Processed-Free March ~ Real Food Challenge

Welcome to processed-free March!

More and more I come across people who think they are being healthy eating a meal labeled “all natural” but loaded with unhealthy oils, preservatives, and hidden sugars. More and more I hear about how our food supply has been corrupted. More and more comes out about how other countries BAN ingredients listed in foods that Americans eat every day. We need to take control of our food. And it starts in our kitchens!

Food shouldn’t be so complicated, but unfortunately with all of the conflicting information out there, people are quite confused. I think we need to just start and square one and get back to eating the way people ate before Eggo waffles made their way to everyone’s freezers


This challenge is more to encourage and empower consumers to buy less packaged food and consume more REAL food. Making people more aware of what they are buying. There are so many hidden dangers in our food these days disguised as looking harmless. The words “natural flavoring” come to mind for one, and the many ways that sugar and GMO’s sneak in there for another (of many!) reasons. It’s not only to get away from packaged foods but also GMO’s and synthetic growth hormones—which we will talk about!

There’s too much of this going on these days, and we have to stop eating it….


It’s even coming out now that there may be aspartame in cows milk! Carrageenan in dairy-free milks that cause cancer and aspartame in cows milk that cause cancer. Kill off all the Americans. Or just rob us with our healthcare costs. Jeez.


What is a processed food?

Anything that comes in a box, package, bag that was made in a factory, that has more than 3 ingredients, that isn’t close to the natural state that it was grown. Essentially anything that was never alive, or that they altered so much after it’s original state that our early ancestors would have no idea what it was.

If you read a lot of “healthy living blogs” what is “healthy” can be very confusing. There are healthy living bloggers who post nothing but processed foods. But those foods are marketed as health foods so people think that they are eating the right things. Tricky tricky! Be your own detective. Don’t rely on others to tell you what’s healthy. Did you know that a Chobani black cherry yogurt has almost an entire days worth of sugar? They also have “natural flavors” and other additives. Just saying.

I’m going to make it simple for you:


(photo source)

I don’t blog much about what I eat because, really, I eat a lot of the same things. I was vegetarian on and off for years and for the bulk of the life of my blog I was focusing on plant-based living. My eating has changed a lot since the birth of my daughter (I now eat good sources of meat, butter, cheese in moderation and it’s made healthy living easier for me!) but I remain with a few constants as far as our household goes. Of course we go out to eat and have treats on occasion but I stick with things that are worth it! As far as meals—I keep it simple! I make everything I eat, I plan ahead, and the “fast food” I grab has less than 3 ingredients usually! Or it’s simply a piece of grass-fed cheese and a veggie or piece of fruit. I promise I will do a day of eats soon for those that have been asking!

Constants in our home:

*No food dyes, artificial flavorings, MSG, GMO’s, refined sugar and flour. I read labels if it’s something that I didn’t make myself. I challenge myself to try and make as much of Ella’s food as possible! If you don’t know what to look for or get confused by ingredient labels then this challenge is something that will be great for you!

This isn’t about grains being bad, or meat being bad, or legumes, or whatever diet philosophy you believe. It’s about everyone and anyone agreeing on the same thing—that REAL FOOD is what we should be eating.


Tips and Guidelines:

1. Keep it simple. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Don’t overthink it. Buy less food that comes in boxes and more that are as close to their natural state as possible. If going completely processed-free is not feasible then try and reduce your amount by at least 60%. You will start feeling better andyour taste buds will become more sensitive to the overly processed packaged foods you were eating prior. It will start tasting as fake as it is!

2. Cook more. I know this is a challenge for some but it doesn’t have to be so hard. Yes, pulling in the drive thru is fast and cheap, but is it in the long run? No it is not. Pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later—it’s the truth! We can show you ways to make this easier by prepping ahead, utilizing your freezer, and other ways to make “fast food” healthy! This is where the other bloggers and readers will come in when we link up. Ask what types of meals you want to see and you shall receive!

