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Elizabeth Street


One Mom's Brave Journey Away from Processed Food

Oct 29, 2013

One Mom's Brave Journey Away from Processed Food

Food is a hot topic amongst parents these days. Whether it's allergies (pass the gluten-free cupcakes!), dealing with picky eaters, or just not having enough time to get a balanced meal on the table, it's fodder for discussion. Here at Elizabeth Street, we are always trying to find healthy, simple recipes to make feeding your family that much easier (and cheaper, if you check out this piece on couponing!). At the same time, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of the times and pay attention to what's going on in the news, whether it has to do with food allergies, concerns about what's in our food, or goings-on in the food industry as a whole. 

We read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" years ago, but hearing Gary Hirschberg, the chairman and founder of Stonyfield, speak on the dangers of GMOs reignited our interest in making the smartest decisions for our families and our environment. 

So it was nothing but fortuitous when we came across Lisa Leake's blog, 100 Days of Real Food. Inspired by an episode of Oprah, Leake did something that we've dreamed of doing: She endeavored to cut out all processed food from her family's diet for 100 days straight, and like any smart, Internet-savvy mama, she chronicled it in a blog. Leake describes the beginning of her journey at 32-years-old, when she "had never before read an ingredient label, never bought anything that was organic (at least not on purpose), nor had I ever stepped foot in a farmers’ market." Like us, Leake's opinions about food changed when she read another tome from Michael Pollan: "In Defense of Food." 

Before you scoff and go thinking you could never participate, let us clarify a few things: Leake isn't advocating that you go raw or vegan, or that you give up processed foods like whole wheat pasta. Nor are she and her family (she and her husband have two daughters) gourmands who live on a farm or in a food-obsessed town. The Leakes live in a suburb of Charlotte, N.C. where their access to farmer's market is pretty standard. What she is encouraging is giving up highly processed foods full of dyes, chemicals, and other unhealthy ingredients. 

A few of Lisa's best tips:

1. Make a double batch. If you're preparing a spaghetti sauce, pot of chili, or casserole, consider doubling up on your efforts. Freeze the second batch for an easy weeknight meal down the road!

2. Plan, plan, plan ahead. Use Lisa's free printable meal plans to prepare for the week ahead and avoid those annoying last-minute dashes to the grocery store. 

3. Try out meatless Monday (and Tuesday, too!). One of the best ways to cut back on your grocery bill is to substitute a legume-rich dinner for your usual meat-filled meal. 

4. Leftovers are golden. Use them for lunch the next day, or incorporate them into dinner the next evening. 

5. Keep your guard up when grocery shopping. Her rule of thumb is simple: "Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle, or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label."

Ready to give "100 Days of Real Food" a try? Check out Leake's recipe for "The Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot."

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 onion
1 large chicken

For the full recipe and more from "100 Days of Real Food," head over to Lisa's site and check out her video below where she makes pumpkin muffins with Catherine McCord of Weelicious!

By Christina Anderson

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