Our 10 Days of Real Food Experience

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



01.17.2013 at2:13 PM #


I am on day four of my Real Food 10-day experiment. I’ve only grocery shopped once so far, and I agree with your observations that some food lines like breakfast cereal are really hard to make work, within the rules. .

The sugar part hasn’t been that bad, except for small things like condiments — lots of hidden sugar. That made me happier about my usual diet. I’m not too far gone!

The best change has been the elimination of diet soda, which I hope to stick with long term. Caffeine withdrawal was so awful. I need to remember that, so that I never head down that slippery slope again.

Otherwise, the long-term benefit is I’m learning to read labels for more than fat content and calories. I won’t stick with the 5 ingredients rule necessarily, but if there’s anything there I don’t recognize as something I could buy as an ingredient myself…. I will think twice.

01.17.2013 at2:13 PM #

Katie Morford

Great so far, Kim. I agree about looking at labels for more than just fat, fiber and calories. As for soda, I gave it up last summer and haven’t had one since. You can do it!

01.17.2013 at7:25 PM #


I learned a lot, so thanks for inspiring me, Katie! Here’s a few things, but I’m still thinking reflecting a lot on the many ways the past 10 days has benefitted me!
1) I don’t need sugar in my coffee. I just add milk and I’m fine. Ditto for tea. For me this no only means no more sugar, but no more fake sugar, which I’ve known is bad for me, but have never tried to give up.
2) I, too, am very psychologically addicted to diet Coke. It seemed to be the thing I longed for the most. I had to get very real about my “I can stop anytime” line since I don’t think I’ve gone 10 days without one in a LONG time.
3) The best thing about this was the ability to say, it’s just 10 days. The thought of depriving myself of sugar and bread (I never could find any bread that met the rules so I haven’t had any) forever just seems self-defeating. Now I can trick myself and say, just until the end of January and I think I can get more mileage out of this challenge. I also noticed that my friends didn’t seem as skeptical/concerned (that I was getting to be a crazy fanatic) when I told them it was just 10 days.
4) I really like the simplicity.
5) In addition to vending machines that sell junk, my school also has a salad bar. Who knew? 😉
Anyway, thanks again! This has been fun and I look forward to seeing the Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball recipe!

01.17.2013 at7:25 PM #

Katie Morford

Yay. Good stuff, Monica. Sounds like you’ve shifted a few habits that maybe you can stick with for the long haul.

01.18.2013 at7:47 AM #


Medjool dates are on my grocery list this week as I want to try those bars – they look and sound wonderful. Thank you for your experimentation.

I’ve gradually morphed to eating real food – not within the rules posted as I do use some sugar and white flour. But over the holidays sugar, white flour, wine and coffee consumption got to a point that I was unhappy with so I made some personal rules: no alcohol until I lose 15 (I have somewhere in the vicinity of 30 total to lose!), 2 cups of coffee and then a cup of green tea for caffeine, minimal white flour and sugar.

I make my own ginger syrup for making a ginger “soda”…was a Vernor’s ginger ale fiend! I use 1/4 the amount of sweetener called for in a mix of white/brown sugar and honey. I use whole spices and let my mix stew overnight after simmering it a bit. I calc the calories at 40 per glass vs the 150 plus in a canned soda and no unpronounceable ingredients. I have a seltzer charger and carbonate my own sweet well water. It is also easy to add some fresh lemon juice, or any juiced fruit to the fizzy water to make your own “soda”. I also make a cherry-basil mix from local summer sweet cherries. Just a wee bit of juice in fizzy water makes a very refreshing drink.

I have been making my own bread for years and in the last two use the high moisture/no knead method and as it is just me at my home, make a mini-boule, mini-bagel/muffin – whatever so that a big loaf is not there tempting me. Lately, though, I have also been using Dave’s Seed Bread. Although it violates the 5 ingredient rule, this is because of the variety of seeds in the bread. ALL ingredientes are whole food and no preservative stuff. I think it makes wonderful sandwiches and toast – don’t know how he does it! Not sure this would get by the kiddos ??

01.18.2013 at7:47 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks for that. I love the DIY ginger soda recipe. Never heard of Dave’s Seed Bread, but sounds right up my alley.

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