Monday, February 8, 2010

28-Day Real Food Challenge- Week 1 Recap

A few days ago, after stumbling into Sara's blog where I read about the 28-Day Real Food Challenge going on this month at Nourished Kitchen, I moseyed on over to NK and joined the Challenge myself. Little did Iknow what I was getting myself into!

The challenge for Day 1 was to clean the pantry, fridge, and cupboards of all processed foods. I will admit right now that I did not toss everything with processed ingredients because my family is just beginning to change to a real foods only diet and I don't think we'll stick with it permanently if we go cold-turkey and then get frustrated. Also, I just can't afford to replace a lot of food at once. However, I did toss a whole bunch of stuff. The pictures show most of it.

 Much of the stuff I threw out was stuff that has been lingering unused in the cupboards or fridge for quite some time. But others, like the oil and sugar, will be missed. For most of this week, I have been relying on olive oil and butter. I can't find coconut oil locally. But one of the grocery stores has palm oil, so I picked some up today.

Day 2 brought the challenge to choose wholesome foods. Fortunately, I already had on hand quite a few things that fit this bill- whole, organic milk and real butter; fresh fruits and vegetables; olive oil; nuts; and whole meal flours. I've been working on incorporating these foods for some time. My biggest challenge has been to learn ways to prepare these foods without incorporating processed adulterants.

The challenge for Day 3 was to improve your grains by soaking them. The goal is to reduce the effects of the phytic acid present in the grains in order to improve absorption of the grains nutrients. Well, this was a head-scratcher for me as I'd never heard of this before. But it is intriguing and I fully intend to try it! I don't have any whole grains on hand yet and I was too wussy to soak a bowl of flour until I had a better idea of what exactly to do with it. I'll read up on this as I'm able and then give it a whirl. Please feel free to recommend reading material!

Day 4 was my favorite challenge- to start a sourdough starter! Yum! Because I joined the Challenge a few days late, my starter is not ready to use yet. But it is coming along beautifully and smells great! I am a firm believer in the tradition of naming sourdough starters (it's harder to forget to feed something with a name), but I haven't yet settled on a name for mine. Here's what mine looks like now (sorry, picture's a little fuzzy).

The challenges for Day 5- sprout your grains- and Day 6- mill your own sprouted grain flour- will have to wait until I can get some grain. Also, I don't have a grain mill or a dehydrator and they really aren't in the budget. I'll probably try the wet-milled method suggested as an alternative, but I only have a teeny-tiny food processor and no blender. I'll give it a whirl (sorry!) and see what happens.

Overall, I'm happy with my progress this week. I was afraid I might feel guilty for not going cold-turkey on all processed foods as instructed on Day 1; however, I really haven't because I know it would increase my family's chance of failing at permanently changing our diet. It is really important to me to succeed at this, both for our long-term health and for a more immediate purpose. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I have been taking multiple medications every day since then. And it really pisses me off.

Over the years I had become very suspicious that my RA and other health issues were diet related. It wasn't until I read Pollan's nutritionism rant in In Defense of Food that it all came together in my mind. That epiphany felt like an idea that had been trying to fight its way out of the back of my mind finally broke through. My initial goal was to be off RA meds and feeling fine by the end of 2010. But, when one of my meds was due for refilling a few weeks ago, I just said "no more". I had no idea what would happen. When I first started the meds, I could barely walk the pain was so bad. The first few days I was sore, but not awful. But I was changing my diet, drastically, at the same time. I have been amazed by how good I have been feeling already. Yesterday and today I shoveled massive (!!!) amounts of snow and I really don't feel any worse than anybody else who spent two days shoveling. And that's after I gave up the second medicine too. It will be interesting to see how this experiment progresses. Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the 28-Day Real Food Challenge.



  1. Your starter looks great! Mine is not nearly so happy. Over on NK there is a recipe for soaked oat biscuits that I think I will try. I've not soaked grains before so that's all new to me too. The recipe looked pretty easy and we love biscuits. Definitely a lot to learn with this challenge!

  2. "In Defense of Food" was my epiphany book too! I just finished Kingsolver's "Animal Vegetable Miracle" and couldn't put it down. Nestle's "What to Eat" has been incredibly helpful in terms of navigating the grocery store and choosing the best of what's available.

    I love that you are naming your sourdough starter! LOL! I've never heard of that and will totally name mine :) I'm waiting for the starter cultures to arrive!

  3. Marcella, My starter is still doing fine. But for a couple days it had really slowed down. Still working, still smells great- just sluggish. Today I realized the house has been way colder than starters really like. So I set on the stove while I prepared dinner and it took off!

    Shelly, I'll have to see if I can track down a copy of Nestle's book. Thanks for the suggestion! Let me know what name you settle on for your starter! :)

  4. Sounds like you are doing well with the challenge! I haven't been able to start much because I just don't have many resources. Looks like I may be mail-ordering some things :)

    Look forward to the rest of the challenge! Good luck!

  5. Dusti, I don't have many resources either- or money. I did find a "natural foods market" near me (although lots of the stuff in there was processed)- but it was really, really expensive.
    They had local pastured bison for $13.99/pound. Seriously.

  6. From a fellow 28 Day Challenger visiting via Nourished Kitchen :),

    I had never heard of naming your sourdough starter, but now mine totally needs a name too! If it makes you any less inclined to feel guilty, I didn't toss all my processed foods either; a small shelf of refugees remains. Like you, I will be more likely to continue to eat real food if I don't starve to death in the process of learning.

    You might enjoy the blog Cage Free Family (it won't let me post the link, but easily searchable). The author struggles with fibromyalgia and has found that dietary changes have helped her immensely.

  7. Jess, Thanks for suggesting Cage Free Family. I'll definitely check it out. I have to tell you, your week 1 recap was hysterical!