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How one family of four gave up processed food

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By Lisa Leake
Courtesy of MCT

It’s hard to recall the exact moment when we decided to cut out all highly processed foods. I am not sure if it was when we heard Michael Pollan call packaged foods, like those in our pantry, “food-like substances” or if it was when I suddenly realized I couldn’t even pronounce half the ingredients on those packages.

No matter the defining moment it was certainly a wake-up call, and with our “100 Days of Real Food” pledge underway there was no turning back.

There were still a lot of unanswered questions though. How would my husband follow our real food rules when traveling on business? What if we wanted to eat out at a restaurant? What if our daughters were invited to a birthday party?

We didn’t exactly know how we would handle those situations, but that didn’t stop our determination to seek out the real food in our processed food world.

After careful research, here are the real food rules that our Charlotte, N.C.-based family of four, which includes our daughters ages 3 and 5, pledged to live by for 100 long days:

• No refined grains such as white flour or white rice
• No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice or anything artificial like Splenda
• Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package with more than 5 ingredients
• No deep fried food
• No “fast food”
• Only locally raised meat
• Only water, milk, 100 percent fruit juices, naturally sweetened coffee and tea, and wine or beer to help the adults keep their sanity!

Some may be asking, wouldn’t you starve if you didn’t eat any of those things? Which is a true testament to how much our society has become dependent on highly processed foods when, in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

For the next three or so months we would embrace whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, meat from our local farmers’ market, wild-caught seafood, nuts, dairy  products and natural sweeteners,  in moderation of course, such as honey and maple syrup.

And to make this new diet work we would have to become very resourceful food shoppers, pack food in our suitcases on trips, try lots of new recipes and deal with a lot of dirty dishes.

Aside from all of those dirty dishes, the first week and a half was off to a pretty good start. Whole-wheat crepes, honey BBQ sandwiches, homemade potato skins, popcorn and granola cereal hardly sound like a starving family to me.

While I was still desperately trying to figure out how to get my chocolate and mocha fix, in the safe haven of our now “real food” home our children hardly noticed a difference.

Then on day nine we left our house and ventured out into the processed food world. In no time at all we were faced with a difficult situation. The owner of a brickyard so kindly offered my kids a donut.

Unfortunately donuts were, and still are, one of my older daughter’s most favorite treats. Not to mention she was on day nine without eating a single ounce of sugar.

Here is what happened next in an excerpt from the 100DaysofRealFood.com blog:
My 5-year-old had a little tantrum when I said “no” she couldn’t have a donut. I started to feel really bad, but let’s just say I only said “no” because we were about to eat lunch, and I didn’t want to spoil her meal since it was right before noon.

I wouldn’t have given in to her fit by giving her the donut in that situation anyway. I was feeling lots of guilt though. I started second-guessing if we should be involving our kids in this whole 100-days thing.

Oh mommy guilt is strong … we came home and I immediately offered to make my 5-year-old whatever she wanted for lunch. She chose fried eggs and whole-wheat toast with butter and jelly, and I also made a very attractive fruit kabob with all of her favorite fruits. She seemed very happy and not only cleaned her plate, but also asked for more. And luckily she didn’t say another word about the “donut incident.”

To learn more about the 100 Days of Real Food pledge, go to www.100DaysofRealFood.com.