Processed-Free March!

If you follow me on instagram or facebook then you probably saw my proposal for a new 31 day challenge next month. Cutting out the processed and packaged foods.


You wouldn’t believe how many times I will talk about avoiding processed foods with clients or acquaintances where I get a blank stare, or the big questions:

“What exactly is a processed food?”


Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” should be on everyone’s coffee table in my opinion!

(photo source)

The easy answer is anything from a package. If you make it from scratch, it’s okay….if it came in a box and or you need to microwave it then it’s not.

Basically “real food.” Simple? Right? Not so much. Unfortunately “normal” has become, well, processed foods. There are even many, many, many processed foods disguised as health foods. I think this is where most people need guidance. So I want to take the next couple weeks to try and convey exactly what to avoid, and hopefully my health conscious friends out there can help! Let’s use the comments section or myblog/ instagram/facebook posts for Q&A’s and tips for each other.

What falls in that “gray area?”


In actuality we really don’t purchase many processed foods around here. The biggest changes for me would be the packaged nut or seed milks. I make my own a lot, but it’s not always convenient. When I started learning more about carrageenan then I made the decision to stop making excuses and just ditch the store-bought milks. It really is cheaper and better to make it myself. If I make hemp seed milk I don’t even need to soak it so there;s really no excuse. Ella has preferred the Tempt brand, but until they take the carrageenan out of their product I unfortunately can no longer buy it. A shame because I really did love their product. There are also some “gray area” things I may need to chuck. More on that later though!

I’d like to get back to basics with this challenge as well. We can get as detailed as saying certain flours are processed and things, but I would love to see people switch from store bought breads (as opposed to getting as crazy as telling people to stop eating bread) to making their own. Can this be done conveniently for the typical busy American? I have clients that tell me they could never ever give up their sandwiches. So is it realistic to do so while cutting out all the added preservatives, processed sugars, GMO’s?

Is cheese a processed food? Kraft cheese is. Shredded packaged cheeses are. Raw, grass-fed  fermented block cheeses are what you would want to switch to.


Let’s get into the processed “health food.” Protein powder. Some of you may not like this, but technically it is a processed food! Even if it has a bunch of healthy stuff added to it. It’s still processed. Can you switch to getting your protein from whole foods for a month?

There is definitely SO much more to cover and talk about. I want to open it up to you guys though—what do you consider to be a “processed food” and what do you think falls into that “gray area?” What do you think you will have the most difficulty with? What about “processed food” confuses you?

If we can tackle these questions and help pave a foundation for everyone preparing for this challenge we can tackle March like rock stars! It’s not as tough as you think.

I have many blog friends who are awesome at this, and even more amazing with the budgeting tips (I’ll share them soon! If you have a blog post like this let me know too!) so I am going to create a link-up each week. I’d love to get instagram and facebook friends without blogs involved too! Share your meal and budget ideas and I can repost them to help everyone out. This will be a lot of fun! Thanks in advance to participating! And thank you to my clients for inspiring me to finally do something like this!

for sharing tag me (@lauryannraik)use #processedfreemarch and Lisa’s awesome suggestion: #processedfreelife –can’t wait to see your ideas and tips! Questions too! We can all help one another to stay motivated!

Talk soon!


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  • Reply Keri @ Blue-Eyed Runner

    This is definitely something I want to learn more about. I do eat pretty healthy but I am also a sucker for convenience. One switch I know I need to make is to swap out beans and tomatoes in a can for the more natural options.

    February 14, 2013 at 7:35 am
  • Reply Maria@healthydiaries

    I am definitely participating in this! I have been consuming more protein powder than I normally do so that is something I will cut out in March. I think everyone can improve their diet in some sort of way and it will really make us think about what exactly we are eating. 🙂

    February 14, 2013 at 9:32 am
  • Reply Stacey

    I only use protein powder once a day after a workout so I think I’m doing okay there. One thing I do think about often is the convenient meat proteins I eat which are processed. My husband travels a lot so I am used to cooking for just 1. Most of the time I’ll make a chicken breast (Just Bare brand) for dinner/lunch which I feel better about, but I do also turn to frozen turkey burgers. They are clean, but still processed. I love them though!

    February 14, 2013 at 10:43 am
  • Reply The Delicate Place (@misathemeb)

    obviously i’m in! i do a pretty good job of this already but the hemp protein powder is my gray area for sure! maybe i will start hard boiling eggs to have in the morning for a change :0

    February 14, 2013 at 11:05 am
  • Reply purelymichelle

    great idea! look forward to your budget tips post 😉

    February 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm
  • Reply Emily

    I love this! Unprocessed to me means something I could make from scratch at home, without need for stabilizers or added salt/sugar etc. The idea of my food being prepared by machines &/or people who are unhappy, overworked and underpaid doesn’t appeal. I love the time I spend cooking in the evening and in this day and age, I think it’s the best way to know exactly what you’re eating.

