I recently learned of a great website called 100 Days of Real Food. Blogger Lisa Leake and her family committed to eating no processed foods for 100 days and she recorded their experiences, experiments, and recipes on the site.
Lisa posted a list of the food rules they followed during that time. In looking over the guidelines, I felt both great admiration for people who are able to rise up to the challenge and skepticism over the sustainability of living and eating that way over the long haul. After all, not many people want to bring their own food everywhere as Lisa and her family did (and still does). She admits that after the challenge, they no longer adhere to all of the rules. But her family’s diet has changed immensely for the better and she invites readers to take a 10 day real food challenge if they’re not up for 100 days.
I know there are so many compelling reasons to reject processed foods, both for our own health and for the health of the planet. Yet, I’m not ready for the 10 day challenge, though I do want to eat healthier. So instead of overhauling my (and my family’s) entire diet, I’ve decided to go at my own pace and make changes slowly to ease the transition. Suddenly adopting strict new habits that invite rebellion will likely do little good. But gradual changes that give us time to adjust can work best in the long run.
So if you’re like me and not ready for a complete food makeover, here are some simple ways to improve your and your family’s diet:
- Swap a refined grain such as white bread or white rice for a 100% whole grain version at one meal a day. If that’s too much, you can substitute items that are a mix of whole and refined grains for the all white stuff. For instance, I now serve rice that’s a mixture of brown with white. That’s an improvement and it’s a change my family can accept.
- How much fruits and vegetables do you eat on average? Can you increase that by one serving a day? For instance, add fruit to your breakfast or snack on cut up veggies w/dip instead of chips. If possible, buy organic but if not, the benefits of eating more fruits and veggies still out weight potential harm from industrial farming methods.
- How much sugar are you drinking in a day? From soda and juice to sweetened coffee and tea to Gatorade and smoothies, there’s no lack of sugar in our diets. The average American consumes 20 added teaspoons of sugar per day according to a USDA survey. Granted it’s not all through beverages but they are a major source of sugar. Pick one sweet drink and replace it with water or a non-sweetened version if possible.
- Conventionally produced meat, poultry, and seafood (and their milk and eggs) are full of antibiotics and/or toxins. Though they aren’t exactly processed foods, the way they’re produced is anything but natural. This hurts not only the animals but also the people who consume them and the environment. Consider switching to one of the following in your diet: sustainably caught seafood, grass fed meats, pastured poultry, or their dairy and eggs.
- Stop eating any food out of a box, package, can, bottle, or bag that has more than 10 ingredients. It’s not Lisa’s 5 but 10 is still better than the 25+ ingredients common in many processed foods.
- Cut back on junk food such as fried food, fast food, chips, candies, cakes, and cookies. If you currently eat them twice a day, try cutting down to once a day. If you eat them four times a week, trying reducing to twice a week. Brainstorm a list tasty and healthy meals and snacks that you can substitute for junk food.
Eating real food is fantastic for your health. It does call for learning new habits and skills such as changing where you shop, learning to cook, and planning ahead. But the benefits are well worth it. Go at your own pace with balance and sanity and find the changes that work for you. Happy eating!