Know what progress looks like? Forward movement toward a destination.
Progress is not absolute, instantaneous change. Be better today than you were yesterday, better this week than last, better these 10 days than the previous, but do forgive yourself for the occasional misstep.
You’re half way there, after all, and that’s…progress.Your Future Self
Why 10 days?
You can do more good in 10 days than you think
Researchers at UCSF Medical Center and Touro University conducted a study in which they catered the meals of obese, metabolically ill kids for 10 days. The catered meals provided the same amount of calories and the same percentages of calories from carbohydrates, fats, and protein as the children’s normal home diets. The only difference was, within the carbohydrate category, they removed calories from sugar and substituted them with calories from starch.
After 10 days of the no-added-sugar diet, every marker of metabolic health improved
- Diastolic blood pressure fell by 5 points.
- Fasting blood glucose fell by 5 points.
- Glucose tolerance improved.
- Fasting insulin (the fat storage hormone) fell by 50 percent!
- And, the children lost weight (about 2 pounds) despite all efforts to keep them weight-stable.
So how does all that relate to real food and processed food?
Processed food is the primary source of added sugar in our diet. Of calories consumed by Americans, 58 percent are in the form of ultra-processed foods, and those foods account for 90 percent of our added sugar intake. Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat, and you’ll reduce your sugar intake. Reduce your sugar intake, and you’ll improve your health. It’s that easy.
If that task sounds daunting, don’t despair. Any reduction in processed food and added sugar is beneficial.
Check you out already making a difference!
How to cut back on processed food
Skip the middleman
You can process food yourself without adulterating it. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season at their most affordable price. Wash, prep, and freeze them for use all year long.
If it has a label, consider it a warning label
A food label is a clear indicator a food has been processed.
There are exceptions to this rule like mixed greens, which consist of multiple whole-food ingredients mixed together and washed, that may come with a food label. In these exceptions, the ingredients themselves are still whole foods.
Forget shopping for health claims
Real food doesn’t tote health claims. If a food has a health claim, the marketing department of a major food manufacturer put it there.
Check the ingredient list
If the food is a single ingredient, like vacuum-packed tuna, then it’s probably real food. Or, if it’s made of a few real food ingredients without signs of processing (like added sugar, ingredients you don’t recognize as food, the word “hydrogenated”) it’s probably fine. If it contains ingredients you can’t imagine growing in nature, like malted barley extract, put it back.
Ask yourself “would my grandmother recognize this as food?”
Cheese is real food. Cheese product is not.
Visit a Farmer’s Market
And walk away with food from the Earth instead of a factory.
Take a trip down the bulk food aisle
Need a real food snack? Buy nuts and seeds in the quantities you need.
Take a stab at cooking
Ok, not a literal stab (unless there is a butternut squash on your counter). If you need a cooking lesson (or ten), visit YouTube. Search for knife skills, how to cook, cooking 101, basic cooking. You get the idea.
Keep it simple
Need some extra help?
See our Shopping Guides.
Visit the Challenge forum. Share your biggest obstacle to eating real food so far. While you’re there, review the obstacles of others and offer a suggestion to someone else.