3. It’s more important to purchase meats, dairy and eggs organic (and local!) than it is for produce. In a perfect world you would avoid BOTH the heavily sprayed crops and factory farmed meats, but if you can’t afford it, prioritize. You can always look to the dirty dozen (avoid corn unless you know for SURE it’s not GM) as a guideline for veggies, or just wash them really well in a vinegar/water wash.

4. Meats, eggs, dairy—keep them local, grass-fed (re:meat/dairy chickens should eat grass and bugs, none of that “all vegetarian diet trick!)) and keep them organic. As far as yogurts go, stick with plain yogurt and make sure it is from cows not treated with rBGH/rBST growth hormones. Stick with raw block cheeses, not the pre-packaged shredded cheeses.

5. Bake your own treats. If you want dessert—make it! You can swap out that white refined GMO sugar for things like sucanut or coconut palm sugar, or even 100% maple syrup!

6. Grains, beans, legumes—I challenge you to make your own breads at home. If you can’t, maybe limit your bread intake or just get it fresh from an actual bakery that doesn’t use GMO ingredients!  I am going to try and make a loaf next week because I like keeping some sprouted or coconut flour bread in my freezer for Ella. I’ll definitely be sharing! If  you like rice, grab some wild rice from the bulk bins. As far as beans and legumes go stick with dried and soak them. If you MUST buy canned stick with BPA-free like Eden Food.

7. Make your own dairy-free milk! I  haven’t come across a nut/seed milk at the store that doesn’t have a ton of junk. Listen, I am guilty of buying it myself. Cows milk isn’t any better so I felt at a loss. Making y our own is not only easy, it’s CHEAP! 1 cup of nuts or seeds soaked for 6 hours and 4 cups of water. Add sea salt, dates, vanilla to flavor it and you’re done!

8. Stay away from the deli meat counter. Unless you find somewhere that they actually carve fresh meat, that has no nitrates, nitrites, is GMO-free, organic and additive free. If you know of any please enlighten me! Good luck.

9. Utilize your freezer! You can buy bagged organic frozen veggies if it’s easier, but I challenge you to buy fresh and freeze things yourself if you can not go to the store often. You can even make your own freezer-meals. If  you are pinched for time in general you need to make the time to prepare. It may seem like a sacrifice but you just have to do it. There are nights where I am up until midnight prepping feed because I didn’t get home from work until 8pm and after getting E a bath, to bed, etc that’s when I have to do it! It’s a priority, the way I see it is there’s no other option!Zx

10. Keep REAL food in your cabinet! I do eat things like wild canned tuna, salmon and sardines. I do not use store-bought mayonnaise, but have made home made coconut oil mayo or I just use mashed avocado or plain Greek yogurt which is actually great! I always have canned coconut milk to use for baking, and I am fully stocked with a bunch of different healthy flours, nuts and seeds!

11. Beverages—stick with water, black coffee, herbal teas and raw coconut water. No soda, no bottles teas, no juice,and so on. You can make home made iced tea and sweeten it yourself with natural sweetener. Do it!


Avoid GMO's When Shopping with This Guide

Get the “fooducate” app! It’s FREE! This isn’t a challenge about food philosophies, but if it was I have to say I disagree with the “grade” it gives some of the real foods I put in, but as far as catching GMO’s this app has helped enlighten me in times where I was even surprised at a certain so-called “health food”. I do believe now that grass-fed butter is a health food in moderation. Whole eggs, full-fat dairy. I believe you get the most nutrition from eating those rather than egg whites and fat-free yogurt.

What can you eat?

Again, it’s simple! Eat real food! Stock up on veggies, organic meats, eggs. Fill your cabinets with nuts, seeds, and healthy beans, grains if you eat them. Practice preparing food the traditional way by soaking them. Challenge yourself, you can do it! Think about what things you like to buy out of convenience and how you can make those things healthier! Keep your kitchen stocked with things you can make on a whim—I always have sweet potatoes, avocadoes, bananas, apples and all types of seeds around. Raw cacao nibs and cacao powder make for great tools to make some quick desserts. There is just so much I can tell you and so much you can do! Try not to stress about it and just make the commitment, do it, see what happens, see how you feel!

