By Bridget Stangland/Jan. 7, 2015
If any of you know me, you will know that I am a complete foodie. I love to eat and experience new foods and I try almost anything. While I have a passion for food and all of its delicious glory, one food group I reject is processed.
Yes, of course, there are times on road trips where the junk food necessities are necessary. However, most of the year I strive for nutrient-rich whole foods that provide me with an abundance of energy and a clear mind.
So when I was introduced to Lisa Leake, author of the New York Times Bestseller 100 Days of Real Food, I was more than excited to pick her brain on her whole food challenge and, now, her permanent lifestyle.
“I thought I’d blog for 100 days and then move on with my life. It’s super rewarding to see a simple idea grow into an amazing career and to also set that example for my daughters.” Lisa Leake
For those of you who have not been introduced to Lisa, she is the brains behind a popular food blog. Lisa and her family believed they were doing well with their eating habits.
It all changed when she and her husband read Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food. Immediately after, Lisa and her family took the pledge to commit to eating real whole foods for 100 days.
This commitment led to a new lifestyle for the Leake family and a movement to inspire people to make healthy food choices…
EYE: You are a mom, wife and foodie. What led you to this radical change, Lisa?
LISA: Back in 2010 I watched an Oprah episode where Michael Pollan was talking about where our food comes from. I went on to read his book In Defense of Food and it was a huge wake-up call for me. I realized a lot of the foods I thought were healthy were actually highly processed.
EYE: Is it really possible to get off of all processed foods?
LISA: It’s possible to get off all highly processed foods, which (in a nutshell) we define as having more than five ingredients or being refined like white flour or white sugar.
EYE: Is your family back on them in any way now? Are you strict with your children if kids bring in snacks to share at school?
LISA: We allow ourselves about one special treat a week that can be absolutely anything. It can even be donuts or candy! And if my kids happen to go to two birthday parties in one week, I don’t fret because stress never did anyone any good either.
100 Days of Real Food: Video posted by Matthew Shearer
EYE: I have read that you spent $125 a week on food during these 100 days. Was it difficult to stay within this budget?
LISA: That was during our second “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget” pledge, and yes, it was difficult at times! But we never went hungry or had to buy anything that broke the rules. With a little creativity and planning it can be done.
LISA: I basically started by making over old family favorites without refined and processed ingredients. Americans are some of the only people in the world who track calories, fat grams, and nutrients.
We believe if you eat a variety of whole foods (including plenty of produce) without overeating then the rest will fall into place.
EYE: Do you find it takes more time living this way? What was your favorite meal to prepare?
LISA: Yes, it does take more time to live this way, but you have to prioritize and decide that the health of your family is worth it. We love a lot of the same meals we used to eat like tacos, pizza, spaghetti. We just now make them with higher quality ingredients!
EYE: What was your family’s first reaction? With kids, we know that sugar and processed foods can surround them at school or at friends’ homes. Did your daughters have a hard time following the plan?
LISA: You know, it wasn’t so hard when we were at home — out of sight, out of mind! And when we went out somewhere during our pledge I worked pretty hard to bring comparable alternatives for my kids. Now that our strict pledge is over that’s usually when we make exceptions to the rule.
LISA: We experimented with homemade ketchup and mayo and to be honest it didn’t turn out so well!
EYE: Does this plan mean zero sugar?
LISA: It means no refined sugar like white, brown, corn syrup, brown rice, etc. The sweeteners we allow are honey and pure maple syrup mainly because they at the least processed and have some trace nutrients (although they are still technically added “sugars” so we do still consume them in moderation).
EYE: I love what you did! I am all about whole foods and I am always encouraging my friends and family to eat more of them, but it can be hard to convince them at times. What is your biggest piece of advice for those who just seem to not be able to get on board with eating real food?
LISA: I think each person needs their own personal wake-up call! How about inviting them over for a viewing of the documentary Food, Inc.?
EYE: That’s a good idea. Can you share a favorite recipe with us?
LISA: Yes, this is the most popular recipe on my blog, and it’s also in my new book! It’s for the Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot.
EYE: I live in Los Angeles, and we all know this city is very health conscious! However, not all cities have an emphasis on eating real food. Do you think it will be something that everyone takes on soon? Do you believe it would decrease health issues such as cancer?
LISA: I do think more and more people are catching on and showing a preference for less processed food. And according to Michael Pollan, coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer — four of the top ten chronic diseases that kill most of us — “can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food.” Scary stuff!
EYE: Green smoothies are everywhere! Chains now sell them. What do you think of the green smoothie movement?
LISA: I actually really like green smoothies and so do my kids! I prefer it over juicing (another new craze) by far and here’s why I don’t juice.
EYE: You started as a blogger writing about your family’s experience during these 100 days and now you have a cookbook on the New York Times Bestseller List. Did you think it would become such a big success?
LISA: I had no clue this is where I’d end up after my idea to blog about our “100 Days of Real Food” pledge. I thought I’d blog for 100 days and then move on with my life.
It’s super rewarding to see a simple idea grow into an amazing career and to also set that example for my daughters.
EYE: It’s been terrific talking to you, Lisa. You have been an inspiration!