    February 15, 2013 at 10:54 am
    • Reply laury

      Thanks, Emily! I agree with you 110%! I loved how you put this too. Very valid point about the workers!

      February 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm
  • Reply Shan

    Hi Laury!
    It’s been a long time since I’ve commented, but I remain a loyal reader. I especially love your Ella food posts! I am expecting baby #2 and was wondering if you used protein powder while pregnant? I didn’t consume any during my first pregnancy, but am feeling like I could use the extra boost in my smoothies this time. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    February 16, 2013 at 11:25 pm
    • Reply laury

      Hi Shan! Oh my goodness congrats!

      I did use protein because when I was pregnant I was only eating fish. I used Vega plant protein or Jay Robb egg white protein since that’s hormone free. I plan to do things differently next time around…but it worked out for me! Obviously talk to your doctor, but I found those two didn’t have anything shady and were pretty clean overall.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm
      • Reply Shan

        Thanks so much for taking the time to write back! You’re the best!

        February 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm
        • Reply laury

          You got it!

          February 26, 2013 at 4:04 pm
  • Reply Kristen

    This is something I’ve been trying to be conscious of over the past year. I grew up on a ton of processed food (velveeta shells & cheese was my favorite…Eeek!). I want my son to know what real food tastes like.

    I was wondering if you could do a post of your average daily eats and your “kitchen staples”? I know you’re pretty much grain free, and don’t eat dairy, avoid most meats, no protein powder, not much processed foods, and probably other things that I’m forgetting. I’m just curious as to what do you eat? I don’t mean that in a bitchy way (it’s hard to ask something like this over the computer and not make it sound snarky). I just genuinely would love to know. 🙂

    February 17, 2013 at 7:42 am
    • Reply laury

      Hi Kristen, I grew up similar to you. Hamburger helper and Velveeta…along with macaroni and canned tomato soup. Lots of processed food. My teeth are paying for it now!

      I can definitely work on that type of post. My eating has changed A LOT in the past year as well. I hesitate to post my daily eats because I am constantly experimenting with things that work for me. What works for me may not work for you, but I do think it can be helpful to others to just see an example of what I am doing to stay away from my constants (processed foods).

      I didn’t take it in a bitchy way, haha..I get that Q all the time! I am eating more animal proteins now, and I tend to avoid grains overall but will allow them to sneak in as treats here and there! 80.20 works best for me. I was doing the strict no grain, no sugar thing but in the long-term it’s not realistic for me personally (especially raising a little girl, I don’t want to be too stringent all of the time!)

      Thanks for your comment!

      February 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm
  • Reply Lisa@Healthy Diaries

    I’m definitely in on this! I don’t eat many processed foods but I will have to cut back on nut milk (i’ve been actually making my own this month) & dairy products!

    February 18, 2013 at 11:58 am
  • Reply thehealthyapron

    I completely agree that boxed brownies, cookies, cakes, etc are full of CRAP! If I am going to eat dessert (and I’m currently limiting myself to 1 oz of 86% dark cacoa bars a day) I’m going to eat the homemade versions (with 100% organic ingredients). Now, this isn’t to say that I never eat anything desserty that isn’t homemade, but 95% of the time? Yes. Like you said, when it comes to “rules” with food, there shouldn’t be any.

    I feel like my husband and I fair pretty well eating unprocessed. I don’t really count frozen berries or other veggies, raw organic nuts from TJ’s, or grass-fed butter/cheese/meats as processed. I know they are minimally processed but the reality is, I don’t live on a farm. I don’t raise my own farm animals, and this is beauty of having farmers (well, if you can find ones not corrupted by our big food companies). The hardest processed foods to give up? I love my almond/coconut milk, I love my dark chocolate, I love my oatmeal, and I love my peanut butter. I don’t really feel like I need to give these things up though to feel like I am being healthy. I commend you for doing 1 month unprocessed but it would be pretty hard. Even if you make your own bread…flours are processed. SOME processing is okay in my opinion.

    February 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm
    • Reply laury

      I am not getting that complicated with it. I don’t consider cheeses and things to be processed unless it’s of course Kraft cheese. Block, raw cheese are not “processed food” IMO. This is more to make people aware of what they purchase and even just limit their boxed food to 1/2 if that’s what works for them. Having people try and make their own nut milks (because they are adding such crap to them all), nixing the microwave meals and making your own, that type of stuff. Trying it and seeing how it goes.

      February 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm
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