Coming up:

homemade breads

freezer meals

help and tips from blogger and instagram friends (I hope!)

What we eat

How to eat out

and more!

Be sure to follow on facebook for tips and more! It’s much easier for me to post there and instagram then sit at my desktop. Check out 100 Days of Real Food to see her tips and meal ideas!

I hope that this helps! Let me know how I can help you further or how YOU want to help encourage or inspire others to eat more real food!

For now when you eat REAL FOOD tag my on instagram @lauryannraik and use the hashtags #processedfreemarch #realfoodchallenge –I will share them! I could use some meal ideas myself! Perhaps I will even do my very first link up to WIAW processed-free style this month….

What tips would you add?? What types of recipes and meal ideas would you like to see?

Sorry these posts are so long—I have so much to say once I finally am able to get on here! I’m sure right now I missed a bunch of points too Winking smile

Share on
Previous Post Next Post

You may also like


  • Reply Lisa

    This is a great post and an awesome idea!
    I’ll write a post linking to this tomorrow and adding in my thoughts!

    February 28, 2013 at 11:44 pm
    • Reply laury

      Thank you, looking forward to it!!!!

      March 3, 2013 at 8:03 pm
  • Reply Danielle @ Clean Food Creative Fitness

    Love this post! I’m so excited to follow you along on this challenge!

    March 1, 2013 at 9:07 am
    • Reply laury

      Thanks, Danielle!

      March 3, 2013 at 8:03 pm
  • Reply the delicate place (@misathemeb)

    totally agree! i am so frustrated when i see so much love for chobani in the blog world. it is completely full of sugar?! you couldn’t pay me to eat it!

    my staples:
    rotate greens weekly (swiss chard, spinach, kale, mache, romaine etc)
    bulk produce that rotates (carrot, loose beet, lemons/limes, celery, cucumber, squash)
    bulk nuts/seeds that rotates (hemp, almond, pepitas, sometimes brazil nuts)
    freezer: always buy frozen organic berries or veggies (broc, cauli, artichoke hearts, peas or spinach for smoothie filler or as a side dish)
    meats: i try to buy fresh but often will find a local coop and buy frozen local grassfed meat or wild caught fish

    drinks: i am drinking loads of david’s tea right now, some coffee & raw coconut water (harmless harvest is my fave at the moment)

    March 1, 2013 at 10:15 am
    • Reply laury

      I agree about the yogurt. It’s like dessert! I need to find a good local farm for meat. I buy from Whole foods and it is local, grass-fed so I feel good about it, but I think I could save $ if I went to the farm myself?

      March 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm
      • Reply jen

        do you have any winter farmers markets around, we have one its small but has veggies, breads, meats, eggs and theres a guy that has raw milk and raw milk products including yogurt. I’m guitly of eating the chobani but I agree the sugar in yogurt is getting out of hand and greek yogurt is suppose to be lower sugar. I find if I add a tiny drop of maple syrup and add fresh fruit its way better and you only need a small drop of syrup to take away the tang of the yogurt. But I think I will add less and less until I get used to the real tang of the yogurt and can eat it plain.

        March 3, 2013 at 8:49 pm
        • Reply laury

          We do, but it doens’t have too much. I need to find a good dairy farm for raw milk to try and make yogurt. The Greek yogurt–“supposed to” is key there. You’re much better adding your own fruit. The ones with fruit added have shady preservatives that we just don’t need!

          March 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm
  • Reply Silvia @ skinny jeans food

    I completely agree — you have to ask yourself that exact question of what happened to our food when you read that the breast cancer risk of young women (21-39) is on the rise! I can only imagine all the hormones that go in dairy, and meat. There was an increased breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women when they treated women with hormone therapy, which dropped significantly after docs stopped doing that.

