesticides! ;)