From the spot in the kitchen where I sip my tea in the wee hours and ready myself for the day’s onslaught, footsteps approached earlier than usual this morning. Down came Rosie, who beelined for the fruit bowl, quartered a grapefruit, dipping the juicy sections one-by-one into a glass jar of brown sugar, apparently pleased that 10 Days of Real Food had officially come to a close. My heart sank, just a little, buoyed by the fact that at least grapefruit was the vehicle for mainlining brown sugar.

Ten days have flown by, no? And the Real Food experiment was a good one around here. While it was satisfying to realize that the ground rules weren’t a huge departure from how we already do things, we definitely had some eye openers along the way:

–Although I’ve been a long-time label reader, 10 Days of Real Food required far more effort, both in scouring ingredient lists to see that groceries met the  Real Food criteria and in cooking  to fill in the gaps where store bought didn’t make the cut.

–Certain foods took me by surprise. Bottle salsa was out of the question, ditto marinara sauce: too many ingredients, sometimes made with sugar. Any “speed scratch” food such as boxed/seasoned couscous or rice pilaf, even the whole grain versions, were off the list as well.

–Sliced sandwich bread was tricky — many brands marketed as healthy broke nearly all the Real Food rules. We turned to a local market that bakes their own whole grain loaves.  I’m  now a convert and plan to stock several loaves at once, keeping extra in the freezer so we have good quality bread on hand.

–The cereal aisle packs dozens and dozens of choices, but  very few that fit with the program. As such, I made my own granola, adjusting the recipe to eliminate the sugar, using a combination of  honey and maple syrup instead.

–Most desserts were out of the question since they’re typically made with both sugar and refined flour. My need for a sweet/chocolate fix led to the Chocolate Coconut Copycat Bars I posted on Monday. Rosie came up with a recipe of her own for Chocolate Peanut Butter balls.

–Overall the kids were good sports about sticking with 10 Days of Real Food. I tried to approach it without being overly restrictive, but asked them to respect the ground rules on the homefront. Aside from a cupcake incident on Sunday, all went as planned.

As was demonstrated by the grapefuit/brown sugar breakfast this morning, it doesn’t look like we’ll be rigidly abiding by the Real Food rules over the long term.  But I do hope to hang onto much of what I’ve learned from the experience and approach shopping and cooking with a little more mindfulness to how “real” my real food is.

If you came along for the ride these 10 days, I’d love to hear how it was for you. If not, consider giving it a whirl.

Image credit: Almond Board of California