    March 1, 2013 at 10:29 am
    • Reply laury

      It’s just awful. That article os so scary. Especially since breast cancer runs in my family

      March 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm
  • Reply Kristen

    I am so excited for this challenge. I don’t really buy too many packaged/pre-made foods so this shouldn’t be TOO difficult. However, there are a few things that I have a hard time giving up but I’m hoping to change that.
    1.) store bought bread…I need a simple homemade recipe 🙂
    2.) cereal (Kashi Cinnamon Harvest!) I crave the crunch with cold milk.
    3.) Mexican food- It’s my FAVORITE and some of it I’m not sure how to avoid the pre-made stuff.

    March 1, 2013 at 11:21 am
    • Reply laury

      Hey, Kristen–Okay then hopefully we can find a good simple bread recipe for you! I plan to test a recipe this week so I will post about it! And Kashi cereal—you have my wheels turning 😉

      As far as Mexican goes I am sure there’s a way, let’s investigate that! Good luck and thanks for joining!!!

      March 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm
  • Reply Wendy

    Looking forward to this month! I’m going to try to reduce mine by 80 percent and try to double my fruits/veggies. Thanks Laury!

    March 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    • Reply laury

      Awesome, Wendy!

      March 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Healthy Diaries

    So excited to do this along with you Laury! I will be going 100% processed free! I probably normally eat 80% processed free so I’m curious to see how I will feel making EVERYTHING myself! I’m planning to have a post up Monday. My staples are usually fresh veggies, some fruits, nuts, seeds and coconut flour, oil & milk!

    March 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm
    • Reply laury

      Great!!!! At home I will be 100% but I still plan to eat out–which I can’t always control WHERE they get their food. But we make the best choices we can when eating out 🙂 Thanks so much for your help!

      March 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm
      • Reply Lisa @ Healthy Diaries

        Yes, I forgot about eating out! We eat out 1-2 times a week so i will do my best to eat fresh and whole foods! Who knows what that add to it or what oils they use… :-

        March 3, 2013 at 10:38 pm
        • Reply laury

          Yup! That’s my only downfall! We enjoy eating out as a social joy as a family, not going to cut that out and isolate myself–so you can only make the best choices you can!

          March 4, 2013 at 2:37 pm
  • Reply thehealthyapron

    Although I am not committing to 100% unprocessed, I will try to make my own nut milk. I’ve always been curious and if you say it’s that simple…I will give it a go!

    My staples:
    GREENS: I buy at least 4 different kinds every week.
    Other produce: potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, squash, red cabbage, apples, bananas, raisins, dates (right now)
    Breads: really haven’t been buying breads–but my hubby loves wraps. I try to buy the brands that are less than 3 ingredient but bc they are so expensive–almost never do. I DO like to bake my own breads. I don’t get complicated but I believe a homemade non-GMO/organic italian bread is better than anything in the store.
    Meats: RARELY ever buy but I have the same principles as you.
    BEANS: always buy dried now
    NUTS: raw
    “junk food”: the biggest junk food I buy is chocolate chips (love adding them to homemade desserts) and nut milk. We do have a couple chobanis in our fridge that they sent me last week. Like you said…FULL of sugar, NOT organic. What is to love? They do taste like dessert so that is how my hubby eats them. I stay away…TOO SWEET (can’t believe I could say that).

    Great challenge! So important in a society that relies so much on processed crap!

    March 2, 2013 at 9:36 am
    • Reply laury

      This is awesome, thanks for your input!

      March 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm
  • Reply Lisa

    Amazing, amazing post!!! So informational, educational, and just awesome.
    It’s crazy how much added nonsense there is added into foods which we could easily make ourselves, and we fully have the ability to change the way things we consume.
    Love this in every way!

    March 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm
    • Reply laury

      Thank you so much, Lisa! And thanks for the shout out!!!

