No white flour, no sugar and no more than five ingredients in processed foods. Could you eat like that?
These strict food rules were part of one family's pledge last year to eat only "real food" for 100 days. Even ketchup didn't make the cut. Although the pledge is successfully over, Lisa Leake, a mother in Charlotte, continues to write about her family's journey at www.100daysofrealfood.com.
The blog recently hit its millionth pageview. Soon, Leake writes, her family will be heading out for vacation with a suitcase dedicated to healthy food, including homemade granola and whole-wheat sandwich bread.
Autumn Michael of Davidson, N.C., says she reads Leake's blog "religiously." It took several months for her to cut out nearly all processed foods.
"I still have moments where I stand at the cupboard at 5 p.m. and say, 'What are we going to have for dinner?' But by and large, those stressful days are gone," Michael writes in her own blog. "The vast majority of the time, we are cooking and eating homemade, hopefully local, primarily seasonal, and usually organic whole food. That is a victory."
She follows the guideline of "no more than five ingredients" when buying processed products. Among her first steps was to eliminate high-fructose corn syrup and food dyes, which, Michael says, has improved her kids' behavior.
"I always say that we follow the 80-20 rule: Eat well 80 percent of the time and you have room for the other 20 percent," Michael says. "For us, that 20 percent mostly comes from preschool and church and eating out once a week or so."
But like many busy moms, Michael, an attorney and mother of four, says she "cheats," meaning partly that she hasn't adjusted her recipes for whole-wheat flour instead of white; her family eats processed cereal in addition to oatmeal and her homemade granola; and she buys ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. (The Leakes gave up condiments as part of the 100-day pledge.)
The organization Healthy Child Healthy World, www.healthychild.org, says the easiest way to eat healthier is to start making your food instead of buying prepared food and warming it. Buying whole foods reduces your exposure to the many synthetic additives found in processed foods. Involving your children in the process will foster their healthy habits.
The Healthy Child group makes other recommendations:
Here's how one family got into the Healthy Child's chemical revolution. They:
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and teaches preschool. If you have tips or questions, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Parent to Parent at 704-236-9510.