Lisa Leake is a wife, mother, foodie, and blogger who just over a year ago radically changed her family’s diet by cutting out all processed food and refined ingredients. With growing attention from both local and national media she chronicles her family’s real food journey on 100DaysOfRealFood.com.
WFAEats: What inspired you to make this dramatic change to your diet and to your life?
Lisa: Up until about a year ago, we ate pretty much like any normal American family. We weren’t really concerning ourselves with what we purchased at the supermarket- just going by what was on sale. And then I watched a program on Oprah called “Food 101”. Michael Pollan was a guest and the show covered where our food comes from and the conditions of the animals raised on industrial farms. I’m embarrassed to say that prior to that program I had never even read a label on a food product.
Following the show, I purchased Pollan’s book called In Defense of Food. My husband and I both read it and we watched the documentary Food Inc. Those elements combined were a big wake up call for us. We realized that we had fallen prey to what the food industry had deemed “healthy”. It showed me how much of this was misinformation and really had me questioning what I was feeding my family…
WFAEats: So soon after, you launched your blog 100 Days of Real Food where you chronicled your commitment to eating only 100% whole foods, no processed sweeteners, no packaged foods with more than 5 ingredients, and only locally raised meats for 100 days. It couldn’t have been easy. How did you do it?
Lisa: It was a challenge, no doubt. I had to completely relearn how to shop at the grocery store. I wanted to be honest from the start by saying this is no easy task. And I started the blog as a way to show people “this is how I applied these philosophies to our lives” and to help make it easier for other people to get started on eating less processed foods.
WFAEats: You have two young daughters (ages 6 and 3). Did you encounter any resistance from them?
Lisa: There was a little struggle. When we were at home, it was the easiest thing to live by. Home was and is our safe haven, but when we’re out and our children see the things that other people are eating it can be a challenge. Luckily, my oldest daughter is a pretty diverse eater, so it hasn’t been too hard to introduce her to new foods. I strongly encourage parents to continually introduce their kids to new kinds of foods, especially if their kids are picky eaters. Initially, my children did not like fish, but I just had to keep trying. I introduced it to them in a child-friendly way by breading the fish. I know this isn’t ideal, but for them to even get a good first impression is an accomplishment.
WFAEats: I know you didn’t make this change explicitly for the health benefits, but have you experienced any positive effects health-wise?
Lisa: We didn’t know what to expect in terms of changes to our health, so we were really surprised when they started. My 3-year-old used to suffer from constipation issues but within 5 days of making these initial changes her issues were gone. Other issues like asthma soon stopped as well. I’m not saying we were completely free of getting sick but we’ve seen a definite decrease.
I also have a lot more energy now; I don’t need as much sleep as I used to need. I used to get into a “zombie mode” if I didn’t go to sleep at a certain hour and that just doesn’t happen anymore.
WFAEats: It can be very time consuming to follow the “real food” guidelines. What advice do you have for the busy person who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Lisa: The trick is to try to prepare things on the weekends – make soups/pastas or other things that you can keep in the freezer and eat throughout the week. Also consider doubling a recipe when you’re cooking so that you have extra throughout the week. We have found that pasta is one of the easiest things to make and freeze (and it’s generally inexpensive).
WFAEats: No doubt, one of the biggest challenges of eating locally and sustainably is the cost. After you finished the initial 100 Days of Real Food challenge, you began a new challenge called “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget.” How did that work out?
Lisa: We had $125.00 dollars a week to spend on food, which is actually less than what you would get on food stamps. We chose to spend $30 of our budget each week on local milk, which is so superior in quality to anything we could get from a grocery store that we just had to work around the price. We turned to a lot of frozen fruits and veggies (which are just as healthy as fresh products of the same variety but generally cheaper). We also weren’t able to visit the farmers’ market every week, but I soon found that the farmer’s were open to negotiating prices. So don’t be afraid to haggle!
WFAEats: We have to ask, are there any processed foods you miss?
Lisa: The thing I really missed the most during the strict 100 days was ketchup. I found that it’s really difficult to try to make ketchup alternatives at home.
WFAEats: Now that you’ve finished your challenges, what do you have planned next?
Lisa: Today, I’m launching a mini-pledge challenge to readers. The goal is for readers to challenge themselves to make small changes to their diets each week. Not everyone can commit to cutting out processed foods for 100 days. The hope is get readers thinking and feeling comfortable with “real food” alternatives.
Inspired, curious, want to sign-up for Lisa’s real food challenge? Check out her blog for more information.