      March 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm
  • Reply Things I Love - Lisa Lately | Lisa Lately

    […] A Beautiful Blog Post I Love: This post by Laury from The Fitness Dish. Really great […]

    March 3, 2013 at 7:03 am
  • Reply JoAnn

    Hi, Laury! Your article is so well written and so on target!!! I have struggled with loosing weight due to age and medications. Doctors and pharmacists alike have told me weight loss will be difficult if not impossible. You know I like a challenge!
    For the last 2 1/2 weeks, I have followed eliminated all processed foods and breads. I make sure to eat 3 meals a day, try to eat home more but still enjoy weekends out. I have lost about 7 pounds!!! More importantly, I am not hungry and don’t crave sugars. I know, I know….you have been telling me this for a long time. YOU ARE RIGHT.
    When you make good choices, you can eat more, be satisfied and loose weight in the process.
    Looking forward to seeing you on Monday! xxxx

    March 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm
    • Reply laury

      JoAnn, I am SO happy to hear this! You know I am rooting for you and am one of your biggest fans! Ye for whole foods!!!! What amazing news! Excited to see you tomorrow and catch up more xoxo

      March 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm
  • Reply jen

    we have been buying a bread from a local place thats whole grain and loaded with seeds, I would like to figure out how to make a seeded bread with my bread machine and then freeze them. I used to be bad with bottled teas but now I drink unsweetened with extra lemon and I’m now used to it withou the sugar and I have a reusable water bottle I take every where. we have gotten heavly into roasting veggies this winter with olive and lots of garlic depending on what it is. I just got some parsnips to try your fries do you use fresh or dried chives?

    March 3, 2013 at 8:57 pm
    • Reply laury

      I use freeze dried chives because that’s what I have on hand 🙂 Let me know how you like them!

      March 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm
  • Reply jen

    I am so in! my two weaknesses in this department are non-dairy milk (i cant believe the list of ingredients) and bread (which is not too bad, i get it from whole foods and the list is readable, but id love to try making it). i found out last week that i am having a GIRL, and i want to start her off right! cant wait for a bread recipe from you!!

    March 4, 2013 at 7:50 am
    • Reply laury

      OMG! Congrats!!!!!! Yey for girls 🙂

      March 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm
  • Reply A little bit of this and little bit of that

    […] friend Laury, over at The Fitness Dish, started a real food challenge called Process Free March that we’re partaking […]

    March 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm
  • Reply Evelyn

    Day’s worth of eats and freezer meals…. yay!!!

    March 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm
  • Reply Danica @ It's Progression

    I know I’m a few days late on this, but I just wanted to say that I absolutely LOVE this post!!! It’s just so inspiring and you have so much great information…I’m trying all the time to make more and more changes to my diet, I’m always just making a point of eating real, wholesome foods.
    I agree with some of the other that it’d be fun to see a typical day’s worth of eats from you, even if to just get some ideas for meals. Thanks!

    March 5, 2013 at 9:26 am
    • Reply laury

      Thank you! Working on the eats now 🙂 You should get in on it too…would love to see your processed-free meals!

      March 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm
  • Reply A Day in {Processed-Free} Eats

    […] How’s everyone doing with processed-free March? I was hoping to get in more photos of your meals, but maybe next week! Thanks to the few of you […]

    March 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm
  • Reply making hemp protein english muffin avocado egg sandwich | purelytwins

    […] out  Laury’s March Processed-Free Challenge!! A great reminder to eat real homemade food as much as you can.  Kind of crazy what companies put […]

    March 7, 2013 at 10:09 am
  • Reply Debbie


    Q. What is Carrageenan??

    A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
    Q. Why the controversy?
    A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
    Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
    A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.

    Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
    A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
    A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
    Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
    A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
    A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
    Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
    Closing Remarks
    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
    Additional information available:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
    If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

    March 7, 2013 at 10:11 am
    • Reply laury

      thanks for the information! I’ll share it for debate.

      March 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm
  • Reply Processed Free March, are you in? - Parkesdale Farm Market Blog | Parkesdale Farm Market Blog

    […] Instagram, I found Laury Raiken who writes The Fitness Dish blog.  During the month of March she is doing a challenge called “Processed Free […]

    March 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm
  • Reply Albion Fit Go Long Crew Giveaway!

    […] been a very, very bad blogger this month. I am so grateful for those of you who participated in processed-free March and hopefully you felt that you got enough support to make the changes you needed to! I still have […]

    March 27, 2013 at 10:52 pm
  • Leave a Reply